View Full Version : Cleaning a 1915 F4. Yes or No?

Jan-16-2011, 10:04am
This is in pretty good shape, but I wonder if I should clean the head stock, and tuner buttons to bring out the color in the inlay, or should I just leave it alone. What's the best technique, or solution for this. Also what should I use if anything on body and fret board to protect the finish?

Ken Waltham
Jan-16-2011, 10:18am
Hello. I have to confess that I generally clean every instrument I buy, unless I am just going to turn around and sell it, or send it to my luthier for repair.
I just don't like the idea of being real close to an instrument, and wondering what kind of yuk is on it from someone else....
So, having said that, yes, I would clean your F4, but, only to a point. If you watch the Antiques Roadshow, you will have learned that you can greatly devalue an antique by removing any original finish, or, even any patina.
Be careful!
I use Dr Stringfellow, just spritz it on and gently wipe around, and then off with an old T shirt, or long underwear, or something soft like that.
Avoid anything with silicone or waxes, just be real gentle, and don't try to make it look new. Just clean.
BTW, that is a fine looking F4. They are truly wonderful instruments, so enjoy!

Jan-16-2011, 10:24am
From looking at one picture on a computer monitor (a pretty good monitor, at least) it looks like someone may have applied something to the headstock, and my guess would be someone, who didn't really know how, tried to french polish it with shellac. It looks sort of streaky, perhaps with dirt embedded.
Those old spirit varnish finishes often get fragile and flaky and chip off of the inlays. The different color in various parts of the inlay looks like that may have been happening, and someone tried to stabilize it by rubbing shellac over it. I can't tell from the picture if anything like that was done to the body.
If my suspicions are correct, I would not try to clean or otherwise "fix" the finish without consulting with an expert in applying and repairing french polish, and perhaps the job should be turned over to such person.

F-2 Dave
Jan-16-2011, 10:27am
It looks good to me. Other than just wiping away the dust with a damp cloth every once in a while, I'd leave it alone. Sometimes when I change strings, I'll take all of them off at once and clean my fretboard with a damp cloth. Some people treat their fretboards with lemon oil, but I'm not sure how much to use or how often. That's a beautiful mandolin.

Ken Waltham
Jan-16-2011, 11:53am
BTW, I agree with John. Something does look funky with the peghead...

Jan-16-2011, 5:04pm
Thanks for the advise so far. Leaning towards leaving it alone.

Jan-16-2011, 6:59pm
Leaning towards leaving it alone.

That's a lean in the right direction, IMO. A beautiful instrument with a rich history. Enjoy it as is!

Jack Roberts
Jan-20-2011, 6:40pm
As a fellow 1915 F4 owner, may I offer qualified yes: if there is grime on the neck it will interfere with the playing experience. Removing grimy dust with gentle cleaning will not lower the value of your instrument. As for the tuner buttons and headstock, a careful look at the picture doesn't really answer what the material on the headstock is. Does it seem to be tarry, like old cigarette smoke? Or is it actually darkening of the varnish itself? Or is it just the grime of 96 years? If the discoloration is in the varnish, I'd definitely leave it alone and call it "patina". If it is tarry junk, it will take more aggressive cleaning than just wiping off with a moist soft cloth, and you might want to leave alone. But if it comes off with gentle cleaning, I prefer clean over dirty, and I try to not add any grime of my own so the future owner won't have to wonder if he or she should clean it.

That is a nice instrument you have there.

Jan-30-2011, 7:56pm
thanks very much

Feb-07-2011, 11:10pm
Great history, I enjoyed looking through the material on your website.