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protecting wood/finish on old Gibson red-stain neck and resonator

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Feb 27, 2020 - 5:01:20 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

Hello all.  I just acquired a 1925 Gibson tenor with the infamous "mahogany red" stain that I've read is notorious for bleeding onto clothes, hands, etc.  While I wait for some ball bearings to arrive for it, I wonder if there's anything I should or can apply to protect the finish and to potentially stem a possible bleed problem or further deterioration of the finish?  I am not interested in getting it re-finished unless it would become absolutely necessary.  I actually think it looks pretty cool in its current state.  I applied a light coat of sesame oil to the fingerboard.  Any recommendations for products for the neck and resonator wood?  If so, should I avoid applying it to the inside of the resonator?


 

Edited by - Bribak on 02/27/2020 17:02:27

Feb 27, 2020 - 6:22:56 PM
Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

5140 posts since 10/12/2009

My thoughts are...that stain and finish has been on there for 95 years and its still on there, I don't think you need nor should try and put anything on there to "prevent bleeding".

I've never noticed anything bleeding out of my '25 bb, at least the resonator, the 5 string neck is only about 20 -25 years old.

If you can still read the chalk number inside the resonator, don't mess with it, don't try and wipe or clean the inside of the resonator, not even with a dry cloth.

I would just get the thing set-up, head tightened to where you like it, re-string it, tune it up, and start playing it !

Feb 27, 2020 - 6:30:16 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

quote:
Originally posted by RioStat

My thoughts are...that stain and finish has been on there for 95 years and its still on there, I don't think you need nor should try and put anything on there to "prevent bleeding".

I've never noticed anything bleeding out of my '25 bb, at least the resonator, the 5 string neck is only about 20 -25 years old.

If you can still read the chalk number inside the resonator, don't mess with it, don't try and wipe or clean the inside of the resonator, not even with a dry cloth.

I would just get the thing set-up, head tightened to where you like it, re-string it, tune it up, and start playing it!

 

 


Thank you. I will take your advice and keep my fingers crossed that I don't have any bleeding issues with it. The chalk number is visible inside the resonator, so I definitely won't mess with that either. Appreciate your advice.

Feb 27, 2020 - 6:37:55 PM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

I totally agree with Scott. If this thing was going to bleed red, it would have done it by now. It looks fine, so don't put any chemicals on it that could hurt its value.

Feb 27, 2020 - 7:52:17 PM

RevD

USA

74 posts since 4/8/2019

95 years of various oils and substances on it as well its probably bled all it was going to. Enjoy!

Feb 28, 2020 - 12:30:29 AM
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beegee

USA

21530 posts since 7/6/2005

I dunno. It depends on how much finish is left. I once restored an MB-3 that was leaving the owner's shirt red when he played. But he sweated a lot. I would consider an overspray of nitro lacquer.

Feb 28, 2020 - 2:14:26 AM

Emiel

Austria

9358 posts since 1/22/2003

I never noticed anything like bleeding with my 1926 ball-bearing…

Feb 28, 2020 - 6:07:21 AM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

I will just wait and see whether I have any issues with it bleeding. In researching these banjos I had run across numerous references to the issue.

Thanks for your comments.

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:01:51 AM
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2895 posts since 5/29/2011

My 1925 TB3 conversion had a big area on the resonator where the lacquer had been worn off. Every time I played it on a hot day the red stain would get on my shirt. We wore white shirts when we played. It washed out easily enough but it was embarassing to walk around with a big red stain on my shirt.
I sprayed the back of the resonator with several coats of Stewart MacDonald clear lacquer and let it dry several weeks before I played it again. That stopped the problem. If it were a pristine instrument I would not have sprayed it but it was far past being in mint condition.

Feb 28, 2020 - 7:31:42 AM

6853 posts since 8/28/2013

Here's a thought:

Don't do anything yet, but wear an old shirt and trousers when you play it. If it styarts bleeding, the you can decide what to do with it.

Right now, it appears fro the photo that there's plenty of lacquer to cover the red stain.

By the way, while I don't own one of these (I did have a ball bearing PB3 for a very short time) I do own a '24 trapdoor with what is likely the same red stain. I've never once had had hands or clothes turn red, and this poor beast hasn't had any protective coating on the back for two decades.

Feb 28, 2020 - 11:55:11 AM

12655 posts since 10/30/2008

There IS something about the red finish on the style 3s in those early years. If you sweat enough, you'll stain your shirt! Style 4, Granada, Style 5, don't do it.

Just be cautious the first few times you pick that banjo in hot humid weather.

Feb 28, 2020 - 1:41:41 PM

Fathand

Canada

11560 posts since 2/7/2008

I have a 25, never bled on me since 1982 except when I jabbed my thumb on the 5th string.

Feb 28, 2020 - 1:50:01 PM

185 posts since 2/15/2015

The pros use lighter fluid to clean instruments. I'm not saying you need to clean your instrument, but maybe at some point in time it's got a solvent on the finish that is causing it to continue this action that you described.

Feb 28, 2020 - 3:38:13 PM

rcc56

USA

2564 posts since 2/20/2016

I have seen the red dye bleed. In one instance, it appeared to come from the red lining of the original case. In others, it definitely came from the finish itself.

I don't believe naphtha, lighter fluid, etc. are going to stop the process. However, any solvents or even water may start to wash the color out of the old finish and give the banjo a faded look. You don't want that.

If it is not bleeding now, it is best to leave it alone. Keep it out of high temperature and high humidity conditions.

If the instrument finish is indeed bleeding, the choices are to either live with it, or to seal it with an outer coat of new finish. Remember that overcoating an instrument that has its original finish decreases its market value; even if the original finish is in rotten shape.

If an old Gibson must be overcoated for any reason, the most acceptable finishes are nitro-cellulose lacquer or French polished shellac.  The choice of which to use is somewhat dependent on the age of the instrument.  Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, I believe that Gibson was still using varnishes on at least most of their instruments in 1925.

Edited by - rcc56 on 02/28/2020 15:43:40

Feb 28, 2020 - 4:46:13 PM

DSmoke

USA

820 posts since 11/30/2015

I had the same problem with my 100% original 1925 TB3 BB tenor. The slightest bit of moisture and the red would bleed. I ended up french polishing the neck. Nobody would know and it sealed the finish.

Feb 28, 2020 - 4:49:38 PM

Bribak

USA

489 posts since 8/18/2010

Virtually all of my playing will be indoors in controlled environments, so hopefully there will be very few or no high temperatures and humidity conditions to worry about. 

Thanks for all the great info.

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