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View Full Version : Advice needed on uke finish.



fretie
02-13-2015, 08:25 AM
I am seeking advice from those of you who craft ukulele's.

I recently had a custom mango soprano uke built for me by a young local luthier that is in the early stages of his career. The body of the instrument is made of handsome mango wood and it looks and sounds great.

The instrument, to my non-luthier's eye, looks well made and I am more than happy with its playability. However, when I first got it the finish on the body was overall slightly shiny, in a mat sort of way. I took the uke into a music store to get a strap button installed and the luthier there pointed out some dry areas in the finish. He said that if I wanted to I could get the store/luthier's department to put a 'nito finish' on the uke which would show off the beautiful curl in the mango wood and provide an even finish. In the meantime, the uke's body seems to have absorbed more and more of the finish so that now it is very mat with just a few small areas of more satin/mildly shiny areas.

The maker of my new uke is now away on a trip so I haven't been able to consult him about this.

In the meantime, I am pondering a few questions:

1) would a nitro finish result in a very glossy uke, I think so....and having had quite a glossy concert some time back, I am concerned a mayor gloss finish may result in dulling the uke's good sound. Are my fears warranted about this?

2) would I be best advised to wait for my luthier to return from his trip and then discuss the finish with him? would it be reasonable for me to expect him to work on the finish some more....or should I expect to commission him, in other words, pay him, to improve the finish?

3) is it even that big a deal to have the wood absorb the finish and become more mat like it has been doing? in other words, am I making too much of a fuss about this?

Thanks for any guidance you may have to offer me with regards to the finish on the body of my new uke.

fretie
02-13-2015, 08:39 AM
Some photos of the uke:
http://i1040.photobucket.com/albums/b402/skydawger/IMG_5049.jpg
http://i1040.photobucket.com/albums/b402/skydawger/IMG_5052.jpg
http://i1040.photobucket.com/albums/b402/skydawger/IMG_5065.jpg

Doc_J
02-13-2015, 08:42 AM
Do you know what the original finish is? Is it an oil finish?

hawaii 50
02-13-2015, 08:44 AM
some builders say the finish part of building hardest and takes more time than building the uke...which I tend to agree....if he used tru-oil that is the reason for the finish you have....if he is a new builder he may not have enough experience to do the correct finish you are looking for

nitro will be more glossy than what you have now...make sure you can see the work of the person who will spray it for you..
if you can send the uke to Santa Cruz Calif...Addam Stark is one of the best...and his prices are reasonable...but you may have to remove the old finish for him.....

good luck...:)

lauburu
02-13-2015, 09:00 AM
IMO
Q1. There is no reason a suitable glossy finish, properly applied, should dull the sound of your instrument.
Q2. The instrument looks well made so the maker presumably knows what he's doing. Suggest you discuss options with him. He will know what the original finish is, which is a good place to start.
Q3. You have every right to question the change in the finish. It's not something you should expect in a well made instrument.
Miguel

little timber
02-13-2015, 10:30 AM
if it is an oil finish, I wouldn't expect him to change it to a nitro finish without having to pay him to make it so. if the wood has absorbed the oil, it may have been a linseed oil finish or something like that, may just need more oil for protection but most oils wont build to a nice glossy film

ProfChris
02-13-2015, 10:43 AM
You have to talk to the maker whatever you do, because anyone refinishing will want to know what the original finish was.

Without pictures we can only guess, but my guess would be a Tru Oil or similar finish on wood that wasn't sanded fine enough and/or pore filled. The finish shrinks back to the surface, and can only appear as shiny as the surface lets it. I did exactly this with my first ukes.

If so it's fairly easy to fix - more sanding and filling, then more finish.

I'd be worried about just spraying nitro on top, as there's a good chance it would stop adhering (in patches naturally) fairly soon. Plus, a music shop might be more used to electric guitars, where a thick finish evens out any roughness and doesn't hurt. Refinishing properly requires lots of prep, and is therefore expensive.

Michael Smith
02-13-2015, 11:14 AM
don't go messing with the finish until you take it back to the builder and see what is going on. no one can diagnose your finish issues over the internet without knowing what the original finish is nor should you apply additional high gloss finishes without complete knowledge of the under coat. take a deep breath make some good music and wait till the builder gets back to his shop.

fretie
02-13-2015, 11:34 AM
Thank you, all, I really appreciate your replies and advice.

It sounds like it would be most reasonable to just wait until my mango uke's luthier returns from his trip in March. Then I will touch base with him about the finish and see what he suggests.

I don't have any desire to have the uke look glossy but I do want the appropriate finish for the mango so that the wood is protected and the instrument continues to have a good tone.

hawaii 50
02-13-2015, 01:08 PM
Thank you, all, I really appreciate your replies and advice.

It sounds like it would be most reasonable to just wait until my mango uke's luthier returns from his trip in March. Then I will touch base with him about the finish and see what he suggests.

I don't have any desire to have the uke look glossy but I do want the appropriate finish for the mango so that the wood is protected and the instrument continues to have a good tone.

If you find out the finish is tru-oil,you can do it yourself...just wipe on 1 coat and wipe off the excess right away... do it at breakfast and dinner and let dry for 1 day....
you can do as many coast as you want with in reason....:)

Pete Howlett
02-13-2015, 01:26 PM
Go back to the maker every time. Working on it yourself or having someone else mess with it is not only going to embarrass the original maker but is simultaneously going to make him annoyed. And unless you really have to, do not mention you have had a second opinion - you want him to fix it and no-one else and still maintain a professional relationship with them. I'm sorry mate but I cringe when I see these posts and groan when I read the well meaning but misguided advice that is given. Bad enough you are unhappy; even worse you may be forced to beat him over the head with 'advice' from strangers :) Be diplomatic, keep it professional and help him understand that he needs to up his game. I spend as much time finishing an instrument as I do building it - it's no walk in the park, believe me :(

Allen
02-13-2015, 03:24 PM
What Pete said.

The builder is the only one who should be looking at this instrument.

fretie
02-13-2015, 04:13 PM
I have no problem with going back to the builder to talk about my uke's finish.

What I intended when I wrote this thread was kind of like talking about my concerns with friends over coffee. Lots of times my friends and I discuss things specific to someone's hobbies. And the conversation and sometimes brainstorming that arises is at the very least information and at best quite creative.

What I was basically hoping for in my query here on the forum was to get some perspective on this drying out of the uke's finish. Asking among friends, so to speak. My real life friends know nothing about uke finishes but here at UU I felt it safe to ask my virtual friends.

I learned quite a bit from the posts here, besides the loud and clear: "discuss it with the maker".

My apologies if I annoyed some of you by putting into print my uncertainty about how my new uke's finish was evolving over time.