Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Pre-WWII Martin Tenor Ukulele Renovation and Cleanup

I know, right?  Crazy.

Here we have another Martin tenor ukulele on the bench!  (This makes three).  Turns out these things are like peanuts.  You can't stop buying them.

Well, this is the last one of the bunch for now.  And if I keep buying them I won't have any money left in my car fund, so there is a (temporary) hiatus.

Anyway, on to the work I did on this one.  This one's history is that it was bought pre-World War II.  As hard as it is to exactly date Martin ukuleles, I think that seems reasonably accurate given the features.  Since I have 3 to compare, I've been making notes on some seemingly minor but important details.  More on that to come.

One thing is clear: this one has been played - a lot. 

There are two spots on the top where the finish is gone.  One is the left side lower bout where the player's arm would contact the top.  The finish is gone entirely from a fairly large area.  There is also a lot of ground-in dirt there too - visible in the pictures.

The dirt should clean up I believe.

The second spot of missing finish is on the upper right bout - it's a smaller area where the player's right hand would finish on the follow-through of a strum.

There is also a lot of dirt near the neck on the left upper bout.  A lot of play wear - I love it.  If I can clean it up, this should be a real nice played-and-loved looking instrument.

The back is in fine shape.  Ironically, given how much this one has been played, there are a lot fewer scratches than my 1929 Martin.  And no cracks or other issues at all to fix on the body.

The finish on the back looks a lot brighter in color than the top - a testament to how dirty the top is.

A lot of finish wear on the back of the neck near the headstock.  Most of the finish seems to be gone, in fact.

And more dirt on the heel.

Here's the really crazy wear.  Years and years of grunge on the frets.  If you thought the green junk on my old one was bad, that was nothing compared to this.

There is also a lot of fretboard wear on the first four frets - and a lot of fret wear too!  I've never seen anything like this on a nylon string instrument.

I think what happened is as the fingerboard began to wear, the strings were pulled down more onto the frets, and the first few frets began to wear.  And as grooves were worn in the those frets, the strings then began to ride lower onto the upper frets - to the point where the upper frets began to show the same wear.

It really needs to be refretted, but I'm going to do a level and crown first and see how it plays.  I really don't want to mess it unless I have to.

This thing must have been played constantly!  It's really remarkable.


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