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Thread: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

  1. #1
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    I have an old ornate bowlback mandolin that I believe was made in Italy but which has two labels from a New York City dealer or store glued on to the inside of the bowl. I believe that at least one of these may be covering the label of the actual maker of this instrument.

    Is there a way to remove these labels without destroying them or destroying the label underneath (assuming there is one)?
    Jim

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Steam is the only thing that comes to mind, just be careful you don't steam apart the staves in the bowl as well!

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    I know... that is what I was worried about. This thing is high end with lots of inlay and overlay, some of verboten substances, but it has a fluted back as well.
    Jim

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    Registered User Pribar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    I am extremely reluctant to even mention, let alone suggest this but when I was in the carpentry business many moons ago we had a 17th century writing table with its original finish come in with sales stickers from some clueless antiques reseller pasted on its top, we used freon and dry ice to freeze the adhesive and remove it, but what that type of thermal shock might do to a vintage instrument...shudder
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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Steam is the only thing that comes to mind, just be careful you don't steam apart the staves in the bowl as well!
    You might be able to lay a moist gauze pad over the labels and let them sit. Check periodically to see if the glue has loosened. This may be easier to localize and control than steam.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    I think Paul's suggestion might work. In the meantime, I thought I had read something that Frank Ford had posted and sure enough he pointed me in the right direction. Removing Old Labels

    Now to get up the nerve to do it.

    Any other suggestions?
    Jim

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    If it was me I'd cut a piece of an old towel the size of the label and then soak i in really hot water and lay it on top of the label in qiestion. Repeat the proces tow or three times and the label should want too come loose.

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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Jim, I wonder if a wet method might ruin the labels. I'm thinking a little warm heat from a blow drier through a funnel far enough away that not much heat gets transferred to the wood, and for not very long. This might allow the glue on the top label to loosen first. I would check the air temperature first on this to make sure it's not hot enough to weaken hide glue between the staves. Let us know the outcome of whatever you do.
    Tom

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    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Old glue doesn't soften with heat unless there's moisture in the old glue (most unlikely) or in the adjacent wood (bad idea to count on that). Spot-steaming it, much as one would steam out a dent, holds, I believe, the most promise. I have to do this shortly with an old laouto.
    Last edited by Paul Hostetter; Oct-22-2012 at 11:20pm.
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    the little guy DerTiefster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    You really want first to have a hint about what's underneath? You might try a UV lamp and a video camera. Look at it in the dark with both UV and IR lamps. See if you have a friend at Carnegie-Mellon with a thermal imager and let the different inks heat up to different temps. It will tell you whether when you get there, there'll be any there there. Unless you just don't like the top level labels and are looking for an excuse.

    You -could- get some paper, hide glue, and wood, paste paper on wood, leave it there 'til dry with a blowdryer. Then put some Liquid nitrogen on it, soaking the paper. The warm it a little and see whether the brittle hide glue cracked and let go and just peels off with the little sharp scraper in your hand. Stranger things have happened.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Yikes, Michael, let's bring in the big guns for this operation. I like your thinking out of the box, tho I live nowhere near Carnegie-Mellon and not sure where my local liquid nitrogen dealer is located.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    I have had to do this a couple dozen times in the past. Usually on violins that have had repairmen's labels put over the originals. I met an old conservator years ago in Coos Bay Oregon that had retired from the trade who taught me how to use a label sized piece of flannel with a backing of cork rubber cemented to a piece of maple, also the same size. I would then use a small sound post stock about 12 " long as my working handle on the felt dampener to put a medium downward pressure on the label pad. This was carefully inserted into the F hole, usually on the bass side. The Felt was laid flat on the label for 3 or 4 minutes. If the label was installed with HHG, it would usually begin to loosen up, as would the original. Working through F hole with a fresh #2 pencil eraser end of the pencil, you could massage the top label off. Sometimes it would take more than one or two sessions to get the label loose, and sometimes the original label would loosen and you would have to re-glue it... A technique not for the faint hearted but it is doable and shouldn't affect the finish. WARNING: If the label falls in the region of the seam, you stand the chance of loosing the seam joint. . Been there, done that.
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    the little guy DerTiefster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Ken, What did you soak the felt with to loosen the labels? Steam injected through the felt, or hot water, or ? It seems as though there should be -something- added, as the felt isn't widely recognized as a label remover all by itself.
    You live and you learn (if you're awake)
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Oopsie.. forgot to mention that it was hot water, and then pad or tamp the felt so it's not wringing wet..
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Interesting thread... Jim, did you get the labels off to see what was underneath?

    I have a related question. I have the tops off of a couple of DeMeglio bowlbacks that I am 'repairing' (take that description with a grain of salt) and wondering if there is any suggestions on CLEANING the label. I have gone over them a few times with some small brushes to try to lightly remove any surface dust/dirt. I'm pretty sure I don't want to apply any moisture, but wonder if there are any other 'dry cleaning' techniques I might safely try.

    thanks,

    Mick

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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Aren't you worried that using moisture and heat might also breakdown the old paper so that you risk having it come off in pieces rather then as a intact label?
    Bernie
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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Interesting thread... Jim, did you get the labels off to see what was underneath?

    I have a related question. I have the tops off of a couple of DeMeglio bowlbacks that I am 'repairing' (take that description with a grain of salt) and wondering if there is any suggestions on CLEANING the label. I have gone over them a few times with some small brushes to try to lightly remove any surface dust/dirt. I'm pretty sure I don't want to apply any moisture, but wonder if there are any other 'dry cleaning' techniques I might safely try.
    Good question: I'm normally just pleased if the original label is still in one piece and/or still readable!

  18. #18
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I have a related question. I have the tops off of a couple of DeMeglio bowlbacks that I am 'repairing' (take that description with a grain of salt) and wondering if there is any suggestions on CLEANING the label. I have gone over them a few times with some small brushes to try to lightly remove any surface dust/dirt. I'm pretty sure I don't want to apply any moisture, but wonder if there are any other 'dry cleaning' techniques I might safely try.
    I will ask our paper conservator at work tomorrow

    Very brave of you to take the soundboard off a de Meglio. How are you coping with the beveled binding? An inside pic of the soundboard would be good...

    g

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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    While the paper is intact, I wouldn't try to clean it as you risk loosening the glue or smearing the print.
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  20. #20
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    The advice from my colleague who does the Archive's paper conservation is to use a good quality plastic pencil eraser. He uses a Staedtler for such things. Gentle rubbing should remove dirt and dust, but not affect any printing if used carefully. Says you can't do much about actual stains.

    cheers

    graham

  21. #21

    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think Paul's suggestion might work. In the meantime, I thought I had read something that Frank Ford had posted and sure enough he pointed me in the right direction. Removing Old Labels
    I can't say I'd choose that type of repair on one of mine. It's hard to imagine any kind of work on label that would improve the look. If the serial number is faint or the label is dirty, I would just try to live with it

    For your situation you could try to work a cotton swap with some naphtha around the edges. It evaporates really quickly and maybe it would work through the glue.

  22. #22
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Instrument Label Removal

    Sorry, Graham, I have been out of the loop a bit on this thread. The 'gum eraser' sounds like the thing to try. They are quite gentle as I recall.

    The top on the DeMeglio came free fairly easily with the application of some heat and careful leveraging (thanks, John, for urging me on...) The beveled trim was a bit of an issue on one them (okay, I have two DeMeglio wrecks on my work bench-a $60 investment) as much of it was intact. On the other it was mostly gone, so it was quite easy to get a shiv in. On the other, the beveled trim mostly had to get sacrificed as it was covering up any access to the top seam along the bowl edge. I'm looking at sources of rosewood veneer trim to replace this with.

    I used some cross cut tiger maple as trim for a recent Cristofaro bowl I secured out of the ebay dumpster. It had the patterning, though not the color of the rosewood/tulipwood. Getting the neck back on the one DeMeglio will be the primary issue. If I can get that sorted out, the trim should be a breeze.

    I'll get some inside shots of the DeMeglio (and laminated neck construction) once I done sweating through the election.

    Mick
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