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View Full Version : To restore or not to restore?...That is the question



ukuleleCraig
06-02-2014, 07:12 AM
A question has recently been asked to me regarding whether to refinish a 1960's Martin style 1. Is it good to let the Uke age gracefully or give it new life?
I have my thoughts on it, but wanted to hear what the general consensus is

coolkayaker1
06-02-2014, 07:15 AM
How bad is it?

RichM
06-02-2014, 07:16 AM
If it were my uke, refinishing would be a last resort. I love finding vintage ukes with a lot of wear & tear, because it keeps the price down and they usually still sound great. A refinish probably won't improve the tone, won't improve the value, and probably won't protect the uke better, unless it has some pretty serious finish damage. It may make it prettier, but pretty ukes are easy to come by.

RyanMFT
06-02-2014, 07:18 AM
There is absolutely a correct answer here Craig. The answer is....it depends.

You don't state the condition of the ukulele, and what the owner wants to do with it except a refinish. If said ukulele has cracks and issues which make it unplayable, then repairs must be done in order to make music with it. That is repair, not restoration. To restore an instrument to a condition which is as close to new as possible is a different thing. If an instrument has finish issues, and is ugly many people like to leave them alone, but it is up to the owner if you want it to look pretty and shiny again with a refinish.

I have a handful of vintage ukuleles, and I repair them and make them playable, but I choose not to "restore" them as I am fine with the scratches and nicks and bumps.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
06-02-2014, 08:04 AM
Don't restore structural problems.

ukuleleCraig
06-02-2014, 08:27 AM
Ryan, Rich - I fully agree with your comments. I feel that if the wear is getting to a stage that the wood is in danger of being worn then it needs/requires a refinish to protect from this. Having said this, many players (even the pro's) do not do this. A few spring to mind where I've seen quite major wear under the usual place - at the sound hole.
Willie Nelson's "Trigger" guitar that he's played for over 44 years famously has been worn through so much that a gaping hole is giving the sound hole a run for its money.
It is obviously up to the player/owner. My advice(which is what i would do if it were mine) would be to refinish if down to bare wood, as it will only get worse. If its just a matter of nicks, chips, and light wear & tear - I would leave.

In this persons case the Uke has had cracks filled in the past and finish has just been patched.

ukuleleCraig
06-02-2014, 08:29 AM
Don't restore structural problems.

......elaborate...

Teek
06-02-2014, 08:47 AM
I'm guessing that means if it looks like my Style 3 here to just repair the damage to make it playable, as full restoration is not really possible or is not worth the financial investment. I'm hoping to get a good player, because it sounded great even partially tuned up on only two old strings. Right now it's just a wall hanger because I don't know when I will be able to get a quote and if I will be able to manage the funds needed. I have the missing piece and it is all there and fits perfectly. It also has top cracks and a back crack. Whatever disaster befell this uke seems like it was through carelessness, as it looks like it was kicked. If it was a Style 0 I would just glue it all up myself and play it because it would cost more to fix it professionally than it would ever be worth because of the extent of the damage..


6733067329

Looks a bit better cleaned up.

67331

coolkayaker1
06-02-2014, 01:11 PM
6733267333

I agree with RyanMFT: it depends. Without any knowledge of the condition of the actual ukulele in question, no one would be able to answer the original poster's good question with anything but generalities. Example: car one should probably not be restored; car two perhaps should be. How do I know? By what I see.

Seeing the uke and knowing the details of it's pre-restoration condition is the only way to generate a (likely non-unanimous) consensus on whether to restore or not. How can any advice be given otherwise? This is especially true as restoration is not finite, but is on a continual scale; how far to take it is also worth pondering (which is Teek's good point below).

I'd love to see answers to this question, particularly as we have vintage buffs, and a luthier or two, already involved in this thread.

mm stan
06-02-2014, 02:22 PM
Well to vague and no pictures...if it does not have any major structural issues and sounds pretty good, I'd consider it maybe
however you are not to show off how nice your uke is....but how it sounds in your hands
many times restorations on a rare uke high end uke would be nice, but on the basic models, there are way too many of them to make it worthwhile and not get your money back
when reselling. unless the uke sounds extrodinary and is something you treasure and has sentimental value...good luck

strumsilly
06-02-2014, 04:16 PM
refinishing a vintage Uke DECREASES it's value. I got a very nice Martin tenor at a great price because someone refinished it. they even sanded off the logo.

BlackBearUkes
06-02-2014, 07:07 PM
refinishing a vintage Uke DECREASES it's value. I got a very nice Martin tenor at a great price because someone refinished it. they even sanded off the logo.

IMO, this statement is not always correct, too many variables. If an instrument is in very sad shape, it has no value. Restoring it can actually make it more valuable, IF it is done professionally, and not done by someone who does a hack job on it. I would not hesitate to replace bracing, fix holes or refinish it if the instrument is worth the effort. This idea that to do any work on a vintage instrument will destroy its value is nonsense.

hmgberg
06-02-2014, 08:17 PM
IMO, this statement is not always correct, too many variables. If an instrument is in very sad shape, it has no value. Restoring it can actually make it more valuable, IF it is done professionally, and not done by someone who does a hack job on it. I would not hesitate to replace bracing, fix holes or refinish it if the instrument is worth the effort. This idea that to do any work on a vintage instrument will destroy its value is nonsense.

Agreed. It is true that refinishing will likely decrease the market value of a vintage instrument. Most of what I read indicates the decrease in value will be half. The question is, half of what? I infer from this that the instrument will be worth half of what it's value would be in near mint condition. If the finish is half strummed off the top, or is flaking off the entire body, it may not be worth half of the near mint value anyway. Of course, market value is determined as the price a buyer will pay. In reality, it's subjectively determined, that is to say.

Timbuck
06-02-2014, 11:55 PM
I restored my Martin Style 0..when I first got it, it looked pretty shabby and dirty with minor damage....The fretboard had been varnished by a previous owner so I stripped it all off down to the rosewood scraped it clean ..then re crowned the frets ...I repaired a crack in the back that had previously been repaired (not very well) with epoxy:( after the repair I scraped the back down to bare wood then french polished it ....I gave the top and sides a refresher coat of shellac as well...it still looks old and well used but looks pretty good with no loss in value at all.:)

mm stan
06-03-2014, 12:19 AM
I've had a Martin style 1 restored because it was beat and had a very bad crack, took it to an authorized martin repairman...he put the best finish on and looks better than new
also got a new decal from the factory and replaced the old....the crack you would not know it was there if I did not tell you...he even matched the wood and grains.. the crack was
1/4 " wide and 3" long....after it was finished, the repairman told me a customer saw my uke and offered me 1500 for it....
total cost for me...300 for the uke 650 to fix and refinish

coolkayaker1
06-03-2014, 02:00 AM
These are all informed and respected answers, yet they swing as wildly as a drunken chimpanzee. Why? The answer depends on the uke and what one means by refurbishing (both of which are not defined in the original post).

Should I have this broken finger fixed? Depends on which finger, how badly it's broken and what do you mean by "fixed".

This would be a super interesting discussion, the opinions of all, if we had any specifics about the ukulele in question. Otherwise, it's a wild goose...err, monkey chase. ;)

ukuleleCraig
06-04-2014, 10:10 AM
These are all informed and respected answers, yet they swing as wildly as a drunken chimpanzee. Why? The answer depends on the uke and what one means by refurbishing (both of which are not defined in the original post).

Should I have this broken finger fixed? Depends on which finger, how badly it's broken and what do you mean by "fixed".

This would be a super interesting discussion, the opinions of all, if we had any specifics about the ukulele in question. Otherwise, it's a wild goose...err, monkey chase. ;)

Hmmm.... I'm puzzled... But to be honest, not surprised. The post/thread I made was in regards to a question I was asked of which I already gave my opinion to them prior to posting here. I didn't really post this thread as a 'question and answer' as I agree that everyone would have varying opinions. I posted to open a discussion, as I'm intrigued to know what my fellow builders views would be. Ken gave a great straight forward account of his first Martin which Is the kind of thing I was hoping for - so did many others. On the whole there's been some great interesting replies. Thanks all

IamNoMan
10-25-2014, 02:15 PM
The Vintage instrument I am referring to is a Luscomb 5 string banjo, c.1887; not a ukulele. I am not a luthier. I suspect my observations are still valid here.

My banjo has a bad 5th string nut. All tuners are iveroid friction tuners. I had to replace the 5th string tuner with a modern planetary type. The original iveroid button will not fit the new tuner. I saved the original tuner but the replacement was a necessary structural repair IMO. The bad nut cannot be restored or replaced without creating further structural damage to the banjo. I installed two model RR spikes as a fifth string capo at the 7th and 9th frets shortly after purchase. My workaround here is to 1) tune the string down from a G to an F and 2)always leave capo'd at the 7th fret.

At sometime in the past the neck of the banjo was broken. Whoever repaired the tang did a nice job with the neck but a sloppy job soldering the metal rim. The Luscomb has a unique wooden tone rim. I will not try to restore the solder joint. (I think this is what is meant by restoring a structural problem. The banjo plays and sounds fine as is and I do not wish to damage the wooden tone rim). When the tang was replaced the Luscomb nameplate and serial numbers/patents was lost. If and when I find a Luscomb nameplate I will restore this even the the serial number/ patents might not be valid.

The banjo has the original number of brackets. Missing brackets have been replaced with no regard to uniformity. The original skin head eventually tore. It has been restored with a new pigskin head. I had a Pro do this. The job is a RPIA.

I rarely clean the nickel rim but have refinished it with beeswax because I have a nickel allergy. The neck has the wear of 127 years use. I occasionally clean it and apply beeswax to facilitate ease of play.

At some time in the future I may consider replacing the fret wires. I doubt it though: its a vintage instrument.

Tigershark
10-25-2014, 03:12 PM
Is it good to let the Uke age gracefully or give it new life?

To me, a refinished vintage instrument loses almost all the character and charm. It is ok for old stuff to look old and used, and best to leave it that way. Over time I have learned to only do the minimum required to make it play. Less is more.

Even cleaning and polishing can go too far. Sometimes you end up with something that doesn't look right. It's like finding an old gun, leaving that century of patina on there preserves the look and value. So many people are tempted to shine it up like new.

IamNoMan
10-25-2014, 03:18 PM
To me, a refinished vintage instrument...Even cleaning and polishing can go too far. Sometimes you end up with something that doesn't look right. It's like finding an old gun, leaving that century of patina on there preserves the look and value. So many people are tempted to shine it up like new.Cleaning metal surfaces allow new corrosion to occur. A slightly corroded surface will inhibit new corrosion

chefuke
10-25-2014, 09:22 PM
Cleaning metal surfaces allow new corrosion to occur. A slightly corroded surface will inhibit new corrosion

How can corrosion inhibit corrosion?

I found a clean and dab of grease will inhibit corrosion the best on my oldies.

IamNoMan
10-25-2014, 11:12 PM
You would have to ask that. Coatings like grease will inhibit oxidation, aka corrosion. Grease unfortunately easily transfers to other surfaces and can stain them or worse absorb gritty materials that chew up skin heads and nice wood finishes. Rust aka oxidation aka corrosion creates a coating as well. It is porous and friable, (the real problem), but it acts as a passivation agent that slows down the rate at which the anions aka oxidants aka oxides bond to cations aka metals and form metallic-oxides aka rust aka ..... The science of corrosion and the art of corrosion protection is an arcane and poorly understood engineering problem. Much of the information in Wikipedia on the subjects is/are wrong or simply BS and "needs additional citations for verification (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Verifiability)" I usually use beewax as a coating for metal and wood on instruments. It doesn't stain, its a plastic material that fills in porous materials and I think it is sterile, like honey, spider webs and urine; if that's any benefit.

I hope this satisfies your curiosity. Its been decades since I had to know this stuff and I'd just as soon learn a new song as research esoteric engineering issues.

ps: There is a phenomenon known as oxygen reduction corrosion that occurs in airless environments that causes iron and steel bands to rust to themself and another phenomenon known a "rouge-ing" that causes stainless steel to rust in distillation processes used in the pharmaceutical and electronics industries. I can give many examples of this stuff but cannot discuss it in a scholarly fashion.

tobinsuke
10-26-2014, 05:28 AM
How can corrosion inhibit corrosion?

I found a clean and dab of grease will inhibit corrosion the best on my oldies.

What you are asking about is patination. Patina. It is different (chemically speaking) from corrosion. That is to say, it is a layer that forms on the surface...its interaction with the metal is minimal, unlike rust. I know we're not talking about copper here, but as an easy example, think of the Statue of Liberty.. patination turned it green, and this green patina in turn "sealed" the surface against further corrosion and weathering. This is why there are 300 year old copper roofs that have not corroded away. It's just the nature of many metals.

I am probably not explaining this well. Search patina on Wikipedia or another source if you are really curious. It's an interesting question/concept.

IamNoMan
10-26-2014, 05:38 AM
Patination is a form of corrosion but the more noble the metal is the more likely the process is to fill in the pores in the metal. Silver turns black, gold then platinum show little evidence but the corrosion is there. Not to hijack the thread but Tobinsuke if you would like to discuss corrosion please PM me.

Timbuck
10-26-2014, 06:58 AM
Time to discuss the pro's and con's of "sacrificial annodes" I think :D....As previously posted on this banjo forum...I came across them on the oil rigs.;)
http://www.banjohangout.org/topic/289702

Tigershark
10-26-2014, 10:53 AM
Guys, I'm sorry for bringing vintage guns into this discussion - I shouldn't have brought up something I don't know very much about.

My only point was that if I found an antique gun with scratches and dull metal, looking tired, I would just leave it be and not try to make it "better". The same with ukulele finishes :)

IamNoMan
10-26-2014, 12:42 PM
If I found an old black powder firearm I would clean the barrel out with warm soap and water and apply gun oil.

Then I would grab my GH&S Melody Banjolele. Hmm! Is that a varnish check or something more sinister on the back of the resonator. Looks like a crack. Rats! It I repair the crack it will mar the finish. It has some scratches and varnish or lacquer checks, but it looks pretty good. I'm not comfortable working with lacquer finishes.

The way I play I don't need the resonator for volume . I can compensate somewhat by Tuning up to aDF#B. Ah its a vintage instrument. I think I'll work on that Formsby Song I heard last night.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb-pLBQ2D7k&list=RDYj4N0I7kby4&index=23

Wait what's this?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbZ-xTCugs0&list=RDYj4N0I7kby4&index=26

chefuke
10-26-2014, 06:33 PM
Great insight you all! Thank you for feeding my curiosity even more.
Beeswax it is from now on.

Pukulele Pete
10-27-2014, 04:24 AM
If you are thinking about a light overspray of clear lacquer I don't think that is a bad thing . From what I have read when a guitar goes back to the Martin factory for a repair they give it an overspray . I look at it as maintenance , preservation . As long as it is done well and with the correct lacquer I think it makes the Uke better.

Tigershark
10-27-2014, 06:16 AM
Beeswax it is from now on.

It is your ukulele to do with as you please. If I bought an old uke that had been covered in beeswax, I would send it back.


If you are thinking about a light overspray of clear lacquer I don't think that is a bad thing . From what I have read when a guitar goes back to the Martin factory for a repair they give it an overspray . I look at it as maintenance , preservation . As long as it is done well and with the correct lacquer I think it makes the Uke better.

It makes the finish thicker. And many old ukes were not finished with lacquer in the first place since it was not in use until around 1927. Have you ever tried to sell a vintage instrument that has been oversprayed? Very difficult, even if Martin did it, and buyers will want a big discount for an instrument that has been altered. Original, thin finish is what most people are after. These finishes are delicate and they do wear, so that is expected and not a problem (see picture below).

Covering a worn, original finish in beeswax or more lacquer is a problem :)


http://s28.postimg.org/y0omoc38d/P8030292.jpg

Pukulele Pete
10-27-2014, 08:39 AM
I'm referring to the ukulele in the original question . A 1960's Martin Style 1 .

chefuke
10-27-2014, 08:19 PM
It is your ukulele to do with as you please. If I bought an old uke that had been covered in beeswax, I would send it back.



It makes the finish thicker. And many old ukes were not finished with lacquer in the first place since it was not in use until around 1927. Have you ever tried to sell a vintage instrument that has been oversprayed? Very difficult, even if Martin did it, and buyers will want a big discount for an instrument that has been altered. Original, thin finish is what most people are after. These finishes are delicate and they do wear, so that is expected and not a problem (see picture below).

Covering a worn, original finish in beeswax or more lacquer is a problem :)


http://s28.postimg.org/y0omoc38d/P8030292.jpg

The advise with the Beeswax was to contain the corrosion on the tuners as an alternative to grease -

IamNoMan
10-27-2014, 08:40 PM
When dealing with old finishes you really need to Know what original material material was used. MArtin probably has records of this but most vintage instruments come from companies that are gone. Experiment on a small area that is unobtrusive first

Pukulele Pete
10-30-2014, 02:33 AM
It makes the finish thicker.


http://s28.postimg.org/y0omoc38d/P8030292.jpg

Not if it is a thin coat . If done correctly , you couldnt tell the difference. This is a 60's Martin not the Holy Grail .

Radio Flyer
10-30-2014, 05:38 AM
a 60's Martin could be the Holy Grail for this guy, don't knock it, it's a very nice instrument.

Pukulele Pete
10-30-2014, 07:12 AM
a 60's Martin could be the Holy Grail for this guy, don't knock it, it's a very nice instrument.

I wasn't knocking anything.

Pukulele Pete
10-31-2014, 01:20 AM
I wasn't knocking anything.

I'm sitting here shaking my head and wondering why do I bother to post . DUH ?

aremick
03-09-2018, 08:55 AM
So, I guess the consensus is, it is probably not worth it to restore my crackled 1948 Style 3...