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Thread: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

  1. #1
    Mid-Century Modern Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    OK... I've wanted to do this for a long time, and since I am currently setting up my garage shop to build some mandolins, I decided to jump in on a refinish and subsequent re-setup of my Michael Kelly Legacy O - F-4 style. I bought this early on in my mandolin voyage in '04, before I joined the Cafe. It is an '02 or '03 model - "B" stock and I got it pretty cheap from a pawn shop on ebay, so I have always considered it potential project material. It sounded pretty good but initially had a problem staying in tune. I have changed the tuners to black-button elites from Stew-Mac which look and work great. I put a cast tailpiece and nicer bridge. At one point a year-and-a-half ago or so I sanded off about half the finish and rubbed it out to a nice lower sheen finish, and it just kept sounding and playing better.

    Then some guy here on the Cafe posted pictures of his "The Loar" LM-700 that he had scraped and sanded the finish off, and was impressed to say the least. I had suspected that under the thick dark shiny finish was some very nice wood but I didn't know how easy getting to it would be. I never liked the dark black and red-orange finish anyway and want to finish in a very natural thin wood grain finish, but first I gotta get this stuff off. The first two photos show the original finish in it's glossy glory. While I'm at it I'm reshaping and carving the scrolls and working the recurve too.

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  2. #2
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Some pretty nice wood under all that junk.
    Bill

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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    I had really good results removing the thick finish from a cheapy yamaha guitar. It made a huge difference in the sound. To my ears it "opened up" the sound, it felt like the instrument was less thin and brittle sounding. I gave it a dark stain (cherry/walnut blend) and a very thin wipe on polyurethane finish. I was really shocked at the difference in sound, I just did it for fun and wasn't expecting it.

  4. #4
    Mid-Century Modern Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Hey Kash... I did this many years ago with my first guitar, an old Harmony. I did it to make it look cool (I did a pen and ink drawing on the front that would amaze Antonio Tsai), but when I was done it sounded much better too!

    With this mandolin, the first time I scraped and sanded half the finish off, the sound improved so much - I had to take it all off. I have a hunch it will sound better again and look way better so we'll see! I'm kind of up in the air about finish and color. I want something that shows off the grain and looks and feels natural but protects the wood and enhances the sound. What stain color enhances flame and grain? Should I french polish? Nitrocellulose lacquer? I really like the way Weber Gallatins look but I'm looking for a color, not too dark but not too blonde or pumpkin. Any suggestions or examples of finishes? Please post photos, any help would be greatly appreciated... Last night I got most of the front stripped and part of the neck.
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    well the Gallatin has a satin nitro lacquer. I have that finish on a martin DR and it is really nice looking.The downside with satin finishes is that they show scratches and dirt a little more. For spraying you can also use a water-borne lacquer. (it's better for your health). To be honest, unless you want to go all out, you could probably do just fine with a few coats of wipe on satin poly. Sand down to a fine grit (at least 320 preferably 500) and then put the finish in light coats, you can lightly sand the finish in between coats with a soft sponge like finish sander pad but do it REALLY light. don't sand your final coat at all.

    The stain on the Gallatin reminds me of yellow pine, but I'm not much of an expert on stain

  6. #6

    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Babasin View Post
    I'm kind of up in the air about finish and color. I want something that shows off the grain and looks and feels natural but protects the wood and enhances the sound. What stain color enhances flame and grain? Should I french polish? Nitrocellulose lacquer? I really like the way Weber Gallatins look but I'm looking for a color, not too dark but not too blonde or pumpkin. Any suggestions or examples of finishes?
    You should first decide if you want the top and back and sides to all match or not. If you decide on a contrast, you could stain the back and sides with any shade or colour NGR (non-grain raising) stain that suits your fancy. Mask off the top first!! Mahogany, cherry amongst many others can make that maple flame look fantastic. Always try it out on a scrap of similar wood first to see how it will really look. Afterwards you can just seal that with repeated light coats of high-quality clear matte or gloss spray-can lacquer. These will enhance the look and protect the wood and not inhibit the sound to any great degree. The spruce top will accept stain/colour differently than the hard maple back and sides and more care must be taken with that to get a nice effect. You could do anything from just a clear coat on the bare wood, to using a pre-tinted spray lacquer of your choice, which tends to look (alot) better than trying to stain it and then lacquer over it afterwards.
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  8. #7
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    I'd stain and oil varnish. A pain, but worth it. The top looks bookmatched to me. The back is close enough, if not bookmatched. A stain will enhance the grain of the back, especially if you put a dark stain on and sand it off, then put on a lighter one. The tiger stripes will hold the darker stain and show through the finish.
    I look forward to seeing it.
    Bill

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  10. #8
    Mid-Century Modern Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    OK this has been a process of research, research, more research - and - eventually jumping into the deep end of the pool. I avoided staining for a long time and watched the James Condino video a million times along with many more on Youtube, Cafe, etc... Debated whether or not to use pre-stain conditioner or shellac or thinned hide glue or the zillion other suggestions found here at the cafe. I finally decided on alcohol based aniline dyes and like James Condino flooded the wood and worked in the color slowly. I did not want a sunburst but rather wanted a lot of visible wood grain, more like a fine acoustic guitar. Keep in mind this is only dye with no finish, and I'm still cleaning up the binding and tight areas... So I'm pretty jazzed with the results so far, see what you think.

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  12. #9
    ArtDecoMandos Marty Jacobson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    A great improvement. Congrats!
    martinjacobson.com - Dedicated to producing affordable instruments with great tone & playability

  13. #10

    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Babasin View Post
    I did not want a sunburst but rather wanted a lot of visible wood grain, more like a fine acoustic guitar.
    You succeeded, it looks great;
    Makes you wonder why they cover over all that beautiful wood with that glop in the first place.
    I stepped up on the platform, the man gave me the news;
    He said: "You must be joking son, where did you get those shoes...."

    "Your man doesn't sound so good!!"
    Miles Davis to his drummer (ignoring guitarist John Scofield, who he had just brought in for an audition)

    http://scottlearmonth.tripod.com

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    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Nice staining job. You got the grain to pop nicely. How are you going to finish it?
    Bill
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    What an improvement. It looks great now. I'm lookng forward to seeing it completed.

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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Your patient persistence is impressive. Bet the tone will take a leap forward with the hard shell and extra wood removed.
    Steve
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    Mid-Century Modern Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Thanks guys, and Bill after all was said and done I pretty much followed your advice on the staining using a combination of amber and brown with mostly brown on the back and mostly amber on the front with sanding and steel wool inbetween. I have purchased a bottle of Tru-oil and am pretty sure that's what I want to use, I've seen some amazing finishes and even some builders here on the Cafe that use it very successfully. I am considering sealing with a light spray shellac first to antique the binding a little and give a smooth surface to build a reasonable shine but I'm still up in the air about that.

    I can't seem to get my head around exactly what "Oil Varnish" is but I'm open to that too... I haven't found the definitive product or formula to make or commercially buy it, or even a definition of what it is exactly. French polished shellac with drops of oil and a finish that never dries? I definitely want a very thin finish after all that work to remove the "epoxy dip" job they had on it originally.

    Fretbear... I am amazed at the dark, dark finish there weren't even any imperfections to cover up. Thick is one thing but the extremely dark finish was pointless on this wood. I love the Wood and Wire!
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    very cool
    I have an MK octave plus that I finally tuned as a mandola- but still can't coax any tone out of it
    I might just try your process here

  19. #16
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Perry,
    Oil varnish is simply a resin mixed with varying amounts of oil. Dries slowly and often needs direct sunlight to fully set up the finish. There are many different varieties, including short oil, long oil, and everything in between. There are many ancient violin formulas, too, so you can get lost in the technicalities. I use Behlin's Rock Hard Tabletop Varnish.
    However, I've used Tru Oil and think highly of it. Simple to use and produces a very nice finish if done with care. Put on lots of thin coats. It'll buff up nicely, too.
    Bill
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  21. #17
    Registered User ShaneJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    That looks great. Can't wait to hear about any differences in tone.

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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    WOW! That looks incredible! I think I just heard my MK say "um, why are you looking at me like that?"
    TurOil is pretty awesome. French polishing is a very rewarding process and my new favorite.
    I look forward to the final results.

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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    You did a really great job! Thanks for posting photos. I wonder if I'll ever have the courage to strip the nitro off my Eastman... very tempting, but I'd need something else to pick on during that project. Do I sense another wave of MAS coming on? I think so.
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Perry - That's an amazing job you've done there. The way it looks in you last photos.is superb to my eyes & i'd be trying to keep it as close to that look after it's final finishing.The colour of the back is especially lovely & it simply looks a though it will sound incredible - very well done,
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    . . . and leaving the peghead logo as was? I'm thinking this is a long way from a "Michael Kelly," eh?

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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    That really turned out nice. I've finished two of my mandolins with TruOil and they look great. Excellent job. Can't wait to see the finished product.
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    This is something I always wanted to do to my MK...but I lack the skills and resources! I was also worried that maybe that 2 inch coating was holding the thing together! I get a pretty good tone out of my MK...but I'd love to hear what it would sound like if the wood was actually able to vibrate!

    Looks great! Can't wait to hear the before and after sound files when you are finished!
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Quote Originally Posted by tablaninja View Post
    I think I just heard my MK say "um, why are you looking at me like that?"
    My brother's MK is feeling the same way.......
    I stepped up on the platform, the man gave me the news;
    He said: "You must be joking son, where did you get those shoes...."

    "Your man doesn't sound so good!!"
    Miles Davis to his drummer (ignoring guitarist John Scofield, who he had just brought in for an audition)

    http://scottlearmonth.tripod.com

  29. #25
    Mid-Century Modern Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Michael Kelly hidden treasure...

    Thanks everyone, I will definitely keep posting through the project and record it when I'm done. Unfortunately I don't have any recordings before this radical move, ha,ha,ha. Disclaimer time... I would not recommend that anyone do this unless they are willing to completely write off the instrument. This was my second mandolin, the Michael Kelly was bought from some Pawn Shop in the Midwest on ebay in 2002 or 03. The thing would not stay in tune so being a total newbee I started changing parts and trying to fix it. Through the process I became pretty adept at doing set-up. So tailpiece, bridge and tuners. Around 2008 I had three other mandolins and this became my pet project with nothing to loose. I couldn't sell it with a clear conscience so I decided to experiment, which basically brings us to today. And yeah, fatt-dad I decided to keep the MK headstock and even created and put an MK label inside "refinished by Pierre Babasin" ha,ha,ha. I consider this finishing school.
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