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Thread: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

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    Registered User Reddawg's Avatar
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    Default How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    I am going to attempt to refinish a vintage piece I would like top to bottom suggestions on technique, materials (brands), and such. Any input much appreciated.

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    Registered User toddjoles's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Well first off, what exactly are you wanting to refinish? Remember the Antique Road Show where the table was worth 5k but if it hadn't been refinished it would have been worth 150k? Same applies to instruments.
    Todd Joles, handyman and aspiring luthier!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    It's a little easier to make recommendations when you know what you're dealing with. Some will try and talk you out of it but, what the heck, you own it.

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    I've passed up a whole lot of mandos and guitars because somebody did a home refinish job. There is only one mando do it yourself refin job that I've ever liked and it was done by Mr. Monroe. Sonny Osborne was a teenage Bluegrass Boy and tells about seeing Bill scrape off the finish that Gibson had redone so badly...saying "Maybe people won't want to pick it up now."

    Seriously though...distressed, beat up, honest playing wear, or whatever you want to call it -- it's in style to stay! If it's a decent vintage piece, give some thought to having it done by a pro. Refinishing is a specialty.

    So Bill's mando has become my standard, too. Beat up is beautiful!

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    Mandolicious fishtownmike's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Make sure you use polyurethane. This won't hurt it's antique value. Especially if it's a Loar.

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    As said, much more specific information is needed about the particular piece and it's current condition before anyone can (or will for that matter) help with any good recommendations. Even if the piece does happen to be a suitable candidate for a do-it-yourself refin project, more details would be needed before much good advice could be offered.

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Trolling?

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by toddjoles View Post
    Well first off, what exactly are you wanting to refinish? Remember the Antique Road Show where the table was worth 5k but if it hadn't been refinished it would have been worth 150k? Same applies to instruments.
    Indeed...

    However, if you start with something so beat up it's only worth $50, then whatever you do you won't loose value - whether you gain value though is another matter.

    For the record, I routinely refinish old bowl backs that have seen better days - it's great training for me - and cheaper to practice my finishing and fretwork skills on those than on a new build actually. Plus you get the satisfaction of giving an instrument back it's voice. Oh and I do actually make a small profit too - though I wouldn't like to rely on the hourly rate for a living

    That said, valuable vintage instruments are best left well alone!

    John.

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    Registered User Reddawg's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Thanks to all who have replied so far! I am aware of the so called patina factor, but here it is it's a 1906 Gibson A I know I hear screams of sacrilege! Well this little beauty would not be my first restoration I've done about 7 to ebay finds and turned them around for considerable profit with positive comments from local luthiers. However this would be my first "Golden Chalice" restoration this will be a mandolin that I will Play and keep til I croak! This site offers a multitude of knowledge an resources beyond a local scale. This mandolin has minor shrinkage of wood in areas that are not structural, just of age. A finish that has pits from drops to floors and other items. some alligatoring on the peghead and neck and the finish has turned to gum in some areas. The intention of this refinish is to keep it's tone, to minimize the effect's of environment and protect it from day to day use. But I most importantly want to return this piece to it's original color and finish and hopefully learn the steps to obtain this goal here! So thanks to all and look forward to hearing future replies!

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    That will be a project!!! Returning it to it's original state is a good goal, but color and finish are really, really tough to match. I do furniture, not instruments, but the restoration of color and finish is both a professional craft and an art. I guess you would need to know how the original was mixed and applied. This is about the time you need Big Joe or some other master luthier to step in.
    I hope you post pictures and share your experience with this.
    Sorry that my reply wasn't much help.

    Bob
    re simmers

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Reddawg, take a look at the 'cafe restoration challenge' thread. It is a restoration of an old Gibson A model, and shows the steps you asked about.

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    Registered User Andy Morton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    I appreciate where you are coming from.....dealing with these vintage instruments is tricky...from what I understand the experienced restorers would advise only "restoring" an instrument when structural damage and the like has occurred and playability can't be addressed any other way. Finish issues can usually be "maintained" or "managed" to retain its character and value as an honest vintage instrument. Would sure like to hear the opinions of the "masters" on this.

    Wasn't the Restoration Challenge mando beyond all hope of playablity and use when Darryl W started the project?

    Andy
    Madison, Wi

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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Here's that amazing Restoration Challenge thread. Phew!
    Collings MT
    Weber Gallatin Mandocello

    Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by mando andy View Post
    Wasn't the Restoration Challenge mando beyond all hope of playablity and use when Darryl W started the project?
    Well if an instrument with no neck is considered unplayable then yes it certainly was

    John.

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    Mandolicious fishtownmike's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to refinish a vintage mandolin?

    How about a photo of the instrument before you start the restoration....Mike

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