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Mold On Neck


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My friend just got a guitar for free from his cousin. It's only been played a few times, then he apparently got bored with it and just kept in the basement for a long time.

The neck apparently wasn't finished to well on the side your fingers wrap around, and there seems to be a little mold growing, It's not extremely moldy. It just has a little tint of green (It's maple on rosewood).

He wants to know the best way to either remove/prevent it from getting worse the more he plays it (sweaty hands and an poorly finished moldy neck don't go well together).

He wants to just cover it with some tung oil or something. Would that be a bad idea?

I have no idea what he should do since I'm not a pro. And I would imagine that putting tung oil over the mold wouldn't really do much to prevent it from growing. Sure maybe it would stop growing on the outside but wouldn't it still spread on the inside?

I told him it would probably be best to get a new neck altogether. Would you agree?

Thanks for your time.

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Thanks for the help so far people.

Its not oil residue left over from before. I told him to try the peroxide thing, then gave him some of my polish and cleaner to clean off some of the left over peroxide. The peroxide cleared off a little of it. And after about 1/2 an hour of him playing it this morning, then about 1 to 2 hours of me playing it today, the colour went back to the same light green tint it was before.

I'll see if I can get my camera working so you can get a better idea of what it looks like. I take it not too many people on these boards have experience with finishing over mold lol. So I'll ask again.

Does anyone know if it would be ok to refinish the maple neck with tung oil over moldy areas, or will that cause more problems?

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Since when are upright bass necks left unfinished? Maple should never be left unfinished, and any experienced luthier would never leave a maple neck unfinished.

an "experienced luthier" as you put it, would not comment on things he has no clue about.

Vioin and upright bass necks are left unfinished (most of the time anyways). The oils from the players hand keeps them protected, and sometimes you have to keep them up by rubbing some lemon oil or linseed oil on it. Or so says my brother who is violin player. I really don't know but thats what he said.

Edited by Godin SD
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If it we're me I would sand it down until the mold (or whatever it is) dissapears than either put some tung oil on it or finish it in satin laquer. But thats just me. Honestly I've never once heard of anyone having this problem before. If the guitars in a moist enviroment to where it can grow mold I would seriously consider getting it out of there! The humidity is messing up your guitar other ways than growing mold on the neck :D

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The only way you're going to keep organic compounds from discoloring the wood is to totally seal the wood with some kind of finish. I know, it doesn't feel that great for a couple of years, but it beats replacing necks every few years or C-clamping them to a workbench like EVH does.

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Hold on a sec...my strat (Fender MIJ) has the same thing --the neck is discolored along the first few frets, on the base side of the neck. This is definitely NOT mold, it's the discoloration of the finish --comes from the combination of sweat and oils mingling with the finish at the place that sees the most 'action', especially when you're just starting to learn how to play. I bought the guitar used...the originaly owner was probably a sweaty guy. Perhaps your friend's cousin was a sweaty guy, didn't clean off the guitar when he stored it away, and this is what happened over time.

It's just that it seems highly unlikely to me that one part of the neck would have received less finish than the rest. I mean, I spend a lot of time reading about guitars, and I've never heard of that one.

It also seems highly unlikely to me that the guitar would have developed mold in just one spot --if it were mold, you'd find it all over the guitar, little more or less round spots.

My take on this one is that this is just a 'feature' of this guitar. It's a free guitar, surely your friend can live with that for a while? Is he that fussy? Does the guitar smell? Is the neck straight? It tunes up and stays in tune?

Definitely DO NOT tell him to sand it, and tell him to stop using whatever chemicals on it...maybe it's not too late, maybe he hasn't ruined it yet...if it really bothers him, he can take it to a luthier, since guitar was free, he shouldn't mind laying out a few bucks to have the guitar inspected. Being fussy AND cheap is not a good combination in life --he has to get over one or the other.

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It doesn't bother him, or me at all when playing. It's just that, if it is mold, he doesn't want it to start spreading, or maybe cause some damage or something, with more years of use and sweat. Otherwise the guitar is great.

And I know (well pretty sure) it was poorly finished and not oils and dirt caused from sweaty hands (his cousin was never good, and at most played for 1/2 hour every couple days for like a month then put it away).

You can actually feel the grain when you run your fingers accross that area. And if you could see it up close, you will see it looks like that area was sanded down too much or something.

I don't think any of this new info will help, and I need my brother to get back from work, so I can get my camera working again. Some pics will definately help you understand. I'll probably get some pics up in 1 or 2 hours.

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Are you having trouble taking a clear photo, or getting it on the Internet? If its the latter, just go to a free image host, such as ImageShack, upload the image using their pretty easy to understand site, and copy and paste the URL into your post.

If you're having trouble getting a clear photo of the neck, take it outside into natural light, turn the flash off, and try some nice close manual focus action to get it going.

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Its not oil residue left over from before. I told him to try the peroxide thing, then gave him some of my polish and cleaner to clean off some of the left over peroxide. The peroxide cleared off a little of it. And after about 1/2 an hour of him playing it this morning, then about 1 to 2 hours of me playing it today, the colour went back to the same light green tint it was before.

IMO, if it were mold the green color would not have come back after treatment with peroxide.

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I'm having trouble getting a clear picture of the neck without glare from the flash, so I'll probably take some pics tomorrow during the daytime.

Hmm... well if it's not mold and not oil/dirt residue build up from his hands then what the hell is it?

Does maple have a little green tint to it when it hasn't been finished, or is it about the same colour as it is when it has been finished? Cause if it is maybe someone accidently sanded it down at the factory, and that's just the natural wood colour coming out.

Thanks again for everyone's help.

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It's dirt and residue from his hands, nothing more. The nickel coating on most strings will also react with the different chemicals in some people's skin oils and exacerbate the issue. Tell him to wash his hands before playing the guitar and wipe down the strings and fretboard after each session.

I have to spend about 15 minutes scrubbing the grime buildup off of the maple fretboard on my Strat every time I change the strings. Even if you finish the fretboard, it's still going to wear off and look just as bad. Such is life with maple-fretboard guitars. That's why Leo Fender switched to using rosewood fretboards--he really freaked out when he saw Buddy Holly playing a brand new Strat on TV with a "dirty" fretboard!

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^Ummm, the fretboard is rosewood, the back wood is maple. And I'm fairly confident that it's not dirt from his hands, because on the green areas it looks very lightly sanded down.

I finally got some good pics. I put them as links to make this thread easier to load.

picture10168uf.th.jpg

picture10220vb.th.jpg

I took a few more pics so if this doesn't help much I'll post some more.

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It seems like you really want to believe that this is mold? There's an easy way to find out--get a microscope and have a look.

Otherwise, it just looks like a maple guitar neck syndrome to me. Could be just the reaction between the finish and the nickel off the guitar strings. Wouldn't take all the much.

It might be some other kind of reaction too...maybe the guitar was leaning on this spot, or pressing on the inside of the case, or gigbag, etc.

At any rate, I don't really see any reason to worry about it. It's a free guitar, he should just have fun with it.

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EDIT: hey you beat me to it. :D

hmmm doesn't look like mold to me. Almost looks like minerals are coming out of the wood for some reason (never seen that happen before just thinking out loud)

I would just sand it down and refinish with rattlecans in satin. (or gloss if you prefer)

Edited by Godin SD
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