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View Full Version : Cleaning up a vintage Martin heirloom



peewee
01-18-2011, 07:13 AM
I am over the moon, to use a period-appropriate expression. I finally got my granddad's second uke back from France..long story.

I already have a 20's Martin 0 of his which is a gem, and that has been my inspiration to (attempt to) learn to play. But I just got the other one back, it was in the hands of a family friend, who passed away.

As I recalled, it's a Martin style 1, and it's in good shape for an 85+ year old, but it is covered in a deep layer of dingy grime. I used a microfiber cloth, some moisture and some elbow grease on it, and OMG it's starting to look like Koa Wood !!

I strung it up and it sounds like Koa wood too, definitely different from the mahogany style 0. Is there a definitive way to tell the wood type other than color (slightly blonder than the mahogany), sound (chiming) and that 3-D tiger eye iridescence? (which seems to be present under the scum)

In addition to sharing my elation at this fantastic instrument and link to the past, I want to ask about the best way to go about cleaning it up. The spit and polish method is OK, but requires a fair amount of pressure, and there are some minor cracks in the body that I would rather not extend. Is there another way to remove the tobacco fry-fat and finger scum that won't damage the finish, soak into the cracks and dings, or leave a funky residue?

Thanks for any pointers

rem50
01-18-2011, 09:32 AM
do you have pics? sounds like a gem!

RyanMFT
01-18-2011, 09:50 AM
Hey Peewee....I am going to PM you with some of my cleaning tips.

Pukulele Pete
01-18-2011, 11:21 AM
Hey Peewee....I am going to PM you with some of my cleaning tips.
Do you use some sort of "secret sauce ". ? I was going to suggest using white vinegar or maybe naptha but I am wondering what it is you use. I've used the white vinegar on the metal parts of my banjo uke and it took the "gook" off but I had to soak them for some time. Never tried it on wood. Could you share your tips ? Thanks

peewee
01-18-2011, 11:57 AM
Here are some pics. Also pictured is the cloth to give you an idea of how much dirt has come off already.
I'm trying to take it easy to not lose any finish but there's still a ways to go.
It's pretty dark if it's koa, but I've never seen mahogany with a shimmer like this.
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_01.JPG
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_04.JPG
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_05.JPG
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_06.JPG
I'm keeping mum on the secret sauce to keep things peaceful. I still welcome any suggestions for cleaning octogenerian varnish of dirt and haze. Thanks
peewee

peewee
01-18-2011, 12:01 PM
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_07.JPG
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_03.JPG
http://planetorth.com/martink1/martin1_02.JPG

Chris Tarman
01-18-2011, 12:22 PM
Koa or mahogany, it is lovely! Congratulations! I can't decide from the photos which it is... it has some characteristics of BOTH... I'm no expert though. I have 2 old Martins and have played another, but they've all been mahogany. My only koa uke is very figured, and has a kind of an orange-ish stain to it. I know Martin made a koa style 1 (but not a koa style 0 to the best of my knowledge), and I know that they did the koa versions during this time period... beyond that, you got me!

Gmoney
01-18-2011, 01:54 PM
So, is the binding around the top & back tortoiseshell? Or?? hard to see from the photos. Upload your photos, as many as you have to "Uke Yak" here:

http://www.fleamarketmusic.com/uke-yak/default.asp

Chuck “Frets” Fayne will either answer all your questions or ask you to dig some more grime off & take some more... but, best bet to get an accurate idea of what you have.

It IS a beauty, though.

Chris Tarman
01-18-2011, 06:06 PM
So, is the binding around the top & back tortoiseshell? Or?? hard to see from the photos. Upload your photos, as many as you have to "Uke Yak" here:

http://www.fleamarketmusic.com/uke-yak/default.asp

Chuck “Frets” Fayne will either answer all your questions or ask you to dig some more grime off & take some more... but, best bet to get an accurate idea of what you have.

It IS a beauty, though.

Older Style 1 ukes actually had rosewood binding. I'm not sure when they started the tortoiseshell, but all the '20s Style 1s I've seen have rosewood binding. Granted, I've only seen '20s Style 1s on the internet...

peewee
01-19-2011, 03:59 AM
It is not tortoise binding, so I guess it makes it rosewood. I posted pics for Chuck Fayne, we shall see what he says.
Kontinued Kleanning reveals more Koa like iridescence...but I've never see koa with such straight grain and dark color..but next to the mahogany one it's clearly different. Thanks for your contributions everyone. Still looking for more cleaning advice..

peewee
01-19-2011, 04:04 AM
Chuck says it's not Koa. Oh Well..

Gmoney
01-19-2011, 04:11 AM
Chuck says it's not Koa. Oh Well..

It is still a stunningly, lovely Style 1 that's probably 90+ years old! Beautiful condition & I bet it sounds beautiful as well.

peewee
01-19-2011, 06:17 AM
Of course it's still a treasure, but I still Kant Kwite believe it's mahogany. Whatever, it's not like I'm selling it. And it does sound angelic.
I'm proud to be a descendant of one of the first victims of UAS, and delighted to be the caretaker (and player) of his spoils.

Ronnie Aloha
01-19-2011, 06:36 AM
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002KZHP6/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0015DQLRC&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0CD1VS0630V7NBXCRBM9

I've used this to clean up ukes. Works great!

Paul Cote
01-19-2011, 06:53 AM
did you say tartar sauce?

rem50
01-21-2011, 07:06 AM
ask dkcrowne, he is a professional furniture maker. he may be able to help

peewee
01-24-2011, 07:50 PM
Chuck made an incorrect assessment based on the photos. According to the repair desk at McCabe's, and the Ukulele teacher there, it is in fact a Koa style 1. Hard to tell from photos. Having played it for a while now, I think it's a phenomenal sounding instrument. Now I really have to learn to play..

mm stan
01-24-2011, 08:07 PM
Im just saw this post now.....and it does look like koa....congrats on the getting back the uke....I hope you're planning to fix and stablize the cracks....Good Luck and Happy Strummings....MM Stan