A few questions on restoration

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

A few questions on restoration

Postby Glen Sager » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:24 pm

I just joined the MIMF community and had some questions about a repair/restore. This is my first time really fixing up a guitar before and want to make sure I'm doing the guitar justice. I recently picked up a Harmony H-801 that has been abused and I want to semi restore it. That may sound weird but it has a lot of character to it and I want to keep some of it. The body is a cream yellow but from age and neglect really needs a good finish on it. I was thinking of using on oil to seal it but I don't know how that will effect the paint. Also the neck is still intact but has a fair bit of road rash and the fret board has dried out. I'm not sure if I should sand it or just reseal it and if resealing how would i do that?? Ill post pictures and thank you for you help!!

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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Charlie Schultz » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:38 pm

Hi Glen and welcome to the forum! Looks like an interesting project- someone should be along shortly with some input for you.
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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Mark Swanson » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:08 pm

Putting anything on that body will only cover the dirt and grimy oxidized surface. If you want to make it look good again then I'd give it a wetsanding with 600 grit and then 1000 grit and then buff it out. Any bigger or deeper dings and digs I'd probably just leave them because it looks nice to have the wear visible. In fact many wouldn't mind just keeping it as it is, or just cleaning it very well and waxing it. But oil won't help you.
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Glen Sager » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:16 pm

So what kind of wax should I use, I mean I just don't want to use the wrong wax and muddle the guitar. Also what about the fret board?
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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Michael Sankey » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:19 pm

I restored an old harmony like this a few years ago. It had obviously hardly been played, but was still rather dull brownish amber, and grimy. Turned out it must have had a coating of wax applied to it (maybe even from the factory- wax and buff is a lot easier than doing a proper finish). I removed the old, brown wax with isopropyl alcohol and paper towels, plenty of both. I discovered that all that wax had kept the finish underneath in really good shape, and that my guitar was actually bright orange! Buffed it out very lightly (the slight amount of residual wax was enough to make it glossy) and the finish looked better than new.
But check on a small area first! You want to make sure that the alcohol doesn't dissolve the colour itself. And regarding the fretboard, you should do a little reading on how to do a refret. This is the right guitar to learn how to do that on. It's often easiest to restore a fretboard with the frets off anyway.
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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Lon Morgan » Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:46 pm

It's a Harmony so it's not like you're dealing with anything too haughty, but history has shown us that today's "meh" can become tomorrow's "wow". I seriously doubt that's going to happen with those, but entry level American instruments from that period are somewhat underrated and there are serious musicians who appreciate them as unique musical tools.

As we all know, there are two camps- the "new" guys and the "relic" guys.
"New" guys exhibit varying degrees of hysteria about condition, usually towards the upper end. A single nick sends them catatonic.
"Relic" guys love the honest wear and patination, although they can be just as persnickity as the "new" guys when it comes to originality.

I see that original wear, that distinctly cream, nicotine'y color of naturally aged white on a guitar, I see a far more beautiful thing than any new finish you could possibly apply.
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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Bob Matthews » Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:29 pm

I too love the faded finish on this one, it adds so much character.

I would wipe it over with white spirits (naptha, I believe in the States) to remove the grime and residue and then lightly polish it with some fine cutting compound to bring back the shine. Then as Mark says, give it a coat of wax - car wax is fine.

As for the fretboard - if the frets are in reasonable shape and it's just the board that needs attention, use a single edged razor blade to scrape between the fets until you achieve a smooth finish and then give it coat or two of lemon oil.

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Re: A few questions on restoration

Postby Chris Vallillo » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:03 pm

I've had very good results from a product called Virtuoso Instrument Cleaner and polish (2 separate products). The cleaner removed ALL dirt and wax/polish buildup and without damaging the original finish. I've used it on numerous vintage instruments, most recently the 1904 Gibson A I've been working for the past year, with excellent results. Best I've ever seen.

It's hard to find. I finally goggled it and bought it from the manufacturer. www.virtuosopolish.com/ It's not cheap but worth every penny. I just saw on their web site that Guitar Centers carry but you can't buy from GC online.....go figure.
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