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Thread: Need info on top refinishing

  1. #1
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    Default Need info on top refinishing

    I have a very beat up white label kamaka concert. Original finish on the top is almost all gone but there are still remnants of finish inside some part of the grain lines. Move the uke and they are evident and shine as light catches them. I gave it a go with 0000 steel wool but the finish won’t go with anything I’d
    want to try.

    So I want to protect the bare wood somehow and better show the flame koa of the top.

    From my checking around on what to do tung oil seems best to try but I don’t know how that will get along with the top as it is now.

    I have no experience with this so want to try something I could realistically do.

    Advice will be appreciated.
    Last edited by Jeffelele; 09-19-2020 at 04:18 AM.

  2. #2
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    Tried a few times but can’t post or edit.

    Some hours latter.....

    Seems first post editing works now.
    Last edited by Jeffelele; 09-19-2020 at 04:20 AM.

  3. #3
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    Kekaha, Kauai
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    Default

    Rather than tung oil, I would go with shellac. Shellac will stick to both the old finish and the bare wood, but most importantly, any new finish applied later will stick to the shellac.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  4. #4
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    Yes shellac is the way to go and tung oil produces toxic fumes and a glossy to mirror finish that would look out of place on a vintage Kamaka.

  5. #5
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    Thanks guys for the advice. I’ll start looking up shellac in posts and videos.

    I have a couple of concerns. Will shellac change the feeling of the wood much? Change the sound?
    Can I with no experience do a good enough job?

    I didn’t think tung oil was used to produce glossy finish. I agree that would look out of place. I liked the idea of something I could rub on rather than brush on because it seems that would be easier to get right.

  6. #6
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    Some years ago I picked up a Martin soprano from the 30s with a badly crazed finish that was flaking off in places. I sprayed a couple of light coats of shellac to weld things together followed by two light coats of satin nitro lacquer. Worked very well. As for your questions, it will not materially change how it feels or how it sounds. It can be applied by wiping it on, brushing or spraying. How good it looks in the end depends largely on how skillfully it is applied. But it can be removed or leveled with alcohol, so you are not likely to hurt anything by trying.
    Brad
    Bradford Donaldson
    Kekaha, HI and Cannon Beach OR
    bradfordj48@outlook.com

  7. #7
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    Thanks Brad. Good to know I can reverse if needed.

    Any particular brand of shellac?

    Spray or brush on?

    Amazon offers zinsser bulls eye in spray and brush on.
    Last edited by Jeffelele; 09-20-2020 at 03:44 PM.

  8. #8
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    Shellac is fine - it does have the advantage of being compatible with everything. The zinsser product in a can is about as good as it gets for premixed shellac. Wipe it on with a clean cotton cloth and aim for as thin a coat as you can keep even.

  9. #9
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    So shellac it is!

    Thanks!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffelele View Post
    So shellac it is!

    Thanks!
    Shellac is a wonderful finish with which to work. (As an experienced woodworker, ) I strongly suggest you start with a " one pound cut " of light ( sometimes called 'blonde' ) toned mix. Mixing your own shellac lets you control how much goes on with each rubbing and allows you to stop when the finish gets close in shade and finish to matching the rest of the surface. A one pound cut is achieved by mixing one part shellac flakes with sixteen parts denatured alcohol. Look up some YouTube videos on application methods. I favor a french polish-like process; making a 2" waded pad that is dampened with shellac, then rubbed in a circular fashion over the area to be finished. Keep the pad damp in a zip seal bag between applications. My caution is that you not apply too heavy of shellac with each layer. With a one-pound cut, the shellac is really thin and it's less likely to happen. Viewing a video on the process will help you with the basic technique if you are unfamiliar.

    Some caution regarding using an off the shelf prepared shellac (such as Zissner). Unless clearly marked on the can, commercial mixes can contain other substances, most commonly wax. So if you're buying off-the-shelf, look for cans clearly marked, "no wax" or "De-Waxed." Also, you should purchase some denatured alcohol to thin the stuff. Out of the can, it's much heavier than you would want to use on an instrument. ( I wouldn't even use full strength on furniture... let alone a quality instrument! ... no control ).
    Last edited by Web_Parrot; 09-22-2020 at 10:26 AM.
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