Merry Christmas to all. I am in somewhat of a quandary. I am currently restoring a mid-19th century German guitar. Good straight neck, most of the body is in good nick, some nibbling to edges, a few cracks and splits but nothing drastic. The bridge is a pig and the braces are loose, again nothing to worry about. The thing which has me confused is the painted neck. Over the years the neck has been painted with a lack gloss paint which looks foul. My initial idea was to strip off the paint and stain wit rose wood or mahogany then finish with tru oil. Or should I repaint with back paint?Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. Thanks Steve

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Ouch.... I hit my head on the side wall in my office trying to look at your picture.... ;)

Before I made a suggestion I would have to ask you what is the goal for this guitar?  Is it a customer guitar and what are the client's expectations?  If it's yours what are your goals for the guitar, a player, full-on, accurate restoration, etc?

This is a pre-lacquer era guitar so it was either french polished shellac originally or maybe even paint.  My hunch is though that the FPS wore, as it does on necks, and someone through the years decided to disrespect the thing and paint it.  I thought that the old Army rule was if it doesn't move, paint it....  But it's likely that this very cool little guitar does move when driven properly.

The nice thing about a FP shellac finish is that it is infinitely repairable and restorable.


Sorry about your head.

 The goal is to sympathetically restore this guitar to playable condition for my own use. I don’t want it to look as if has just left the shop, but neither do I want to keep all the botched bits.As I say there is very little wrong with the guitar, the work is mainly cosmetic. She's 170 years old and I'd like to restore some dignity to her so she can sing a little longer.


Hi Steve.

 Are we talking about the whole neck or the fingerboard?   I've been reworking an old guitar that I suspect is German in origin. It's probably newer than yours and has slotted headstock rather than pegs. The guitar is old enough to have an ice cream cone heel that was attached to the neck with a 45 degree, glued joint. The fingerboard was an ebonized slab of maple but the body of the neck, which appears to be something like box wood or poplar was painted black. I don't honestly know what kind of finish it was but it scarped off just exactly like paint, showing no penetration into the grain of the wood at all. The stain they used on the fingerboard to make it black was not very penetrative either but obviously more than just paint. 

I should say that I'm not interested in keeping the guitar original, It was poorly made with materials that are only decent by today's standards. (maple back and sides with a very bad "rosewood" paint job. I'm much more interested in making it playable than anything so to that end, I've sprayed the neck with black lacquer and the replacement fingerboard is a cut down rosewood board that I already had. It will match the original binding and the new bridge I will have to make to replace the non original that came with the guitar. 

I think, looking at the edges of your fingerboard, you will find that your's is also a lighter wood that was ebonized in some fashion. I would be surprised if it was paint.  I see that the bridge may not be ebony either but it certainly looks like it should be. If you want to keep the original look, which I would suggest, I think you should consider using ebony for the bridge and at least a good dark ebony stain for the fingerboard. As far as I know, which may not be much, the neck should be painted black again. I guess you could ebonize the back and head of the neck then finish it with clear finish but I think that going with a modern lacquer will wear better. I've not been too satisfied with shellac as a neck finish if the instrument is going to be played a lot. Personally I find that it wears quickly and, with my sweaty hands, can get a bit sticky.

All of this is my personal opinion, of course, AND assumes that you want to keep the original look while making it completely and comfortably playable. Anyway, it certainly looks like a fun project.


Hi Ned

The whole neck has been painted black, but the finger board is a much rougher state then the rear. The bridge is a replacement and looks bad so will be replaced, You can see that he original bridge was ornate with leaves and the centre section is the repleaement which was screwed to the body and caused spliting.


 If I were doing this, and intending to focus more on playability than originality, I would replace the fingerboard with a new ebony board to match the bridge. That said, it may be that the original fingerboard will clean up well and you can ebonize it to match a new ebony bridge. I would not repaint it.

I really like the wings of the bridge. The screws worry me because the make me wonder about the conditions inside of the body.  On my guitar, I removed the back to make pretty extensive repairs and changed to the interior. I found, in the process that the rim need to have some extra material installed to support the face and back so make sure to check this area, particularly in the lower curves of the lower bout. 

The ones I've seen had painted black necks much like the Russian 7 string guitars we see around this neck of the woods.

Thanks for that Ned. Had the back off, the bridge is history braces all reglued, new bridge plate installed and any splits made good. The body is actually in very good condition. Dont really want to remove the fret board as this may be a step too far for my capabilities. If it has to be painted what would people recommend? Steve


You can see now what it looks like now without the bridge.


It looks like your guitar is in much better shape overall than mine was. I had to fix several cracks on the top besides the aforementioned gaps between the top and rim plus a couple in the back. I really didn't have a choice about removing the fingerboard because mine was very cupped across the width 


Hi Steve. It looks like a "romantic guitar" to me. These kind of guitars has been made along the XiXth century in Europe. Hi-end ones did have their necks, heel, headstock front and back veneered with ebony. I guess this one was trying to mimic that. On the older ones, frets were made of ivory. Tops were naked like luths and ouds, and sides of the headstock, sides and back were French polished with shellac for what I know and have seen.

If it was for my own use, I wouldn't touch anything that wouldn't be purely structural or functional, not to loose time.

I agree with Mr Roiron. Leave the neck in the condition that it was recieved. For all you know, the neck may have been painted soon after it left the shop. That's a long time for it to be like this...


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