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Thread: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

  1. #1
    Registered User Mark Marino's Avatar
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    Default seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    I built a Siminoff kit years ago, sound was great, but top carved too thin behind the bridge finally bubbled up to the point I need to address it. I'm hoping for some 'reasonably affordable' amount someone could remove the top and either provide a pattern carved top I can run with-- or put back together and I'd refinish. I know the value of a kit build isn't high but hate to think about scrapping it. Any recommendation on qualified luthiers that might be able to help? I'm fearing that if I try to get that top off myself I'll cause too much collateral damage, and also not sure if it can be re-topped without removing the fretboard. Thanks
    "If you hit a wrong note, then make it right by what you play afterwards." - Joe Pass

  2. #2

    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    If you don't care about the existing top, it's really pretty easy. Just like tearing out a kitchen is easy when you're going to be replacing everything. It's when you're trying to preserve something that it gets an order of magnitude more complicated and time consuming.

    You will have to remove the fretboard, and you're going to want to do a new riser block and cross piece assembly while you're at it, so it matches up perfectly with the new top.

    Binding the scroll with the neck attached will be frustrating. So if it were my instrument, I'd probably pull the neck, as well.

    At that point, you might as well just start with a fresh kit!

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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    I've done a few top replacements with both Fs and As.. the fret board does have to be removed because of the fret board extension.. the extension sets on top of the plate and is either screwed in at an angle or glued (or both).. If the old top is not being saved, it's not much of a problem.. use a small blade to open it up. then heat up putty knifes and work it around the rim till the plate comes off.. the few that I've done were cheap mandos that I did for the experience.. they were still important to the owners...
    kterry

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    I've re-topped a few mandolins, Gibson and Martin, and even with the name/brand-inflated market value of those instruments I was sure to let the owners know that they were spending more money than the instruments probably warranted. Throw in the unknown construction aspect of an owner-built instrument and most experienced luthiers will politely decline the job. At least with Gibsons and Martins we know what to expect.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    John what would the approximate cost be for a retop? Just wondering what the cost to keep something alive would be. That maybe a warranted cost to some, around a certain threshold.
    Dylan Burtch

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    I would expect $1200 to $1500. Perhaps more in a big city or in a well known shop, and there also might be an extra charge for working on an unknown instrument where internal surprises can be found.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    I can't foresee anyone willing to take this on. Student instruments are just that- learning situations for you to develop. Anyone who has the skillset to do this correctly will realize that there are likely several other issues combining and they would be opening Pandora's box. For all of that work they could make a few more parts, put their own name on it, and likely get much more in return.

    This is a $25 tequila problem:

    Go get a nice $25 bottle of tequilla and a couple of mandolin buddies.

    Pass it around and everybody takes a few shots.

    Pour the rest on the mandolin & light on fire.

    Move on...

    I've done this 5 times so far; every time my only regret was not doing it sooner.

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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    If you have any interest in doing it yourself, I would go that route. As others have said, the fingerboard can come off with some patience. The top shouldn't be too bad to remove, although the neck block and tailpiece are the tough areas. Do you recall what glue you used? I believe there are 2 or 3 sources for getting a top cnc'd, you would do the final thicknessing. You may have to provide the spruce. My first re-top was on an F-5 style with failed bracing. I was happy with the outcome.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    John Hamlett or Randy Wood period.

  13. #10
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    If the old top is to be discarded, there is really no reason to be delicate about removing it. You can just cut most of it out, as long as your cuts remain inside of the linings and blocks. The remainder can be ground down to the top of the linings and blocks with the tools of your choice. I would probably start by making two horizontal cuts: one from the upper edge of the bass f-hole to the upper edge of the treble f-hole, followed by a second cut between the lower edges of the f-holes. By doing so, you will have quickly removed the center portion of the top and you will be able to see what you are doing as you cut out the remaining wood so you won't saw into the blocks or linings. Then, just grind off whatever is left. If you're good with chisels and have a sharp one, you can use that to remove most of the spruce from the blocks. Don't use a chisel to remove spruce from the linings, though.

    You do not have to remove the whole fingerboard. You can remove the fret closest to the outside edge of the top and slice through the fingerboard and the riser block at that point. Then you can separate that part of the fingerboard from the riser, or find a way to slice or pry the riser from whatever spruce remains beneath. You should be able to save the part of the fingerboard that you have just cut off, and maybe the riser also. If you're crafty enough and the fingerboard binding is flexible enough, you might even be able to peel back the binding from the portion of the fingerboard that you are going to remove, and tape it to an out-of-the-way surface. If not, you can cut through the binding as well and replace it with new binding after the new top is on and you're ready to re-attach the fingerboard extension.

    The hardest part of the removal job will be to release the old top binding from the ribs without any tear out or finish damage at the joint between the binding and the rib. If you're lucky, the binding joint will be level with the top of the linings and blocks, and you can just sand it level.

    Stradivari and many of his contemporaries and followers were known to drill two small holes into a nearly finished top, one near the upper edge, and the other near the bottom edge. Then they could temporarily pin the top in place on the body and do whatever work they felt was necessary before they actually glued it in place. You could use this method to install the binding to the inner section of the top scroll before you glue the top to the mandolin. After the top has been glued in place, they would insert plugs into the pin holes and cut them off flush. You can see these plugs beneath the fingerboard and tailpiece on many old handmade violins. These pins also help to keep the top in alignment when you are gluing it to the body.
    Last edited by rcc56; Aug-26-2021 at 12:22am.

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  15. #11
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    Do it yourself! You built it and will definitely learn from it and this time around make an even better top.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  16. #12

    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    Roger was selling a few leftover tops and backs in 2020. You should reach out to him to see if he has any left. His tops were carved close to specs unlike Stew Mac tops so you might need only final shaping and sanding.

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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    Can you take the back off and add a brace to support the weak area in the top?

  18. #14
    Registered User Mark Marino's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    No, the top is pretty deformed now, and if I was to go as far as taking the back off, I might as well replace the front instead. Given other input I'll go ahead and search for a CNC cut top and go at it myself.
    "If you hit a wrong note, then make it right by what you play afterwards." - Joe Pass

  19. #15

    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    The top is the easiest and most fun part to build for me.
    Richard Hutchings

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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Marino View Post
    No, the top is pretty deformed now, and if I was to go as far as taking the back off, I might as well replace the front instead. Given other input I'll go ahead and search for a CNC cut top and go at it myself.
    Mark, my advice was going to be to try it yourself or just buy a Silverangel A style, lol. Best of luck sir, and enjoy the journey. Odds are you’ll learn a lot from it!

  21. #17
    Registered User Mark Marino's Avatar
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    Default Re: seeking advice/connection to builder to re-top an F5

    Thanks for all the responses/advice. As a clarification, I'm certain that I carved (sanded) the top too thin during final assembly and finishing... it didn't come that way from Roger. I did get in contact with him and thankfully he had a straggler soundboard I was able to procure. Will make a good winter project
    "If you hit a wrong note, then make it right by what you play afterwards." - Joe Pass

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