After going around in circles on diagnosing this '71 Ramiriez 1a, I've determined and done the following:
1. The soundboard had been refinished...stripped of the original finish...recoated with a poly glop...uneven, runny and wrong color.
2. The soundboard is original...any strange edge issues showing the binding is lower than the top is just that...the binding has been trimmed down to, presumably, eliminate the nicks and dings in the binding. The top is original, the lining inside has not been disturbed. The guitar finisher who worked on it previously, a Ryan Martin, did not show great quality in his work, and would not have been able to remove and replace a top without leaving telltale signs. His signature inside the soundhole could have been done with the top on. My earlier idea that it was removed is likely wrong.
3. I've decided to remove the old finish by scraping and slowly sanding the top to remove the lousy coating, to bring the top edges down a bit to blend with the binding, and to eliminate some superficial blemishes. I've measured the uneven binding and it averages 0.1mm below the top surface. It's irregular and by scraping I've gradually blended and lowered the edge. I'm not all the way down yet.
4. I still have the strings on, so the final bit of cleanup will be after I pull the strings. I love playing it and have been listening to the tone as I clean it up. I do have a wolf tone b flat on the 3rd string, and am listening to see if that changes as I remove the finish and thin the edge. As I am at bare wood for 80% of the surface, I try to keep from soiling the wood. I am not fully sanded and am leaving that final bit to an overall sanding. I've used 400 grit which is really slow.
5. I bought a cheap classical to try out various finish approaches....the guitar actually sounds terrific and the case is worth much more I paid for the guitar...anyway I've done some scraping and sanding and application of STEWMAC #3883 sanding sealer. My original plan was to get it stripped down, and use the STEWMAC system to do a Nitro finish, getting a few coats of lacquer on, and then tinting a few layers until the color is right, then clear coat.
6. I may get the grunt work done and see if my friend in Rockport Maine will do the final prep and finish it. His guitars are superb and he's obviously set up for this, and tho I don't expect to duplicate the original Ramirez finish, which I think was a poly anyway, it should be a nice looking guitar.
Any guidance on the last bits of finish prep would be much appreciated. The sanding and scraping around the bridge and rosette is challenging. The rosette area had been quite disturbed and I am very cautious about working in this area, wishing to flatten it, and remove the poly finish which has some tint. I am using 400 grit paper and a single edged razor blade for this work. Cleanup of the old finish around the bridge is tricky, hoping for a clean joint that will take the new finish well.
The original finish on a ‘71 Ramirez is doing the tone no favor. A standard “hot rod” technique at the time was removing the finish from the face and French polishing it.
I heard that. As Ramirez was producing more guitars (probably after it was learned that Segovia was now playig a 1968 1a), the issue was the delicate finish was being whacked in the stores, and vendors were getting tired of warranty repair of the finish. Jose3 decided to use a more resilient finish.
I wish the previous owner/fixer HAD used a French polish or nitro spray. Even I could have done a better job with a crusty brush and gymnasium varnish. Tho I did like the satin look, it was very uneven, and that couldn't help the tone quality of a thin 1000 year old cedar sonic membrane.
So far I think the tone quality is as good or better than when I got the guitar. The Hannabach strings, provided to me by my luthier friend, have helped noticeably.
Any info on HOW the factory coating was removed? Lot of work if that coating was indeed a plastic. I've refused to use chemicals.
Im surprised you're not removing the bridge to sand it evenly .
I'm not a an actual luthier....I do have another guitar on the way that does require re-gluing the bridge, but I will not try that on this guitar.....this time.
Someday when I am more talented, I will likely do that in conjunction with laminating a new fretboard onto the existing one in order to lower the action....it's good now, but 1mm saddle left, and in 10 years maybe time to do that. I hear that's the way to do the Spanish....
The previous "repairman" did cut the fretboard @ #12, but I believe he left the bridge in place....it has perfect intonation.