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Aging of Celluloid

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Aging of Celluloid

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:00 am

Meanwhile i own a few rests of old white perloid and black celluloid as well - enough for the reconstruction of the headstock of my Isana.

Although the material is old, it still looks fresh. On a guitar which is half a century old this might look strange. So i am considering aging the pieces i will actually use (normally i am not a fan of aging at all).
Therefore I would like to learn how to to this - ideally not only surficially but the full volume (the sheets are thin, 0.5 mm). Any hints?


THX

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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Alan Carruth » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:10 pm

Ultraviolet exposure breaks down nitrocellulose. I'm not sure how deep it would go in the short term.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:26 pm

And heat?
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Michael Jennings » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:25 pm

Be very CAREFULL if you decide to experiment with heat! Nothing on this planet is quite as explosively flammable as celluloid. Think ... gun cotton / old photographic film/ etc. To see what I mean take a few shavings to a safe place and touch a flame to them.

I'm not at all sure heat would get you the aging results you are looking for.... a mishap will certainly age you though.

Ultraviolet exposure may be the way to go, or just let it age naturally with handling.

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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Mark Swanson » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:02 pm

I'd just finish it with some nice amber shellac, that would be good enough for me.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby David King » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:16 pm

You could dip it in warm to hot RIT (salt dye).
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Michael Lewis » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:35 am

I agree with Mark on this. Old white celluloid bindings look yellow because of the finish on the surface. The inside of the binding is usually white unless it is too far along the path to destruction.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Mario Proulx » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:01 am

Try soaking some in a strong cup of black tea. Experiment with shorter or longer soaks.

And I'll echo what's been said; old ivoroid is yellow because of the lacquer going yellow, not the ivoroid. Where ever the finish has worn completely off of the ivoroid bindings, it's still nearly white(new ivoroid isn't quite white, itself..).
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Matthew Lau » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:49 pm

I completely second Mario's suggestion.

I'd like to add that pretty much any tea should work, since it'll have tannins.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Michael Jennings » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:07 pm

I have used brown Kiwi shoe polish... the wax in a tin...not liquid, to age tuner buttons and small missing pieces of binding during repairs where matching the original(s) that are still present on the guitar is desirable. Experimenting on scrap with how long to leave it on prior to wiping/buffing it off is the key to getting a close match. Seems that there is enough dye in the polish that when "cleaned off" it leaves behind an amber cast.

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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby John Catto » Mon Apr 22, 2013 7:06 pm

Is this for inlays? Like the stuff Gibson used in the 50's and so on. I've tried lots of things including various dyes but you've already touched on what really works. I iron the board after the inlaying is done with a layer of damp paper. There's a fine line here, get it too hot and it'll either burst into flame or shrivel to nothing and you'll have to redo the inlay. However assuming you have enough material to allow for mishaps it looks exactly right. The surface seems to break down in a way that no amount of dying recreates. If it's under finish then yeah, shoot a bit of dirty amber lacquer with an airbrush but if it's in a board this is the trick.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Shawn Strickland » Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:07 pm

Michael Jennings wrote:Be very CAREFULL if you decide to experiment with heat! Nothing on this planet is quite as explosively flammable as celluloid. Think ... gun cotton / old photographic film/ etc. To see what I mean take a few shavings to a safe place and touch a flame to them.

I'm not at all sure heat would get you the aging results you are looking for.... a mishap will certainly age you though.

Ultraviolet exposure may be the way to go, or just let it age naturally with handling.

Mike J


Or, even cheaper... grab a celluloid pick and take a lighter to it. Not sure how it was an accident, but I ran across that chemical reaction on accident once. Almost made me jump I was so surprised.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Beate Ritzert » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:33 pm

John Catto wrote:Is this for inlays? Like the stuff Gibson used in the 50's and so on.


It is for the headstock of an old thinline archtop. BTW: some of the inlays became a little bit warm when i straightened the neck - so i know i must be careful.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Michael Lewis » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:06 am

Beate, one point to keep in mind is celluloid is not a very stable material and will deteriorate in time. Some of it breaks down rather quickly, and I think exposure to solvents is part of the trigger to this process. Other batches of celluloid seem to be very stable and are still holding up well as tailpiece blocks on old Gibson archtop guitars from 1915 or near about. Celluloid pick guards often break down starting at the areas where pieces were bonded together, like the little blocks that hold mounting brackets, where it was doubled in thickness, etc.

I would subject the celluloid to a minimum of solvents that will melt into the material, for example acetone. It seems that alcohol in shellac is not a problem.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:45 am

Which brings up the question of proper glueing. The proposal the old luthier who gave me the pieces was to use aceton.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby John Catto » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:46 am

Beate Ritzert wrote:
John Catto wrote:Is this for inlays? Like the stuff Gibson used in the 50's and so on.


It is for the headstock of an old thinline archtop. BTW: some of the inlays became a little bit warm when i straightened the neck - so i know i must be careful.



If it's for a headstock I'd just shoot amber toner over it. All the colour on headstock inlays is usually in the lacquer. In fact I think the change of celluloid inlay stock from UV is highly over-rated, I had some old Gibson style Italian pearloid that came from the old EKO factory, it had sat around someone's workshop for maybe 30 years. It'd darkened a "little" but any leveling and it was straight back to brand new. The aging on fingerboard inlays seems to come from hand acids and other environmental elements rather than UV plus it's very surface, level a 50's Gibson fingerboard and other than the edge shrinkage the inlays look brand new.

All the eco-terror over old celluloid inlay stock is WILDLY overblown, it's not like it's an old unstable table tennis ball or film stock. They used to cut that stuff from blocks with a bandsaw. Think about that.

For the headstock, use an airbrush and shoot amber with a little bit of blue in it and you'll get the right sort of look.

Oh for glue I usually tack it down with CA then do any void filling with epoxy with pigment. Actually that brings up a good hint, we guitar builders seem to love to re-invent the wheel and do stuff that traditional craftsmen rejected 100 years ago. One of the worst of these is filler, everyone thinks you should mix wood dust with glue which barely works. For darks the colour rarely matches and there always seems to be light material in there on a magnifying glass level no matter how careful, for lights even worse and if your dyeing over it etc. it doesn't take it etc. For inlays on an ebony board the best trick is to go along to an old school art supply place and buy a little bag of lamp black pigment. Be super careful with this stuff it's VERY concentrated and will trash a carpet in one breath! Mix with epoxy and use to fill, it will level with an exact match 10 times better than you'd ever get with ebony dust and so on. For Rosewood you'll need to play with the colour but the same applies.
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Re: Aging of Celluloid

Postby Beate Ritzert » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:45 pm

Thank You very much. I'll need some time and wait for days with enough "space and calmness" to cut the perloid exactly - i have just enough material to do the job once.
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