Is it safe to remove paint from an old uke?


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Apr 28, 2016
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3 hours south of the Florida Mouse
So I bought a baritone uke from the 50’s or 60’s probably, a Barclay that somebody in the past (clearly not recently painted black. It is actually smaller than my other baritones and thinner but with a beautiful sound. I was wondering if it would be safe to use goo gone on it to try to bring back the wood finish ? Thoughts?

It also has funny tuners I haven’t seen before. Pic next to my Favilla for comparison.I have looked everywhere and not much info on of the many Targ & Dinner brands…image.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpgimage.jpg
I’d say be careful what you do and so in two ways. Using paint stripper might have unintended consequences with the wood and joints; and there will be a reason why the original finish was painted over so you could easily expend time and effort to end up with worse than you already have. I love improving and restoring things, but a lot of stuff can easily have unintended consequences.
I would echo Graham's cautionary words. Paint stripper is powerful stuff and I'd be concerned about its effect on the glues used to hold your uke together. Also, it could have dire consequences if used on laminated wood and veneers, both of which may well be present.

However, if you are sure the uke is made of solid wood, and you take great care in the places where the components are joined, you could get a good result. It will remove all the finish, of course. You will be down to the bare wood. There are wipe on finishes that are easy-ish to apply.

Good wishes - I'll be interested to see the outcome.
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I recommend that you go at it with medium/ fine sandpaper, and do it by hand. As others have noted, strippers are a really bad idea. Hopefully there is a really nice grain pattern underneath the black paint, but it’s also possible that what now looks like paint started as some primitive form of stain & has turned black. I have several pieces of my grandparents’ furniture that fall into that category.
What ever you choose... gloves and dust mask. If you go with the sand paper especially. Who knows that that finish is made of!
A cabinet scraper may work for you also. No dust and you can get into the corners like top to fret board and neck to sides. You may want to try on a test piece first though to get the feel of using one. You will need to be careful on grain direction.
Bearing in mind its age, it is not beyond possibility that the paint contains lead. Be careful. It's fine provided you don't disturb it.
All great suggestions..ty
Being enthusiasts we’re all wondering what you decided to do and how it went / is going???? None of us old blokes will be able to understand that other life responsibilities are getting in the way of progress 😂. Pictures, it’s three days on now from the original post so you must be finished 😁.

More seriously - but without being excessive - please do consider your health and safety. I’ve got a small cut on my hand right now from something that didn’t go to plan, and I was being fairly careful at the time. If I recall correctly then Timbuck was laid low with the unanticipated effects of dust from a particular wood. We almost always evaluate and manage potential dangers reasonably well, but occasionally bad stuff still happens.
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I would sand, but wet sand so there's no dust. Just try not to get the wood too wet. Or scrape. Good luck.
I would use a scraper. I have not used a hardware store scrapers on instruments, I use an old box knife blade that I polish on a piece of glass with 800 wet sand paper then burnish a hook using the chrome handle of my drill press. I have a StewMack scraper I use for final surface treatments.
I prefer to use a scraper in that I don't have to go through multiple grades of sand paper while still being able to remove material.
I don't have any experience with finish stripping., but before I started I would want to determine if it was solid wood or laminate construction. With laminates there is the possibility of sanding or scraping through the face layer and ruining the appearance. If it were my instrument I would be tempted to sand the paint layer smooth and repaint with a thin coat of my color choice.
Sorry for the delay.I decided to leave her paint as is..I’ll get some pin striping and put it on the edge. Thought that I might get one of the inlay look ring stickers also. She is just a bit like the runt of the litter that nobody wanted. She is a baritone but also 2/3 the weight and size of my other two vintage bari s…I’ll post a before and after pic when finished. I have seen some purposely black ukes out there..
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