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Thread: Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

  1. #1
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

    I recently picked up a 1920s/1930s Regal tenor guitar that was in need of some repairs and has had a history of questionable repairs before it came to me (mostly of the pool the glue up and let it fill the void variety). I've got the cracks in the top and braces repaired, and am moving on to fretwork and cleaning up the finish. It looks like during one of the previous alligator dentistry repairs it has suffered someone brushed on (or dribbled) a finish over the top. The sides and top have all these little dried "drips" or a brownish finish on them. Here's a photo that hopefully shows what I am seeing:

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    I enjoy a patina, but not this sort of sloppiness. I'm quite sure it wasn't original. It does not appear to be an issue on the back, which, like the sides, are birch. The sides look a little milkier than the back, too, which leads me to believe that there was some sort of finish applied over the original finish on the sides and top. The new finish was applied poorly, and beaded up.

    Any idea what this might be, and a way to remove it? Could it be *glue* painted on? Or perhaps an oil-based poly? (Not sure if that would bead up with a brownish yellow hue.)

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Should I use some 1200 grit or micromesh and slowly work on the affected areas until the spots are gone? I am pretty sure there is finish underneath.

    Thanks, as always, for the advice!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

    First, you might check this forum and other sources on how to identify finishes. You might be very lucky and find that the splatter coat could be dissolved without damaging what’s underneath. Trying to sand off drips is, as I’m sure the comments will indicate, chancy, even if the drips seem to be darker than the overall color. Sanding, especially with a soft paper or backing, isn’t going to be selective, and you’ll wind up with color change unless you take the whole finish off, and maybe not even then. Big globs can be razor-bladed off as an initial step.
    So go slow and experiment, maybe under the strings where it won’t show.

  3. #3
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

    You can level it with a miniature cabinet scraper with part of the blade masked off with tape. Start with two layers of blue masking tape and work your way down to 1 or 2 layers of Scotch magic tape.

    See Frank Ford's article on razor blade scraping at frets.com. He uses a razor blade, but I prefer the Stew-mac #0654 mini-scraper. Check the tape frequently to make sure the blade isn't cutting through.

    Then, you might or might not want to sand with 1000, 1500, or finer grit paper, and rub out with a fine compound.
    It might not take out the darkness, but at the very least it will be level.

  4. #4
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

    Good advice. Upon a much closer inspection this afternoon, I realized that the splotches are more concentrated near the lower bout of the instrument, and all the "drips" face downward. I am starting to suspect that the guitar was standing up (in a stand or leaning against a wall) and something spilled and splattered in front of it. That would explain the high concentration of spots on the front bottom, and the absence on the back. The sides are more heavily covered near the front.

    I had a rusty pipe break in my house a few years back, and the rust-inflused water than leaked through my ceiling into my dining room left similar splatters on my white trim that were only alleviated by painting over them. Not saying it's the same situation, as these spots are much harder, but perhaps a spill of some other sort, glue even.

    I'll give the scraper a go, and see how it works. Thank you!

  5. #5
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Removing finish spots all over Regal tenor guitar

    Scraping the high spots, followed by a gentle sand with 1500, seems to have done the trick! Later today after the fretwork I'll polish it with rubbing compound.

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    The "music store" I bought it from had it listed as a baritone uke, and when I got it they had put the *bottom* 4 strings of a guitar set on it: 54w, 46w, 34w, 24w. They looked new and the neck doesn't seem to have too much of a bow (a slight one, which I think I can address with fretwork. Anyway, now that it's looking good, I'm excited to wrap it up!

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