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Thread: Question about Blacklighting Vintage guitars

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    Question about Blacklighting Vintage guitars

    I've got a question about PRS guitars and the use of black-lights to determine vintage status.

    As most collectors are aware, black-lights are useful in determining the status of vintage instruments. Those original finishes from the '50's and '60's on those vintage Gibsons and Fenders will glow under a black light so that any subsequent refinishing or repair work will become immediately obvious. Wen evaluating whether it's been refinished or repaired...the black-light don't lie!

    I guess my question is twofold...first, what is it about the aging process that causes that classic glow under the black-light? More importantly, from a historical perspective...how many years will it take for PRS guitars to develop that telltale "glow" under black-light? And, would the various finishes that PRS uses...nitro, poly, V12....have different qualities under the lights? And different relative times before they "age"...i.e. is that V12 more durable than nitro or pply??

    Of course, this question is merely just out of curiosity.... since I probably won't still be alive by the time these guitars have the history and years behind them that the aforementioned Gibsons & Fenders have.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Rango's Avatar
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    Learn something new everyday!!

    I've Magnafluxed to inspect for cracks in aircraft parts....never occured to me that Black Light could be useful at finding other "seams". ;-)

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    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    I would hate to see what your Strat looks like under a blacklight, I imagine most vintage guitars look like motel bed sheets given the lust most people have for them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    I would hate to see what your Strat looks like under a blacklight, I imagine most vintage guitars look like motel bed sheets given the lust most people have for them.
    No...not at all. As long as there is an absence of repairs or refinish....under the blacklight the guitar glows a soft white...it is really quite cool to look at...even the Strat decal glows, so you can tell the original from those aftermarket "waterslide" decals. What does look real bad are the refinishing areas, or touch ups. They stand out like a sore thumb...dark spots against the white. That's why this is important in investing in "allegedly 100% original" vintage guitars. Sometimes even the owner is unaware of what has been done to the guitar. The first thing I did when receiving the vintage pieces was to black-light them to substantiate the seller's descriptions.

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    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    No...not at all. As long as there is an absence of repairs or refinish....under the blacklight the guitar glows a soft white...it is really quite cool to look at...even the Strat decal glows, so you can tell the original from those aftermarket "waterslide" decals. What does look real bad are the refinishing areas, or touch ups. They stand out like a sore thumb...dark spots against the white.
    So what you're saying is that the guitar is completely covered in white stuff? Worse than I imagined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    So what you're saying is that the guitar is completely covered in white stuff? Worse than I imagined.
    Stop it, Cratchet!!!



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    Senior Member Dirty Bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    So what you're saying is that the guitar is completely covered in white stuff? Worse than I imagined.
    -Bob

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    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    Sounds like Bennett needs these things - only for his guitars....

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    So what you're saying is that the guitar is completely covered in white stuff? Worse than I imagined.
    And you got room to talk....



    Last edited by rugerpc; 01-30-2013 at 04:11 PM.
    Thbbbbbt...
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    OK.....do you think we can get back to the OP questions......please???

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    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    OK.....do you think we can get back to the OP questions......please???
    Boo!

  11. #11
    Bennett, you probably know that blacklights are used in the art restoration world, not only to determine later repairs, but to find areas that are in need of restoration. What you may not be aware of, if I'm recalling this correctly from my art history studies, is that different materials fluoresce differently dependent on their chemical makeup, and not their age.

    For example, you know that certain 20th century paints fluoresce, as evidenced by your guitars that were painted in that era with the car lacquers of the day. But very old paints are the exact opposite; they don't fluoresce; in fact, that's one way that antique and art dealers determine a forgery. Old paint (I mean very old paint, i.e., not from the 1900s) in fact does not glow! Modern forgeries and repairs glow instead. That's what identifies them.

    So it's not about the age of the item, it's about the chemistry of the item that was used in the materials. Old oil paints, for example, used different chemicals than modern oil paints. Most were egg-based. Etc. Same with papers and canvases.

    If you do any research on paints, you'll discover that the formulas change quite regularly; and that different colors have different chemical formulas due to the pigments being chemicals. F'rinstance, reds and browns use a lot of iron oxide, blues use crushed minerals or dyes, etc. These things obviously affect the chemical composition of the product. And stains and dyes are different, and can be organic or mineral. In fact, whether they are or not affects their ability to absorb light without fading, so you can imagine that they react differently under UV light.

    Check a very old book (I mean1800s or early 1900s if you have any) and more recent or new books. You should see a difference in fluorescence.

    It's not the aging process that causes things to fluoresce, unless bacteria and molds have gotten into the surface. It's the chemical makeup of the finish.

    At least, that is my recollection and understanding. Your PRSes may never glow under blacklight if they don't already do so. There are probably books on art restoration that would interest you that deal with this, I'll ask my brother if he knows of any, as he has done some art restoration in the past.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 01-31-2013 at 12:17 AM.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    OK.....do you think we can get back to the OP questions......please???
    Ned? Did you really just refer to yourself in the 3rd person - in your own thread?



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    Quote Originally Posted by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! View Post
    Ned? Did you really just refer to yourself in the 3rd person - in your own thread?Awkwaaaaaaaarrrrd...
    I think he did. He might have done it unintentionally.

    BTW...Thanks Les...that was very interesting. Are you saying that those vintage Gibson and Fender finishes would have glowed under the blacklight when new? And it was not part of the aging process? That's an interesting concept.

    Les....I was at Michaels the other day....I checked out those "15 cent" testor paints in the 1 oz. bottle....FYI...they are now $1.89. Only 12X their price circa when we were using them.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    I think he did. He might have done it unintentionally.
    One Life

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    SuperD Boogie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    I think he did. He might have done it unintentionally.
    ...Are you saying that those vintage Gibson and Fender finishes would have glowed under the blacklight when new?
    Even if this is the case (and I personally believe so), that doesn't diminish the benefit of using a blacklight to identify finish anomalies or rework. I've used both blacklight and florescent lamps to check critical automobile paint work. That will show up clearly. Great tip and appreciate you sharing.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    I think he did. He might have done it unintentionally.

    BTW...Thanks Les...that was very interesting. Are you saying that those vintage Gibson and Fender finishes would have glowed under the blacklight when new? And it was not part of the aging process? That's an interesting concept.
    It's my understanding that some paints and pigments fluoresce, and some don't. I'm certain that the original paint on really old artwork doesn't fluoresce as much as newer paint; maybe the dirt and oxidation reduce whatever fluorescence might have been there.

    Ultraviolet light definitely causes that glow because of the amount of phosphors in the chemistry of the paint, and I was told the older paints didn't have as many phosphors as modern paints (by modern I am including paints of the 50s and 60s), but other than these tidbits of info, I got nothin' more detailed by way of scientific explanation.

    Your 50s and 60s guitars glow under blacklight because their paint has certain phosphors built in. It's got nothing to do with how old they are. That I'm sure of. They would have done the same thing when new, but maybe brighter.

    Repairs show up for a reason, maybe it's the differences in batches of paint, or how many layers thick they are, but I honestly don't remember the reason.

    Anyway, your original question was what was it about the aging process that causes the paint to glow, and the answer is, nothing. It's not about the aging process at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    Les....I was at Michaels the other day....I checked out those "15 cent" testor paints in the 1 oz. bottle....FYI...they are now $1.89. Only 12X their price circa when we were using them.
    You know, it's not that surprising! My first car was a new 1965 Mustang that was nicely equipped, and it cost $2500. The same car now would be what, 10-12 times that? In fact, I went with my Dad and brother to pick out his 1965 SG Special, and my recollection is that it cost less than $200, including the case, which was always extra in those days. But that was a lot of money back then!

    I am pretty sure that I paid less than $300 for a new 1967 BF Bassman head and 212 cab set.

    My Dad was a real estate developer and home builder, and his price for a very nice, brand new, two-story house in a new subdivision in the suburbs with attached garage, air conditioning and all the kitchen appliances, began at $29,900 back in '65.

    So I think that 10x the 60s price is pretty much a rule of thumb to get the same thing these days.

    In the 70s, the big oil embargo caused the prices of things to absolutely skyrocket, and that's when inflation roared. My new 1977 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT was a staggering $6000!
    Last edited by LSchefman; 01-31-2013 at 10:50 AM.

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    Thanks to all who contributed. This was very informative. I/We have learned that it's not the aging process at all....it's the type of paint specific to the era that causes the glow....which accounts for why later repairs and refinishes show up conspicuously under the black light. And why our PRSi may never glow under that light. But, boy is it fun to take the light to those "vintage" instruments that are represented as "unmolested" and....as Sergio so aptly put it....see what appears to be a "stained motel bedsheet" where a uniform color was expected.

    We have also learned that things that cost "X" in the mid '60's now appear to approximate 12X. I'll tell this to my wife. In 1979, she paid $800 for her wedding dress with alternations....poor thing. She couldn't affort the one she saw in the magazine and had to settle. So, my daughter's getting married in November and her dress will "only" cost about 2 grand. A relative bargain! I'll tell my wife that a 250% increase in 33 years ain't so bad, when you're comparing the cost to about 15 years earlier!

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by docbennett View Post
    I've got a question about PRS guitars and the use of black-lights to determine vintage status.

    As most collectors are aware, black-lights are useful in determining the status of
    cheap wedding dresses . Those original finishes from the '50's and '60's on those vintage Gibsons and Fenders will glow under a black light so that any subsequent refinishing or repair work will become immediately obvious. Wen evaluating whether it's been refinished or repaired...the black-light don't lie!

    I guess my question is twofold...first, what is it about the aging process that causes that classic glow under the black-light? More importantly, from a historical perspective...how many years will it take for PRS guitars to develop that telltale "glow" under black-light? And, would the various finishes that PRS uses...nitro, poly, V12....have different qualities under the lights? And different relative times before they "age"...i.e. is that V12 more durable than nitro or pply??

    Of course, this question is merely just out of curiosity.... since I probably won't still be alive by the time these guitars have the history and years behind them that the aforementioned Gibsons & Fenders have.
    Vintage guitars are too expensive. I have tried once to get them but prices seems to go high on every occasion. Need to collect more money
    Last edited by JimmieHerrera; 05-14-2013 at 11:40 PM.

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