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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Midnight maple & 100% penetrating wood stain


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/390912

chris_coppit - Posted - 06/07/2023:  20:53:30


Hello, I recently saw Deering Banjo Company's ad for their "Midnight Maple" fretboards which are regular maple strips stained as dark as ebony, straight to the core. This highly-penetrative staining method is pretty incredible but they are keeping their method a secret.

I would like to know if anyone may be able to shed light on this process or something similar. Thanks.



The ad in question: info.deeringbanjos.com/learn-w...-maple-is

rcc56 - Posted - 06/07/2023:  21:49:03


Probably some sort of pressure dyeing process.
Deering didn't invent it. Pressure dyeing techniques have been in use for generations.
Lots of info easily available , just google "pressure dyeing wood."
From skimming over a couple of articles, it seems that a vacuum process is sometimes used in conjunction with pressure dyeing.

desert rose - Posted - 06/08/2023:  00:41:15


Agreed

Bob Smakula - Posted - 06/08/2023:  03:50:22


But what will the dyeing technique do to the cell structure of the wood? My shop replaces decomposed ebonized hardwood on vintage banjos all the time. Will the dye itself or the pressure dying create wood that is unstable? I guess in 100 years we will know for sure.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com


Edited by - Bob Smakula on 06/08/2023 03:51:20

Helix - Posted - 06/08/2023:  05:00:38


In 100 years the relics will emerge from the rubble of our endeavors. We will see for sure.

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/08/2023:  05:43:27


It’s no doubt one of the phenolic impregnated wood laminates long used for knife handles such as pakka-wood , DymondWood, Spectra Ply, etc etc etc..



These are dyed and impregnated under pressure and used for fancy gunstocks, archery bows, walking sticks, usually revealing interesting color layers, but are also made all black.



Any of these would make excellent fingerboards and are readily available as blanks for knife handles and turnings such as ball-point pens, bottle stoppers, yada yada, but might be harder to find in fingerboard lengths.



 



BTW, good for Deering for going this way—one more nail in the coffin of using endangered wood for this stuff and pretending it's OK.



 


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/08/2023 05:47:36

Helix - Posted - 06/08/2023:  05:50:12


Great info Mr. Levan

Joel Hooks - Posted - 06/08/2023:  05:56:17


quote:

Originally posted by Bob Smakula

But what will the dyeing technique do to the cell structure of the wood? My shop replaces decomposed ebonized hardwood on vintage banjos all the time. Will the dye itself or the pressure dying create wood that is unstable? I guess in 100 years we will know for sure.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com






My theory is that on the historical examples they were not using dye at all.



Reading period woodworking/leather working books a common technique for "ebonizing" leather and some woods was to use a high acid vinegar iron solution (basically take a jar of vinegar and put some iron nails or steel wool in it and let it sit for a while) to react with the tannins.



Back when I was doing "period" leather work (reenacting days of past) if someone wanted black leather work I insisted on doing it this way, and it works very well-- only it stinks for a long time.  The good thing is that the resulting black leather does not leach out onto your pants when you sweat like most dyes will.  But, like the extant period examples, I suspect it will eventually turn to dust.



A quick google search shows that this is still being taught and used:



finewoodworking.com/project-gu...ng-wood-2



And since this was commonly taught in woodworking at the time, I suspect that an industrial level version was likely common.



Soaking thin sheets of maple in high acid vinegar can't be good for it in the long run.

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 06/08/2023:  08:30:22


100 years ago many processes were different. I doubt that Deering is using high acid vinegar, just as no one is hand painting radium onto watch dials.

It's quite unlikely, of course, that any newer dying technique is devoid of drawbacks. At least maybe some exotics can be saved as new techniques evolve.

Old Hickory - Posted - 06/08/2023:  10:20:37


When Deering files their patent application for Midnight Maple, then we'll know their secret proprietary process that others have been using for years.

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/08/2023:  10:35:45


quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

When Deering files their patent application for Midnight Maple, then we'll know their secret proprietary process that others have been using for years.






Good point—maybe they will patent maple.



I have a couple of kitchen knives with black pakkawood handles that go back to the early 70s.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 06/08/2023:  10:44:20


quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

When Deering files their patent application for Midnight Maple, then we'll know their secret proprietary process that others have been using for years.






Not a patent but... they did file an application for a trademark on the name "Midnight Maple" in October of last year with the claim that they have been using the name in trade since 2016 in their catalog (and including photos of that catalog and later versions).  In their application for the trade mark they claim they "invented" this dyed maple fingerboard. 



Perhaps a patent is forthcoming on stained or dyed fingerboards?

Jbo1 - Posted - 06/08/2023:  11:10:43


If you were to dye a flamed maple board, would the flame still show beneath the dye? That might make for an interesting fingerboard.

chris_coppit - Posted - 06/08/2023:  11:26:16


I just started brewing some iron acetate solution. Perhaps it can be neutralized by a base such as baking soda to reduce its damaging effects on the wood. I will experiment with this once it's done. Thank you to all who replied so far.

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/08/2023:  12:21:09


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

When Deering files their patent application for Midnight Maple, then we'll know their secret proprietary process that others have been using for years.






Not a patent but... they did file an application for a trademark on the name "Midnight Maple" in October of last year with the claim that they have been using the name in trade since 2016 in their catalog (and including photos of that catalog and later versions).  In their application for the trade mark they claim they "invented" this dyed maple fingerboard. 



Perhaps a patent is forthcoming on stained or dyed fingerboards?






If they "invented" it, their patent would cover the specific thing they invented, not Pakkawood, Richlite, DymondWood, et al, which have been on the market for many years.



The sweaty-palmed patent and trademark paranoia of these big (in the banjo world) companies has to do with other big companies—there are only a couple of them dukeing it out. You and I would have a very difficult time even getting a sample of the specific dyed maple lamination they are using, let alone making fingerboards out of it—they probably contracted their fingerboards to a company that manufactures the material and specified the color they wanted.



If you want to do that kind of fingerboard, just use pakkawood or one of the others.


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/08/2023 12:23:20

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/08/2023:  12:46:09


Here you go— "ebony" laminated birch.  One "full panel" sheet would make a lot of fingerboards.



webbwood.com/Phenolic-High-Den...0660-1005

webbwood.com/index.php?route=i...tion_id=7



 

Helix - Posted - 06/08/2023:  12:59:15


Much was dyed Pear wood
My ‘20’s Vega 17 fret uses it

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/08/2023:  13:18:57


Keep in mind that the significant aspect of the "midnight maple" is not the dyed color—you could do that with the pressure-dyed wood used to make custom pool cues.



It's the fact that it's been pressure impregnated with phenolic or the equivalent, which makes it harder than ebony and everlastingly scratch resistant.



Following my previous post, WebbWood, a US company, making the replacement for Dymondwood, may be the source of "midnight maple" for all we know.



Read their description:



WebbWood® is brought to you by D.B. Webb, Inc of Leicester, NY. We are primarily a manufacturing company, making thousands of crafted wooden and composite parts every month for our customers across the US and beyond.



When production of Dymondwood® stopped, we looked for an alternative available quality-controlled source for our manufacturing clients. Our volume shipments and large stock reserves allow us to extend the WebbWood® product range with dynamic new color sets.



WebbWood®'s Phenolic materials are constructed from the same dyed hardwood veneers, with an increased number of plys per inch. They are then subjected to a vacuum process where moisture is extracted from the material and replaced with phenolic resin. This gives a strong hard material that can buff up to a glossy shine, and that has excellent water resistance.



WebbWood® is a highly engineered wood/plastic composite that has unique physical and mechanical properties. Dyed hardwood veneers are combined with engineering grade resins, heat and pressure to create a product that has the best characteristics of each. WebbWood® is distinguished by its unique strength, durability, dimensional stability, weather and moisture resistance compared to regular wood.



Applications include, but are not limited to the following: Archery, Game Calls, Pistol Grips, Crafts, Knitting Needles, Ornaments, Pens, Awards, Frames, Pool Cues, Musical Instruments and many more.



 



You can buy this material and make your own fingerboards from it without fear of the patent police.



 



 


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/08/2023 13:25:57

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/09/2023:  05:52:03


After actually watching Deering's ad (duh), I realize I have been completely wrong about the midnight maple.  It is not impregnated or stabilized, but just regular maple dyed through and through by a proprietary system they have developed, which is the "invention" they have patented—certainly that could be done with any wood, but they have chosen maple in order to give them a specific product to patent and trademark, definitely an upgrade for the Goodtime line.



Essentially, what it is is sugar maple as in a blonde Fender fingerboard or the basic Goodtime one, but stained black.  This is a great idea and much better-looking than the blonde ones, can be inlaid, and won't get dirty as they do.



Meanwhile, it was enlightening to look up these other phenolic impregnated woods, erroneously thinking that's what they did.  Richlite is already a common fingerboard material—I think Martin uses it.  I will undoubtedly order a piece of the ebony WebbWood (made from birch) and see how it works. I think there's a great potential there.

Helix - Posted - 06/09/2023:  06:02:49


chris_coppit Thanks for posting, your curiousity is well founded. Rosewood and Ebony fingerboards are going to be scarce at some point.

The big boys are entitled to various forms of sourcing like sawing up exotics for wooden tone rings and such.

Somewhere there are workers who handle these phenolics which are petroleum based.

The search for sustainable products would be better served if people would plant new trees to replace the ones they are entitled to deplete.



Jatoba and Ipe are two of the 125 ft. canopy sustainables. No dying necessary. Blade burning and noise is a contact sport.

We don't want the Amazon to become a parking lot.

Maple gives food and is plentiful, sustainable and straight grained, so it meets specifications and budget to compete with other suppliers.  



Swamp Oak has the hardness desired and is domestic. Getting in and out with Helium based recovery would be sensible.

But you asked another question.



People can comment with cynicism if they like.  I would prefer more banjo notes in the air rather than chainsaw.



Here's two sustainables matched for durability and pleasant playing production.  Bamboo and Jatoba


Edited by - Helix on 06/09/2023 06:11:31


Fathand - Posted - 06/09/2023:  06:16:55


quote:

Originally posted by Jbo1

If you were to dye a flamed maple board, would the flame still show beneath the dye? That might make for an interesting fingerboard.






There are about a million flamed maple electric guitar bodies and necksout there that say yes. Dye is actually considered to "pop" the grain and figure. Dyed Fretboards are also out there.  neckillusions.com/products/col...ame-maple



Remember to use dye as stain can be more opaque. I have good luck with Fiebings Leather Dye. I have used the black to dye fretboards and other colours elsewhere. 

Paulf - Posted - 06/09/2023:  06:30:01


quote:

Originally posted by Fathand

quote:

Originally posted by Jbo1

If you were to dye a flamed maple board, would the flame still show beneath the dye? That might make for an interesting fingerboard.






There are about a million flamed maple electric guitar bodies and necksout there that say yes. Dye is actually considered to "pop" the grain and figure. Dyed Fretboards are also out there.  neckillusions.com/products/col...ame-maple



Remember to use dye as stain can be more opaque. I have good luck with Fiebings Leather Dye. I have used the black to dye fretboards and other colours elsewhere. 






Sorry to stray off topic but I often am amazed at some of the beautiful electric guitar bodies that I see in music shops.  There are a lot of youtube videos showing different staining techniques on them.



Paul



 

Joel Hooks - Posted - 06/09/2023:  07:08:27


Helix , Hi Larry, regarding your Vega with "pearwood" fingerboard, do you have anything to support this declaration?

The reason I ask is that this seems to be the biggest myth in historical banjo construction-- ebonized pearwood fingerboards.

I offer the following that took no effort on my part to find, I expect there is tons more evidence. See the images attached below.




Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/09/2023:  07:57:59


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Helix , Hi Larry, regarding your Vega with "pearwood" fingerboard, do you have anything to support this declaration?



The reason I ask is that this seems to be the biggest myth in historical banjo construction-- ebonized pearwood fingerboards.



I offer the following that took no effort on my part to find, I expect there is tons more evidence. See the images attached below.






I have heard the pearwood thing before and believed it for a while—it's a popular myth as you say.  Thanks for busting it on this forum.

chris_coppit - Posted - 06/09/2023:  08:49:56


Hey guys, coming back with an update on the iron acetate. I took a thin cut of maple and soaked it in walnut stain to increase the tannins in it, then I soaked it for an hour or so in a bath of iron acetate.



I let it dry overnight and this morning I got a grey board, almost to the core. But as you'll see it didn't quite reach everything. I think in the future I'll use a piece of oak or walnut which is much higher in tannins to achieve a darker shade. I'll soak it for longer as well in order to get a higher penetration.



I'll call this experiment a success!




Helix - Posted - 06/09/2023:  09:07:52


Good work

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/09/2023:  09:38:04


The 18th century gunsmiths in and around Lancaster County who made the Pennsylvania rifles would stain the maple stocks with iron filings dissolved in sulfuric acid—I don't know if this has any relationship to iron acetate, but it worked great.



chris_coppit - Posted - 06/09/2023:  10:39:01


quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

The 18th century gunsmiths in and around Lancaster County who made the Pennsylvania rifles would stain the maple stocks with iron filings dissolved in sulfuric acid—I don't know if this has any relationship to iron acetate, but it worked great.








That's a really pretty stain pattern. I would surmise that it is the same thing as iron acetate. The real magic is the iron itself, the sulferic acid or vinegar simply dissolves it and provides a way for the iron to react with tannins while in liquid form. Rubbing a nail on your wood wouldn't do anything, after all!

Helix - Posted - 06/09/2023:  13:33:27


We are not supposed to respond because it throws gas on a dumpster fire.



The OP is quite able to read and gets a certain impression, so do many others.



It's not my thread, please show more courtesy to others. One might smell kind of moldy.


Edited by - Helix on 06/09/2023 13:34:43

Fathand - Posted - 06/09/2023:  13:45:11


quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Helix , Hi Larry, regarding your Vega with "pearwood" fingerboard, do you have anything to support this declaration?



The reason I ask is that this seems to be the biggest myth in historical banjo construction-- ebonized pearwood fingerboards.



I offer the following that took no effort on my part to find, I expect there is tons more evidence. See the images attached below.






I have heard the pearwood thing before and believed it for a while—it's a popular myth as you say.  Thanks for busting it on this forum.






My understanding was that dyed pearwood was used on headstock plates, by Gibson.

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/09/2023:  14:31:38


quote:

Originally posted by Fathand

quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

Helix , Hi Larry, regarding your Vega with "pearwood" fingerboard, do you have anything to support this declaration?



The reason I ask is that this seems to be the biggest myth in historical banjo construction-- ebonized pearwood fingerboards.



I offer the following that took no effort on my part to find, I expect there is tons more evidence. See the images attached below.






I have heard the pearwood thing before and believed it for a while—it's a popular myth as you say.  Thanks for busting it on this forum.






My understanding was that dyed pearwood was used on headstock plates, by Gibson.






I had heard that, too, If you look at a picture of a 1927 peghead veneer I restored, it appears to be dyed something but I have no way to know if it’s pearwood—all of the rose family fruitwoods (cherry, pear, apple, serviceberry, etc.) are similar.  It could easily be soft maple or poplar—it has a bland grain and the color has been masked by the dye.  Poplar was used under the fingerboard inlays.



In the left-hand picture you can see it was wearing through.  In the back-view 3rd from left you see the color pretty clearly.



 


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/09/2023 14:36:14

Old Hickory - Posted - 06/09/2023:  20:08:54


quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

. . . midnight maple.  It is not impregnated or stabilized, but just regular maple dyed through and through by a proprietary system they have developed, which is the "invention" they have patented . . .






To clarify: To the best of my knowlege, they haven't patented it. My comment that we'd know the secret/proprietary process when they file for a patent was in jest -- an indirect reference to their practice of applying for patents on prior art (such as radius-bottom bridges). But I was not referring to any patent they've actually applied for. In the video, I believe their spokesperson only refers to a "proprietary process."  I don't believe he says they're patenting it.

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/10/2023:  04:35:52


quote:

Originally posted by Old Hickory

quote:

Originally posted by Ken LeVan

. . . midnight maple.  It is not impregnated or stabilized, but just regular maple dyed through and through by a proprietary system they have developed, which is the "invention" they have patented . . .






To clarify: To the best of my knowlege, they haven't patented it. My comment that we'd know the secret/proprietary process when they file for a patent was in jest -- an indirect reference to their practice of applying for patents on prior art (such as radius-bottom bridges). But I was not referring to any patent they've actually applied for. In the video, I believe their spokesperson only refers to a "proprietary process."  I don't believe he says they're patenting it.






That makes sense.



My understanding is that you can't patent a long standing process like dying things, sawing wood into boards, forging metal etc., but you can patent special machinery you have developed to do those things. Companies like CocaCola and Col. Sanders have protected their proprietary formulas by keeping them secret.


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/10/2023 04:36:38

Helix - Posted - 06/10/2023:  09:38:02


Old Hickory You are still correct. There are nuisance patents, it's a bungle out there.

mikehalloran - Posted - 06/10/2023:  10:46:52


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

quote:

Originally posted by Helix

No fingerboard was mentioned.

 






Ah, so Vega used ebonized maple for fingerboards but went the extra effort to source pear for the heel cap.  Got it.  Thanks for the supporting documentation. 






The brown headstock veneers, like the heel cap veneers were also pear wood.



Years ago, Wyatt Fawley wrote an excellent article on spotting fake and copy Vega necks. The most obvious tell is using ebony for the heel and headstock veneer.

Bob Smakula - Posted - 06/11/2023:  05:09:38


With about 50 years of being a professional instrument craftsman, historian, and maybe even a little bit of a forensic scientist, I am all but positive that the ebonized hardwoods used by Vega, Gibson, Bacon, Orpheum and others are not pear wood.

As Joel Hooks posted, the catalog references of the historic instruments all state "ebonized maple" as the substitute fretboard material. I have never seen a vintage reference to "ebonized pear wood".



To know for sure, it would take looking at the cell structure of the wood with a strong magnifying lens or microscope. Unfortunately the acid dying technique has destroyed the wood's cell structure, so there can never be 100% proof for either maple or pear wood.



My theory on the proliferation of the ebonized pear wood misinformation; In the 1960's and 1970's it was easy to purchase ebonized pear wood peghead overlays. We used quite a few in the early days of Goose Acres banjos. The pear wood we used was similar, but not exactly the same as the ebonized woods on the vintage instruments that were being rediscovered. Without much access to vintage catalogs that specified the materials, I believe there was an assumption that ebonized pear wood was chosen by the pre-war manufacturers for ebony substitute.



I recently worked on a Goose Acres banjo made in 1980 that had an ebonized pear wood peghead overlay. It did not age like the ebonized woods from the pre-war instruments. I am aware a different dying technique could be the reason, but examining that wood did not change my mind about the use of ebonized pear wood on vintage American instruments.



Until I can substantiate the exact species of the wood that was ebonized, I will continue to describe instruments with ebonized parts I have for sale as having "ebonized hardwood" pegheads, fretboards, or heel caps.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com


Edited by - Bob Smakula on 06/11/2023 05:15:59

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/11/2023:  05:36:01


My brother-in law authenticates pricey antique furniture for places like Sotheby's, and one of the clear ways to tell if an 18th C  piece is European or American (American is worth WAY more) is by identifying the wood species used, particularly secondary wood.



He has miniscule samples microscopically analyzed and compared to their huge database by the Forestry Service in Washington DC, who will do (used to do) that for a small fee.  They would be able to tell regardless of the stain.



One piece of marquetry he couldn't identify and sent to them turned out to be made of poison ivy wood.

Bob Smakula - Posted - 06/11/2023:  07:06:53


Ken LeVan



I would be happy to send the USDA Forest Service lab a big sample of ebonized hardwood for analyzation. Ken, If you don't mind, please ask your brother-in-law for appropriate contact and send me the information via a personal message.



Though I suspect "inconclusive" will be the answer, I am willing to invest time, money, and decaying vintage fretboards to get a quality answer.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com


Edited by - Bob Smakula on 06/11/2023 07:09:19

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/11/2023:  07:55:35


quote:

Originally posted by Bob Smakula

Ken LeVan



I would be happy to send the USDA Forest Service lab a big sample of ebonized hardwood for analyzation. Ken, If you don't mind, please ask your brother-in-law for appropriate contact and send me the information via a personal message.



Though I suspect "inconclusive" will be the answer, I am willing to invest time, money, and decaying vintage fretboards to get a quality answer.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com






I just wrote him an email and will keep you posted.  I suspect that maple and pearwood would be pretty easy to differentiate with a microscope.



Ken

calfskin - Posted - 06/11/2023:  08:03:31


i have used black walnut to make "ebony " it just needs boiling in strong iron sulphate (you can get this on ebay, lab chemicals ) solution this makes good veneers too. this uses the high tanning content as in ink making, if too strong the timber may start to disintigrate as old banjo fingerboards and overlays may do ,after time . the old way was to put rusty iron ,nails bolts etc in vinegar which produces a soluble salt of iron ,iron acetate which behaves the same as iron suphate but perhaps more corrosive. i dont think maple has very high tanning content to be stained black to compare with black walnut!

Ken LeVan - Posted - 06/12/2023:  12:11:26


quote:

Originally posted by Bob Smakula

Ken LeVan



I would be happy to send the USDA Forest Service lab a big sample of ebonized hardwood for analyzation. Ken, If you don't mind, please ask your brother-in-law for appropriate contact and send me the information via a personal message.



Though I suspect "inconclusive" will be the answer, I am willing to invest time, money, and decaying vintage fretboards to get a quality answer.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com






Bob,



I just sent you a message with the info.



Ken

csacwp - Posted - 06/14/2023:  10:08:18


quote:

Originally posted by Bob Smakula

Ken LeVan



I would be happy to send the USDA Forest Service lab a big sample of ebonized hardwood for analyzation. Ken, If you don't mind, please ask your brother-in-law for appropriate contact and send me the information via a personal message.



Though I suspect "inconclusive" will be the answer, I am willing to invest time, money, and decaying vintage fretboards to get a quality answer.



Bob Smakula

smakula.com






This is exciting. When I first started playing and collecting, the pearwood myth was alive and well, but I quickly came to question this and now suspect that all of those ebonized heel caps, overlays, and fingerboards are maple. I anxiously await the results.

Helix - Posted - 06/14/2023:  12:15:41


Thanks Bob and all for getting to the bottom of this terrible and disturbing urban myth covered in the dust of time
I’m glad to see the microscope is still in use and not just an app
I am waiting with unabated inhale

Ggrizzyg - Posted - 06/17/2023:  05:17:15


No matter the process I have a Deering Goodtime Artisan Special open back with the fingerboard and it sounds great. The tone ring they use makes all the difference. It is so versatile. I use it for 3 finger in jams and it can really hold its own in terms of brightness. I then place two folded over wool socks between the rod and head and it sounds very mellow when I use it to clawhammer. And all this in a lightweight package that is reasonably priced. A great banjo especially when traveling.

Bob Smakula - Posted - 07/12/2023:  08:36:45


The urban myth of ebonized pear wood has been debunked by the US Forest Service Wood Products lab.

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