Protecting Fine Varnish and Nitrocellulose

This page applies only to varnished violin family instruments and guitars with nitrocellulose finish found on high-end instruments only.  Most guitars are polyurethane finish.  Some ukuleles employ varnish.

A particular Martin guitar fanatic ordered a primeVibe sight-unseen.   Immediately thereafter and prior to delivery we started a friendly and helpful relationship.  I’ll call this guitarist “Pat” to maintain anonymity.  Pat and other members of The Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum (primeVibe thread) were concerned that primeVibe’s silicone rubber contact surfaces might degrade nitrocellulose finish such as found on Pat’s several uber-licous Martins.  I must highlight the fact that Pat still ordered primeVibe in spite of this concern.

I took Pat’s concern to heart, delayed production which was about to commence, and consulted with NXT.  A helpful technician at Martin Guitars Inc. said the silicone rubber contact surface of a guitar stand damaged the nitro finish of a Martin guitar.  Another helpful technician at Elderly Instruments shared concern about silicone rubber on nitro finish.  But the primary risk appears to be silicone in liquid or aerosol form applied to nitro finish, which prevents spot repairs, requiring complete finish removal down to bare wood.

primeVibe employs silicone rubber at the two points of instrument contact: the transducer underside and wire lead outer jacket.  Dr. Julian Fordham, PhD. in Materials Science, selected primeVibe’s silicone rubber blend after careful and lengthy examination of this specific application and available options.  Dr. Fordham considered academic textbooks, journals, and read many instrument forums for this all-new application (nothing like primeVibe existed prior to it).

Our local Master Luthier Ryan Thorell told us “vinyl is caustic to instrument finish.”  Vinyl was out.  Foam would degrade too quickly especially in high humidity (our sales thrive in SE Asia) and especially because the exciter’s active element directly contacts the instrument surface.  Foam would also overly-self damp the exciter active element, directly minimizing the desired positive seasoning effects.  Foam was out.  Hence the laborious selection of this particular silicone rubber contact surface, but not just any silicon rubber.

We invite readers to compare the marked differences in color, texture, and density of primeVibe’s silicone rubber to that found on instrument stands (we own two such stands).  primeVibe’s silicone rubber has significantly higher density, quality, and color consistency.

Consistent with this, after Pat received his primeVibe he did an about face and expressed approval of primeVibe’s contact surface.

To date, with primeVibe employed on a significantly large sample of ultra-high-quality instruments with varnish and nitrocellulose finish, we have no reports of negative reaction.  We thank Dr. Fordham for his effort and diligence in choosing what appears to be the best surface for this delicate multi-purpose task.

We still advise and caution users to remove the transducers when not in use.

All of our fine Thorell guitars have nitro finish.  We primeVibe’d all our Thorell guitars for over 100 hours each.  We closely examined and found no ill effects on the finish.