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Thread: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Dark trails appeared on the neck of my Godin A8 mandolin. It's not just spots - I can feel them with my finger.

    Can't say exactly when they first appeared and how fast they progress, but there seems to be more and more of them as time passes.

    What are they? Should I do something about them?

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  2. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I guess they could be wormholes. Worms won't go out of the wood before they are ready and will turn back into wood when they hit the finish. Our most common woodworm has life cycle of three years and will dig a lot of tunnels inside before it will get close to surface.
    You can try to remove the neck from body if there are visible holes in the joint (possibly going from neck to body)
    Getting rid of worms can be more costly then replacement of the mandolin. You cannot use chemicals because the wood is finished and gamma-ray treatment may be hard to find. :-)
    Adrian

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Like Adrian says: unbolt the neck and check everywhere for worm holes, if you find an entrance hole or two, strongly suggest you burn the thing before they infect anything else (it'll save you loads of $$'s in the long run).... oh and check the rest of the house, as these things must have come from somewhere in the first place.

  4. #4
    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    To my eye it doesn't look like insect damage, mainly because 1) I can't see any exit holes, and 2) the dark spots/trails don't look like insect galleries to me.

    If it were mine, I'd try to clean the dark spots with a clean cloth (first), then a clean cloth lightly moistened with water. If results are unsatisfactory, lightly moisten the clean cloth with naphtha, but that's as far as I'd go trying to clean it.
    Clark Beavans

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    Barn Cat Mandolins Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I'm not convinced they are currently active worm holes. At least not yet convinced to the point that I would scrap the mandolin.

    Do you have any older pictures of the instrument in which we can clearly see the neck? I'd want to examine whether these tracks existed earlier and are just getting darker over time.

    Also, I'd be inclined to sand down the neck to bare wood and see if these are tunnels filled with frass (what the tunneling insect leaves behind) or are something more solid. I'd have to be pretty convinced before I'd scrap the mandolin.
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    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    Do you have any older pictures of the instrument in which we can clearly see the neck? I'd want to examine whether these tracks existed earlier and are just getting darker over time.
    I found two photos from 2015 and I made corresponding photos from 2022.

    2015 :

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    2022 :

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    2015 :

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    2022 :

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  7. #7
    Registered User Sevelos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
    If it were mine, I'd try to clean the dark spots with a clean cloth (first), then a clean cloth lightly moistened with water. If results are unsatisfactory, lightly moisten the clean cloth with naphtha, but that's as far as I'd go trying to clean it.
    I cannot just wipe the marks off. Most of them are actual gashes in the wood. I didn't have them a few years back.

  8. #8
    Barn Cat Mandolins Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Yes, Sevelos, I see what you are seeing, I am just not convinced it is necessary to destroy the instrument.

    It might be useful to look inside to see if the damage exists anywhere else. I understand this instrument has two chambers. See if the damage extends to other parts of the mandolin.

    Wood boring insects have been with us since the dawn of time, and there are people who deal with these as their profession. I would speak with a professional exterminator you can trust, about fumigants. Ask whether the instrument can be bagged and fumigated, or placed in the home of a client whose house the exterminator is tenting and fumigating (photo below copied from the web). I doubt either the homeowner or the exterminator would have a problem with that. It helps that mandolins are small and portable. Ask what this will do to the finish, but I think it is worth risking damaging the finish rather than just giving up on the instrument.

    Please let us know what you decide to do. This is an unfortunate but interesting problem.

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    If you go the fumigation route, I would strip the neck of finish first. That would give the fumigant the best chance of penetrating. I would probably remove all hardware, too.

    Obviously, you will have to thoroughly air out the instrument out once this is done.

    On the other hand, if you look inside and see no damage elsewhere, you could have the mandolin re-necked. It's at least worth getting the price for this work. On this mandolin, I wouldn't think that would be cost prohibitive.

    Of course, it's totally up to you what step to take. You can burn it as suggested. If you value the instrument, though, you may want to explore all options before resorting to that. Wood boring insects are ubiquitous. Yours is not a unique situation.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I keep looking at this and wondering if that is some sort of reaction to the finish or a wood filler used due to exposure to sunlight. Kind of like the way varnish can get darker after years of exposure. I can't seem to wrap my head around it being an infestation that doesn't manifest itself with an exit or entrance hole of some type.

    Have you contacted the manufacturer? If it's a common problem for them they might do something for you.

    Beyond that, it's a bolt on neck. Have you tried taking it off to see if there is any visible activity where it attaches to the body?
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Not sure if it’ll work, but CO2 will not leave a residue of chemical that can harm you, so if killing insects are part of your process, consider using inert gas first…
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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I keep looking at this and wondering if it is sap coming to the surface as the wood dries. How old is this mandolin?
    Tom

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  14. #12

    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I've seen this before, but I am not sure what it is.

    I wouldn't be to quick to assume it is worms. Right now it is mostly a cosmetic condition, if you can live with that. If not, get a different mandolin.

    As others have said, the cost of the solution could easily outweigh the value of the instrument. But, we can't recommend a solution if we don't have a diagnosis.

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    So it looks like the neck is mahogany, and the instrument is 7 (or more) years old.

    I think the age is enough to eliminate the possibility of insect activity, since these types of insects won't enter wood through a finished surface - but adults will exit if they were present as larvae in the wood when the surface was finished.

    If the marks are underneath the finish and can't be cleaned off, the best coping strategy may be to make the best of it and consider them character marks.
    Clark Beavans

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  17. #14

    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Haywood View Post
    I keep looking at this and wondering if it is sap coming to the surface as the wood dries. How old is this mandolin?
    Back in prehistory when people were closer to their materials, cutting trees according to seasons, or even moon phases was part of the technology. The sap content obviously varies, but I doubt this is of concern to the lumber companies these days.

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  19. #15

    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I also think this is sap. Seasonal changes cause resins to move around. If it were sanded flush with the surface of the neck, and has now diffused into the surrounding wood, it could certainly make a visible as well as tactile divot.

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  21. #16
    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I admittedly have no practical experience with tropical hardwoods, but here is my take on the difference between "sap" and "resin":

    Sap is basically free water plus whatever compounds are dissolved in it, in living trees. I think it is only mobile in green or drying wood. Once the moisture content has been reduced to "dry", there is no more free water (only bound water). The sap is gone.

    Resins aren't really sap, I don't think. They have more to do with a tree's defense system. I associate resins with softwoods, not so much with mahogany. Resins seem to occur in localized areas, but I've not experienced them moving in "cut and dried" lumber.

    In common usage, "sap" can refer to resins that glom up your cutting tools when you're working in softwoods.
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  23. #17
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Have you considered poking the spots with a small nail to see if they go through?

  24. #18

    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
    I admittedly have no practical experience with tropical hardwoods, but here is my take on the difference between "sap" and "resin":

    Sap is basically free water plus whatever compounds are dissolved in it, in living trees. I think it is only mobile in green or drying wood. Once the moisture content has been reduced to "dry", there is no more free water (only bound water). The sap is gone.

    Resins aren't really sap, I don't think. They have more to do with a tree's defense system. I associate resins with softwoods, not so much with mahogany. Resins seem to occur in localized areas, but I've not experienced them moving in "cut and dried" lumber.

    In common usage, "sap" can refer to resins that glom up your cutting tools when you're working in softwoods.
    Could be. Maybe "resin" is the better term for what I was describing, but in my field, that means "something that polymerizes", so that's not how I think of it.
    Anyway, "tree stuff" definitely moves around after harvest, and after kiln-drying. It takes repeated cyclical changes in heat and humidity, but that happens several hundred times every year.

  25. #19
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    It's hard to imagine any resin/sap whatever movement in wood that is dry for years and very likely wasn't exposed to any humidity/temperature extreme cycles (I guess OP takes some care of his mandolin). Some special fungus may also be cause here but I think I can see depressions at each dark spot that suggest void underneath. Perhaps better pic would show it better or as suggested above poking one of the spot with thin pin may show if there is tunnel below te surface or just stained wood.
    There are insects that will hibernate for a long time (several years) before waking up and eating the piece from inside, tropical woodworms may have some weird species.
    Adrian

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  27. #20
    Registered User Brian560's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    Do you think the dark spots might just be in the finish? I have seen polyurethane varnishes become like that over time.

  28. #21
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Dark trails appeared on the neck of my mandolin

    I'm thinking its natural wear and tear - finger grease if you will. No need to do anything....
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