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View Full Version : Trying to bring new life to a well used/abused ukulele



Steve in Kent
04-08-2016, 11:20 PM
I bought this Lanikai LU-8E for 60 including case.

As you can see it's had a hard life, but sounds a lot better than it looks.

It's evidently had the sound board replaced.

90072

After trying to remove the stuck on scratch guard it removed some of the brown stain stuff and the wood didn't look too bad.

So I decided to remove all of the stain.

90073

I have now almost finished sanding it nice and smooth, will go to 180 sandpaper next.

I was thinking about using some light oak coloured gloss varnish, the rest of the ukulele is gloss.

So asking for a bit of advice.

I was going to paint one coat, rub down, then another, rub down etc. until I get a nice finish.

Is there anything fundamentally wrong with this approach as long as I do not put too many coats on?

Thanks,

Steve

JesterBlod
04-09-2016, 02:16 AM
Hey, looks good! Much better than when I sold it to you ;) x

I have no answer to your question though.....

PhilUSAFRet
04-09-2016, 02:35 AM
Lots of tutorials on Steward MacDonald website and on youtube. A lot of folks looking for an "easy" finish use True Oil gunstock finish. 180 is awfully rough.

Steve in Kent
04-09-2016, 03:53 AM
Hey, looks good! Much better than when I sold it to you ;) x

I have no answer to your question though.....

Was it you who sold it to me?

Being as I live in Kent.

Don't suppose you know what happened to it, and what the wood is do you?

Steve in Kent
04-09-2016, 03:58 AM
Lots of tutorials on Steward MacDonald website and on youtube. A lot of folks looking for an "easy" finish use True Oil gunstock finish. 180 is awfully rough.

Should have explained more, 180 is next then onto 320

Steve in Kent
04-09-2016, 04:08 AM
Lots of tutorials on Steward MacDonald website and on youtube. A lot of folks looking for an "easy" finish use True Oil gunstock finish. 180 is awfully rough.

Oh, and great link, thanks.

JesterBlod
04-09-2016, 04:36 AM
It was I... at MOK ukes. I moved to not so sunny Wales last year. It was sold to me as having had a spruce top replacement after the bridge had come off.


Was it you who sold it to me?

Being as I live in Kent.

Don't suppose you know what happened to it, and what the wood is do you?

Steve in Kent
04-09-2016, 04:46 AM
It was I... at MOK ukes. I moved to not so sunny Wales last year. It was sold to me as having had a spruce top replacement after the bridge had come off.

Wow, well I'm glad I bought it :D it really does sound a lot better than it looks/looked.

I hoped it was spruce as it certainly looks like it, with a nice tight grain, and I think there is even some bear claw showing.

Hopefully I will do it justice.

Now sanded to 320, and wetted to raise the grain, (as per the link instructions given by PhilUSAFRet above).

It will be strung with Living Water strings to the standard Lanikai tuning.

(I thought it may have been you because of the Cigar Box Ukulele, and we almost made the move to Saundersfoot a few years ago).

Thanks,

Steve

JesterBlod
04-09-2016, 04:53 AM
Glad to see it being put to good use :)

Steve in Kent
04-10-2016, 06:14 AM
After 4 coats of varnish, (light oak).

90095

JesterBlod
04-10-2016, 06:49 AM
Hey, she scrubbed up well

Steve in Kent
04-10-2016, 08:30 AM
Don't know if I should have just left it natural though, instead of using the tint.

Still, done now.

One last fine rub down, and I think a couple of coats of lacquer.

Steve in Kent
04-11-2016, 11:31 PM
Well,

Stained varnish ended up to patchy and too yellow, looked like nicotine stained ceilings ;)

So it's now back to natural wood and I have ordered some aerosol clear gloss lacquer and 400, 600, 800, 1200, 1500 2000 paper

Hopefully it will be OK

ProfChris
04-12-2016, 12:41 AM
Even clear may give you a patchy result, because spruce tends to absorb finish unevenly. I'd wipe on some clear shellac first (I use a paper towel and just give a single wipe over the spruce, leave to dry, then sand lightly because the grain will have been raised). This should be enough to seal the surface and, because you've applied the minimum possible finish, leave you with a fairly even colour.

You might be OK spraying the lightest possible coat, letting dry, sand and repeat, but I don't spray so have no experience.

Steve in Kent
04-12-2016, 04:04 AM
Even clear may give you a patchy result, because spruce tends to absorb finish unevenly. I'd wipe on some clear shellac first (I use a paper towel and just give a single wipe over the spruce, leave to dry, then sand lightly because the grain will have been raised). This should be enough to seal the surface and, because you've applied the minimum possible finish, leave you with a fairly even colour.

You might be OK spraying the lightest possible coat, letting dry, sand and repeat, but I don't spray so have no experience.

Thank you for the advice, I'll look into the shellac.

ProfChris
04-12-2016, 11:29 AM
Ready mixed French Polish in clear does the job OK.

sequoia
04-12-2016, 06:28 PM
What I think is happening here is that you didn't get the original finish completely off therefore there is a mix of raw wood with wood that has finish still on it. Thus when you come along with finish, the finish is not absorbed uniformly and thus the patchiness.

ProfChris's suggestion is a good one with a shellac base coat. However, if the wood is not completely sanded out "white" and down through the original finish to raw wood, there still may be patches. My suggestion: Sand down to bare wood again, do a wash coat with shellac. Let dry. If patches still appear: repeat sand and wash coat until you get a uniform look. Repeat as needed. When uniform, proceed with your lacquer as per usual.

Remember: Shellac is your friend.

Steve in Kent
04-13-2016, 02:50 AM
What I think is happening here is that you didn't get the original finish completely off therefore there is a mix of raw wood with wood that has finish still on it. Thus when you come along with finish, the finish is not absorbed uniformly and thus the patchiness.

ProfChris's suggestion is a good one with a shellac base coat. However, if the wood is not completely sanded out "white" and down through the original finish to raw wood, there still may be patches. My suggestion: Sand down to bare wood again, do a wash coat with shellac. Let dry. If patches still appear: repeat sand and wash coat until you get a uniform look. Repeat as needed. When uniform, proceed with your lacquer as per usual.

Remember: Shellac is your friend.

I am 99.999% sure I am down to raw wood, can't sand it again as some areas are getting a wee bit thin, the sound board being warped enough not to be able to use a sanding block.

I will definitely try the shellac as long as it doesn't actually change the colour of the wood.

I have seen some that is described as clear/white which is a bit confusing to say the least.

What's the difference between using shellac and cellulose sanding sealer?

ProfChris
04-13-2016, 01:40 PM
Any finish will change the colour. Wipe on some White Spirit (mineral spirit in the US) to see the likely effect.

Your sanding sealer might be OK if you can wipe on a thin coat. Or it might yellow the wood quite a bit. You don't have any scrap top to try it out on, but a test on any spruce or pine you can find would let you make a guess.

The important thing is to get one or two ultra thin coats on, damping the wood rather than wetting it. Each should be let dry and sanded. If you then have an even colour, you can spray on top with some confidence.

Clear French Polish (Liberon is the only ready made brand I can find) is known to give the minimum possible colour change. The white stuff is slightly opaque - I wouldn't use it. Your sanding sealer - maybe. Sand up some similar scrap, apply White Spirit to see the effect, let evaporate then try your sealer. If it's close enough you might risk it.

As you daren't sand any more this is a one shot process for you - good luck! If it all goes wrong you could go for a solid colour top to hide blotches (but black is really hard, don't go there unless you must).

sequoia
04-13-2016, 07:28 PM
, the sound board being warped enough not to be able to use a sanding block.

Ah ha! That quote reveals all and why you got splotchy. Also this means you have a slight problem. Sanding a warped top flat with a sanding block would definitely be problematic and not a good idea. I'm sure everyone can appreciate the problem. Gonna have to go by hand and touch... The point of my reply was to use the shellac as an indicator. Put it on sand it off until you get uniform. When all is good: Go with your sealer and finish out. By the way, that sealer stuff would work but is expensive and harder to sand than shellac so why go there? ... Yes any of these things will darken the top. Go clear/clear for least amount of tint. I've used cellulose sanding over shellac with no problems. But I ask you this question: why not just finish it out with shellac? A lot easier and cheaper and looks better if you ask me.

Steve in Kent
04-13-2016, 09:33 PM
Any finish will change the colour. Wipe on some White Spirit (mineral spirit in the US) to see the likely effect.

Your sanding sealer might be OK if you can wipe on a thin coat. Or it might yellow the wood quite a bit. You don't have any scrap top to try it out on, but a test on any spruce or pine you can find would let you make a guess.

The important thing is to get one or two ultra thin coats on, damping the wood rather than wetting it. Each should be let dry and sanded. If you then have an even colour, you can spray on top with some confidence.

Clear French Polish (Liberon is the only ready made brand I can find) is known to give the minimum possible colour change. The white stuff is slightly opaque - I wouldn't use it. Your sanding sealer - maybe. Sand up some similar scrap, apply White Spirit to see the effect, let evaporate then try your sealer. If it's close enough you might risk it.

As you daren't sand any more this is a one shot process for you - good luck! If it all goes wrong you could go for a solid colour top to hide blotches (but black is really hard, don't go there unless you must).

I've got a bit of scrap that I can use, don't know if it's spruce, but it is a very similar colour.

Could go for broke and sunburst it :eek:

Steve in Kent
04-13-2016, 09:36 PM
Ah ha! That quote reveals all and why you got splotchy. Also this means you have a slight problem. Sanding a warped top flat with a sanding block would definitely be problematic and not a good idea. I'm sure everyone can appreciate the problem. Gonna have to go by hand and touch... The point of my reply was to use the shellac as an indicator. Put it on sand it off until you get uniform. When all is good: Go with your sealer and finish out. By the way, that sealer stuff would work but is expensive and harder to sand than shellac so why go there? ... Yes any of these things will darken the top. Go clear/clear for least amount of tint. I've used cellulose sanding over shellac with no problems. But I ask you this question: why not just finish it out with shellac? A lot easier and cheaper and looks better if you ask me.

This is the first time I have heard about shellac, and looking up about it makes it seem like pre made stuff is not good, and that I should buy the flakes and the alcohol and make it up myself.

I have no idea what finishing out with shellac would like.

Thank you for all your help here, feels like I'm trying to make a silk purse :)

Steve in Kent
04-13-2016, 10:11 PM
Just had a quick look at YouTube for shellac finishes.

Extremely nice finish, but he goes through a lot of wet and dry, 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 3600, 4000, 6000, 8000, 12000, and then polish.

Steve in Kent
04-16-2016, 05:29 AM
Well. I have sanded to 2000, applied a cellulose sealer, rubbed down to 2000 again, and applied the plastic abalone I purchased from Inlay Stickers Jockomo

90281

And the last coat

90294

Steve in Kent
04-18-2016, 05:55 AM
Next job, wait 10 days, (if I can :eek:), then sand down with P2000 with water and a bit of soap.

Then buff up with polishing compound and finish off with jeweller's rouge.

I think the buffing is going to take a while.

I will also rub down the bridge and leave it matt.

So just got to sit on my hands for 10 days.

PhilUSAFRet
04-18-2016, 06:45 AM
Recently spotted the post on Royal Lac, may make TruOil obsolete as an instrument finish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXRdJ6psTLg

Steve in Kent
04-18-2016, 07:23 AM
Recently spotted the post on Royal Lac, may make TruOil obsolete as an instrument finish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXRdJ6psTLg

Yes, I saw that post, nearest thing in the UK I think is the Special Polish from Finneys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWViNoYKp88

If I had seen that earlier I think I would have tried it instead of the lacquer.

Steve in Kent
04-23-2016, 06:12 AM
Now sanded down using wet and dry P2000 and soapy water.

Buffed up using rubbing compound and polished using Dunlop polish. will wait another week before I restring and play it though.

90520

pointpergame
04-23-2016, 08:10 AM
Steve i. K.,
This is now after the fact, but FYI, Shellac is quite easy and quite pleasant to work with. It dries fast and once dry it sands down to a fine powder. Pre-mixed will age after 6 months or so and might be a little gummy when sanded. I use shellac inside all my furniture because it will retain that sweet smell for centuries. And that's not all. Brushes wash out quickly and completely with diluted ammonia.