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Oily Hummingbird


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Please Help Me,  Any advice, opinion & or comment is welcome & appreciated... photos attached 

so a customer dropped off his Hummingbird complaining that it was ‘sweating’ after he brought it back from the Bahamas where he’d been living for several years. (He’s owned the guitar for many years) Apparently he has absolutely no idea what has happened to it & I assume the sweating he refers to is the seepage from whatever was inside the guitar coming out.

 On my initial inspection I thought the Guitar has been scorched or burnt, visually, it wore the trademarks of such. I quizzed Mr HB like no bodies business, more than once, no further info he gave, that’s cool, I like a challenge, but this goes beyond that. I have decided upon my theory, however, 6 months later I still have the Hummingbird hanging up in my workshop, hanging over me, sweating. Nothing seems to work, except perhaps time.

My first step was looking inside the Guitar, not good, stained black, there wasn’t really a residue on my fingers when I touched it but I could feel something slightly oily, by the time my hands were on it, whatever it was was well & truly soaked in. 

I stripped the back & sides, the lacquer was peeling off anyway & I wanted air to get into the grain, maybe letting the Guitar  ‘breathe’ instead’ of ‘sweat’ was my plan. The wood was soft; tacky & dark underneath. There was a slight concave to the bottom right hand side, we managed to save that section by making a jig to pull it back out again. I just don’t know how to fix the rest of it. To me it appears that some kind of oil, thick & dark has been poured inside it & there it has sat until it was completely absorbed into the wood and seeping out the other side. I’ve sprinkled bi carb inside, which came out brown & damp, so it did absorb something, I’ve done a acetone sponge bath, methylated spirits wiped down, packed absorbing pads around it, not a lot of change could be seen, applying directional heat makes it ooze and bubble.  Air & time seem to be the best & least destructive remedy.

Has any one out there experienced anything similar or remotely similar, or can suggest anything at all,  Thanks for reading, if nothing else, I feel slightly better getting this off my chest.

oh yeah and the customer wants it back like Yesterday...  (maybe I should tell him to come & get it)



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In the 80s I was in an acoustic jazz group. The bass player was much older than the rest of us (and a drunk) and at one point persuaded the violinist to lend him his violin, which he then smeared with (yes) motorbike engine oil.  He was convinced that it would improve the tone. However it caused the violinist quite a problem, and had the guy poured oil into the violin it would have destroyed it.  I don't know if he ever smeared oil all over his upright bass but I wouldn't have been surprised.  So it does happen - there are all sorts of nutcases out there with their wild theories.  Another one of this guy's ideas was to put a damp/wet rag in the back of his valve amp combo to improve the sound![omg]

It may be that someone - and it sounds like your Mr HB is never going to confess if he knows - did something similar to this guitar as it might have been a very dry, hot environment.  Or it may just have been accidental where the oil spilled onto and inside it.....:-k  

Also, I have a neighbour who thinks the best way to weatherproof and preserve wood  is to coat/soak it in old engine oil....!  This advice was offered to me when I said I was thinking about wooden garden steps. 

I mean we all know about giving fretboards a little oil occasionally, but that's ridiculous.  I suspect there is absolutely nothing more you could do to repair it, apart from replace ALL the damaged wood.

As we say in the UK, I think you are on a hiding to nothing with this one!  Good luck!

Edited by jdgm
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Was there a case with this guitar? It's almost like it got put into a shed and leaned against a wall, and someone accidentally or on purpose dumped some oily hydrocarbon in/on it.

I can't imagine there is anything that can be done for this one.

It almost looks like a tideline, like the guitar was standing on the lower bout in a puddle of oil,  or someone poured something inside.

Does it have any distinctive smell?

The owner may know exactly what happened, but doesn't want to admit it.

A low-viscosity hydrocarbon would soak completely through the wood, and it would be impossible to get it out, something like a gasoline/oil mix, or used engine oil.

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