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View Full Version : to restore or not to restore vintage ukuleles...



UkerDanno
07-26-2014, 07:58 AM
In this case, specifically my 1934 style 0 Martin. I got this about a year ago and it's a nice player, sounds awesome and plays great. Possibly could use a fine tuning setup, but it plays fine. It has 4 cracks on the back that have been repaired and are stable. The finish is crazed and even some bare wood in places. I like the used look..."sort of" it gives it character, but also looks pretty beat up. I'll probably keep it for a long time, so not too worried about collector value, if there even is any on a uke in this condition. I wouldn't mind having a vintage nice polished satin finish on it, but, would that ruin any value it has?
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I have put new Martin strings on since these photos and love them!

Why do I think it's a 1934? Well, from what I read, '34 was the first year with the decal on the headstock and in '35 they started using wire frets, this has bar frets.

Ukejenny
07-26-2014, 08:09 AM
It certainly has that vintage patina going. I would say, if you're going to keep it, do what needs to be done to protect the wood from further damage caused by more time and playing. I love the way it looks now, though.

brimmer
07-26-2014, 09:02 AM
I agree with Jenny. Do whatever you need to to keep it structurally sound and comfortable to play. Those battle scars give it character. Unless there's a problem that threatens the stability of the body, I like to see old ukes in their natural state. Unless you take a special joy in refurbishing old things - a separate but equally rewarding hobby. But I wouldn't pay someone else to do it. The only thing I plan to do with my Style 2 is to have the fret ends dressed, because they rub against the sides of my fingers.

I like those bar frets, too. Feel good under the fingers.

Maybe you already have the Walsh and King book on Martin ukes. If not, they have a wealth of info that helps you date old Martins to the approx year of build. Amazing pics of old Martins too. They are almost as enjoyable to read about as to play...

kypfer
07-26-2014, 10:08 AM
That's one well-loved old lady :)

If she were mine, I'd get some good-quality beeswax based furniture polish just to protect what's there and reduce further wear. A well-used instrument will wear, it's an unfortunate fact of life. All we can do is look after it as best we can. If, at some point in the future, a decision is made to "restore" it, beeswax polish will have caused minimal problems for the restorer, whosoever that may be. Some "modern" polishes which give a good shine also soak into the wood and can cause a nightmare if the wood needs refinishing later.

Rick Turner
07-26-2014, 10:44 AM
Anything cracked and repaired and a bit bashed up has little vintage value; it's a player. Collectors' first criterion is condition...as close to original as possible.

I would absolutely NOT put any kind of wax on bare wood; you will never get it out...nor will any future owner interested in restoration. That uke is a good candidate for some French polish finish touch-up, though. A couple of sessions would get it protected and looking pretty nice, too. It will still have that old, played vibe, but the wood will be protected by a reversible film finish. The finish on that one would be nitro lacquer, perhaps over a shellac sealer. Not even the top Martin experts seem to know exactly what the finish schedule was in the late '20s and early '30s. We know that nitro came in around 1927 or '28, but since shellac is a great sealer for just about anything, they may have been using it then under nitro.

UkerDanno
07-27-2014, 02:36 AM
Thanks, everybody for all the comments and suggestions. I might have to look into French polishing, although my craftsmanship on these types of things usually doesn't match up with my expectations ;-D. Can I do this over the existing finish? Would be nice to blend it some how and retain the character. One thing I don't especially like is the partially refinished back where the cracks were.

UkerDanno
07-27-2014, 02:41 AM
I'd love it if it looked like that Timms that's for sale. Maybe I should leave it alone and buy the Timms! :drool:

elbilo
07-27-2014, 03:09 AM
that uke has great character and a great story to tell (even if it's made up)! i'd keep the patina and just put a protective clear coat on it.

eric

stevepetergal
07-27-2014, 04:04 AM
I wouldn't mind having a vintage nice polished satin finish on it, but, would that ruin any value it has?


I would have it restored. But, if you're worried about the "value" I think you should sell it as is and get something else. Especially now, with "values" becoming more and more questionable.

I put the word value in quotes because in your question it sounds like you mean dollar-value or resale-value. And the reason I would just get it restored is I think of value as something else entirely. Sort of "value-for-me". Example: I have a couterpane made by my great-grandmother. It is extremely valuable. But, I don't think I could sell it for two dollars.

hmgberg
07-27-2014, 03:38 PM
Anything cracked and repaired and a bit bashed up has little vintage value; it's a player. Collectors' first criterion is condition...as close to original as possible.

I would absolutely NOT put any kind of wax on bare wood; you will never get it out...nor will any future owner interested in restoration. That uke is a good candidate for some French polish finish touch-up, though. A couple of sessions would get it protected and looking pretty nice, too. It will still have that old, played vibe, but the wood will be protected by a reversible film finish. The finish on that one would be nitro lacquer, perhaps over a shellac sealer. Not even the top Martin experts seem to know exactly what the finish schedule was in the late '20s and early '30s. We know that nitro came in around 1927 or '28, but since shellac is a great sealer for just about anything, they may have been using it then under nitro.

French polish is what I would do as well. Like Rick says, it will be protected, spruced up (so to speak) and still retain the vintage vibe.

hmgberg
07-27-2014, 03:45 PM
Anything cracked and repaired and a bit bashed up has little vintage value; it's a player. Collectors' first criterion is condition...as close to original as possible.

I would absolutely NOT put any kind of wax on bare wood; you will never get it out...nor will any future owner interested in restoration. That uke is a good candidate for some French polish finish touch-up, though. A couple of sessions would get it protected and looking pretty nice, too. It will still have that old, played vibe, but the wood will be protected by a reversible film finish. The finish on that one would be nitro lacquer, perhaps over a shellac sealer. Not even the top Martin experts seem to know exactly what the finish schedule was in the late '20s and early '30s. We know that nitro came in around 1927 or '28, but since shellac is a great sealer for just about anything, they may have been using it then under nitro.

French polish is what I would do as well. It protects the wood, spruces up the appearance, but the uke will still have a vintage appearance. If the finish in back is really bad and flaking off, you might use an amalgamtor (I use Mohawk No-Blush) first. This re-wets the lacquer so that it will adhere to the wood again.

UkerDanno
07-28-2014, 02:48 AM
wasn't owned or made by any family member, BUT, there's a rumor I'm starting that it was discovered in George Harrison's attic by a roadie helping the family liquidate some possessions and knocked out a moving rendition of "Ain't She Sweet", so they told him to keep it. So, if anyone wants to give me $16,000 for it, PM me.

stevepetergal
07-28-2014, 04:03 AM
wasn't owned or made by any family member, BUT, there's a rumor I'm starting that it was discovered in George Harrison's attic by a roadie helping the family liquidate some possessions and knocked out a moving rendition of "Ain't She Sweet", so they told him to keep it. So, if anyone wants to give me $16,000 for it, PM me.

Didn't George have it restored? Makes it more valuable, still. (Give it some thought)

Osprey
07-28-2014, 04:40 AM
Didn't George have it restored? Makes it more valuable, still. (Give it some thought)

I believe George restored it himself

Pukulele Pete
07-28-2014, 04:40 AM
I restored a 1930's Style 1 that had a dozen cracks , a hole , missing nut and more and I loved doing it. I sprayed the body with clear lacquer , wet sanded and polished and it looks great ( to me ).
I would try doing it yourself , its a player not a looker. Preserve it.

UkerDanno
08-08-2014, 03:45 AM
I restored a 1930's Style 1 that had a dozen cracks , a hole , missing nut and more and I loved doing it. I sprayed the body with clear lacquer , wet sanded and polished and it looks great ( to me ).
I would try doing it yourself , its a player not a looker. Preserve it.

got any pic's?

UkerDanno
08-08-2014, 03:49 AM
BTW, I stopped by HB Woodsongs luthiery shop in Boulder, CO and the guy suggested just leaving it alone. He did say something about using some kind of finish that would dissolve the original finish and then spread it around and it would adhere better. Can't remember the rather long name of the solution he mentioned. So, I'll probably just leave it alone for the time being anyway. Hell, it sounds great the way it is!

70sSanO
08-08-2014, 05:54 AM
I'd love it if it looked like that Timms that's for sale. Maybe I should leave it alone and buy the Timms! :drool:

+1 ^^

John

SailingUke
08-08-2014, 06:53 AM
Anything cracked and repaired and a bit bashed up has little vintage value; it's a player. Collectors' first criterion is condition...as close to original as possible.

I would absolutely NOT put any kind of wax on bare wood; you will never get it out...nor will any future owner interested in restoration. That uke is a good candidate for some French polish finish touch-up, though. A couple of sessions would get it protected and looking pretty nice, too. It will still have that old, played vibe, but the wood will be protected by a reversible film finish. The finish on that one would be nitro lacquer, perhaps over a shellac sealer. Not even the top Martin experts seem to know exactly what the finish schedule was in the late '20s and early '30s. We know that nitro came in around 1927 or '28, but since shellac is a great sealer for just about anything, they may have been using it then under nitro.

Rick is definitely the guy that knows and I agree with him.
I have a 1926 Gibson tenor that had some bare spots on the top. My luthier did some French polish touchup. It looks great, is protected and still has that vintage look.

Tigershark
10-14-2014, 09:07 AM
Interesting discussion... I have no problem with some bare wood from play wear. Best to just leave it. No protection is needed, the wood is bare inside the uke so I see no need to "seal" the top with something like wax. Even French polishing worn areas, I'm not in favor of it, an old uke should look old so best to just leave it.