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Thread: Luthiers, Please Tell Me What This Is

  1. #1
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    Default Luthiers, Please Tell Me What This Is

    Esteemed builders, I seek your advice. I just picked up this ukulele, which was made about 15 years ago by a small Hawaiian builder who’s no longer around. The photos I saw online gave me no cause for concern. They were taken from a few feet away. But when I received the uke, I was struck by the thick clear coat and, even more so, by the yellowish, opaque “stuff” around the fretboard extension, around the bridge, and by the nut. Does this just look like top-coat that has become brittle with age? Or does it look like wood glue? Or??? For what it’s worth, the uke has lived in Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and now is with me in the S.F. Bay Area; perhaps the changes in climes has done something to it.

    I’ve seen lots of issues with used ukes over the years, but I haven’t seen this. I would be grateful for your thoughts.
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    "The ukulele is the thinking man's violin." - Krusty the Clown

  2. #2
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    I’m not an expert or a glueologist but it looks to me like a poly type glue was used there. maybe Gorilla glue. See here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUWu-N85oXM
    http://ukulele-innovation.tripod.com ebay i/d squarepeg_3000 Email timmsken@hotmail.com

    If you can believe that moving images and sound, can fly through empty space across the universe and be seen and heard on a box in your living room ?.. then you can believe in anything.

  3. #3
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    The mess around the nut and fretboard looks like a very careless glue job - maybe the fretboard popped loose there and an unskilledamateur attempted to fix it?

    The residue around the bridge and fretboard/body join might be polishing compound - try a cotton wool bud and naphtha. If you can't remove some of it, then I'm with Timbuck, it's glue residue. If it's polyurethane glue I think all you can do is scrape it away.

    I'm not a fan of that kind of high gloss finish, but buyers do seem to prefer it!

  4. #4
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    Thank you Timbuck and ProfChris. I'm trying to determine if I have grounds to return this uke or if this is just a normal thing that happens with some uke finishes.
    "The ukulele is the thinking man's violin." - Krusty the Clown

  5. #5
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    That looks like lacquer shrinking...

  6. #6
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    To me it looks like polishing compound around the bridge and fretboard. At the nut it looks like they glued in the nut and didn't clean it up. It will be easy to tell if the stuff at the bridge and fretboard is polishing compound. It is powdery and should come out with a little water on a toothpick. If it is hard like glue, then it is glue. Very sloppy job either way.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Howlett View Post
    That looks like lacquer shrinking...
    Thank you Pete Howlett. Is lacquer shrinkage a normal thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by sequoia View Post
    To me it looks like polishing compound around the bridge and fretboard. At the nut it looks like they glued in the nut and didn't clean it up. It will be easy to tell if the stuff at the bridge and fretboard is polishing compound. It is powdery and should come out with a little water on a toothpick. If it is hard like glue, then it is glue. Very sloppy job either way.
    Thank you Sequoia. (By the way, are you the builder of a certain black-walnut tenor that I once owned named "Chico"?)
    "The ukulele is the thinking man's violin." - Krusty the Clown

  8. #8
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    I have seen this kind of thing many times over my years of repair. IMO that is not any kind of lacquer, but either Yellow glue or Gorrila glue. It happens when the bridge or fingerboard starts to lift, and the owner shoves a bunch of glue into the opening, wipes it flush and then lets it dry. The same goes for the crack in the neck by the nut. They think this will hold, but it won't and looks awful. The only way to really fix this is to remove all the glue and then get the bridge, fingerboard and neck crack properly repaired. If I were you, I'd return it. It won't be a cheap fix.

  9. #9
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    For the nut area, if the surface is smooth, then it appears that moisture may have gotten under the finish.
    If the surface is not smooth, then it is probably glue not cleaned up.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tommy B View Post
    Thank you Sequoia. (By the way, are you the builder of a certain black-walnut tenor that I once owned named "Chico"?)
    Nope. Not me... Did you ascertain whether it was polishing compound or glue? It could very well be an amateur glue job like Duane said that went bad and if so, yes, not a cheap fix at all. Not at all.

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