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Thread: Refinishing a uke?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010

    Default Refinishing a uke?

    How hard is it to redo the finish on an old ukulele. I have a sprucetop soundboard on a koa body and the soundboard specifically has terrible crazing and lines thru the finish. I also noticed that there is a slight ripple in the top below the bridge. Any idea of cost/effort to get this done?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Lahaina, Maui


    It really depends on how you want it to look? You could do a quick job and get less than perfect results pretty easily, but doing a nice finish takes a lot of work and even more practice. My recommendation is leave it as is. I think sometimes it's those old finishes that give an old uke such great style.
    Eric DeVine

    Simply the finest custom ukuleles and hand made guitars in the world.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011

    Default refinish

    Obviously the only thing that you will get out of refinishing your uke is that it will look new and shiney. And if your koa back and sides are highly figured that would look nice. Especially if the laquer has started to get cloudy or muddy.The down part/ Wont help the sound at all. If your uke becomes a collectable instrument in the future you will have knocked its value down substantially.And if you do start stripping the finish off the instrument as soon as you start sanding you will change the patina of the wood.The wood will dramatically lightin in color. Fender custom shop sells brand new instruments that look 50 years old,all crazed and chipped and faded and they cost a fortune.A lot of people like that well worn look.Its all subjective really.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Cairns, Australia


    The crazing on a very old uke would make me think the finish is either lacquer or possibly shellac. If you know what you are doing, then both finishes are relatively easy to make new by stripping back and starting fresh. If you don't know what you are doing (and I'm asuming from your question you don't so would need to farm out the job) then it will most likely turn into a disaster, or an expensive outsource.

    BUT really, why would you? You aren't going to gain anything from a new finish except shine. In fact you could very well loose something from the tone because inevitably the top will need a light to moderate sanding back to even out the color. Loosing some wood is going to change tone. Very old lacquer or shellac will have it's effect on tone.

    You don't say in what way the ripple is oriented. Down the top or across. In either case I wouldn't be doing anything with it.

    Across is most likely the back edge of a bridge patch telegraphing through. Down the top could be a brace. In both cases it would be due to string tension rotating the bridge and bellying up the top behind the bridge. The telegraphing through of those bracing members means that the top is thin and trying to smooth these ripples out is only going to make it thinner, thus compounding a problem that really is nothing to be worried about at all if it's just a small ripple. Especially in an old instrument. Leave it alone.

    The patina of age is something that should be appreciated. Love the old girl for what she is.
    Last edited by Allen; 06-11-2011 at 10:49 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    North (not South) Carolina


    Quote Originally Posted by hapuna View Post
    I also noticed that there is a slight ripple in the top below the bridge. Any idea of cost/effort to get this done?
    I'm going out on a limb here and assuming you're not using a case or humidifying your Uke. If you are, ignore me and find a local repair shop. I'm an old man who mutters a lot and has seen this too many times in guitars.

    Is it a ripple or a hump? Are you storing the Uke in a case with a humidifier? If not, I would start and see if your top straightens out. Wood shrinks when it dries out. It sounds like your uke has changed size.

    If you decide to refinish the Uke a little advice.... Keep it in a case and allow temperature acclimation slowly when making extreme changes. Going from a cold environment to a warm environment with the Uke outside of a case is an excellent way to crack a film finish.

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