How to make rubber contract or shrink
June 12, 2009 3:00 PM   Subscribe

I have a set of rare rubber-grip Stratocaster knobs taken from a 30-year-old guitar. They look very similar to these. Problem is, the rubber grips have stretched out and are no longer tight around the knob. Is there any way to make rubber contract or shrink slightly so the grips fit correctly?

These knobs are unique to the Fender Elite Stratocaster, which was only made for a few years in the early '80s. Two of the three knobs have loose rubber grips. They are not in danger of sliding off, but they feel loose every time you use them, and it's very annoying.

Anyway, I am wondering if there is any way to get rubber to shrink. Would heat do it, either by flame or boiling or something (keeping in mind that it's 27-year-old rubber)? Or am I out of luck, and what's stretched is stretched?
posted by relucent to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hitting them with a hair dryer might do it - although the rubber may be so old that it won't respond.
posted by kellyblah at 3:17 PM on June 12, 2009

Maybe put some glue on the inside, wrap with thin cardboard and wind a long piece of string tightly around that to apply even pressure.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:54 PM on June 12, 2009

After 60 seconds of googling & perusing wikipedia, I'm confident that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Could you just place something over the knobs (tape, shrink tubing, a rubber band) to make them a little bigger, thus making the rubber knobs fit tighter over that?
posted by chairface at 3:59 PM on June 12, 2009

It sounds like the rubber may have dried out and shrunken up in the process. If that's the case, you might try some kind of rubber renewal or restoration product.
posted by Mrs. Buck Turgidson at 6:18 PM on June 12, 2009

The Fender manufacturer might be helpful in suggesting unique solutions.

I worked for an art materials manufacturer, and we would replace worn out items from loyal customers who contacted the company. I would think Fender would have the same spirit from what I know about their reputation.

From my experience in the art materials trade, rubber that old has lost its elasticity, and anything you would do to cause it to shrink might cause the material to crack and break.

If the original items are valuable to you for the sake of the instrument, I would set them aside in a protective case. If they are not valuable to you, consider making a lining for them of a more flexible rubber like latex condoms to take up the expansion of the original rubber. A few drops of adhesive would make the original rubber cover not shift as you adjust the dials. You might consider covering the top of the old rubber with a protective coat such as keytone acrylic resin (clear fingernail polish) to protect the old rubber from wear.
posted by effluvia at 6:48 PM on June 12, 2009

I used to use basic lighter fluid (like for a zippo not a Weber) to clean rubbery knobs, and it did great, and also seemed to shrink them a bit. Thats all I got
posted by timsteil at 7:35 PM on June 12, 2009

I'd try to get Dan Erlewine to answer my question
posted by sully75 at 7:53 AM on June 13, 2009

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