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Were Ivoroid Tuner Buttons Ever Colored in Pre-War Times?

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Oct 20, 2019 - 4:32:13 PM
65 posts since 9/11/2017

Recently I came across three Ivoroid tuner buttons which were apparently stained or painted to represent amber-colored Catalin. The base of the button has no discoloration inside, save the characteristic yellowing found on older Ivoroid tuner buttons and binding. The cut-out for the attachment screw and washer also is devoid of paint. I realize this could be a more modern attempt at faux Catalin, but it seems to represent a certainly well-done effort. I found a darker paint splatter on one of the buttons covering the finger tip turning surface on one side of one of the buttons. Was this something done during the Great Depression on low-end banjos and ukuleles? Sorry for the over-exposed picture- the color is a light orange-brown. Tony


Oct 20, 2019 - 4:38:33 PM

554 posts since 5/19/2018

I would think the color you see was a much later addition.

I’m only going by personal experience, I once when I was a very young not quite a teenager, I took red and blue magic markers to the tuners on my first or second guitar. They stayed red and blue for years.

I have never seen an old peg made prior to WWII that was dyed a primary color. Not to say that it is not impossible that it didn’t happen or some manufacturers didn’t do it, but if so, it was a very rare occurrence.

Oct 20, 2019 - 4:39:35 PM

52632 posts since 12/14/2005

They were steeped in tobacco smoke, over the decades, my bet.
But, I doubt that the original manufacturers would want them to look like anything OTHER THAN plain ivory.

Individual owners may have applied various finishes, for various personal reasons.

(Just GUESSING, since I never studied up on the topic.)

Oct 20, 2019 - 5:51:45 PM



2307 posts since 2/20/2016

"Were ivoroid buttons ever colored in pre-war times?"

I'm not going to say that it was never done, but I am comfortable in saying that in my 30+ years of experience with old instruments, I have never seen it done, nor heard of it being done.

Those of us who repair old instruments have been known to color replacement buttons from time to time, though.

Oct 20, 2019 - 6:28:41 PM

65 posts since 9/11/2017

Thanks everyone! To tell you the truth- I thought the same thing, but let me tell you- they were so well done that I knew this was deliberate and painstakingly executed. These were not immersed in coffee or nicotine, or antifreeze, as the inner shaft portion is intact as is the screw fly-cut. Whatever the colorant was (I have not tested the buttons with acetone to see if they were stained with nitrocellulose lacquer)- they indeed knew what they were doing! I'll change back to the originals without a second thought and dream of having the real thing... Tony

Edited by - mgbbrown on 10/20/2019 18:31:10

Oct 20, 2019 - 10:34:40 PM
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2307 posts since 2/20/2016

I use a weak amber aninline alcohol dye to age ivoroid buttons. I add a little acetone before I wipe it on. Sometimes I add just one drop of brown.
The dye should have only a little bit of color. If it has too much, it looks really bad and fake.

You might try to take that stuff off the home-dyed buttons. The color is much too red to look anything like a naturally aged button.

Oct 21, 2019 - 6:14:15 AM

65 posts since 9/11/2017

Bob; Whoever did this was trying to replicate amber Catalin rather than aged Ivoroid I am thinking, which points to a more recent modification. The buttons themselves appear an orange-brown and are actually a nice rendition of Catalin to the uninitiated, but try as I could- I was unable to reduce the intense color saturation in the photographs. There actually was a fourth button in the set that was damaged from over-tightening the attachment or tensioning screw, on which I tried to remove the coloring to no avail. I have already changed out the button on the fifth string peg back to the original Grover Pre-War Ivoroid one, and am content to have it back to original. It looks far nicer methinks with those Keith bump Scruggs D-tuners. Tony


Nov 3, 2019 - 6:22:04 PM
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65 posts since 9/11/2017

I have located a tenor Pre-War Catalin set of Grover square-hole Butterscotch colored buttons, so perhaps I have redeemed myself... One was damaged along the top at the tension screw hole, and this will be repaired using matching Catalin from period butterscotch poker chips. I like happy endings! Perhaps a fifth button will surface-you just never know.


Nov 3, 2019 - 6:59:37 PM

1812 posts since 10/17/2013


Those four buttons all in a row look so nice, I could practically eat them, were they edible!

They remind me of butterscotch candies from City Blue Print in Wichita, KS!

Edited by - bluegrassbanjopicker on 11/03/2019 19:00:46

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