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Thread: Needing part of an old bowl back

  1. #1
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    Default Needing part of an old bowl back

    Hi all,

    I just picked up an old bowl back mandolin. I really don't know much about them and this one doesn't have a name. I'm guessing around 100 years old. It had the nut and mostly the wood seems to be good.

    It needs tuners, a bridge, and a tailpiece. The wood around the screws of the tailpiece are worn, chipped, and may have been stripped out. Any suggestions of how to fix this?

    As for the bridge, the ones I'm finding online are concave to fit a more modern design.

    Any suggestions as to where to buy or how to make a small repair on this mandolin? Thanks in advance.
    devin
    Eastman MD605

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing part of an old bowl back

    All the parts you're seeking are available commercially. StewMac (formerly Stewart-MacDonald) carries a wide selection of tuners, also bridges and tailpieces. You need to measure the spacing of the holes in the headstock, to make sure you get four-on-a-plate tuners that will fit your instrument.

    What you should look for is a bridge designed for a flat-top mandolin -- and, more specifically, for a bowl-back instrument. These are non-adjustable, and are generally quite low, and long, with extended ends that reach well beyond the saddle. One possibility for finding bowl-back parts, is to visit a dealer who sells vintage instruments; many of them have parts taken from un-repairable or un-sellable bowl-backs, that get thrown in a drawer on the chance that someone like you might need them. I have had luck in replacing a partially broken bridge on my B & J Victoria bowl-back, from a local dealer.

    You can fill the holes for the tailpiece screws, and drill new ones. I'm not sure if you're missing the entire tailpiece, or just the cover...?

    In any case, check for top sinkage, for failure of the neck-body joint resulting in the neck being pulled forward by string tension, and for possible neck warpage. All these are common in old bowl-backs that were strung with too-heavy strings. If you get it back to playability, put ultra-light strings on it -- not standard "lights." GHS makes an acceptable set.
    Allen Hopkins
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  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Needing part of an old bowl back

    In addition to Allen's post: our overseas friend Dave Hynds (from the UK but living in France) has been restoring old bowlbacks for many years and he also supplies parts. General Parts here. Bridges of many kinds here. He is very reasonable.

    Simple way to deal with tailpiece screws is to get a package of flat toothpicks and stick the point into each old with glue and screw in. Unless, of course, the whole tailpiece block it rotted away.

    Good luck!
    Jim

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    Default Re: Needing part of an old bowl back

    Hi Allen,
    Thanks so much. The tip on string gage is really helpful. The wood appears to be in good shape. It seems like finding the right bridge may be the biggest issue but Jim may have a good option.
    Much appreciated.
    devin
    Eastman MD605

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Needing part of an old bowl back

    Hi Jim,

    The block hasn't rotted away so I think I can get her going again. It looks like Dave Hynds may have something I need. There doesn't appear to be too many options for these old bowl backs.
    Thanks again,
    devin
    Eastman MD605

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