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The effects of aging


The_Sentry

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There's a lot of knowledgeable people on this forum, so I thought I'd toss this question out there in terms of the effects of aging.....on a guitar....

 

[-X

 

What are the overall effects of aging on a guitar? What happens to the wood, the finish, the glue joints, and the machinery (if kept in good condition) on a guitar? How does this affect the tone, if it in fact does?

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The wood dries out, slightly.

The finish(on some) binds with and becomes a part of the wood.

The wood breathes more, the finish becomes thinner.

The hardware generally corrodes to some extent, and loosens slightly from its slot in the wood.

The glue may weaken, depending on humidity and temperature changes.

 

The tone becomes "sweeter", more complex, and more resonant, though this may be dampened by the hardware loosening, unless on a particularly well kept guitar.

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Plastic parts tend to deteriorate. Not so much now as on vintage guitars which used more rudimentary plastics... old keystone tuners turn brown and eventually disintegrate. Metal parts will corrode. Lacquer finishes age while polyester/polyurethane finishes do not. Original fifties lacquers tend to fade and turn yellow with time (hence the creation of 'heritage cherry' to simulate old faded SGs) but the stuff they use today won't. Lacquer also tends to crack if not protected from sudden extreme temperature variations.

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Plastic parts tend to deteriorate. Not so much now as on vintage guitars which used more rudimentary plastics... old keystone tuners turn brown and eventually disintegrate. Metal parts will corrode. Lacquer finishes age while polyester/polyurethane finishes do not. Original fifties lacquers tend to fade and turn yellow with time (hence the creation of 'heritage cherry' to simulate old faded SGs) but the stuff they use today won't. Lacquer also tends to crack if not protected from sudden extreme temperature variations.

 

Interesting.

 

2 questions:

 

1. If you're into older guitars (or keeping your guitar in pristine condition), is it more difficult to do this in a location that has a high amount of relative humidity?

 

2. Based upon the age/good for wood/bad for hardware, would an ideal "aged to perfection" guitar be around what...10 to 15 years?

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Well, high humidity is going to cause problems with corrosion and rot. I've seen guitars that were stored in damp basements where the frets totted away. Too dry and the finishes start to crack. 50 to 60% relative seems to be where you want it. In a situation where the ambient humidity is way out of that region, control it by keeping the guitar in a case with a humidifier.

 

I don't think there's any 'maximum' age provided that the environment is good. I just had the opportunity to work on a 1962 Gibson Melody Maker that showed almost no signs of degradation at all... the tuner's metal parts were developing a slight patina but there was no outright corrosion anywhere and the finish on the guitar was pristine except for a couple of small dings. It really didn't look like a 46-year old guitar.

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Well' date=' high humidity is going to cause problems with corrosion and rot. I've seen guitars that were stored in damp basements where the frets totted away. Too dry and the finishes start to crack. 50 to 60% relative seems to be where you want it. In a situation where the ambient humidity is way out of that region, control it by keeping the guitar in a case with a humidifier.

 

I don't think there's any 'maximum' age provided that the environment is good. I just had the opportunity to work on a 1962 Gibson Melody Maker that showed almost no signs of degradation at all... the tuner's metal parts were developing a slight patina but there was no outright corrosion anywhere and the finish on the guitar was pristine except for a couple of small dings. It really didn't look like a 46-year old guitar.[/quote']

 

Oh, I can testify to this personally. When I moved from Northern California in the late 1990's (ideal humidity for based on conditions....this is sort of unrelated, but it's a classic car buff's paradise) to Atlanta Georgia for 5 years, and then with 3 additional years in Virginia...

 

The frets on my 1968 strat reissue were just...gone. And no, it wasn't a question of having played it that excessively. The humidity just ate away at the frets (eventually, I had to get a new fret job done on it, and I ended up rewiring the entire guitar as well as scrubbing rust off the bridge...so far, the keys look OK, though.)

 

AS for the number of years...eh, I just threw it out there. I guess if there was a question of me storing a guitar in an ideal environment for 20 some odd years and keeping use on it from moderate to light....

 

(But it is kind of like that wine question...people seem to have this disposition towards wine that is aged a certain year, and sure, some years are preferable vs. others...."Oh, say, 'old chap, that was a grand year for the vineyards! Tut tut!"):)

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(But it is kind of like that wine question...people seem to have this disposition towards wine that is aged a certain year' date=' and sure, some years are preferable vs. others...."Oh, say, 'old chap, that was a grand year for the vineyards! Tut tut!"):) [/quote']

Indeed. It's not just a question of the age; it's also a question of the vintage. Just as how 1959 is considered to be 'the' year for the Gibson Les Paul... yet a seventies Gibson will still be pretty much a substandard piece of crap no matter how old it gets.

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Hey The Sentry, great question, I live in a tropical climate and during summer I have high humidity, whick really causes problems with tuning my guitars. Following on with questions apart from wiping them down after every practise and keeping them clean, what else could I do to keep them in prestine condition. I surpose I'm asking what do you blokes wipe down your guitars with.

 

 

Cheers

 

RR

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Oh yeah, that reminds me of an Angus Young quote (Anyone surprised?)...

 

"After that I got out and got a Gibson SG that I played until it good wood rot because so much sweat and water got into it. The whole neck warped. I bought it second-hand, it was about a ’67. It had a real thin neck, really slim, like a Custom neck. It was dark brown. After about a year, you lose about half the power in the pickups so you either get them re-wired or put new ones in. Just ordinary Gibsons."

 

In a different interview, however, he stated that he still uses it to his day. I'm confused. [-(

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I really like the look of an old beat up guitar' date=' so I've been trying to beat up my Squier as much as possible because Fenders especially look cool beaten up.

 

So anyone know how I could age my guitars quicker (other than playing them, because I know someone, probably Rot will say that!)?[/quote']

 

I purchased a used Squier not long ago and am planning on doing the same thing, plus practice some mods. I would start with Google, but you will find that there are a lot of hits you will get for places that do aging (obviously become big business). My feeling is, do it and see what happens. You can't really screw it up. Get a sander (hand and power) and a hammer and screw driver - and have at it.

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I purchased a used Squier not long ago and am planning on doing the same thing' date=' plus practice some mods. I would start with Google, but you will find that there are a lot of hits you will get for places that do aging (obviously become big business). My feeling is, do it and see what happens. You can't really screw it up. Get a sander (hand and power) and a hammer and screw driver - and have at it.[/quote']

 

Well I don't want to go Fender Custom Shop on it, I just want it to look old and well played. It just looks weird when you sand the paint off, especially because mine has a red base coat (the guitar is blue).

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I really like the look of an old beat up guitar' date=' so I've been trying to beat up my Squier as much as possible because Fenders especially look cool beaten up.

 

So anyone know how I could age my guitars quicker (other than playing them, because I know someone, probably Rot will say that!)?[/quote']

 

I read this nifty article from Premier Guitar on artificially aging your semi hollow or hollow bodied guitar.

 

First you put your (semi)hollow bodied guitar onto a guitar stand and put it next to an amplifier. Then raise the gain reasonably where the guitar would cause feedback. Then as this process is going on you can turn off your volume on the guitar so it would cause string vibrations without any noise. Then just sit back and wait for your guitar to artificially age. I personally would go watch tv or whatever that would keep you not bored for several hours.

 

How does this process work? Your guitar ages when you play it. When you play it, a string or the strings will vibrate due to you strumming a chord or plucking a note. When you cause feedback from your guitar, your strings would vibrate. Therefore theoretically speaking, you are artificially aging your guitar without actually playing it.

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I read this nifty article from Premier Guitar on artificially aging your semi hollow or hollow bodied guitar.

 

First you put your (semi)hollow bodied guitar onto a guitar stand and put it next to an amplifier. Then raise the gain reasonably where the guitar would cause feedback. Then as this process is going on you can turn off your volume on the guitar so it would cause string vibrations without any noise. Then just sit back and wait for your guitar to artificially age. I personally would go watch tv or whatever that would keep you not bored for several hours.

 

How does this process work? Your guitar ages when you play it. When you play it' date=' a string or the strings will vibrate due to you strumming a chord or plucking a note. When you cause feedback from your guitar, your strings would vibrate. Therefore theoretically speaking, you are artificially aging your guitar without actually playing it.[/quote']

 

And sucking energy! I think most of the wear is from humans touching it, not from the strings ringing.

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Indeed. It's not just a question of the age; it's also a question of the vintage. Just as how 1959 is considered to be 'the' year for the Gibson Les Paul... yet a seventies Gibson will still be pretty much a substandard piece of crap no matter how old it gets.

 

That brings up another question......the economics of a time in history while the guitar was made.

 

1959 was an outstanding year as far as economics in the United States (as were the 50's and a good portion of the 60's)...you'd have to figure that sales were brisk, materials were available and people were employed.

 

Hence, good guitars.

 

The 1970's, however, was an era of a pretty major recession. Stagflation, skyrocketing oil prices, lots of unemployment.

 

Hence, this probably affected Gibson's sales at the time so they probably had to cut a few corners here and there on their guitars.

 

(Something to consider vs. whether to buy an Epiphone now vs. later....not only will you pay more later, but if there is an economic downturn, the quality of the guitar might not be as good....eek!)

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Hey The Sentry' date=' great question, I live in a tropical climate and during summer I have high humidity, whick really causes problems with tuning my guitars. Following on with questions apart from wiping them down after every practise and keeping them clean, what else could I do to keep them in prestine condition. I surpose I'm asking what do you blokes wipe down your guitars with.

 

 

Cheers

 

RR[/quote']

 

Man, that's a tough one....believe it or not, I used to use Pledge on the body and straight up lemon oil on the neck...(I just recently changed to guitar polishes)....and I'd try to leave it in the case as much as possible.

 

But, you're probably still going to have to be more mindful in that climate irregardless. (But, fair trade off....you're in the tropics!! WooT!)

 

ALSO: As far as the China plant: Hmmm.....2004-2006? That would be the argument once they got the bugs worked out of the startup, got quality control in line, and before they were swamped with orders.....

 

Hmm....

 

That might be another good question: What was the best year for Epiphone in terms of overall quality? The Elitists are one thing, but what about the plant in China?

 

Hmmm....(scratches chin in an effort to annoy...)

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