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Thread: Is it worth repairing?

  1. #1

    Default Is it worth repairing?

    I recently acquired this old mandolin. I do not know what it is but appears to be solid rosewood (Brazilian I think) and solid spruce top, Ebony fingerboard. Besides the obvious issues it looks like I t has a broken neck block, loose braces, worn frets, etc. I do not see any name or serial number inside or outside. It is obviously severely damaged (maybe excessive string tension in a too warm place?). I am thinking of trying to get it to a playable state and am not concerned with making it perfect. I have some wood working skills (did a neck reset on a guitar among many lesser repairs), some tools, and a lot of patience. I don’t want to work on something that should be repaired professionally (such as an old Martin, Gibson, etc). If it has no value it seems it would be an interesting project and should be “saved”.
    First time posting here but have been reading and learning from this site for several years. Thanks to all for you responses.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    That resembles a 1927 Stahl-labeled Regal, to which I made extensive repairs several years ago. The top had severely distorted around the soundhole(but not cracked, like yours), due to(I think) inadequate bracing. First round of repairs I did through the soundhole: removing the small braces in front of and next the the soundhole, flattening the top, adding grafts to reinforce the buckled areas, then replacing the small braces(and I reglued the ends of the loose main braces). The shrinking, curling pickguard contributed, I think, to the stress on the top. After a year, the mando came back: the plain-sawn main braces had cracked across the grain. Hmmmm. Since this was an heirloom mando for the family, and it sounded really good, and was being played, they agreed to a second round of repairs: I removed the back(and binding), replaced the main braces with quartersawn stock, replaced the back and back binding, then touched up the finish. A big job, but for them, worth it. I think yours is Indian rosewood(as was the one I repaired), but you might confirm with a sandpaper/smell test. I would plan to remove the back, to make more easily make effective repairs(which may include replacing any pesky flatsawn bracing!). good luck, a worthwhile save if you're so inclined.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Thank you for your in-depth response. That is what I was thinking but unsure if I should remove the top. Possibly the fret board to get the top off?

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    I can't say anything for sure without seeing the instrument in person, but my first reaction from looking at your first picture is that this might be a candidate for a new top. If you decide to do that, you can cut through the fingerboard at the 9th or 10th fret, pull it from there to the soundhole end, and then remove the top.

    A lot of work, and a learning experience.

    One of the problems with working on these old flatbacks is that if there are any bracing problems, it can be difficult or impossible to address them through the sound hole. Most of the time, if I have to open a mandolin or guitar [which I avoid whenever possible], I will remove the back. But since the top on yours is in rough condition, it might be easier to just go ahead and pull and replace it instead. If you're really crafty, you might be able to save the purfling to use on a new top.

    Whatever you choose to do, good luck. It's not a valuable instrument, so you don't have to worry about using it to learn a little more about the craft.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Thank you for the information. Knowing it is not valuable is important. Hopefully I can get it to a playable condition. Would SM be a good resource for a top if I go that route?

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Stew-mac's wood is fine. I'm sure that others can suggest at least a half dozen other suppliers. Stew-mac sells a ukulele top that should be big enough for your job for $14. For your job, that would probably be all that you would need. At that price, you might want to buy two in case you mess one up. Double check before you order to make sure that the pieces will be large enough.

    When you're shopping, remember that you don't want to pay extra for a 1" thick piece of wood intended for a carved top. If you can't find a piece sized for a flat-top mandolin, you can order a small piece of flat top guitar wood. Some suppliers will be willing to cut a piece sized to your needs and priced accordingly.

    After doing some quick research, I see that LMI's ukulele tops will probably be too small.

    You don't need a master grade top for this project. A good 1/8" to 3/16" thick piece of mid-grade Sitka spruce with reasonably vertical grain will work.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jan-22-2022 at 3:55pm.

  9. #7

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Your mandolin appears to be a higher grade version of this mandolin made by Harmony- the two piece back and rosewood. You have not shown the tuners.

    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...-mandolin.html

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  11. #8

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Thanks again for all the information. I do have a picture of the tuners and will try to figure out how to post it. In case that doesn’t work, the back of the headstock is routed out and there is a large one piece plate covering it. It is not engraved at all.

  12. #9

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Not having any luck with uploading the picture. I get to insert and it hangs up. I am also at work so have limited time to try. I do appreciate all the responses and will read them in-depth tomorrow. [ATTACH=CONFIG]198987[/
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  13. #10

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    NickR
    That sure looks like the one I have except Mahogany instead of Rosewood.
    Rcc56 and DaveR
    Thank you again for all the great information!
    Out of curiosity, are any of you able to see the back of the headstock photo or did that not upload?

  14. #11
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Yes, we can see it.
    Good luck with your project.
    I highly recommend that you spend some time browsing the excellent articles about instrument repair on Frank Ford's www.frets.com.
    Lots of good information from one of the most seasoned repair people in the business.

  15. #12
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    rcc56 makes a good point: since the top is so damaged, probably better to replace the top, rather than disturb the back.

  16. #13

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    I have been to that site and there is great information there. I also watch other luthier videos and some are really good. The amount of free information at our fingertips is really astounding. Thanks to all of you again for your insight.

  17. #14

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    I ended up removing the fret board and the top. They seem to have come off ok. I worked slow with steam heated “knives”. Also managed to get the binding off in one piece. Many of the braces are loose and some are splintered. Steaming and trying to flatten the top now to see if it is salvageable. It will also be necessary to address the kerfing on the top and change the bracing pattern. Will also have to glue the neck block. A couple questions I have if anyone could help? I was thinking of extending the neck block maybe 1/2 to 3/4 inch (maple) to help support the top and shore up that crack. Replace the braces, should I order Spruce or could I use pine, cedar, maple or some other wood I have on hand? I also need kerfing (hope that is the right term) and could make that or order it also. Was thinking of leaving what is there alone if I reuse the old top. [/ATTACH]Click image for larger version. 

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  18. #15

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

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    Last edited by Terryk1960; Jan-25-2022 at 1:33pm.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Agree with OP -- salvage and repair original top, if possible. That way you keep the 100 year old wood, the finish, the pickguard, and the marquetry.

    New wood would always show as new, even with a really, really expert finish. And, the pickguard would still be almost impossible to duplicate with modern materials, IMHO.

    OTOH, getting it playable is a good goal, regardless of which way you go.

    Cool mandolin. Good luck!

  20. #17
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    It appears to me that the front top brace is flat-sawn. I can't tell about the other one.

    Flat sawn braces on a top are a no-no, and might very well be the cause of the top's failure. A brace's grain should run perpendicular to the top, rather than parallel to it, i.e. vertical grain is good, horizontal grain is bad. All flat-sawn top braces should be replaced.

    If this were a valuable Martin guitar, I would use only spruce. But any stiff conifer with a vertical grain should be sufficient for this job. If you have some sort of spruce, fir, or pine family stock that has a nice tight vertical grain, you can try to cut a piece ~5/8" tall and see if it barely bends when you try to flex it vertically. It must be very stiff to be useable. If you can't find a piece like that, you will have to order something.

    Kerfing is not very hard to make, but it takes time. Several wood species will work. Although "Spanish cedar" is common, spruce, mahogany, or any flexible wood of medium temper can be used.

    My call would be that if you have to order brace wood, you might as well order kerfing also.

    I would try to get some glue into that crack in the neck block. Hot hide glue mixed slightly thin would be my first choice, Titebond Original would be my second. A hair dryer can be used to keep the work warm if you use hide glue. If you use Titebond, you will have to find a way to work it in there by rubbing it in and, if possible, flexing the area back and forth. Clamping will be difficult, but if you can find a way to close the joint without damaging the sides of the instrument, the repair will be more reliable. I would then add a reinforcement with the grain running 90 degrees to the crack. It need not be very thick-- ~ 1/16" will probably be enough. A 1/16" thick cross grain reinforcement can be added to the top crack if you wish.

    It's your call whether or not to replace the back braces. Vertically sawn braces are not quite as essential on a back. If it were me, I probably would though, since the instrument is already open. If you decide to replace them and they don't pop loose with very little effort, you can grind or chisel them out as long as you are very careful when you get within 1/32" of the back. Measure them first before you start to remove them.

    If there is a tiny bit of brace left, you can take the rest of it out with a sanding block masked with 2 layers of masking tape so that it will not cut into the top or back. See "masked scrapers" on the frets.com website-- it is the same principle, except we are masking a sanding block rather than a scraper or a razor blade. Any residual brace wood can be loosened up with a few drops of alcohol and carefully worked loose.

  21. #18
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    I would glue original braces with HHG. I would not make the block bigger, but brace under the broken area for more support. Gluing may be enough, but a brace wouldn't hurt. Kerfing is easy to make, I would leave all the original kerfing that you can. This should have light strings anyway, even before the repair. Is the area of the damage where the kerfing is missing, could have been the cause? Looking good.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  22. #19

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Thanks to all for replying. I own some land that has cedar and spruce (I live in Wisconsin) so I may try to find some really dry dead stuff and cut the braces from that. I a also have a “pile” of some old dimensional lumber stored inside (including mahogany trim) so I will dig through that also. If ok I am going to use tight bond as I have that on hand. Once I see If the top is going to be useable it will clear some things up. Piecing the purpling back together will be interesting! Thanks again for your help and I will post more pictures.

  23. #20
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Where in Wisconsin do you live? I also live in Wisconsin.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  24. #21

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Pops1, I live in Marinette, about 50 miles north of Green Bay.

  25. #22
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    I'm down south in the country. South of LaCrosse about an hour.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  26. #23

    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Late getting to this but I would just like to thank everyone again for the responses to this “project”. I did get it back together with the original top. Needed a new bridge and frets (1st time for that also). It is not perfect but is now playable and a good learning experience.
    I can’t seem to be able to post a picture replying to this thread (no option under “advanced” ) but will post one on a new thread.
    Thanks again!

  27. #24
    Registered User David Houchens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    Bracewood is cheap. I'd not use wood that wasn't properly sealed and seasoned for braces. You'd hate to have to open it up again down the road.

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  29. #25
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it worth repairing?

    This one has hung on my wall for several years. The head stock label says "Hamilton". I haven't thought about repairing it due to the warped rib. Glad to see you tackle yours. I wonder what they sound like. This one is a 13" scale, and it would need light strings.

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    Tom

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