Seeking advice for Stradolin restoration

  1. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    I have recently picked up the Stradolin shown in the attached pictures. Based on the pictures it looks like the tuners will need some care and attention before this mandolin will be playable.

    If there are any cracks or loose braces in this mandolin I am likely to take it to a local Luthier. But since these pictures seem to show a solid body I'm planning to tackle the lube, clean, and re-stringing/intonation work myself.

    My current list of tasks once the mandolin arrives is:

    * Remove the tuners, clean them with a standard metal polish, reassemble, and lubricate them using TriFlow. Is Brasso a suitable metal polish or are preferred polishes for cleaning and overhauling tuners?

    * For the wood body and neck I anticipate needing to at least clean the mandolin and apply some fingerboard oil to the fretboard. I currently have some good fingerboard oil that I use on my Kentucky mandolin. My best guess for a suitable polish to clean the body and neck is the "Preservation Polish" sold by StewMac. Has anyone had experience using this polish on old Stradolins? Does anyone have a recommendation for a different product or approach to cleaning?

    * Based on the pictures I suspect the tuning knobs may be very brittle. Would the Cream "Vintage-style" tuner knobs from StewMac be an appropriate replacement? My thought is that if the knobs are brittle I'd be better off replacing all of the knobs while performing the tuner overhaul I describe above.

    My first stringing will probably use light J62 strings to avoid putting excessive pressure on the mandolin. On my Kentucky I prefer the feel of J74s but I think I need the confidence that the Stradolin will handle the light gauge strings before moving up to mediums.

    Does anyone have additional suggestions for what to look out for/take care of on an old Stradolin? Is there any value to add or replace brushings on a Strad?

  2. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    Two more images:

  3. MikeEdgerton
    I usually add the tuner bushings while servicing the tuners to make the easier to turn. As far as adding vale, they won't. Paul Hostetter has a page on servicing tuners that's great.
  4. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    Thanks. By "value" I was thinking value to me as a player. I'm only viewing this instrument as an attempt to get a nice player rather than as a financial investment.
  5. bmac
    If yours is built like mne from 1935 it is a really tough mandolin. Congratulations on a fine looking instrument... Hope it sounds as good as it looks.

  6. Doc Simons
    Doc Simons
    After all your good work is done, one of the most important things you can do to keep it nice is to pay attention to humidity. Usually lack of it is the worst, but large changes and really high humidity can also cause problems. Most of what I've read suggests around 40 to 50 % is about right. Winter time heat , especially air out out of ducts type, is the most drying. Cold air itself holds less water than air in summer. Hygrono meters are cheap (10-15$) and are usually available locally, I think at wallmart. Also cheap on Ebay. Do not use any humidifier that goes in the mando. Room humidifiers are a pain, but are way cheaper than whole house ones. Enjoy
  7. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    Thanks for the advice about humidifiers. I live in Northern California and have the benefit of a house that rarely needs heat. But since I've only recently started playing mando I'm still not certain how much I need to pay attention to humidification. I guess the only answer is to get a Hygrometer and measure.
  8. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    A few months on and I've learnt a lot about my Strad. In the interest of helping others, this is what I've learnt.

    The shafts, gears, worms, tuning pegs, and gear screws are all brass. The mounting plates and worm bearing plates are steel. All metal parts of the tuners were originally lacquered but this coating is flaking off.

    I have had success scraping the old lacquer off with a fingernail and using Flitz Liquid Polish to clean off the brass and steel. My aim is to get the tuners cleaned and remove the few rusted areas. Then they will be lubricated and allowed to tarnish with use. Hopefully they will tarnish quickly so they don't look out of place for too long.

    The tuner shafts are 1/8" thick with splines cut to secure the tuner buttons. This size means that the vintage replacement buttons from StewMac are too small for these shafts. Drilling out the button for the larger shaft leaves the button too weak to be useful. Still looking for the right replacements.

    Neck & Body
    The neck and body are in good shape. I have two frets that are slightly high -- about the thickness of a sheet of paper. I do not anticipate needing to correct this. The wood is all intact and solid.

    I have cleaned the body and neck using Dunlop 65 Guitar Polish and Cleaner. The fretboard has been oiled.

    The original tailpiece had some rust build up on the back, sides, and the heads of teh mounting screws. Rather than risk this getting worse I asked a local chrome plating shop to clean and nickel plate the tailpiece, mounting screws, and the pick guard screws. This hardware is bright, shiny, and will be gently aged with vinegar fumes before re-mounting.
  9. Reid1
    I just picked what appears to be the exact same mandolin as yours. Have been playing it non stop for a couple of weeks now and am VERY happy with the tone, playability etc.
    Mine has a pickup in it which does not work. The action needs lowering and there are some minor issues to repair. I dropped it off yesterday to a local mandolin expert to have him fix it up.
  10. bmac
    Temperature and humidity controls are of course important, if you have them.... However,,, wooden instruments have been in uncontrolled environments for hundereds of years and though many have suffered cracks. Most instruments of value are still being played. Personally I look for cracked or broken instruments because the repairs are often not difficult and even when difficult I enjoy the challange. I certainly enjoy the price.
  11. bmac
    You mentioned two high frets on your Stradolin... Normally these have for some reason pulled up a bit and can normally be re-seated by tapping them back down with a wooden block on the frets and a light hammer. If however the fretboard is warped raising the two frets you can still perhaps repair it by filing the frets down...
    Instructions on

    You can also straighten out the fretboard through sanding it flat if that is the problem but that is much more time consuming and you have to replace the frets.
  12. Michael Richmond
    Michael Richmond
    bmac, thanks for your comments about the possibility that high frets could be due to a fret that has pulled up a bit, or a warped fretboard.

    In my case, the fretboard itself is flat. At least as well as can be identified without removing the frets. The two high frets had clear indication of playing wear below the strings. The frets immediately above and below had no such wear. Given the state of the strings and tuners, it appeared that the play wear had developed when this instrument was young and in active use. Although I tapped the frets down to ensure they were firmly seated, I believe that these two frets were always high.

    I was able to buff them down with a couple of micro mesh pads to bring them down to the level of the adjacent frets without needing to remove very much material.

    I really need to get back to this thread to post pictures of the outcome of my work. Particularly since I learnt a few things about the right StewMac buttons to use and how to fit them. I also needed to mend one side of where the body joins the neck.
Results 1 to 12 of 12