Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

  1. #1

    Default Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I'm working on an old beat up Gibson K1 mandocello. Just to get it back into playing condition. Replacing bent tuners and a broken tailpiece and the like.

    My question for those who know about this kind of thing, and I know there are many here who do, is can I safely use the current string gauge sets sold for use on new mandocellos? Such as D'Addario set EJ78, 0.074", 0.048", 0.034", 0.022 or similar.

    I currently use that string set on a converted TM-375 bouzouki which I have tuned as a mandocello. After upgrading the stock tailpiece and adjusting the nut and bridge saddle for the larger strings. But that is a new instrument with a sturdy flat top body, beefy neck and adjustable truss rod. (it is not a wide neck but it is certainly playable, but that's another story)

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    16,894

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I have the D'Addario set on my ol' K-1, seems to work OK.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  3. #3
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    2,557

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I've seen that set tear a K-1 up. Severely warped neck in a matter of maybe 8 weeks.
    I'd go .020 032 .044 on the first 3 courses, and try .062 or so on the C string to start.
    The .074's need to go now.

  4. #4
    Layer of Complexity Kevin Knippa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Central Texas
    Posts
    90

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Martin Stillion sells a number of different string sets for mandocello at https://emando.com/shop/strings_cello.htm

  5. #5
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    12,497

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Every instrument is different, but I had a 1917 K1 and used the D'Addario set on it.
    Emando.com: More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

    Lyon & Healy Wood Thormahlen Andersen Bacorn Yanuziello Fender National Gibson Franke Fuchs Aceto Three Hungry Pit Bulls

  6. #6

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Thank you for your advice. I will most likely start with lighter strings and see how things go just to be safe. If possible I would like to go up to the heavier strings if the mando handles the lighter set well.

    I was also curious if anyone knows what gauge strings Gibson would have shipped there mandocellos with at the time?

  7. #7
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    2,557

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Every instrument is different, but I had a 1917 K1 and used the D'Addario set on it.
    From D'Addario's website: The tension of the EJ78 set is 234 lbs on a 24.8" scale. That's as much or more as the tension on a 12 string guitar, and well over the 180 to 200 lb. maximum I would recommend for an antique instrument.
    For comparison, their EJ17 medium phosphor bronze set exerts 184 lbs. on a Martin D-28.

    Your call. But bear in mind that to repair a badly warped neck, the fingerboard must be removed, the neck straightened and possibly reinforced, and the frets replaced. Expect a $600 to $1000 repair bill. And if the top distorts, the instrument would probably have to be taken apart, which is something that those of us who repair instruments prefer to avoid whenever possible. Add another $500+ to the repair bill.
    And the top arching may never look right again . . .

    The set I suggested earlier will get you below 200 lbs. After punching some numbers in, the C's can safely go up to .066" or so.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-24-2021 at 10:42am.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    From D'Addario's website: The tension of the EJ78 set is 234 lbs on a 24.8" scale. That's as much or more as the tension on a 12 string guitar, and well over the 180 to 200 lb. maximum I would recommend for an antique instrument.
    For comparison, their EJ17 medium phosphor bronze set exerts 184 lbs. on a Martin D-28.

    Your call. But bear in mind that to repair a badly warped neck, the fingerboard must be removed, the neck straightened and possibly reinforced, and the frets replaced. Expect a $600 to $1000 repair bill. And if the top distorts, the instrument would probably have to be taken apart, which is something that those of us who repair instruments prefer to avoid whenever possible. Add another $500+ to the repair bill.
    And the top arching may never look right again . . .

    The set I suggested earlier will get you below 200 lbs. After punching some numbers in, the C's can safely go up to .066" or so.
    Thanks rcc56. I think I will follow your advice and see how well my K1 responds and sounds.

  9. #9
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    889

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I had a conversation about string tension on antique instruments with Jake Wildwood yesterday when I went up to Vermont to pick up my Octofone. He is with rcc56, and generally recommends lighter strings for older instruments. He said people often want to try this or that, or know what was originally on there, but glue, wood, etc. have changed over the years; the amount of playing, how it was stored and so forth are factors on why the instrument may not be able to withstand that anymore. Plus, the original recommendations may or may not have been ideal for long term stability anyway. He said alot of people don't think about that or calculate that extra tension, and if they did, they'd be more careful.

    I am grateful to be able to get this kind of good advice from talented and experienced repairpeople.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I wanted to thank everyone for their advice. I have finished replacing the tuners and tailpiece and have strung the K1 with .062, .045, .032, .020 phosphor bronze strings. I have tuned it CGDG instead of the standard CGDA mandocello tuning. I guess you might consider it an Irish bass bouzouki tuning. Once brought up to tension the neck and top stayed in shape well and it has stayed in tune without an issue for days now. I should mention that I had a trusted luthier go over it structurally before I did this to check for any potential issues. I am currently in the process of replacing the non original bridge that was poorly made.

    Thanks again to all.

  11. #11
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Oregon
    Posts
    1,013
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I had a conversation about string tension on antique instruments with Jake Wildwood yesterday when I went up to Vermont to pick up my Octofone. He is with rcc56, and generally recommends lighter strings for older instruments. He said people often want to try this or that, or know what was originally on there, but glue, wood, etc. have changed over the years; the amount of playing, how it was stored and so forth are factors on why the instrument may not be able to withstand that anymore. Plus, the original recommendations may or may not have been ideal for long term stability anyway. He said alot of people don't think about that or calculate that extra tension, and if they did, they'd be more careful.
    In addition to Jake's excellent advice, I'd add two considerations in favor of lighter strings: 1) right-hand technique and picks have also changed in 100 years. You don't have to load up to "just before it breaks" tension on the top to get best results; instead work on the right hand to improve dynamic range. A slightly flexible, traditional Neapolitan-shaped pick helps. And 2): string design and construction have also changed a lot, plus especially once you get into these heavy gauges, string gauge is just one variable in overall tension. I recently decreased string tension noticeably, on all 8 strings, by replacing .72 Optima C strings with .72 Curt Mangan strings. Same size, but tension enough lighter to affect the whole instrument. (Not an antique instrument.)

    My own solution is to go lighter on the higher courses, since that's where I spend most of time time anyway, and heavier down on the C strings, to increase overall tension. My current solution is .72 - .48 - .34 - .20.
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

  12. The following members say thank you to August Watters for this post:


  13. #12
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    889

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by August Watters View Post
    I recently decreased string tension noticeably, on all 8 strings, by replacing .72 Optima C strings with .72 Curt Mangan strings. Same size, but tension enough lighter to affect the whole instrument. (Not an antique instrument.)
    How did you know that tension on the whole instrument had changed? Was it by feel/sound or some objective calculation? Just curious.

  14. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    S.W. Wisconsin
    Posts
    6,274

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    How did you know that tension on the whole instrument had changed? Was it by feel/sound or some objective calculation? Just curious.
    One way is if the action came down slightly, it would have less tension. Yes feel is another way.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  15. The following members say thank you to pops1 for this post:


  16. #14
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    3,214

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I used the standard d'addario mandocello strings or similar gage by different mfrs for a few years on a custom F4 10 string 'cello with no truss rod.

    Last set I put some Curt Mangan light mandocello strings on it. They sound great (like all Curt's strings - they really are the best)

  17. #15

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    To update my adventure with my 1918 K1, I have been going through a number of different tunings and string gauges and have landed on a combination I am very happy with. My initial configuration was a CGDG tuning with 0.062, 0.045, 0.032, 0.020 PB wound strings. As I mentioned in an earlier post my K1 has seen some abuse. The top was sunken some when I got it but as I said my luthier thought it had some work done by the previous owner and seemed to be stable. It handled the strings I had first used well, no additional sinking of the top. But I still was concerned for the long term so I am now using much lighter strings. As it turns out this instrument has responded wonderfully to the lighter gauge strings: 0.045, 0.035, 0.024, 0.017 PB wound strings. It still has good volume but the big improvement is in the blending and evenness of the sound between all strings. I also landed on a tuning inspired by Marla Fibish and a tuning she uses on her H1 mandola, DGDA, of course an octave down.

    I recently purchased a very used 1914 Vega 402 mandocello and plan on stringing it the same way and will hopefully have similar results. With the 402 and it's lighter construction I feel this is also a safer configuration. I'll have to give an update on that outcome as well.

    Thanks once again to all the experienced and knowledgeable folks on this forum!

  18. #16
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Oregon
    Posts
    1,013
    Blog Entries
    3

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    How did you know that tension on the whole instrument had changed? Was it by feel/sound or some objective calculation? Just curious.
    Just by feel and sound both -- it was a clear improvement. Evidently I had a little more than optimal tension, because lowering the string tension slightly was enough to allow the instrument to be a bit louder and more clear, especially on the C strings. Just a bit of fine-tuning!
    Exploring Classical Mandolin (Berklee Press, 2015)
    Progressive Melodies for Mandocello (Amazon, 2019)
    New Solos for Classical Mandolin (Hal Leonard Press, 2020)

  19. The following members say thank you to August Watters for this post:


  20. #17

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Quote Originally Posted by Hearth_man View Post
    As it turns out this instrument has responded wonderfully to the lighter gauge strings: 0.045, 0.035, 0.024, 0.017 PB wound strings. It still has good volume but the big improvement is in the blending and evenness of the sound between all strings.

    I recently purchased a very used 1914 Vega 402 mandocello and plan on stringing it the same way and will hopefully have similar results. With the 402 and it's lighter construction I feel this is also a safer configuration. I'll have to give an update on that outcome as well.

    Thanks once again to all the experienced and knowledgeable folks on this forum!
    Well this same set of string gauges has worked well on the Vega so far. I think you need to live with string changes for a while to be sure. In that regard I made a small change on the A string guage. I went up to a 0.020 wound string which is a bit firmer and blends a bit better with other strings.

  21. #18
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Adamstown, MD
    Posts
    222

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I have a 1913 Vega cylinder back mandocello ... 402 I suppose because it has a mahogany back ... which came with unidentified but very heavy strings. I took it to my luthier to lower the action and, per a suggestion from August Watters, installed a custom set of strings from Carl Mangan: Phospher bronze strings, loop end, 64-46-32-20 [tuned GDAE]. Great sound.

  22. #19

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    That sounds like a smart choice of strings. The more common 0.074" C string set may be fine for a newer instrument but is problematic when used on an old instrument. Not to mention I think the sound achieved with a lighter set is much better. I'll have to say the Vega has a sound somewhere in between a Gibson K1 which has a more traditional mando sound and the newer guitar body style mandocello sound. The "lute mandocello" name is very appropriate for the Vega.

  23. #20

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    I just reread your post. Did you mean that you tuned your mandocello like an octave mandolin, GDAE?

  24. #21
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Adamstown, MD
    Posts
    222

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Hearth_man, My bad! Don't know what I was thinking (or if I was thinking). The cello is tuned C-G-D-A.

    I like your characterization of the Vega cello sound. I have a Weber Yellowstone by way of comparison. While the Weber is cleaner and tighter in every way, the Vega has the sound.

  25. #22

    Default Re: Stringing a 1910's Gibson non-truss rod mandocello

    Yes, even though a more standard F5 style sound is different from an A oval hole style sound they are both significantly different from the sound of the Vega.

    The thing I really like about getting away from the heavy 0.074" C string is the balance you gain across all the strings. The C string otherwise tends to stand out too much for my taste on a mandocello when it is that heavy.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •