In Restoration: Removing Duct Tape from the Wurlitzer 140a

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This Wurlitzer 140a belonged to a producer for many years, and arrived at our shop in well-used condition. By that, we mean that it was pretty banged up and showed evidence of previous repairs. Also, because multiple latches were missing, the lid didn’t attach very well. At some point, it had obviously once been held in place with duct tape.

We initially thought that the Wurlitzer was in such poor shape that it deserved a repaint. Once we removed the duct tape from the lid, we changed our minds. The duct tape came off easily, and the gold paint underneath shone with a beautiful luster. The crackle finish was durable and added a subtle texture that complemented the vintage paint beautifully.

Unfortunately, while we were able to remove all traces of tape residue from the wooden body, the duct tape had pulled up the paint. So, the Wurlitzer still permanently has the Mark of the Duct Tape. However, we love the lid so much that the patchy paint on the case doesn’t bother us. Hopefully the next owner will love this keyboard’s patina as much as we do.

How We Removed the Duct Tape

We removed the duct tape with a stiff, plastic-bristle brush and a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. The paint on the lid looked extremely fragile, so we were afraid that the brush would be too abrasive. However, the paint proved surprisingly durable. The combination of the brush and the alcohol mix removed the duct tape residue without hurting the finish at all.

The cleaning solution also worked on the wooden case. As you can see from the pattern of wear, the duct tape itself pulled the paint away. By the time we received the Wurlitzer, the duct tape was already long gone and only the residue had been left behind. Duct tape was definitely not the best tool for this application, but at least the user was interested in keeping the cover on and the dust off the keys.

Because we’re working with vintage materials in varying levels of deterioration, we always spot-test any cleaning chemicals before using them. This time, the diluted alcohol worked well on the tape residue, but we clean every surface on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes a mild detergent or a different abrasive is better.


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