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Plastic rot

Tragg

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Dec 31, 2005
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To what extent are vintage Les Pauls afflicted by the dreaded nitro rot? Binding, plastic parts?
 

mingus

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I think the tuner buttons from '59/'60 in particular are the only plastic parts that typically can have issues.

On other makes, some of the parts that immediately come to mind where one could expect to find disintegrating plastic on '50s & early '60s guitars is the binding on Gretsch, the knobs and pickup covers on early Strats and Gibson tortoise shell jazz box pick guards.
 

Tragg

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And the binding on 30s and 40s archtops - though not as commonly as the pickguards. Why are some nitro based plastic parts affected while others appear impervious to rot? Any ideas?
 

Tom Wittrock

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And the binding on 30s and 40s archtops - though not as commonly as the pickguards. Why are some nitro based plastic parts affected while others appear impervious to rot? Any ideas?

I am pretty certain this is a result of the chemical mix making the plastics. Not all Kluson buttons are shrinking and disintegrating, and those that do, do so at different rates.

Also, the knobs on old Gibsons [including Les Pauls] do slowly change, but it is so slow most people never notice it at all. So far all I have seen on them is a thin film of grey "dust" and I cannot see a noticeable change in the size.
 

Don

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Is it worse if the guitar is often kept in a case?

The buttons on the tuners on my '59 ES-225TD are fine and appear to be original. I have seen others that are pretty bad.
 

garywright

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Is it worse if the guitar is often kept in a case?

The buttons on the tuners on my '59 ES-225TD are fine and appear to be original. I have seen others that are pretty bad.

seems most button tuners hold up fine
 

Wally

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I subscribe to the theory that when the plastic deteriorates there is an off-gassing and the off-gassing can accelerate further decomposition. Some ventilation might be advisable at least occasionally???? Wasn't there some horror story back in the '90's about a collection in a vault that had some serious celluloid detrioration??
IME, Gretsches have more problems with plastic deterioration than other guitars....cheaper plastics????
 

garywright

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I think better than others though I've seen some that are really bad.

the worst being keystones ...small white buttons, I haven't seen any that were in near the bad condition as shrunken keystones
 

Wally

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Ime, the small white buttons on Gibsons will rot...I have replaced them on many Gibsons. In fact, I need to order another bulk bag of them since I just used the last.
 

Tragg

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Ime, the small white buttons on Gibsons will rot...I have replaced them on many Gibsons. In fact, I need to order another bulk bag of them since I just used the last.
I bought a 1956 J-45 from Grun back in the late 70s (still have it). The tuner buttons crumbled after 6 months. I fitted Grovers, which is what you did back in the day
 

JJ Blair

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Ime, the small white buttons on Gibsons will rot...I have replaced them on many Gibsons. In fact, I need to order another bulk bag of them since I just used the last.

Mind sharing which brand of button fit on '50s klusons? My junior buttons just crumbled.

Also of note, I have '50s Kluson from before '59 where the original keystones are just fine.
 

Wally

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JJ, no matter from where I get the buttons, I have to drill for fit. the ivoroid buttons I have used are very temperamental as they are harder and will bust apart under stress if the drilling is too small. I have used heat on the shaft in some situations....a big soldering iron. Trial and error. The last very plain white buttons are soft enough so that with a proper drilling, they will press right on without heat. I have yet to find a button that can simply be pressed on without some prep work and/or heat. Stew Mac and AllParts are my sources....AllParts for wholesale.
 

Tom Wittrock

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Is it worse if the guitar is often kept in a case?

I subscribe to the theory that when the plastic deteriorates there is an off-gassing and the off-gassing can accelerate further decomposition. Some ventilation might be advisable at least occasionally????

I think the only reason to open the case is the off gassing can affect [corrode] metal. I do not think it accelerates the disintegration of the plastic.
 

Tom Wittrock

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the worst being keystones ...small white buttons, I haven't seen any that were in near the bad condition as shrunken keystones

I have. Far more round buttons used, but I have replaced them over 10 to 1 compared to keystones.
 

Tom Wittrock

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Mind sharing which brand of button fit on '50s klusons? My junior buttons just crumbled.

Also of note, I have '50s Kluson from before '59 where the original keystones are just fine.

I have used Allparts buttons for years now.
I have never needed to drill them. I don't understand why anyone would do that. :wah
 

garywright

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I have. Far more round buttons used, but I have replaced them over 10 to 1 compared to keystones.

I'm sure a lot of vintage owners with shrunken keystones would prefer to leave them stock and not have you replace them
 

Tom Wittrock

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I'm sure a lot of vintage owners with shrunken keystones would prefer to leave them stock and not have you replace them

I would say that repro tuners are preferred for keystone versions, but rebutton for the strip key round buttons, where I find more shrunken ones.
 

Wally

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Tom...
RE: off-gassing. Somewhere I have a Vintage Guitar mag from the '90's that discusses celluloid deterioration and off-gassing....and they name the collection that was in a vault and suffered massive celluloid deterioration. I don't know what science was behind their conclusions or hypothesis, though?

Re: Drilling of replacement buttons. I suppose that I got tired of having buttons break. Perhaps the modern replacements are better sized, but when I first started doing replacements over 20 years ago, there was a problem. Dan Erlewine was the source of the heat treatment suggestion, iirc. And...the Ivoroid bottuns are harder material. They will burst everytime unless they are 'sized' with a drill, ime.
No matter...however the buttons can be replaced is workable, right?
 

Tom Wittrock

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Tom...
RE: off-gassing. Somewhere I have a Vintage Guitar mag from the '90's that discusses celluloid deterioration and off-gassing....and they name the collection that was in a vault and suffered massive celluloid deterioration. I don't know what science was behind their conclusions or hypothesis, though?

Re: Drilling of replacement buttons. I suppose that I got tired of having buttons break. Perhaps the modern replacements are better sized, but when I first started doing replacements over 20 years ago, there was a problem. Dan Erlewine was the source of the heat treatment suggestion, iirc. And...the Ivoroid bottuns are harder material. They will burst everytime unless they are 'sized' with a drill, ime.
No matter...however the buttons can be replaced is workable, right?

I believe the story was about tortoise shell celluloid deteriorating. That seems to be different from the plastic key buttons when they deteriorate. I have not seen the effects of off-gassing [metal corrosion] from deteriorating key buttons, and they are attached to metal keys.

As for drilling .... all the round buttons I have used are Allparts, and they melt in place. I've used the same method for keystone buttons [both Allparts and Uncle Lou's]. I have never had a button break during this process.
Perhaps the materials are different than those you use?
 
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