Try a little naphtha. I love this stuff.
I like to use the "ascending order of force" until you hit on what works (and, of course, each with a fair amount of elbow grease) Clear water first, then water with a touch of windex (or similar), then rubbing alcohol mixed with water, a rag with a sparse dab of lighter fluid, then naptha. Avoid anything gritty unless absolutely necessary.
The other side of the coin is to just leave it as part of its history and patina :)
I use household Ammonia and warm soap and water. Or degreaser Bill......
I prefer to dig up the guy with the dirty arm and make him clean the thing up.....;)
Water first, lightly spritzed and if it's still too dirty to go to a cleaner/polish I resort to Meguiars "2" "Fine-Cut Cleaner" available at automotive stores.
This one is likely french polished shellac so a minimalist approach might be prudent.
I do things a lot like Mike does it. It s amazing what plain water can do sometimes. If the surface appears to be free of bare wood, I will move to warn water with a few drops of Dawn dish detergent which is very good at breaking up oils. I had a couple of bad experiences with the process because I tended to forget to test the finish with any solvents I tried BEFORE I actually started scrubbing away.
Thanks for your suggestions.
I've heard that some people's sweat does very bad things to shellac finishes.
I'll clean the whole guitar with alcohol and then touch it up with French polishing.
I thought you wanted to clean it, it sounds now like you want to strip it.
Some of that lovely color is in the finish, so if you use alcohol on shellac you will be diluting the color. Look at the spot where the bridge came off and you will see close to the original color. The aged top looks much better IMHO.
Anybody ever used ionized water for this purpose?
Glenn and Ed
Sorry to be desecrating a piece of guitar history, but unless either of you wants to buy it and do a proper restoration, I'll keep on cleaning it up. I like the color that's coming up.
It's got cracks in the top and back that need to be stabilized and it needs a neck reset. I want to make it into a decent player.
The sides and back are even uglier and dirtier than the top.
I've built a double handful of guitars so far and I hope that in 80 or 90 years if someone finds one of my guitars in this condition, I want them to scrape all the grunge off of it and get it playing some music again.
No judgement meant at all - just an observation. I am in the middle of this:
And I was told by a number of people that I shouldn't desecrate this great instrument by repairing it myself. It's yours and you can certainly do what you want with it.