I am proceeding cautiously with cleaning and polishing the finish on the A-4 mandolin. I did some research, and read about polishing varnish-shellac-or-whatever-mystery finish is on the mandolin. I want it to be clean and shiny, but I don't want to damage the original finish at all.
So I first cleaned it with soft towels and naptha. Naptha is a good gentle cleaner, and it evaporates very quickly.
If you do use naptha for cleaning an old instrument, do it outside.
So I tried some cleaner in some inconspicuous spots. It worked very well.
Here's a sample of the dirt I got off a section of the top where your arm would rest.
I saw no damage, lifting, bubbling, at all with the cleaner and the polish, so I used it on the whole instrument as I would with a lacquer finish.
Now, just because it worked well on this particular instrument means it's safe for anything. I'd still be cautious on any finish that you're not sure about. Lacquer or poly, ok for sure. Shellac, varnish? Proceed with caution.
The finish looks like glass over red tint over the maple. It has terrific depth and clarity now.
It was really hard to photograph due to the glare from the gloss.
There are a couple of wear spots that are a little less glossy, but it still looks good.
After a couple of years, they'll get their own patina just from being exposed to the air. But in the meantime, I got all the tarnish off.
Love that fleur-de-lis inlay.
Kawika Hula Girl Shaker break in tool. My trusty Hacker Hunter RP-38 is driving it.
I'll give it a couple of days treatment. From what I understand, the mandolin hasn't been played since about 1967, so it can benefit from being 'woken up' again.
You can also see how nicely the finish cleaned up. It's amazing that the finish is 95 years old. A real tribute to quality work.
I need to take the mandolin outside and get some beauty shots soon!