Off-gassing plastic and spontaneous combustion: Have you seen it?

 A friend just posted an amazing photo on Facebook of an acoustic guitar that looks to be about 100 years old, with a giant pickguard that has seriously disintegrated and offgassed and badly stained the top. Maybe 1/3 of the wood of the top is stained darker. 

 I remember getting two electric guitars into my shop that the owners had no idea what had happened. Both axes had been in closed cases stored in closets, and had similar damage.Both of them, when I opened the cases, smelled heavily of smoke and chemicals.

 One the top and back binding were the controls were, had caught on fire, and melted itself right into the plastic fur of the case. The guitar had to be cut out. Lacquer/paint was extensively damaged in the two areas , and several other areas showed the binding turning to dark dust for several inches. The dust could be blown off, but lacquer surrounding it had been badly discoloured.   The front, sides, back for about one to two inches surrounding the burn, was bubbled, black and crispy, and blackened melted binding had dripped onto the side.   

The other guitar was vera similar except only had damage at the waist were the control panel was. Both cases when empty looked like someone had gently tortured them with blow torches in the affected sections. 

 In both cases, the total immediate history of the guitar was known, and neither case had been touched or even moved in over twenty years. 

I have talked to several Luthiers over the years who have never come across this and wonder how nuts I am for suggesting that it was spontaneous combustion. There is no doubt in my mind about it though. I wish I had been savvy enough back then, to take pictures. There would be no sceptics reading this... 

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Well, thanks for clearing the air about that... :)

The film industry used celluloid film until the 1950's.  I was once hired to clean and restore UGA's football films. The older ones were all celluloid and several had become soft.  I discovered they were a real fire hazard as over time they deteriorate into a flammable goo and generate heat in the process. I shipped the films to Hollywood and had the films transferred to safety film (modern polyester film), chemically stabilized, and then sealed in special cases. Check out this link for more info:

I have a "A "model Gibson mandolin that had a pick guard flash off. That is what I call it. It started where the pick guard was doubled on one side and it kind of melted burned in one spot.  The finish looks like it has kind of burned but not a chard place . The finish has a black smoke  in the finish cracks that I haven't removed .  If I can remember to take pictures  I will.   I have seen several Gibson's that have all the binding frunt and back and finger board ignite. At one time I had a White Failken guitar that had never been stored in a case but the binding in the waist had shrunk so In trying to soften it I heated it with a hair dryer and was pushing it back and holding it until it cooled . This worked an all but one and I got it to hot and before my eyes it ignited and looked like a dnymate fuse burning.  I wiped it fast with my bare hand and it went out.  I wont try that again. I also have expermated with the picks  also 

Ron Frazier


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