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Thread: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

  1. #1

    Default Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I just bought a '34 Gibson A Junior with an extremely beat-up top. (It has no bridge or tailpiece. Yet.)

    I can just leave the top alone. It has as relicky a vibe as I could ever hope for. And zero refinishing means zero extra work.

    On the other hand, sanding down the top and refinishing it could make it a lot prettier.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks!

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    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; Oct-12-2019 at 10:52am.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I like leaving the vibe.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  4. #3
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Usually, for the sake of "originality" (Originality? With half of the finish gone? But I digress...) and resale value on the collector market, we don't refinish "vintage" instrument.
    In this case it's just an old beat up "A". It will probably never be a collectors item because it will never be in mint condition. The best possible is "excellent restored" condition, and even then it's just a restored "A", not a particularly collectable instrument. If left as is it will be a good instrument to play but once again, not a valuable piece.
    In view of this, I'd say it can be left as is or it can be refinished and the value will not be high either way. In other words, it's a "player". I have no strong feelings about whether or not this one should be refinished.
    As for what material to apply if it is refinished, I'd say it matters little. Do what you are good at. It will be a refinished instrument no matter what the finish is.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I’d French polish right over the top of the existing finish. This will keep more finish from flaking off and still retain the funky look.
    Silverangel A
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  8. #5

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    It could be very pretty refinished, with new hardware. No significant sound change, if any, and probably a bit more fun. Certainly not a collector piece, so choose what makes your heart happy.
    Play it like you mean it.

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  10. #6
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I would nbe tempted to use some alcohol on one small spot and see how the existing finish softens and or moves, smoothout. Then a noce french over that. All depending on what the first test did with the alocohol.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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  12. #7

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    I would nbe tempted to use some alcohol on one small spot and see how the existing finish softens and or moves, smoothout. Then a noce french over that. All depending on what the first test did with the alocohol.
    Aha. What happens? Does alcohol melt finish? What am I looking for? Is this instead of sanding? Is the idea to wipe the finish off or to move it around?

    =O.

  13. #8
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    If the finish is spirit varnish of some sort, especially french polish, alcohol might redissolve and redistribute the surface layer of that finish and perhaps improve the appearance.
    Since Gibson abandoned varnish finishes somewhere around 1925 and started to use nitrocellulose lacquer, the finish on this mandolin is almost certainly lacquer (assuming what's left of the finish is original) in which case alcohol will do essentially nothing.

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Wouldn't a '34 have a truss rod? I don't see any indication. Is it perhaps older? Got any numbers for identification?

    If it’s older, could be varnish.
    Last edited by Bill McCall; Oct-12-2019 at 4:07pm.
    Play it like you mean it.

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  17. #10
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Exactly as Sunburst says. Might work might do nothing. I am not knowledgeable enough to know if itnis varnish or not which is why I would have just tried ina small spot. But as has been pointed out it probably isn’t spirit varnish.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

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  19. #11
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I love the look of a beat up Ajr.
    It is one of my favorite mandolins for looks.
    It is simple and just meant to be played.

    I say keep the general beat up appeal, but do a good clean and then maybe some sort of protective light finish on top of what is there.
    That might help it stay in current condition, look just a tad nicer, and be protected.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
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  21. #12
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Yes, a ‘34 would have a truss rod. But not a junior, which is what this is. Juniors never had a true rod AFAIK.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
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    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    I just bought a '34 Gibson A Junior with an extremely beat-up top. (It has no bridge or tailpiece. Yet.)

    I can just leave the top alone. It has as relicky a vibe as I could ever hope for. And zero refinishing means zero extra work.

    On the other hand, sanding down the top and refinishing it could make it a lot prettier.

    Thoughts?

    (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)
    I chose a middle-ground option with a 1913 A that had been completely stripped and random hippie sanded. I wanted it to go from nasty dull brown to “well loved” pumpkin. I also had to re-color the back. In the end I think it turned out great. I did French polish.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  25. #14

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Streip View Post
    I chose a middle-ground option with a 1913 A that had been completely stripped and random hippie sanded. I wanted it to go from nasty dull brown to “well loved” pumpkin. I also had to re-color the back. In the end I think it turned out great. I did French polish.
    Click image for larger version. 

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Views:	70 
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ID:	180550
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    Shore is purty! Thanks for the tip!

  26. #15
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    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    I meant to say “truss rod” in post 12, not “true rod”. That’s spellcheck for ya.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
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  28. #16

    Default Re: Refinishing the top: pros and cons

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    I meant to say “truss rod” in post 12, not “true rod”. That’s spellcheck for ya.
    Know pogrom!

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