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Thread: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

  1. #1
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    Smile Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    DIEGO!

    I recently purchased a Lyon & Healy Bowlback mandolin, off Reverb.
    It looked gorgeous! I've been wanting one since I was a kid. Back then, my downstairs neighbor, a WWII Italian veteran would just bang away on his mando, chords, tremolo lines, singing along... We never spoke (He only spoke broken Italian, some Southern dialect) His wife told me he had that mandolin since he was a kid, back in the 1910s and had been his companion all through the war... Seeing the old man's joy always made me think, "I want some of that!"
    OK, enough digression!
    My new (old) mandolin seems to be an early 1900s, no label, with the bowl intact. The top, OTOH, has a 1/4" depression on the bridge position. NO CRACKS OR SPLITS. The sound currently isn't that good. It kind of reminds me of a kids plastic guitar.

    So, my question to you all is this: I can probably fabricate a bridge that would contact the top, set it up with good action, but it would not make contact with the center of the top plate. Could this damage the mandolin further?

    Also, I wanted to put Elixir strings, as they are the brand I put on my guitars. Their "light" gauge is 10-34. Would they be too much tension?

    Sorry for all the questions but, like I said, I'm new here, to the instrument. Funny enough, my primary instrument is the bass and my newest instrument is a tiny mandolin... Quite a transition!

    Thank you all for being such a good bunch and sharing so much info!

    Diego

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    Post some photos so we know more precisely what you are talking about. 1/4" depression sounds like could be a brace loose inside. I would not string to pitch or the whole thing could implode. Is it too late to return it?
    Jim

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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    Thank you for the quick reply. Sorry for the delay responding, but I wasn't near a PC and I could not post from my phone... (Like I said, new! LOL)
    It is, in fact, too late to return. My enthusiasm got the better of me...
    Here are the pictures...
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    Loosen the strings. You have a bridge top from an arched top mandolin sitting on a flat top. It isn't wide enough to spread out the pressure of the string tension. You need a correct bridge for that mandolin and hopefully there's no damage underneath it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    You've got some fairly serious "dishing" of the top, almost certainly from too-high-tension strings, possibly from failure of an internal brace. Mike E's right to recommend loosening the strings immediately, and observing to what extent the top returns to side-to-side flatness. Bowl-back bridges are longer, lower, and much less "sturdy," raised maybe a quarter to 3/8 inch above the top at the saddle. Your bridge is higher, to compensate for the top sinkage, and seems designed to concentrate the string tension in the center of the top, which makes the "dishing" worse.

    Good news is that it's possible to have a bridge made that distributes the tension better, even if you can't entirely return the top to latitudinal flatness. I have an 1890's Washburn bowl-back mandola with an extensively repaired and somewhat "dished" top, and it's been made playable by installing a bridge that distributes the tension more widely, and is slightly convex on the bottom to properly fit the top's curvature.

    I'd also recommend "get thee to a luthiery," or at least a really good repair shop that has handled bowl-backs in the past. They're not found everywhere, but if you look, there may be one close enough to serve you. My experience is that my "go-to" repair person ducks out the back door when I walk in with a bowl-back, but he can be coaxed to work on them. You need to check out the bracing, see if it has come loose, or just deformed under the string tension. Whatever you do, get really extra-light strings for your L & H. It is a nice-looking instrument.
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    GHS do an ultra light 9-32 gauge set. You can get them mail order from Strings & Beyond for a mere $6-49:

    https://www.stringsandbeyond.com/ghs...ight-9-32.html

    Obviously, there are more exotic specialist strings but at this stage you are getting your mandolin up and running.

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    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Loosen the strings. You have a bridge top from an arched top mandolin sitting on a flat top. It isn't wide enough to spread out the pressure of the string tension. You need a correct bridge for that mandolin and hopefully there's no damage underneath it.
    Just to emphasize the message above, the first step is taking off the string tension doing some research on what the correct bridge for a bowl back mandolin looks like, and then seeing what your options are. There is hope for the instrument, but it can be hard to find folks in the US with experience working with this European style instrument.
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    WOW!!! So many helpful answers!

    Tension removed!

    Now I'll let it breathe for a couple days, outside of the case. I'll see if I can find a bowlback specialist in my area.

    Thanks again!

    Diego

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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    For those of you following this saga...
    After just a few hours of removing string tension, the top is practically flat. I'll think of this as good news, as the top is not deformed or cracked. I did reach inside the soundhole and I found a loose longitudinal strip of wood, right down the center, below a brace. Perhaps this is keeping the sides of the top together.
    I'll probably make this MY project, trying to fix it. Any suggestions you throw my way would be appreciated and you WILL NOT be held responsible of my failures... LOL

    I was looking at Dave Hynds site... What a wealth of information! Although I understand it is not traditional, do you think a Stridente-style bridge would work for my L&H? I think I can handle the fitting, after glueing whatever is loose inside!

    Wish me luck!

    Diego

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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    Quote Originally Posted by diegom View Post
    I think I can handle the fitting, after glueing whatever is loose inside!

    Wish me luck!

    Diego
    Whatever you do, don’t use regular wood glue, or worse, epoxy! Hide glue is the way to go. But with a vintage instrument like that obviously beautiful Lyon and Healy mandolin, I’d highly recommend finding an expert to work on it.
    Pete
    Last edited by Mando Mafia; Sep-03-2020 at 12:27pm. Reason: Additional content

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  18. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hello! I'm new here and my name is...

    It is hard to work through that small soundfile but somehow you will need to get glue under that brace and a few clamps to clamp it to the underside of the top. Then you can deal with the bridge. If you can work with wood you can carve your own bridge out of some hardwood. Just find out what a the original one looked like.
    Jim

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