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View Full Version : I messed up a vintage uke...looking for restoration tips



doppiosogno
10-25-2011, 06:21 AM
Hi all!!
Last week I bought a cheap vintage unbranded uke with some flaws.As you can see it missed tuning pegs (originally it had ebony pegs) and it lacks the 12th fret too..Luckly it has no cracks and I like it for its tiger striped finish,for its feather weight and for the barky and not-too-loud sound.Now I thought it was good to give it some moisture,so as I do with others ukes I own I just placed a dampened hanky on the strings over the soundhole.Yesterday I took it and I found some white stains like this:
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..At the beginning I thought they where pieces of the hanky dryed on the board so I tried to remove them with another wet hanky...They did't want to come away,so I decided that using some alcohol was a good idea,as I usually do with my new ukuleles :( ...the alcohol removed the stains,but together with the finish!I don't know what kind of finish it has,but many clues (white stains= blushing,sticky finish and alcohol soluble) make me think to french polish,but it could be also just a darkener.Anyway I decided to remove all the finish from the soundboard.Here are the results,before
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and after
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Now I don't care about the lack of finish,but I liked the darker colour it originally had (I know that from the photos may appear the same colour,but it's not,the "before" photos were made by the old owner and the after by me).What kind of easy to apply and dark finish do you think I may use??Tung oil,linseed oil,tru oil???Are they dark or neutral???I don't want a glossy effect,just as similar as the original one.
Second suggestion:it lacks the 12th fret,I want to restore it but it is placed exactly in the neck joint (as many vintage ukes),so as you can see in the photos the groove it's quite deep...how can I fill it???I should fill it with hide glue and than place the fret???Where can I buy brass fretwire (or just golden) with a width of 1.5 mm???
Third suggestion:I want to buy some violin pegs...The front diameter of the holes is 7,6 mm (3.1") the rear one is 7.9mm (3.0") do you think it is better a 3/4 or a 1/2 violin peg???
Fourth suggestion:I want to restore the fingerboard to...it has many bubbles on the finish,some grime and so on...I don't know if it has french polish too (but I don't think so)...how can I clean it???Alcohol,isopropyl alcohol,turpentine???I think commercial lemon oil it's not good,cause usually contains mineral oil lemon flavoured.I though to feed the fingerbord instead with a mix of 60-70% linseed oil (drying oil),30-40% jojoba oil (it is like a liquid wax) and 1% tocoferol (Vitamine E) to avoid bad smells.

Thanks a lot for your help,another vintage uke is arriving in some days,so I'll make you other questions!!!And excuse my English,I write from Italy!!!
Ciao

Daniele

doppiosogno
10-25-2011, 06:32 AM
This is the groove
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This are the fingerboard "bubbles":
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this is an "after" photo made without flash,here's the frontboard without the finish
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and here's the back board still with the finish:
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Timbuck
10-25-2011, 07:35 AM
It looks to me as if it has been varnished all over the original finish at sometime including the frets...I recently restored and old Martin that was the same... I managed to scrape the fret board down to the original wood with a flat blade cleaned the frets with steel wool ..and carefully removed the varnish with alchohol on a pad..replacing the 12th fret should be easy...It looks like a quality uke you've got there...I like the red, white, black, binding.

PelicanUkuleles
10-25-2011, 10:05 AM
I second that! From the bubbling it looks like old varnish. Make sure you remove all the old finish so it will stain/finish evenly with no splotchiness.
Good Luck!

PelicanUkuleles
10-25-2011, 10:07 AM
And your english is just fine. :)

ProfChris
10-25-2011, 10:54 PM
I just measured up a 1/2 size violin peg, which tapers from 6.5mm at the tip to 7.5mm at the base. That's a little too small for your peg hole, so I think you need 3/4 size.

hmgberg
10-26-2011, 04:14 AM
Does anyone have insight/thoughts about installing the 12th fret. I have a similar ukulele with the same problem. Thanks.

ProfChris
10-26-2011, 07:02 AM
Does anyone have insight/thoughts about installing the 12th fret. I have a similar ukulele with the same problem. Thanks.

1. Carefully clean out the fret slot with a thin saw blade. If it has big chips out (this one seems to have some missing wood at one side) then consider filling - a sliver of matching wood, or a mixture of sawdust and CA glue. Most of the repair will be covered by the fret.

2. Cut a piece of fret wire to size. File the ends smooth and bevel them off. File the tang back at an angle, so you don't havea sharp tang ends sticking out the side of the neck.

3. A little glue in the slot (white glue is fine), then press the fret into the slot. It may well just press in with thumb pressure. If not, a block of wood on top as a caul and a C clamp to ease it into place.

4. Wipe off excess glue and don't play it for a couple of hours.

This isn't the perfect way to do it (ideally the slot should be tight enough that you have to press/tap the fret in), but in practice the glue will swell the wood and help it hold. Plus it's the 12th fret - how much work do you ever ask it to do?

[Edited to add - the important thing is not to make the slot any wider. You just need to get out any old glue, to ensure the slot is deep enough to take the tang.

Your biggest problem is matching the existing fret wire - or in the case of this one, it looks like brass bar.]

doppiosogno
10-29-2011, 04:08 AM
@ Timbuck
Thanks a lot for your reply...When you say "scrape the fret board down to the original wood with a flat blade " you mean you scraped using just the blade or together with the alcohol???Is it not dangerous??Is it not possible that some wood chips can come away from the fretboard???

ProfChris
10-29-2011, 08:43 AM
@ Timbuck
Thanks a lot for your reply...When you say "scrape the fret board down to the original wood with a flat blade " you mean you scraped using just the blade or together with the alcohol???Is it not dangerous??Is it not possible that some wood chips can come away from the fretboard???

Scraping with a sharp blade is remarkably safe - you're not cutting (which might take chips out), but scraping. The easiest thing for a fretboard is probably a razor blade, ideally a single-edged one with a folded-over rim on the opposite side from the cutting edge. Model-making shops sell these very cheaply. Experts will put a burr on the edge, but I'd just use it as is - it will work a litle slower, but the slower you go, the less chance of scraping too much.

Hold the blade vertical, angle the top a little towards you, and scrape towards you. Each scrape removes a tiny layer of varnish.

And no alcohol - you want the varnish to be hard so you can scrape it off in layers.

Sven
10-29-2011, 11:53 AM
If you're scraping with a razor blade, I'd file off the corners. They can put a deep scratch in the surface if it ain't perfectly flat.

Vic D
10-29-2011, 11:58 AM
I like to dull the outside edges and corners of blades with a file or sandpaper and then put a couple of pieces of scotch tape on each... eliminates a corner digging in.

Vic D
10-29-2011, 11:59 AM
If you're scraping with a razor blade, I'd file off the corners. They can put a deep scratch in the surface if it ain't perfectly flat.

OK, jinx. Pinch poke you owe me a coke.

Sven
10-30-2011, 02:56 AM
Certainly, it's yours if you pick it up at my fridge.

Vic D
10-30-2011, 06:44 AM
Certainly, it's yours if you pick it up at my fridge.

In the future that won't even be funny, hop a maglev be there in an hour. But I'll take a raincheck for when I hit the lottery. Sweden is on top of my must do list and I just might stay for a while. Countries with the highest social stratification are on the bottom of my to do list.

Sven
10-30-2011, 08:57 AM
You can sleep on the couch in my uke room. It's beside the workshop and there's no door between them. What could be better?

tonewood
10-30-2011, 09:05 PM
The curl on your ukulele looks hand painted to me. Maybe I am crazy but that is probably one of the things you were partially rubbing off.

doppiosogno
10-31-2011, 11:23 PM
The curl on your ukulele looks hand painted to me. Maybe I am crazy but that is probably one of the things you were partially rubbing off.
Luckly the stripes didn't come away rubbing with alcohol...maybe it is a stain..of course I can't sand it down,otherwise no more stripes!:D