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Thread: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    My aunt picked up a mandolin several years ago at a garage sale for cheap. She's had it sitting at her house since. Over break my family and I were there and after showing interest in it, she gave it to me. I went out and bought new strings for it, but before I restring it, I was thinking about sanding it and varnishing it, because it's a little beat up.

    Does anyone have any tips on how to do this? Like what varnish and cleaning things to use? Could sanding and varnishing it damage the sound of it? Should I not varnish, sand, or whatever? Etc

    Here's a picture. If you have any questions on it I'll do my best ro answer. I have no idea on the brand name or anything.

  2. #2
    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    I'd just clean it up. Any value it has will be lost if you re-finish it.
    IMHO
    Bill

  3. #3

    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Well I'm not looking to sell it or make any money off it. I was just going to keep it for playing myself.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    In the picture it looks to be 'in the blond' (?). Does the wood look/feel unfinished?
    Also, it looks like there is no veneer on the peghead, and that there are no 'grommet-thingies' (highly technical term ) on the tuner pegs.
    Moreover, the fretboard kinda looks out of place on that mandolin (more modern than the design?)
    Might this be a kit mandolin?
    Is the top flat or arched?
    (BTW - I really like the design of those 'broken f-holes')
    c.1965 Harmony Monterey H410 Mandolin
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by billhay4 View Post
    I'd just clean it up. Any value it has will be lost if you re-finish it.
    IMHO
    Bill
    Ditto, that & a good setup & she's good to go !

  6. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    It appears that the finish has already been removed. It's an entry level mandolin with little value to begin with. It needs to be setup, that bridge is probably too far back. It's also missing the tailpiece cover (no big deal). Personally, I'd finish it and not worry about it but YMMV. This isn't an expensive instrument by any means.

    Are there any numbers stamped inside it?
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Dec-31-2010 at 4:52pm.

  7. #7
    Registered User bennyb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    You may know this already. The bridge is floating(held in position by the pressure of the strings); it will fall off when you take the strings off, then you won't know which way to put it back :-). However it doesn't look like it's in the right position to begin with. It should be (very close to) twice the distance of the nut to the middle of the twelfth fret - measured from the nut to "front" edge of the bridge at the "e" (highest) string.

    good luck, benny

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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    hey if you want just strip off the finish,apply minwax prestain and then restain to what you want, finish off with linseed oil , not a lot of time or money but might get what you want

  9. #9
    Registered User Greg Mirken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    That's a Harmony from the '60s and the finish has been stripped. Can't tell if anything has been put on... Fingerboard looks original but the tuners might have been replaced- the original ones were awful. No value, so do what you want. Sand as little as you can; those outer veneers are thin.
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Looks like that is a good mandolin to get some experience in doing some kind of simple repair work, not much vaule and if you mess it up you can start over as long as the mistake isn`t something too drastic.....I did the same thing you are talking about on a 1956 Harmony and it turned out pretty good, good way to practice applying a sunburst to the top and back....`GO FOR IT....Good luck....

  11. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Mirken View Post
    That's a Harmony from the '60s and the finish has been stripped. Can't tell if anything has been put on... Fingerboard looks original but the tuners might have been replaced- the original ones were awful. No value, so do what you want. Sand as little as you can; those outer veneers are thin.
    I take it to be a Harmony as well, that's why I asked about the numbers, but I think you'll find that if it is it's probably solid.

  12. #12
    unknown vintage mandolin
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    If it is a vintage mandolin, NEVER sand it or try and restore it UNLESS you are a professional vintage stringed instrument repair person. An antique dealer, or actually several antique dealers, have ALL said the exact same thing to me. Basically what they told me was not to touch it at all. If you do sand it up and refinish it, and if you are NOT A PRO AT IT, that will reduce the value of your vintage mandolin. Put the sand paper, steel wool, paint remover away. You'll regret it in the end when you decide to sell it. If it still works, then just leave it. Like the old saying goes, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE THEN DON'T FIX IT."

  13. #13
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    It's your Mandolin - have fun with it.
    Maybe sand it to 400 grit and apply half a dozen sessions of hard shellac.


    Peter

  14. #14

    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarzan View Post
    If it is a vintage mandolin, NEVER sand it or try and restore it UNLESS you are a professional vintage stringed instrument repair person. An antique dealer, or actually several antique dealers, have ALL said the exact same thing to me. Basically what they told me was not to touch it at all. If you do sand it up and refinish it, and if you are NOT A PRO AT IT, that will reduce the value of your vintage mandolin. Put the sand paper, steel wool, paint remover away. You'll regret it in the end when you decide to sell it. If it still works, then just leave it. Like the old saying goes, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE THEN DON'T FIX IT."
    Why not, if the mandolin in question is a basket case that will never, ever be worth much? Just being old doesn't make an inexpensive factory product into a holy relic. If you wait for a pro, this mandolin will never be refinished, because the cost of doing it would be several times the value of the instrument. This one looks pretty stripped already, anyway, so it's already taken the hit.

  15. #15
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Even though it's never going to be worth big $$, why not restore it to a 1960s Harmony finish?
    Living’ in the Mitten

  16. #16

    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarzan View Post
    If it is a vintage mandolin, NEVER sand it or try and restore it UNLESS you are a professional vintage stringed instrument repair person. An antique dealer, or actually several antique dealers, have ALL said the exact same thing to me. Basically what they told me was not to touch it at all. If you do sand it up and refinish it, and if you are NOT A PRO AT IT, that will reduce the value of your vintage mandolin. Put the sand paper, steel wool, paint remover away. You'll regret it in the end when you decide to sell it. If it still works, then just leave it. Like the old saying goes, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE THEN DON'T FIX IT."
    Is that inversely proportional? If it IS BROKE... fix it?

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  17. #17
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Kip Carter View Post
    Is that inversely proportional? If it IS BROKE... fix it?

    Kip...
    No Kip, it's directly proportional to the level of laziness with which you are pathologically endowed.

  18. #18
    Registered User Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    It is a shame we will probably never find out what he did with this mandolin. According to the OP's profile the only time he has logged in was the day he set up his account over a year ago.
    Bill Snyder

  19. #19
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    ROFL didn't look at the dates

  20. #20

    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Been a lot dead thread resurrection lately...

  21. #21
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sanding and Varnishing Old Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by guitarzan View Post
    If it is a vintage mandolin, NEVER sand it or try and restore it UNLESS you are a proYou're a little latefessional vintage stringed instrument repair person. An antique dealer, or actually several antique dealers, have ALL said the exact same thing to me. Basically what they told me was not to touch it at all. If you do sand it up and refinish it, and if you are NOT A PRO AT IT, that will reduce the value of your vintage mandolin. Put the sand paper, steel wool, paint remover away. You'll regret it in the end when you decide to sell it. If it still works, then just leave it. Like the old saying goes, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE THEN DON'T FIX IT."
    You're a little late, that thing was already stripped before he ever got it. That's a more than likely 60's harmony. They never left the factory with a finish like that. You can also relax regarding the value of this one, there isn't much.

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