uke damage...please help...luthiers?


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Sep 1, 2016
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Long story short...waited a good long while to get a solid acacia Opio, until I found JUST.THE.RIGHT.ONE from a shop in Wisconsin. Lots of communication, lots of photos sent and I finally decided this beauty was the one. It was shipped to me on 2/2 but due to severe weather, the delivery was delayed through UPS for 14 days, no joke. Due to temp fluctuations, when I opened up the box today, I JUST ABOUT DIED. The finish is crazed, mainly across the top, a little on the sides, a couple of spots on the neck.

Before I say more...the sellers have been nothing short of spectacular through this whole thing. They kept in contact with me nearly every day the last 14 days, they know how much this instrument meant to me. They were horrified when I sent them pics of the instrument and of course offered an immediate full refund.

Here's the deal...Im very crafty and hands on. I have done wood burning on solid wood instruments, Ive adjusted the saddles on my ukes myself etc. As an alternative solution, I asked the seller if they would be willing to very steeply discount this uke so that I can keep it and refinish it myself. It would allow me to have a great instrument at a low cost and also put my diy skills to the test. They said they are certainly willing to consider it as they would have been putting the uke back in their shop steeply discounted anyway...especially since the outside of the pkg wasnt damaged so UPS likely wont take responsibility and its a loss for the shop owners.

Questions...what am I getting myself into? I am sure 99% of you would say send the darn thing back, get a perfect one, dont bother, refinishing is too hard etc. However...I want THIS ONE. Ive looked at alot of these over the months and many have fairly bland acacia on them. This one just glows and the patterns dance around as the light hits them. Im sure some of you can get this...I am literally bonded with this inanimate object already lol.

Outside of just telling me to send it back..what am I looking at to refinish this myself? Im not a woodworker (but have been a stone worker for years utilizing silicon carbide, diamond, various polishing compounds etc) but am willing to put in the sanding time. But starting at what grit? What do I follow it with? Any polishes? Then what can I spray it with to protect it? This particular instrument is not a gloss finish...its either a matte finish or real subtle semi. The seller already contacted Koaloha to see what type of finish they use (poly I believe) and whether they could offer any suggestions on refinishing.

Im including pics to show the damage. Thanks for any advice you can give. Im just heartbroken over this.



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I would send it back...but it is your what you want!!...:)
I would communicate with the Factory guys about this. You need to know what they used for the finish at the factory before you start. They might just ask you to return it for factory refinishing, at a cost, if you don't butter them up enough. It is very nice wood.

I had a cheap soprano damaged in transit and because it has such a beautiful Zebrawood grain on the top decided to fix the dent in the back and keep it. I'll bet that that Opio cost a lot more than my Caramel though!
Actually I would definitely send back if you ever have an inkling you may sell it later in the future.

HOWEVER if you're sure you're going to keep it as yours , I wouldn't mind the craze and just take the discount.

I have considered crazed finishes worse than this on a luthier guitar once as it was highly discounted (of course on the part of the owner /store as that is what they should do) but for the buyer, it is advantageous as crazed finishes really don't mean too much but just adds a bit of character. Imo. At least. If there is no other signs of damage or internal long term ill health.

Yours dont look bad. In the classical guitar circles , buyers salivate at a chance to get a great instrument on discount due to some minor cosmetic crazing of the finish. Just my 2cent
It's not a big deal to me. I play vintage instruments and they are often checked. If you live in a cold climate, it's probably just a matter of time before you leave it in the car overnight and this happens.

It doesn't need to be refinished. That would be a huge mistake, even done by a professional. It would look worse and the sanding can ruin the contours and corners. Refinishing is not really about skill, it's more about having the proper tools, materials, and working environment to produce a professional finish. No amount of determination can compensate for not having a spray booth.

If you HAVE to do something, most people who repair vintage instruments would be able to spray it with a weak mixture of retarder and lacquer thinner which will soften the existing finish and melt it back together, to a degree. Then a bit of buffing and you may get rid of a lot of the checking. But even that might not come out great.
What a bummer. But I agree that I would certainly call the KoAloha first and get their thoughts.
I'll be blunt -- one of my "strengths" -- I'd return it. Or call KoAloha. Lovely company. It's a new ukulele? You should be thrilled about it, not planning surgery.

But that's just me.
I'm with the others- either send it back at get a replacement (maybe waiting until spring), or take the discount and live with the finish character marks (which will seem less significant as time passes). I'd likely go with the latter. What are we talking discount- 25%?
I'm no luthier, and pretty handy, FWIW you are likely to spend like tonnes of time and effort and if this is your first day at the rodeo with refinishing a fine uke such as a KoAloha.

Might I suggest that you ask yourself some questions:

Like how confident you really are?

How much is your time, potential disappointment and frustration actually worth?

Do you have the money and interest to spend for the proper tools and equipment (as per Tigershark above said)?

Do you have the time and patience for the learning curve and to practice on scrap wood, or do you intend to rush in head-first like a bull?

Are you a gambler?

If it was me, I'd either accepted a partial refund and just live with the cosmetic issues, OR send it back and find another without any problems...

Good luck! :)
I've never seen crazy crazed finish before. But if it does not affect the sound, why not just leave it as is? Is there any danger to it being damaged if you leave it untouched? If you definitely don't want to return it, consider them travel scars. They would add some character...
I'll be blunt -- one of my "strengths" -- I'd return it. Or call KoAloha. Lovely company. It's a new ukulele? You should be thrilled about it, not planning surgery.

But that's just me.

I second Sukie's motion. This is a general Minnesota opinion! Return it!
Finish checking...yikes.
That is often caused by opening up an instrument that has been in cold without letting it adjust to the new indoor temperature first. I'm not sure what kind of case it was in or how the box was sealed up, but I'm wondering if you opened it up right away when you got it. That alone can cause that kind of damage, if it was really cold. It's best to wait for an instrument to come up to room temperature before you open it. That goes for anytime...even if it has been in a cold car for a while for some reason or whatever...Sorry if someone has already mentioned that, but it's worth noting for future reference.
Maybe it happened in transit somehow though too...14 days is a long time to be in transit.

Sorry this happened to your instrument. Hopefully you can figure out something here that will make the situation turn out for the best.
For a slightly different perspective, I would consider keeping it because "hey, it's already damaged, I'm going to play the crap out of that thing!" On really nice beautiful pretty ones, I always worry about nicking it or banging it. So it sounds amazing and they give you a really sweet discount, then and only then could I see keeping it.
Sorry to see/hear about this.
I kind of like the look of a 'crazed' finish; makes it look vintage.
And now you don't have to worry about the first scratch or ding (that will inevitably happen) anymore!

If I were you, I would accept the discount, and play your uke till your fingers fall off.
You don't see the finish anyway when you're playing it....
In my opinion, you should either take the discount and keep it as is or send it back. If you can't deal with the looks, you must shop for another with which you can "bond".
That finish may look simple, but you don't have the facilities or the experience to duplicate it.
I've been in a similar situation as you. I received a beautiful new uke with significant finish crazing. The seller, like yours, was a champ, and offered to either take it back at his expense, or discount it if I wanted to keep it. Like you, it was such a sweet uke, I chose to take the discount and keep it. Whenever I pick it up to play, I only hear its sweet voice and never "see" the finish issues. In fact, the finish crazing is now part of its personality. Heck, with the way some guitar companies are selling "distressed" guitars that look like they are already beat up, no doubt someone will start selling "pre-crazed" ukes, and you'll already have one.

My thought is: take the discount, and play the uke for a year. I'm betting that after a little while, you won't even think about the crazing anymore. If you're committed to refinishing it, as many have said, this is not a small job. Make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into. And I'll also agree with what many have said: Koaloha is a company with wonderful people who stand behind their products. Contact them and see what advice they have-- you'll be really glad you did.

Good luck!
There is a product called "qualarenu " that might help if the finish is lacquer or shellac . You paint it on with a brush on the crack and let it sit and it will make the crack melt and
resolidify ( is that a word? ) . I've used it and it works well .
I just want to add that if you use it , your conditions should be the same as if you were spraying lacquer , temp and humidity will be important factors in the resulting finish.
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Heck, it's Valentine's Day and you're in love. Keep it.

Unless you'll fret the finish more than you'll love the sound.

I've dropped a uke (Imua concert), cracked the finish, and touched it up with nail polish and a succession of finer nail boards. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for me and not too noticeable to others. That's life. Nothing is perfect.
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