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Relicing tuners with vinegar.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by phangtonpower, Nov 5, 2013.

  1. I asked the same question in "hardware, setup and repair" but not too many replies, so I wanna try my luck here.

    I want to relic some new hipshot tuners to match the worn down hardware of my 15 year old bass. I'm not trying to relic them to look like they've been on there for 30+ years, so I'd like to stay away from harsh chemicals. Plus they are a little hard to find in Japan.

    I've read about using vinegar to tarnish nickel hardware. I want to try that first since it's something cleaner for the environment, cheaper, and not as strong as other chemicals so the wear will be a lot slower and easier to manage.

    The question is should I take the tuners apart so I don't ruin the mechanics, or can I live them in one piece since vinegar isn't as harsh as muriatic acid or etchant solution?
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Try a small piece of hardware like a string tree or an old neck plate first and see if it works.
  3. I was planning to try it out on something first, but the problem is that those aren't moving parts.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    That shouldn't matter really, you are just speeding up what is going to happen naturally anyway.
  5. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    If they are truly nickel plated, then you can disassemble them and use etching solution - available at electronics supply. If they are actually chrome plated, then the etchin solution won't work and I'm out of ideas... :)
  6. Just for an easy test drop a nickel coin, and if you can get one a copper coin into vinegar, and see what happens. We used to put pennies into vinegar or brown sauce to take the patina off and make them shiny, so you may get the reverse of what you wished to do. This way it wont cost you a guitar part.
  7. klyph

    klyph Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2009
    Vinegar cleans, then corrodes. The pennies in the above post would lose their shine after a day or two in a strong vinegar solution. The first thing is to find out what they're plated with. As another poster said, any solution will act differently upon nickel than chrome.

    I would just do the paddles, and leave the mechanics undisturbed. Nobody sees them anyway. There is a danger in making your new, expensive tuners a little loose or sticky by treating them. They might work perfectly after soaking the entire tuner, but why risk it?

    You could do this two ways. The first is to suspend the tuners over the solution so only paddles are soaking. You could make a board with appropriate sized holes, install the tuners on it, and then just set it paddle side down on a shallow container of your solution. The second is to paint or spray the solution on the paddles, masking the mechanics. You can then wrap the paddles in plastic to keep them wet, or let then air-dry, which would allow repeated applications. Each application would then be stronger, as the dried acid would re-dissolve, hastening the progress. That might result in more relic-ing than you are looking for.

    You can get blackening solution from hobby stores- it's used to age metal fixtures on model railroads. It may, however, just be diluted etching solution. I've used it, (not on tuners, though) it's so-so, but safe.

    You could also just give the paddles a swipe or two with 1200 grit or finer SP and rub some dirt on them. This is probably what I would do. I think you may be suprised how much this will hasten the normal aging process- plating is pretty thin, and your hand sweat will do the rest inside of a couple months. I used to play gigs on a ferry, and it was all I could do to KEEP the paddles from tarnishing (g&l). It is possible that plain old salt water will get you where you want to be (using the let dry and reapply method). Good Luck!
  8. Just eat pickles before you tune.:rolleyes:
    damn kids and their pickles
  9. Damn you Jensby :bag:
  10. :D
  11. White vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and salt. Equal parts of white vinegar and 3% peroxide. I think it was something like 100 ml of each. Then about 7 tsp of salt. Stir it up and there you go.
  12. So did you do the task at hand???
  13. Thanks for the recipe. I haven't tried it ye. Still waiting on parts. I'll give it a try and report back.
  14. JellinWellen


    Oct 18, 2012
    Just fence off a section of your yard somewhere and leave the parts outside exposed to the elements for a month or so. Will it work? No flippin idea, but when people accuse you of faking the wear and tear, you could say "Nope, its all natural".
  15. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    I tried this with some replacement latches for my vintage case - it didn't work because the latches have a clear coat on them. Don't know if this is true for tuners or not - just be aware it could happen.
  16. Good to know. Hipshot did confirm that the tuners are nickel, but I didn't ask if they are coated >< I had to ask because on they're site it says nickel, but on other sites they say chrome.
  17. I doubt if anyone would ever ask about my tuners :/ And if they did, why wouldn't I tell them that I aged them? I ain't trying to front. Sh@t this bass hardly ever leaves the house, so I'm doing this for me and nobody else!

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