An ebay Stradolin... a project...

  1. bmac
    I just scored an Ebay Stradolin. I bought it for parts and possibly restoration. It is in pretty poor condition with at least three crack in the front,, mouse chewed f holes, back screwed (apparently not glued) to heel, neck possibly breaking loose (or maybe not), bridge missing, finish in bad shape but possibly restorable.

    Its plusses are a cloud tailpiece in reasonable condition and tuners in apparently good workable condition. The cloud tailpiece clinched the deal for me as I had been looking for one to complete the restoration of my present Stradolin dating 1935... This instrument has the newer headstock logo with the script Strad-O-Lin logo (like the avatar on this site). I assume it is from roughly 1938 or thereabouts... I will look for a date when I recieve it or hopefully research a more accurate date..

    The wood, if it is the same as my present Stradolin, is an extremely hard wood which even the mice couldn't destroy. It is, of course, steam pressed into shape so I hope will have a similar tone as my present one. This one does not appear to have the steam pressed in "grain" on its front.... but maybe the photos just didn't show it clearly.

    It will probably need a re-fret but it is kind of hard to tell from the photos. In addition to the bridge the pick guard is missing. that doesn't bother me much as I have learned not to post a finger while playing.... so I may not try to replace the pick guard.

    If it turns out to be a decent player I will be more than delighted. Lots of work, which I enjoy doing.
  2. bmac
    I received my eBay Stradolin today. A couple of surprises... The cloud tailpiece, while usable is tarnished and I doubt that the surface can be restored to anywhere near "like new" condition. The good news is that while the finish on the body looks hopeless there are few unfixable problems and it should restore to acceptable condition in appearance... Even the mouse chewing is not as bad as I had assumed from the photos and should repair nicely. The back will have to come off to do proper repairs of the cracked front. There are three cracks in the front and they should all pull together without much problem. The tuners are functional and look nice. the headstock logo is intact. the body suffers from abuse, neglect and incompetent attempts at repair but it should be restorable. The heel cap is missingbut that shouldn['t be much of a problem.

    An interesting project.
  3. bmac
    I removed the mandolin back and found that while while the back and sides are the same or similar wood as on my previous Stradolin this one has a spruce top (not steam pressed "grain"). Both the top and back are steam pressed. The thickness of the wood does not vary. So under the finish on the top is the real spruce grain pattern. Like my earlier Stradolin there is no plywood anywhere on the instrument.

    On examination I found that the fretboard had bent upward starting on the neck near the neck joint. I guess the neck had bent enough at that point to make good playing impossible... The frets had been filed as an attempt to correct the problem but I would guess unsuccessfully for clean playing. I steamed the fretboard off the neck and sanded the neck flat and did some sanding of the spruce top at the neck joint to allow the fretbosrd to lay flat. So at this pioint I am ready to rreinstall the fretboard.

    The spruce top had seven small cracks and one small piece of missing wood. I would guess these cracks are the result of storage in an attic. None were serious separations and I cleated all of them and replaced the missing wood. I should have it ready to put a finish on it in a day or so. It will be a complete refinish except for the front of the headstock where I am trying to retain the Strad-O-Lin logo. With a little luck it should be a decent looking and hopefully sounding instrument.
  4. Lowball17
    Sounds like a fun project. I'm slowly getting a 1936 Strad back into playing shape. Also an eBay purchase. Mine is all solid wood, but the top was covered with a thick coating of black tar-like paint. Never did get all of the black out of the grain on the spruce top, so I'm going to stain the top and go for a clear coat on the back, sides and neck. It had also been sanded extensively, apparently with a oscillating sander (!) so the headstock is a little rounded and the veneer cap is worn down on the edges. It seems to have a nice tap to it though. We'll know how she sounds in a few days. This is Strad No. 3 for me and I have another one (labeled a Stadium) on the way. Good luck and post some pics when you're done.
  5. bmac
    Glad to meet another Strad-O-lin obcessed individual. This is my second Strad-O-Lin restoration and I was excited to find the top is actually spruce. Except for the shrinking and expanding of the spruce top and lots of scratches the the wood and most glue joints were in good shape. The brace under the top below the f holes was holding firm. The paint on the spruce top could not be saved but I think I can save most of the finish on the hard wood back. It has a very nice grain pattern which is worth saving and featuring. Hopefully I will get the finish on it tomorrow.
  6. bmac
    I finished my Strad-O-Lin restoration today and stung it up... I was quite pleased with the result. The strings are brand new so I expect them to calm down a bit with playing. I was able to save the script Strad-O-Lin logo but that was about it for the neck and everything beyond the veneer on the headstock was removed and re-done. On the body of the instrument the only part of the finish I could save was the back, which has some nice burly maple(?) so the grain has some figure and is attractive. I left some scratches as respect for its age. the sides are very dark, approaching black and the black s continue onto the back creating a sunburst to kind of "frame" the burly maple center. The finish on the front fell right off as I began working on it so I removed it completely to feature the spruce grain. The neck and front are stained "Salem maple" which I would describe as warm tan, leaning slightly leaning toward a brownish orange... quite attractive in fact. There was no way to make it look newish so I left some dings and scratches under the finish. The parts are all original except the bridge which is new. So at this point it looks like a well worn but attractive instrument.
  7. bmac
    Strad-O-Lin tone - A comparison
    Out of curiosity I played both my Stradolins one after the other to compare tone.

    Stradolin #1 Headstock reads STRADOLIN in Stencil type face, date 1935, segmented f holes with circular holes at ends of f holes, maple top, body and sides.
    This mandolin has a wonderful range with an extraordinary bas resonance. It is loud and is, in my opinion, a wonderful blues instrument.

    Strad-O-Lin #2 (probably late 1930s), headstock loge is in script type face, segmented f holes with comma shaped ends, maple sides and back with spruce top
    The volume of this instrument is loud but does not qute have the bas resonance that #1 has. I had assumed that the maple top might have given it a little more resonant tone but that is not the case... It is an excellent sounding instrument but without the deep loud bas when compared with #1.

    I own eleven mandolins of various brands and vintages, mostly lower to mid range price-wise. My two Stradolins are my favorites, tone-wise. They are different but both outstanding.
  8. bmac
    Correction of Strad-O-Lin #2 first paragraph line 3 should read

    "I had assumed that the spruce top might have given it a little more resonant tone but that is not the case... It is an excellent sounding instrument but without the deep loud bas when compared with #1."

    Sorry about that.
  9. Cary Fagan
    Cary Fagan
    I think it's a good deed to restore an old, sad mandolin to playability. Well done.
  10. bmac
    Not just a good deed, but a thrilling experience to resurrect something just barely this side of a trash bin. I am a horrible romantic and when I see these derelict instruments I can't help speculating on who owned them, were they played and how much and for how long.... Though this one had been in an attic for many years it showed a history of hard use probably stretching a long time. Worn frets, an attempt to level the frets, divots in the fretboard, nicks on headstock, pick guard fell off, a few stripped screw holes, and a few screws holding the back to the heel and a few amateur glue jobs at various points. Whoever owned this played it a lot and repaired it often to keep it going for many years. I wish this one had a date stamped inside but it didn't. It will be around and playable for a lot longer than I will be alive. That in itself makes it worth doing.

    I keep telling my wife I am doing this so that I can sell them and make some money, but no way will I sell either of the two Stradolins I have. Maybe I will sell the next one I restore.... Maybe....
  11. bmac
    One feature I neglected to mention about my Strad-O-Lin with the spruce top is that it has real purfling inset into the edge instead of the fake painted on purfling that my 1935 STRADOLIN has. I don't know how common real purfling is on these instruments but I was surprised to discover it.
  12. TonyLaboca
    I'm new to the forum. I've been looking at Strad repair projects on e-bay for about a year. Finally scored one. Needs quite a bit of work, but I'm old and foolish enough to think I can do it. From what I've seen it appears to be from the 50's. Has a solid top, probably spruce. Don't know what the back is made of. It's painted black, and the inside is pretty non-descript, so I expect it's laminate. There is a single transverse brace just below the f-holes. I don't know whether this link will work, but this is the mando. [IMG]
    The cracks seem a simple fix, and aren't as bad as they appear in the pictures. I'm pretty sure I can glue the top back & replace the binding. From your site and a couple others, I got some ideas on straightening the neck. Any suggestions about things I should, or should not mess with? I'm more interested in having a good playing mandolin than a totally restored piece to display. So far, I'm a total amateur. I repaired a Kumalae ukulele, made a really cheap "wall-hanger" mandolin into one that sounded pretty decent, and made a few bone nuts & saddles for a couple guitars.
  13. bmac
    I was watching that one too. And yes, you can do it.

    Just a comment on repairs... If you have to get inside, remove the back, not the front. It is easier and less disruptive. I have been surprised at the number of small areas where the glue has failed in there. Besides, it is just plain interesting.

    If you want to level the neck, if bent: remove the nut and fretboard. Tape sandpaper to a flat surface.. like marble, or glass, and sand the neck flat by lightly pressing the neck down against the sandpaper and moving it back and forth (length-wise). It only took me lust a few minutes to level mine. Hold the instrument carefully so you don't round the neck.

    Make sure you have maybe six of those cheap plastic C clamps for glueing.

    You may also be interested in using hot hide glue (which was used originally).
  14. TonyLaboca
    Thanks. I'm by no means accomplished, but I'm addicted to research and projects. I do plan to take off the fretboard for starters. Then I'll decide how to proceed. I'm afraid sanding the neck may remove too much and get too close to the head stock, so I'm first going to look into bending it...veeeery carefully. I don't expect to have much to report for some time, since I have a ton of other unfinished projects in line. I just couldn't let this one pass. One concern I have about taking off the back, other than it's solidly attached, is that wouldn't that pretty much commit me to refinishing it? I'm toying with doing the repair work without affecting the appearance too much. Is that unrealistic?
  15. bmac
    I don't want to advise you on that because, yes, I have had to do a lot of restoration to get mine back to visually acceptable condition but mine were cosmeticly much worse than yours to begin with. I suspect when you steam the fretboard off you will do some cosmetic damage. You certainly will do cosmetic damage when you use steam the neck for bending the neck back. I really think you will lose the finish on the neck, I think the best you can expect is to save the veneer and the logo on the headstock so I would protect them as best you can during the steaming process. When I removed my fretboard I was able to save the logo but had to redo everything else on the neck. I didn't mind that because the finish was in terrible condition to begin with. There are a couple of videos on guitar repair on the web in which guitar necks are bent back into straightness through heat and steam. I think for the steam and heat to penetrate the wood you would be best off to sand the finish off the neck before you start. That is what I do when I bend banjo dowel sticks back to straightness.

    Be really cautious when removing the fretboard because they are very easy to break if you use any upward pressure on it. Let the steam do the job, It will take about an hour of steaming with a hot iron. at least it did me. A thin bladed sharpened putty knife works nice but don't pry. I used a wet rag between the fretboard and the iron.
  16. TonyLaboca
    Thanks again. I appreciate the help.
  17. bmac

    I was just looking at my Strd-O-Lin and comparing it with another of my similar but more recent mandolins and i am sure you can achieve a straight fretbard without having to steam bend the neck.

    When you remove the fretboard try this: cut another piece of wood exactly (or close to) the same thickness as the fretbard. Glue it onto the neck in place of the fretboard. Then sand the neck level so that the new neck surface becomes flat (without bend). Install the fretboard on top of that now level surface... Unless your neck is very bent this should work.

    Then cut a new nut (you may not need to) to that elevated hight and string it up... raise the bridge to the proper hight... You might have to add a shim under the bridge to bring it to proper hight but I doubt it. In any case it would be easy.

    You will end up with an instrument with a straight but slightly elevated fretboard over the body and your instrument should be perfectly playable. In a method like this there would be no loss of strength to the neck.
  18. Lowball17

    I had my eye on your Strad, too. It's a twin to one I bought about 6 months ago on ebay. Solid spruce top, black neck and sides, binding completely disintegrated. It had the standard top cracks on either side of the tailblock with minor lifting. The binding was fairly easy, once the routed channel had been cleaned up. I used dental picks for that. And you'll need a scraper to level the binding flush with the adjacent surfaces once it's installed. I got the binding and adhesive from StewMac. You will be pleased with the tone and volume once it's back together. This particular model (50's?) has great resonance and mando players who try it are invariably impressed. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
  19. bmac
    My Strad-O-Lin with the spruce top restored very nicely though I lost the finish n the top, sides and neck. It sounds great, though full of nicks, dings and scratches.... Two smal parts of my binding are missing but in general it is in good shape so I did not replace it. It is nice sounding but has less bass than my STRADOLIN with the maple top. That surprised me. I left the top and neck natural and it is quite nice looking.
  20. Cary Fagan
    Cary Fagan
    Interesting to follow the progress. I had to repair my Strad as well. Back seam opened, edges all nicked to the bare wood, new frets needed. It takes a while to get it just right. Mine's been playable for months but I just brought the action down (at the nut and the bridge) a hair and it made all the difference.

    Tony, it is possible to buy, restore, and sell for a very modest profit if you're careful and learn to judge photos and condition well. I've restored and sold something over 20 mandolins (including two 1950s Strads, and 3 Regal tenor guitars), all bought on ebay. And with the money have paid for two open back banjos and my own Strad, with money left over. I used only tools that I could find at local hardware stores, and few of those. Everything I learned came from the internet and a couple of books. I avoided anything expensive (no Gibsons, I'm sorry to say) and major repairs like neck resets. I often made only fifty or a hundred dollars, sometimes I was glad to break even, and other times I made up to $300. It never had anything to do with the amount of effort I put in, just the instrument itself. But I live in a big city where there aren't a lot of used mandolins around, so there's a market. Sold them all locally. It was fun, a little obsessive, and I've had to force myself to give it up except for the occasional interesting mando I can't resist having in my hands for a while. I don't think I have the patience to take my work to a more expert level.

    I've never taken off a fretboard. How do you do it? Hot knife?
  21. bmac
    there are a couple of videos on removing a fretboard on Youtube. Your approach probably depends on how much of the neck finish you want to retain... because in all likely hood you will lose some...or most. I have had success using a steam iron on the fretboaed with wet towel around the neck the iron generating the steam against the wet cloth or using the steam from the steam iron. Either or both work. A sharpened thin bladed putty nife helps.. Let the steam do the job and never pry the fretboard up with the putty knife... Never!!!..... Some seem to come off by themselves while others seem to take close to an hour... Patience is the key... Never use force or you will break the fretbaord.. Most of my repair is on instruments too far gone to worry about neck finish. Be extremely cautious as you may find that the fretboard is nailed into position with tiny finishing nails at about the dovetail joint. they are small so they shoudn't be much of a problem but you should be aware of them. I don't pull the frets to remove the fretboard.

    I wouldn't hesitate to try it on an inexpensive instrument for learning purposes. By the way,,, you may also lose some fretbard markers depending on what they are made of...

    When replacing the fretboard use thinned out glue and a good clamping system as it is sometimes hard to get a good thin glue joint with standard mixture hide glue.
  22. bmac
    Just another note on my above Stradolin restoration... after I did some nut work and bridge fine tuning the tone improved dramaticly. I commented above on the weak bas but in fact the bas is loud and resonant. So with adjusting it certainly equals my first Stradolin but they both are different tonally. Again, I would guess the difference is in the different top wood.
  23. bmac
    One lest note on my recent restoration... I had tried to save as much of the orignal finish as possible but the varnish on the back just kept deteriorating and I don't think I could have saved it... So I removed all the finish on the back and sides... Wow!! the sides are standard maple but the back is beautiful highly figured maple. It makes me wonder why they put a painted finish on it originally because it is flawless. The sides are simply maple and unfigured. It is a beautiful instrument and after futzing with the nut and bridge its action is good and the tone is different than my all maple Stradolin; deeper and more resonant... I hesitate to say "better" because I am very fond of them both, tonewise. I feel like I have won the lottery with these instruments.
  24. bmac
    I recently took one of my Stradolins to an Old Fiddlers Gathering and was able to compare it with some very nice new Webers. It stood up very well against them tone wise. Not bad considering the Webers cost roughly ten times what I paid for my Stradolin. Of course I had to spend a couple days work on it but it was a labor of love. Made me feel really good.
Results 1 to 24 of 24