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Thread: Thumb wear on the neck

  1. #1
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    Default Thumb wear on the neck

    Hi friends,

    I have been playing my MT for about 9 years, and over time have developed this wear spot on the back of the neck from my thumb (I have played it a LOT). Has this happened to others? I'm wondering if there is something I need to change about my grip. Or, some day I may just get a speed neck.

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Here's mine, you don't have much to worry about. I played it a lot and it shows.


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    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Wow... that's all from play wear? Most impressive! Thanks
    -2012 Collings MT, Honey Amber Gloss with Tone Gard
    -Big Muddy MW-0
    -Big Muddy M-1 (old-growth Oregon myrtlewood/red spruce)
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    Follow the Flatt Stanley Incident on Facebook

    Listen to original tune "When You Fly" by my old band The Kindreds

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Consider that wear spot a badge of honor. Speed neck done the old fashioned way, below. This is my 20 year old Nugget.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    I have the same or worse wear on a few instruments. Most of mine are speed necked now.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Speed neck? Will I play faster when I wear down my Weber's neck to look like you guys' necks?

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Speed neck? Will I play faster when I wear down my Weber's neck to look like you guys' necks?
    Hopefully so Sherry, after thousands of hours of playing you should be playing faster.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    Consider that wear spot a badge of honor. Speed neck done the old fashioned way, below. This is my 20 year old Nugget.

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    Thanks i do. I have played my Brentrup a lot over the years. Hans was enjoyed as he could see I really play it a lot. Maybe a lacquer finish would have held up better than the varnish, but who knows, I sure like how it sounds and that has helped playing more. Lots of gigs didn't hurt either.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    That's not too bad for nine years, especially if it's your only mandolin and you play a lot. You might take a look and see if you're using more thumb pressure than you need, though.

    The bottom line, though, is that any finish will wear, sooner or later. How fast depends on what kind of finish, how much an instrument is played, and the owner's body chemistry.

    Wiping down the neck with a soft cloth when you're done playing doesn't hurt one bit.

    In the old days, we would have said that spirit varnish wears the fastest, followed [probably] by oil varnish, nitrocellulose lacquer, then polyurethane. Now there's all of these new-fangled finishes being used, and it's exhausting to even try and list them, and probably too early to say how they fit in.

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Hopefully so Sherry, after thousands of hours of playing you should be playing faster.
    Touche'.

    Rcc56 mentioned wiping down the neck. I wipe down the top and strings. Hadn't thought about the neck. I will now.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Wiping down the neck may help to prevent the build-up of residues (finger oils; grease; dirt) on the mandolin neck. However, there is little evidence that doing so will prevent you from wearing through the finish as a result of playing. As rcc56 said, that happens as a result of normal wear, combined with body chemistry. The more you play, the sooner you will wear through the finish. Wiping the neck doesn't really prevent or postpone that.

    Violin necks are left unfinished at the back for this reason. Many mandolin players opt for a "speed neck," which has the finish removed. Others just wear the finish through in various spots, or even throughout its length (see Scott Tichenor's Nugget neck). It doesn't hurt the instrument.

    A mandolin with a fully finished back of the neck is likely either one that hasn't been played all that much, or one that has some type of bullet-proof finish, like a catalyzed polymer finish. The better finishes, like varnish (or thin nitro), are among the first to wear through.

    Think of it as a badge of pride that reflects all your practice time.

    P.S. I had a "satin finish" on my Weber Bitterroot F5. After lots of playing, the back of the neck was turned into a glossy finish! Then, this glossy finish eventually wore clean through, over the first five or so frets. The neck was wiped regularly, and never allowed to get dirty or greasy. It just happens from playing. You need to find a way to live with it -- just like the minor scuff marks mentioned in the thread about tuners.

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    My evidence is from decades of experience working on instruments.

    Every now and then, I get an instrument of good quality in the shop that has never been wiped off regularly, and when you try to clean them, the finish has turned to goo even in areas that don't get heavy mechanical wear. Body oils can be caustic, and can compromise a finish even where there is no significant mechanical wear.

    Bottom line, is if you wipe off your neck, the finish just might hold up better.

    And violin necks are not unfinished. They are sealed, usually with thin shellac on the better instruments.

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    My neck is not gooey feeling, but smooth like a speed neck. It almost is. Yes I played it a lot and gigs on river boats where it was hot and humid and that may have softened the varnish and made it wear faster.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  18. #14
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    I tend to remove the letters on my desktop keyboards with extended use. My IT guy says it's caused by oils in my fingertips. Hadn't thought about it affecting my mandolin neck, but can see that it might.

  19. #15
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Pardon me, I just have to say that I love the neck of an instrument - from the heel to the head stock joint.

    I guess holding one in the hand for a lifetime - not a surprise. A fine wood against the hand, strung with music..

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    My F-9's finish on the back of the neck was well worn but worn somewhat inconsistently, until I had the instrument re-fretted and the back of the neck re-profiled, then it was speed neck'ed and French polished... Results below:
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    I've never heard the term "speed neck" outside the mandolin world. Fiddlers who play faster than us have bare necks protected with a bit of oil and they don't call it a speed neck. I've always wondered about that.

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    Anyway, that photo above is what I did to my mandolin years ago, sanded off the lacquer with just a bit of Tung oil for protection and it has lasted for years, feels nice and smooth. It's not any faster because I'm not any faster after all these years, sad to say.

    A curious thing about "speed necks" and this is probably better for a different thread, is that I haven't wanted to do this with my octave mandolin or my acoustic guitars. It felt right on the mandolin but not on those longer scale instruments, and I'm not 100% sure why that is...

  22. #18

    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    On the flip side, if you want to protect your neck, the softnek product has worked for me.

    It has a smooth matte finish that gives you an instant speed-neck feel, at the cost of adding a 1/16" thickness. I like them on my instruments, as I prefer the padded feel too (reduces thumb callouses), but that's me.
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Some legit play-wear there! I love it. Seven years in with my MT and it still looks pretty much new (my guitar on the other hand, not so much). I'm embarrassed!
    ...

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Some legit play-wear there! I love it. Seven years in with my MT and it still looks pretty much new (my guitar on the other hand, not so much). I'm embarrassed!
    Don't be embarrassed -- it also depends on the finish. I know for sure the nitro finish on my F-9 neck was pretty thin and soft and it only took 3 or 4 years of serious playing to go through it. The rest of the mandolin body is more protected (pickguard, armrest, toneguard) and doesn't receive constant rubbing, but still it shows wear in some places too (the points, edges, etc.).

    Nitro finishes from one mandolin to the next differ in thickness and chemical composition, which both have a lot to do with how long they will last. And then there are synthetic finishes, some which will last longer than a normal mandolin's expected playing life.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug (plus many other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [Our recent arrival]

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    Some legit play-wear there! I love it. Seven years in with my MT and it still looks pretty much new (my guitar on the other hand, not so much). I'm embarrassed!
    Nah, don't be. As Don mentioned above, finishes vary. One reason I stripped the neck of my mandolin is that I realized it was never going to show any natural wear and less "grabby" feel, due to a hard-as-nails glossy lacquer finish. In the photo you can see I wasn't even able to feather the transition to bare wood very well, because it's so tough.

    On the opposite end of the scale, A friend has a mandolin with what I think is an oil varnish/"French Polish" finish. It was showing wear in various places including the top after a short amount of time. It's a great-looking finish, but I think he regrets the added maintenance of touching it up with fresh varnish every now and then, to protect the softer top wood. He's not into the "distressed" look.

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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    I treasure the righteous wear on my mandolins, and even some of the stupid wear due to neglecting to close a case or egregious belt buckle rash.

    I recall getting some fret work, in which only the first 8 frets needed any attention. I was kind of embarrassed and made a commitment to myself that the next fret job would require work on the first 16 frets.


    I have one mandolin I purchased where the previous owner had done a speed neck. I have to say I really really like it. It makes a difference. Confession, I have not the courage to do it myself on all of my mandolins.
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I treasure the righteous wear ...

    Righteous wear !! Righteous wear, IMHO, is even better than honest wear ...
    Honest wear doesn't bother one. Righteous wear could make you proud!

  30. #24
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    Question Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    More base, first joint of index finger wear on the bottom side, than my thumb,,,

    + the hand of the last owner starting back in the 20's..

    shared effort..

    Neck; mahogany not maple.. a modest paddle head A4..



    1st owner , I'm told, bought it after returning home from surviving, WW1..

    Town has a Doughboy Monument to those soldiers..




    ...
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    Default Re: Thumb wear on the neck

    I also have a 1920s instrument, a Vega Style N tenor banjo. It came to me through my wife's family, where a gentleman from a previous generation had purchased it in the 1960s and played it perhaps through the '70s, before it sat unused for many years. I can see two distinct patterns of worn-away finish. One is from from first-position play much like in RobP's picture. This may have been from my wife's family member. Then there is a strip of wear along the very back of the neck from frets 2 to ~10, which must be from someone who used a classical guitar-like left hand position. Both players left their mark--but if I could go back in time I sure know whose playing I'd be most curious to hear.

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