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Jul 3, 2022 - 3:51 PM
46 posts since 1/17/2006

Yesterday I took one of my banjos out of its case and found it to have a white haze/fine powder(?) over almost all the nickel plated parts.

The banjo is about 28 years old. It is played fairly often but perhaps this go round has been in its case for about 3 months. When last played there was no sign of the haze/powder.

The tuners and tailpiece are fairly new (about 3 years old) but were covered with the haze/powder just as much as the 28 year old tension hoop and flange (the banjo does not have a tone ring (has a brass hoop) and has a wood arm rest).

Most of the haze/powder wiped off but even using a bit of “Flitz” polish, the tailpiece cover (Prucha Presto) has very mild but visible changes that were not there earlier (and are not really in an area that has much contact with skin/sweat).

The case is the same that came with it when I purchased the banjo (about 4 years ago) and I have kept it in the case a fair amount but also have had it out of the case for long stretches of time. No changes in the inside of the case that I can find. The other 2 banjos also have nickel plating and one is rarely played and is usually always in its case and neither has issues with haze/powder.

I pretty much now have it looking “normal” but wonder what the cause might have been and what I could do going forward to prevent it from happening again. I am leaving the banjo out of the case for now as I wonder if something changed inside the case to cause a reaction with the metal but will eventually want to store it in a case.

I have looked as best I can in the Hangout Archives and cast a wider “Google net” but did not come up with much. I was not attentive enough to take pictures as my initial reaction was to clean it off. Any ideas would be most welcome. Thanks.

Jul 3, 2022 - 7:10:56 PM

Bill H

USA

1936 posts since 11/7/2010

A mystery! The first thing that comes to mind is that since you describe it as a powder that wiped off, it stand to reason that it was something airborne. What is the environment like? Was it in the case and were there open windows, or a temperature or humidity change? Was an air conditioner running? I know we have had a ton of pollen this spring, but most of it was yellow. Was it just on the metal, and not the wood parts?

I have seen a foggy white haze form on metal from skin contact, but that would not explain it on multiple surfaces.

Jul 3, 2022 - 7:27:01 PM
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rmcdow

USA

1179 posts since 11/8/2014

An acidic environment, particularly nitric, will cause a white haze to form on nickel. There is not much telling where this might have come from, as there are a lot of innocuous sources. If this is the case, one solution is to put a container of baking soda in the banjo case. The baking soda will neutralize any acidic vapors in the case, but make sure the baking soda is in a container that will not allow it to leak (plastic or glass) in case it gains moisture during any reaction. It should be open to the air in some way however, and one way to do this is to put a small open box of baking soda in a baggie, and put the baggie in the case with an end open to the air. Calcium carbonate (powdered lime, marble dust) is a less reactive medium that will do the same thing, and is much less likely to gain moisture and run, it just cakes.

Jul 3, 2022 - 7:38:54 PM

46 posts since 1/17/2006

Thanks Bill,

No identifiable environmental cause. All three banjos have cases and are all in the same room. I usually have one out on a wall hanger and the others in closed cases. This one was in a closed case. Can't find anything really odd in the case (i.e. something that might have gotten into it when at a jam the might have gassed out or somehow reacted with the metal).

We are located in the Seattle area and had a fairly wet/cool, winter/spring this year but otherwise similar to past years. Forced air heat, no AC. So far only a few days warm enough to open the windows (68 degrees and raining today, July 3rd - I hope our summer comes on a weekend this year).

There was no effect on the wooden parts or the head or strings (that I could see). I was thinking of using the banjo for an upcoming jam so got it out of the case yesterday, was playing it and noticed the haze on the tuners first, then found most of the other metal affected.

Right now all seems fine as it mostly cleaned off but will keep an eye on it and might use a different case to store it in.

Jul 3, 2022 - 7:48:05 PM

46 posts since 1/17/2006

Thank you Rives,

Something like that (substance reacting with the metal) was what I was thinking but cannot find anything really different in the inside the case. The case is a pretty inexpensive hard case (it came with the banjo and was not new at that time, looks similar to a Guardian Non-archtop case with only 4 latches) that I might just replace.

Would a haze caused by acid be removable? The tuners were very milky appearing but shined up pretty easily. The tailpiece area however was most affected and while the flange and tension hoop in that area cleaned up well, the tailpiece cover does seem to have some permanent changes.

I acquired the banjo about 4 years ago and it was well used and so did already have the typical light patina on the flange and tension hoop but as mentioned the tuners and tailpiece were new as of 3 years ago. The resulting changes to the tailpiece actually make it look more like the original one rather that looking new : )

Jul 3, 2022 - 10:23:12 PM

rmcdow

USA

1179 posts since 11/8/2014

quote:
Originally posted by rardinger

Thank you Rives,

Something like that (substance reacting with the metal) was what I was thinking but cannot find anything really different in the inside the case. The case is a pretty inexpensive hard case (it came with the banjo and was not new at that time, looks similar to a Guardian Non-archtop case with only 4 latches) that I might just replace.

Would a haze caused by acid be removable? The tuners were very milky appearing but shined up pretty easily. The tailpiece area however was most affected and while the flange and tension hoop in that area cleaned up well, the tailpiece cover does seem to have some permanent changes.

I acquired the banjo about 4 years ago and it was well used and so did already have the typical light patina on the flange and tension hoop but as mentioned the tuners and tailpiece were new as of 3 years ago. The resulting changes to the tailpiece actually make it look more like the original one rather that looking new : )


A haze like that can be removable, depending on what kind of reaction went on.  

Jul 4, 2022 - 3:08:43 AM
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leehar

USA

119 posts since 2/18/2018

I believe I would replace that case. I’ve never experienced that with any of my banjos but I think the case has got to be the cause. Simichrome is a great cleaner but be careful not to rub too hard.

Jul 4, 2022 - 5:22:42 AM

143 posts since 6/12/2012

Without seeing this it’s difficult to troubleshoot. Having said that, several years ago I was asked to play my friends banjo which had been owned by his brother. It had been in storage for some time and was a 1949 Gibson RB-100.
That banjo had a powdery substance over almost every part of the pot assembly but not further up the neck.
We wiped it clean but after playing my pick and right hand had this substance on them.
We realized that the frosting on the head was degrading for some reason and was coming off as a powdery substance.
Just a suggestion, you may want to wipe the head to see if this is your issue as well.

Jul 4, 2022 - 5:42:05 AM
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11099 posts since 4/23/2004

Tanned leather (like a strap) can do it. My Stelling sat in its case unplayed for a couple of years and the leather strap got to the nickle...turned it white anywhere near the strap, worse where it touched.

I replaced it with nylon. No further problems...

Jul 4, 2022 - 7:03:46 AM
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604 posts since 5/29/2015

Only three banjos? Not a large enough sample size to determine if only one banjo was affected. You need to buy more banjos so as to have a large enough number of banjos to make strong inferences about relative environmental influences.

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Jul 4, 2022 - 8:06:10 AM
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9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Some banjo case materials leach plasticizers that can and many times do react with metals. I would replace that inexpensive case.

Jul 4, 2022 - 9:37:22 AM

46 posts since 1/17/2006

Thank you for all who responded. The most likely cause is probably the case even though it is not a new case and had not seemed to cause any issues for years. Perhaps there has been a degradation in the padding that caused the reaction.

I regret not thinking to take pictures. The haze/powder resembled the haze that can build up inside of a car windshield over time, just very much more obvious.

The banjo has a leather strap, a Bill Stokes Showcase latico strap that is well broken in. Another banjo has the same strap and no issues. The haze/powder was "global" to essentially all the metal and not limited to the places that made contact with the strap.

The head is a appx. 3 year old 5 Star that except for wear from playing, looks fine, no issues with the coating. There was no haze/powder that I could see on the wood, head, strings or strap or on the inside of the case.

I will plan on replacing the case and hope for the best.

Jul 5, 2022 - 5:16:40 AM

9812 posts since 8/28/2013

Car windshields get hazy mostly due to plasticizers that are used to make the seats, dashpads, and other items soft and flexible. Those plasticizers are what gives a car that "new car smell" people seem to love, not aware that it's a carcinogenic stench. It really doesn't matter if items are touching or not, because these chemicals are airborne, and being enclosed, have no chance to dissipate. It can take some time for these awful chemicals to do their damage, and three months may have been just what was needed.

The squishy case padding seems like a probable source. Being a cheap case, it's probably a synthetic rubber (plastic) foam chock full of damaging chemical garbage..

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