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Thread: Finish/refinish old uke question plus what wood is this?

  1. #1
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    Default Finish/refinish old uke question plus what wood is this?

    Last night on eBay I bought this old Japanese Luna uke. They said it was from the 60s, but the way the neck is the fretboard makes me think it's older. I imagine it's post WWII? The photo makes it look better than it is. The other photos disappeared from eBay before I could copy them. The finish is worn, scratched, and on the neck, discolored. It seems to be in good shape otherwise. I wanted to ask the experts: What would you recommend I do about the finish? I've done some work with wood and I just thinned down a neck and refinished it and it turned out great. I'm not afraid to make mistakes, or to correct them. I also wonder if any of you knows, or would like to guess, what kind of wood it is made from. Thank you very much for your help.
    $_10.jpg
    Kiwaya KTS-6
    Enya X1 soprano
    Kiwaya KTC-2
    Ohana BK20

  2. #2
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    Nice score! Man, I have to admit I'm a little envious of this one. I'd love to find an old Luna.

    I think you'll find the most definitive English-language info on Luna Gakki here, specifically addressing your "Imported by Rhythm Band" model. Doesn't help narrow the date beyond 1950s-1960s but because it was imported into the US and has a 5-digit zip code on the box, it's definitely postwar and I'm guessing post-1963, as that was when 5-digit zip codes were introduced.

    Looks like mahogany to me. I'll leave advice about the finish to the woodworking experts rather than the history nerds like myself

  3. #3
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    If yours is like this one now on eBay, the grain, to me, looks like mahogany, just a very light color, or natural. Similar box too.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Wood...0AAOSw4YJZYwRV

    More info: http://database.ukulelecorner.co.uk/i-j-
    k/kiwaya/kiwaya4


    MIJ Luna.jpg
    Ask NOT what your country can do for Uke...ask what Uke can do for your country.

  4. #4
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    I was thinking mahogany too, but I don't want to get carried away and find out it's poplar or pine. That one in eBay is on better shape, but otherwise nearly identical, except geared tuners. The model, 300, is the same.

    Thanks Jane, excellent point about zip codes too. And thanks for the article. I missed that in my 15 minutes of frantic searching for information before bidding ended. Going you read it now.
    Kiwaya KTS-6
    Enya X1 soprano
    Kiwaya KTC-2
    Ohana BK20

  5. #5

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    French Polish is the only way I would go on a vintage instrument. Do some light sanding with 220 grit just enough to clean things up a little then apply french polish. I would only use the sanding to get off the grime taking care not to effect the vintage look.
    Michael Smith
    Goat Rock Ukulele
    www.goatrockukulele.com

  6. #6
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    Hard to tell from the picture, but it is probably mahogany. Remember though that "mahogany" is a slippery word and there are many different species of mahogany and many native to Asia where this uke was made. Philippine, Chinese, Indonesian, etc. etc. It could be Honduran although it looks a bit rough. Below a picture of Honduran mahogany.

    mahogany.jpg

    I would recommend caution before attempting to refinish this instrument. Unless you have some experience, the potential to make things worse is possible and it could turn into a real boy-scout project or worse: a nightmare mess. By the way, French polish is not a substance, but a technique using shellac in case you didn't know. Personally I think you might consider just cleaning it up the with a gentle solvent to remove the dirt and oils and then using some polish and buffing bring out the finish. I would not take sandpaper to it. The original patina and dents might just give it more value than a complete refinish.

  7. #7
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    To 'French polish' using 'French polish' is a misnomer true. It is also a widely understood term for finishing in a particular way using shellac. Don't listen to the 'shellac police'. We all know what you mean. The rest of us don't 'finish' with lacquer BTW - we apply lacquer then finish by flatting, levelling and buffing out... bet hey, I always finish with lacquer....

  8. #8
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    I would leave it the way it is. It doesnt look pore filled so I would think French polishing wouldn't work well. If you have to do something to the finish I would just do a flash coat of
    lacquer. IMHO
    " Anything larger than a soprano is cheating "
    " I'm no luthier but ,........"

  9. #9
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    Pukulele Pete, what's a flash coat and what lacquer would you recommend?

    Sequoia, what gentle solvent would you recommend?

    I don't think I have the skill or patience to do a French polish, so I appreciate suggestions that are easier and faster.
    Kiwaya KTS-6
    Enya X1 soprano
    Kiwaya KTC-2
    Ohana BK20

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ziret View Post
    Pukulele Pete, what's a flash coat and what lacquer would you recommend?

    Sequoia, what gentle solvent would you recommend?

    I don't think I have the skill or patience to do a French polish, so I appreciate suggestions that are easier and faster.
    The art of French polishing needs patience. The days and weeks for curing between applications will no doubt deter you from this endeavour. Quality finishes are not acquired " easier and faster "

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