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Will Sunlight age a Maple neck? Discussion and experiment

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by recreate.me, May 4, 2010.

  1. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    I have just completed a build using a Mighty Mite Jazz neck (maple w rosewood) and i have been thinking it would be nice to age this neck and give it that 'vintage' look of the 60's.

    I have done some reading and we all the best way to do this is sanding and refinishing etc BUT i have also read about a few 'tricks' the Kiwi brown shoe polish method and the 'leave it in the sun' method.

    Hypothesis- A maple neck will noticeably darken to a 'honey/amber' colour after many years of use and sunlight. If this is indeed true subjection to UV light and the same spectrum of light from the suns rays will speed this process.

    Method- Two necks will be used to test this theory. (1) is a squier VM maple/maple that will be subjected to pure Ultra Violet light for a controlled period. (2) a Mighty Mite Maple/Rosewood will be subjected to a light that is designed to mimic the suns spectrum of light (this is during the months of May-July), thus it can be called 'extreme white fluorescent light'. This is the light used in greenhouses to grow plants. Both environments are temp. and humidity controlled so damage to the necks will not occur. Both necks have a 'satin' poly finish.

    I have read that necks can be placed in Tanning beds to speed the aging process. Basically its easier for me to leave the necks in this environment over night then strip them and sand them and refinish them.

    I thought others might like to know what will happen and if it is possible. I will post photos of before and after as well as how long they spend in the 'sun'.

    Does anyone want to add any suggestions or advice? Maybe i am leaving something out?

    Pics to follow in an hour or so!
  2. touji


    Feb 12, 2009
    Williamsburg, VA
    I'm excited for this!
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    A couple of questions.

    1. What's a "pure Ultra Violet light?" Is there some kind of lamp that produces a wide range of UV (UVA, UVB, maybe other ranges) but no visible light?
    2. How can you compare those two necks, when they have different finishes, and the yellowing of an old neck might be a result of yellowing of the finish itself rather than (or in addition to) color change of the wood? Further, even if perceptible color aging of a maple neck were due only to color changes in the wood, what if one finish is more UV inhibitive than the other?
  4. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    Well basically the light i am using is a grow light you buy at hydroponic stores that produces the same wavelengths of light that the sun would produce (on average) in the spring and early summer.

    I know the necks are different, but its all i have. I think its worth a shot even if its not a proper scientific experiment.

    The UV (A/B) light i am using is a light that is built into one of Biology hoods in the lab, and its used for sterilization and thus a very strong UV light, it is barely visible with a tint of purple.

    I guess its less of a comparison and more of a "what will work" I have been reading and lots of people claim its the nitrocellulose that ambers, some say its the wood. I haven't found anything really conclusive. I have read you can age a neck by putting it in a tanning bed! So i was curious to try some things, and these are the things i have at my disposal without spending any money haha
  5. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    I think OP just admitted to owning a grow-house...
  6. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    lol no, I work in the environmental engineering department of my University and we own a greenhouse haha
  7. Rebmo


    Aug 19, 2006
    Here's some related info: Years ago we had our maple floors sanded and refinished. They were in bad shape and the original finish had turned orange. A swedish finish was used and is said to not yellow as older finishes do. Anway, fast forward 10 years and in a few spots, like where our hall rug has been, the floor is noticeably lighter under the rug. The hall has lots of sun exposure. So I would think that sunlight exposure, not age was the factor in the mellowing tone of the maple flooring. It is only a surface patina however, if you sand the floor, it will turn bright again as the unexposed wood it viewable. This is per my friend who did the refinishing, and does high end custom floor work.

    I also notice my 80s G&Ls have the orange tint to the neck to varying degrees. The ones that seem to have been use more, have more of the orange color. The 90s maple neck G&Ls I have are in between the maple on my 2008 P-Bass which is very bright maple.

    I see the gun oil tint seems to take the necks to the orange tint right away.

    I will be very interested to see the results of your experiments.
  8. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    My hypothesis is that you will recreate partial coloring. I do not see anything accelerating oxidation.
  9. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    I have posted the first little update, i figure its easiest to put the photos up on a Flickr album so people can scroll through and if anything is significant i will put them up here so its easy for you guys.

    Last night i placed my Squier VM neck into bio hood in UV light for 4 hours, in the album you can see control photos of what the necks look, and then after 4 hours in UV light. So far.....no change.

    Tonight its going back for some more time in the sun :)
  10. It might get skin cancer.
  11. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    Yes.. it does.. we do this with antiques in my victorian home all the time.. gives a nautral aging look vs staining.

    Works great for trim when trying to match the 140 year old stuff.

  12. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    So far it seems like this is getting lots of pretty positive responses! I'm excited to see if this will really accelerate the aging to a nice amber.
  13. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Maybe I'm missing something, but I'd always understood that the "aging" actually happened with the finish, not the wood itself. Therefore, it stands to reason that the techniques you'd use to get an "aged" look depends very much on what type of finish you have. Some types of finish react to UV light differently than others, or not at all.

  14. thudstaff23


    Mar 10, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    My concern is when you water the plants, will the necks get wet ; ) Just kidding. I think this is interesting, and wanted to tune in to see how long it takes you to get where you need to be.
  15. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    I have heard some people say its the finish that ages, i have also heard its the wood. I have heard different finishes age different rates and to different colours. BUT what gives me hope is that people with older ploy necks just like the ones im using say theres have darkened and now have that vintage look. So i expect maybe a week?

    Maybe i will leave it under the UV light all night, maybe all weekend? I dont know how long it will take! haha
  16. Jim11895


    Dec 10, 2009
    Just my 2 cents about UV exposure to age the wood. If it is finished, the UV light will yellow the finish. A polyurethane finish will yellow more slowly than a nitocellulose or lacquer finish. An epoxy finish will yellow REALLY quickly. UV-B is more aggressive than UV-A, and will age the finish, whatever it is, much faster. I know this because I'm in the high performance paint biz. We use UV cabinets to test for gloss retention and color stability.

    Since wood is organic in nature, I expect UV exposure will yellow it as well, but I'm not sure how the rate of yellowing would compare to that of any given finish.
  17. MNAirHead

    MNAirHead Supporting Member

    IF the neck isn't finished there are ways to accelerate this too.

    IN the 1800s they'd fume wood to get it darker.
  18. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    So quick photo-less update.

    The Squier neck spent another three hours in the UV chamber, still nothing noticable to my eyes. BUT the good news is that the tape i used to cover the pocket is starting to yellow and turn brown around the edges.

    So at least after 7 hours the tape is aging nicely! lol

    I have been silently testing the Mighty Mite neck without really posting results with the 'simulated sunlight' I left it exposed all night for about 10 hours and no change. I dont think the wavelengths have much to do with it. I think the key is the UV light.

    I am planning on leaving the MM neck under the UV light all night, perhaps all weekend. Really trying to speed this up!

    I will you guys know how things go!

    Side note: I am planning on testing that Kiwi Brown shoepolish thing next on a maple neck of an old guitar...
  19. Greenman


    Dec 17, 2005
    Ontario Canada
  20. recreate.me


    Apr 2, 2010
    That might be true. But this is one of those things where I hear different things by different people. So I guess This is my way of finding out if it's the wood or the finish. If no aging occurs there's a good chance it's the finish.

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