View Full Version : My poor old Martin Style 0

07-24-2014, 04:41 AM
Good morning all. I usually don't post a New Uke Day, and this isn't much of one, but I thought I'd post it anyhow. Of course, I may be taking a chance at a lashing or two on my actions, but I have my reasons for doing what I did. What am I talking about? Read on...

Some of you may have seen my post about me selling all my ukes to buy a Martin, and have that as my only uke. Well, I sort of did this in reverse. I won a Martin uke on eBay for a lot less than I thought I could, and did what I swore I'd never do, and dump that on my credit card since I didn't actually have the cash to buy it outright.

So, when I got the uke, I saw why it went at at a lower price. I mean, the pictures on the ad were a bit of a red flag, but I put a max bid in anyhow, assuming I'd still be outbid, but I was the 16th bidder and had the highest bid (it came in under my max bid though), which was a bit of a surprise to me.

So once I got it...

A previous owner (It was purchased from an antique reseller on eBay) repaired a crack on the lower side. Not a bad repair, but not a great one either. This was noted by the seller though, so it was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that it had shellac sloppily painted all over the uke, and I mean so sloppy that you can see the brush strokes AND it was painted over the grime and dirt and dust that this uke accumulated over its 60+ years as a uke. Not only that, but the person never even took the possibly original strings off. They just painted the shellac around all the strings. It was horrible.

So, with Q-tips, soft rags and denatured alcohol, I began the 10-hour process of slowly removing all of the added shellac. This uke is circa 1945 - early 1950's, and a luthier on this site assured me the original finish was lacquer.

After removing all of the shellac, the uke was rough. It looked better than it had, but still looked bad, and had some spots that were spot sanded down to wood.

So, thinking that this thing didn't have much resale value to a collector, both before and after the work was done on the finish, I scuff sanded (steel wool) the lacquer and applied three coats of Tru-Oil over it. I know, I know, it shouldn't be applied over a different finish. But, since Tru-Oil has more of a mechanical bond than a chemical bond both to itself and to what you are putting it on, I took the chance (and I've done it before with different non-uke applications). Also, I am learning how to French polish, and if or when I get it down good enough to perform it on an instrument, I plan to sand this uke down and French polish it up.

Note: I plan to make this my ONLY uke, and plan to keep it as a player, so since I got it on the cheap (for a Martin) and plan on keeping it for the long haul, either route I go, I think anything I do to keep the uke protected and keep me happy playing it is a good thing.

Also, I was going to go Skinny Money McGee's route and throw another set of tuning machines on this uke, but I cleaned my keystone tuners up decently, and was able to make them work, so for now, I'll leave them as is. They are not perfect in any sense of the word, but for now, they are fine. I will probably go the new tuner route though as the uke and I really get to know each other better. Also, I strung it up with Martin M600 strings. Just seems right, and those are great strings on any vintage uke I've played, to my ears anyhow. How does it sound? Like a vintage Martin should. The three thin coats over the lacquer doesn't seem to have done anything as far as sound. It sounds like other vintage Martin's I've played.

So, I guess you all will want some before and after pictures, huh? Well, here goes:





07-24-2014, 08:46 AM
It looks like you've done a good job to me. It all looks very neat and so much nicer.

Pukulele Pete
07-24-2014, 08:58 AM
You should change Your title from " My poor old Martin style O " to " Yeee Haaaaaa , I've got a Martin style O " Looks like you did a nice job and You've got a great ukulele.

07-24-2014, 12:02 PM
It looks really nice! I hate when people don't disclose and or obscure with bad photos. However my feelings are always save a Martin! You put so much time and love into it, it will reward you even more. Be glad it didn't stink of tobacco smoke too...

07-24-2014, 12:09 PM
Nice! I have a late 40s Martin with the exact same tuners, they are shaped like tulips. I took the screws out and oiled them, and they work fine. Looks like you have a player. Such a uke deserves to be strummed with vigor!

07-24-2014, 12:18 PM
I think you did a great job Dan! Its your uke and you can do any darn thing you want with it! I understand the leaving vintage instruments alone but if your buyin it to play and something about it bothers you change it, you're the one who is lookin at it every day!

07-24-2014, 06:19 PM
Great job - it looks very nice!

07-24-2014, 08:48 PM
Great work---enjoy your lovely uke.

07-25-2014, 02:32 AM
I bet it sounds great!

07-25-2014, 02:42 AM
Wow, thanks all. I expected a couple bits of feedback about how I should have left the finish alone, and got nothing but positive feedback. You are all so supportive. I appreciate it all.

The uke sounds great, just like a Martin should. The only uke that comes close to the sound of the Martin is my 1950's all solid mahogoany Harmony, which I played the heck out of. I think my favorite uke went from the Harmony to the Martin already. "I'll See You In My Dreams" has never sounded better... with my playing it anyhow :).

This uke is a definite keeper, and it's making me feel better about selling all my other ukes. I think I've found my one uke.


Pukulele Pete
07-25-2014, 04:00 AM
I'll bet that now that You know how nice Martins are , You will want more than one.

07-25-2014, 04:20 AM
"I'll See You In My Dreams" has never sounded better... with my playing it anyhow :).

How about a sound sample/video!

Tommy B
07-25-2014, 05:59 AM
Great job. Now that uke is really "yours." I think you can call it a custom :D. Years ago, I won a very cracked-up Gibson tenor that I decided to try repairing and refinishing. Several folks told me not to learn on a Gibson. Well, it turned out great and sounded terrific. An instrument doesn't become valuable because it's vintage; its value is in the joy it gives through being played.

But just for future reference, almost everything you buy through eBay is now covered with Buyer Protection, even if the seller doesn't agree. So you shouldn't feel stuck with a purchase (though you definitely turned that purchase into a winner).

07-25-2014, 06:39 AM
Typically it is not advisable to refinish a vintage/antique if you want to retain its value i.e. considering selling it in the future. But if you're keeping it for life as your only uke, you can do whatever you want with it since it's your stuff!
Personally I thinks it looks good and I am sure it sounds great!

07-25-2014, 05:37 PM
Wow, very nice job! from the pics, I never woulda known....