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View Full Version : Restoration question, can you preserve a crumbling label?



Flutedude
03-31-2018, 09:25 AM
Hi guys. I have gotten the bug for ukulele restoration, but I'm really new at it. I recently purchases two vintage soprano ukuleles, a Mele, and a "Conservatory Quality Ukulele". The Mele is a wreck, but Conservatory just needs some new parts (bridge and tuners). The conservatory paper label is partially gone, but there is enough left to make it out. Is there a way to safely preserve what's left of the label? Here are some pictures.

107775

Flutedude
03-31-2018, 09:29 AM
Sorry, wrong picture. here's the label.

107776

Bob Orr
04-01-2018, 11:00 PM
I am no expert but I print my labels on an inkjet then give them a wipe with a couple of coats of shellac. Maybe that would be enough to consolidate what is left of the paper label. Not sure what, if any, effect it may have on value as I am not a collector. Bob

Flutedude
04-02-2018, 03:09 PM
I am no expert but I print my labels on an inkjet then give them a wipe with a couple of coats of shellac. Maybe that would be enough to consolidate what is left of the paper label. Not sure what, if any, effect it may have on value as I am not a collector. Bob

Thanks Bob. I had considered that, but hesitate for a couple reasons. I worry how the aged paper will react to the chemicals in a shellac, and I wonder if it could effect the sound of the uke (although that seems like a longshot). Either way, the label is disintegrating fast. if something isn't done fast, I won't be able to prove who the maker was. So I will consider your idea.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
04-02-2018, 05:25 PM
Interesting question.
I doubt shellacking the label is the answer.
Call someone who repairs old guitars.
ans let us know the answer!

Bob Orr
04-02-2018, 11:24 PM
Had a look online and some bottle collectors suggest Art Store Spray Fixative for fixing pastels and the like but you would then have the difficulty of trying to spray the label in situ. Try the internet to see if there are any instrument restoration department in any universities that may be able to offer advice. Bob

Ziret
04-03-2018, 09:05 AM
I do artwork with paper and wood or metal all the time. I would use Golden (it's a brand) matte gel medium. Depending on the stiffness you buy, you may have to dilute it with a small amount of water. Apply a thin coat with a special tool that I call a cut-up credit card, using it sort of like a trowel. You may need to put a little medium under any edges that are loose, but it sinks in from the top, protecting the paper, and it may go through. You can also use a brush, but it will leave brush marks. Think decoupage.

Gel medium is archival, so it won't yellow or destroy the label, and it won't change the color. Practice with similar materials to get a feel for the process before you jump in, but it's doable and should be relatively undetectable as well, especially through a soundhole. You won't need more than a tablespoon of the medium--probably much less, but you do have to practice--so if possible, borrow a jar from a friend. Good luck!

Matt Clara
04-05-2018, 05:03 AM
Consider there are two types of restoration, the one that makes it a player again, and the one that preserves its historical value, hopefully while making it a player again! Putting shellac or modpodge, or whatever on the label might be perfect for making it stop falling apart and even look just fine, but it may lower the historical value of the instrument at the same time. Just something to consider.

Alain Lambert
04-05-2018, 06:39 AM
Just an idea: Take a good picture of the label. If your restoration attempt fails, you could print a copy and reapply.

Uke Don
04-05-2018, 03:06 PM
Two suggestions:
1. Take a photo as Alain suggested.
2. Call Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California (650-493-2131) and ask for their repair department. The have extensive knowledge of vintage instruments and may be able to help you. If anyone has an answer they will.

lelouden
04-05-2018, 05:15 PM
Use a small foam brush and thinned elmers glue. This is how you decoupage paper to wood. Very lightly brush the edges that are lifting and push them gently down with the brush, then cover the whole lable top with the glue. Then, if it needs another coat, go for it after the first dries.

The label was glued when originally placed so this won't be a problem.

Matt Clara
04-06-2018, 04:04 AM
Two suggestions:
1. Take a photo as Alain suggested.
2. Call Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, California (650-493-2131) and ask for their repair department. The have extensive knowledge of vintage instruments and may be able to help you. If anyone has an answer they will.

Elderly Instruments would be another good choice. https://www.elderly.com/

Flutedude
04-13-2018, 01:09 PM
I do artwork with paper and wood or metal all the time. I would use Golden (it's a brand) matte gel medium. Depending on the stiffness you buy, you may have to dilute it with a small amount of water. Apply a thin coat with a special tool that I call a cut-up credit card, using it sort of like a trowel. You may need to put a little medium under any edges that are loose, but it sinks in from the top, protecting the paper, and it may go through. You can also use a brush, but it will leave brush marks. Think decoupage.

Gel medium is archival, so it won't yellow or destroy the label, and it won't change the color. Practice with similar materials to get a feel for the process before you jump in, but it's doable and should be relatively undetectable as well, especially through a soundhole. You won't need more than a tablespoon of the medium--probably much less, but you do have to practice--so if possible, borrow a jar from a friend. Good luck!


Thanks Ziret, I will look into that.

stevejfc
04-20-2018, 06:10 AM
Try contacting a good book restorer. They are experts at repairing and/or conserving paper.

Flutedude
04-20-2018, 01:33 PM
Consider there are two types of restoration, the one that makes it a player again, and the one that preserves its historical value, hopefully while making it a player again! Putting shellac or modpodge, or whatever on the label might be perfect for making it stop falling apart and even look just fine, but it may lower the historical value of the instrument at the same time. Just something to consider.


Good point. My concern is actually making sure the identity of the maker remains possible on this ukulele. Right now, there is just enough of it left to identify it as a "Conservatory Quality" ukelele. If much more is lost it might not be identifiable at all. As a random vintage uke, it's historic value would be lost, or greatly diminished, I believe. My primary concern, in general, is getting this little guy in playing order again, while staying as true to it's history as possible.