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Thread: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

  1. #1
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    I've used warm water and a gently-applied washcloth to no avail. To remove decades of user buildup, from what I've read here, it appears I should next try mild soap and water, and failing that, naptha.

    Is that correct, or is there another game plan I should adopt?
    Last edited by Sheila Lagrand; Jul-23-2021 at 8:04pm.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

  2. #2

    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    I have had good results with Simple Green un dilulted, a small amount on rag. Lately I have added it to my list of things to try before moving on to solvents.

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  4. #3
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MrMoe View Post
    I have had good results with Simple Green un dilulted, a small amount on rag. Lately I have added it to my list of things to try before moving on to solvents.
    Thanks! I will give it a try.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    This is the first I've heard of Simple Green. Test it on a small inconspicuous spot first. You can remove a tuner or tuner strip, or the tailpiece to provide a good test spot. Make sure it doesn't soften the finish, and wipe off any excess. If you use it, please let us know how it turns out.

    I've used water with a little dish detergent added. If you try it, you will have to use a really soft rag and move to a fresh spot with nearly every stroke to avoid scratching, and dry off the cleaned surface as soon as possible. It's a bit trickier than it sounds, because the finish can scratch easily, and old finishes don't like water very much at all. Naphtha is friendlier, but it doesn't remove some kinds of gunk.

    Soooo . . . I'm curious about the Simple Green.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    rcc56 points out cautions that I take for granted. A few drops on a soft rag. start in an inconspicious spot. I have found Simple Green to be gentle on finishes. There are combinations of crud and finish where the crud itself has disolved or softened the finnish. A bad combo is years of hand lotion on oil varnish.

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  9. #6
    Likes quaint instruments poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Scrape the thick stuff with a creditcard then use Ajax windows cleaner. I use it on instruments, steering wheel, keyboards, doorhandles etc. Wipe it over, wait 30 seconds, go over it again.
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  11. #7
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Lagrand View Post
    ...from what I've read here, it appears I should next try mild soap and water, and failing that, naptha.

    Is that correct...?
    IMO that is correct.
    Water is a polar solvent and will dissolve most things that get on old finishes. Detergent (or mild soap) makes water effectively dissolve some non-polar substances, naphtha is a mild non-polar solvent and should dissolve most non-poplar substances that can be found on old finishes; stuff like grease and oil.

    BTW, the MSDS for Simple Green shows that it is basically detergent in water but has some alcohol as well (plus fragrances, dyes and other marketing stuff). There is probably so little alcohol that moderate use will not damage shellac based finishes, but it might be a possibility. I'd prefer to keep it simple and just add a little detergent to water and use that.

    (Tip: MSDS info for nearly anything can be found online, so we can get an idea of what things are. If we have a strong chemistry background we can get a really good idea of what things are.)

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  13. #8
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    I removed the tuners last night, so I do have a good testing spot available to me. I will report back. Thanks, guys!
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

  14. #9
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Undiluted Simple Green did a respectable job cleaning gunk from Louise, the old Maxwell I bought recently. I don't believe I will need to resort to naptha.

    By the way, she is in rougher shape than she was represented to me to be when I bought her. I'm glad I didn't spend a whole lot of money (just a little lot). Despite her flaws, she does sound nice, and my main interest was having some "old wood" to play. I have decided that given her low cost and poor condition, I will learn some basic repair/replacement skills using her as my crash test dummy. Today I replaced her tuners and I have a new tailpiece on order. I'm considering a new bridge, but I haven't made up my mind. Here's a photo. What do all y'all think--new bridge or no?

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Louise H2 small.jpg 
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ID:	195408
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

  15. #10

    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    I like the way John Hamlett cuts to the data. I have suspected that Simple Green contains oil of wintergreen.

  16. #11
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Lagrand View Post
    I'm considering a new bridge, but I haven't made up my mind. Here's a photo. What do all y'all think--new bridge or no?

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Louise H2 small.jpg 
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    I've got a very similar bridge on my Strad-O-Lin. The luthier carved some compensation into the white saddle, and it works well. I like the old look of it. The action has changed around a little bit with the seasons, but nothing that has been an issue.

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  18. #12
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    It looks like this old Maxwell was used to play some train songs! The partially visible note lists Wabash Cannonball, Streamline Cannonball, and what I’m guessing is the Wreck of the Old 97. It’s very nice that you are getting a few more miles out of it!
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  19. #13
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Coronado View Post
    It looks like this old Maxwell was used to play some train songs! The partially visible note lists Wabash Cannonball, Streamline Cannonball, and what I’m guessing is the Wreck of the Old 97. It’s very nice that you are getting a few more miles out of it!
    Indeed, train songs. The rest of that note reads:
    Wreck of '97 (as you surmised)
    Little Red Caboose
    Orange Blossom Special

    [and then a medley of non-train songs]

    Life's Railway to Heaven
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    How well is the bridge fitted? Is the height good? Does it need better compensation? If so, a new bridge may be called for. If not, not.

  21. #15
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning crud on a 1930s mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    How well is the bridge fitted? Is the height good? Does it need better compensation? If so, a new bridge may be called for. If not, not.
    You mean to base the decision on practical matters? What a great idea! Thanks!
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

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