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Thread: My new Aria M-300

  1. #1
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    Question My new Aria M-300

    Hi everyone!

    My M-300 arrived the other day. It is in desperate need of cleaning, which might be one of the reasons I got it for the price I did.
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    I have a couple concerns/questions about it that I'm hoping people here can help me with. First, you may have noticed that the pickguard is not attached to the neck.
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    This was not disclosed in the listing, which I'm a bit upset about, but it will allow me to remove it which will make cleaning it easier, so I guess it's a mixed bag. I'll obviously want to reattach it, since right now it slides freely up and down the screw. What is the best way to do this?

    Second, there's no serial number. Is this normal for this make of mandolin?
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    And finally, I don't know if you can tell in the pictures, but the central wood near the upper f-hole curves down into the hole further than I was expecting, and I think further than the wood on the lower f-hole does (I haven't removed the pickguard yet for a good comparison), but the bridge still seems flush. Is this normal? If it's not, is there a (reasonable) way to correct it? Nothing seems stressed or damaged, so I suspect this is just how it was constructed, but I'm new to this and don't know.
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    Thank you in advance for any help/guidance you're able to provide. I'm looking forward to cleaning and tuning this up, I just want more information first so I can do so with full confidence. I'll post some before and after comparison pictures when I'm done.

  2. #2
    Registered User meow-n-dolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    "This was not disclosed in the listing, which I'm a bit upset about, but it will allow me to remove it which will make cleaning it easier, so I guess it's a mixed bag. I'll obviously want to reattach it, since right now it slides freely up and down the screw. What is the best way to do this?"

    I added a pickguard to my Eastman. I utilized a flat bracket which attaches to the side of the mandolin, and then a small screw which attaches the pickguard to the bracket -- no neck mounting. As long as I keep the screw snug, it doesn't present any problems.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    The much more knowledgeable will have more definitive things to say, but I can mention a little: The last photo hopefully has some distortion or else the lower end of the fretboard is being pulled into the body by a sinking top. I’ve got one that does exactly that, so check with a straightedge. The little square section piece of wood where the pickguard attaches (often) is glued to the pickguard and removes from the mandolin with either two very small pins or sometimes two tiny Allen screws. Because of this, there is no leeway for error in re-attaching it. I don’t know this particular model, but your label indicates Japan, which is supposedly the better origin. Bearing in mind that this was not an expensive item, and therefore not worth a lot of professional attention, you probably should set it up as well as you can and see how it plays before getting into possibly expensive work.

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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Quote Originally Posted by meow-n-dolin View Post
    "This was not disclosed in the listing, which I'm a bit upset about, but it will allow me to remove it which will make cleaning it easier, so I guess it's a mixed bag. I'll obviously want to reattach it, since right now it slides freely up and down the screw. What is the best way to do this?"

    I added a pickguard to my Eastman. I utilized a flat bracket which attaches to the side of the mandolin, and then a small screw which attaches the pickguard to the bracket -- no neck mounting. As long as I keep the screw snug, it doesn't present any problems.
    Thank you for the reply. The setup on this one has a wood block that seems attached to the neck, as it floats slightly above the top, and it looks like there is dry residue where glue used to be on top of it. There is also a bracket on the side, but the block on the bottom of the pickguard slides freely up and down the screw, so I'm going to have to reattach it to the block or replace the screw, or both. It looks like everything went on at once, so I strongly suspect I'm meant to use both parts in concert. Is there a recommended adhesive for this kind of work that you know of?

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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    The much more knowledgeable will have more definitive things to say, but I can mention a little: The last photo hopefully has some distortion or else the lower end of the fretboard is being pulled into the body by a sinking top. I’ve got one that does exactly that, so check with a straightedge.
    I tested it with a straightedge, and it does indeed turn at about the 17th fret, losing about 1mm in height. Is this a serious problem or a fairly minor one? If it's likely to affect the sound, is it reversible?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    The little square section piece of wood where the pickguard attaches (often) is glued to the pickguard and removes from the mandolin with either two very small pins or sometimes two tiny Allen screws. Because of this, there is no leeway for error in re-attaching it. I don’t know this particular model, but your label indicates Japan, which is supposedly the better origin.
    In this case it looks like it was glued to the pickguard, but the glue has separated and now it's attached to the side of the neck (it actually floats above the top) so I'd be reattaching the pickguard to already-placed wood.

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Bearing in mind that this was not an expensive item, and therefore not worth a lot of professional attention, you probably should set it up as well as you can and see how it plays before getting into possibly expensive work.
    I don't know if there even is a mandolin luthier in my area, so I am planning to do as much as I can myself and then live with it. I'm just hoping the spots on the tailpiece are dust or detritus that can be lightly rubbed off, rather than corrosion that will have to be restored. That would be less than ideal.

  8. #6
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    So it turns out the top is sunken to the point that the instrument is unplayable. Even with the saddle as high as it is, pressing on any fret causes it to play the octave. I'm going to be demanding a refund on this instrument. Pictures below show the degree of the warping of the body.

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    Looking at that last picture, I never noticed how far tilted forward the bridge is.
    Last edited by DiMono; Oct-03-2021 at 3:11pm. Reason: Added pictures

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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    While looking up videos on sunken tops, I think I figured out why the headstock I have doesn't match other M-300 headstocks: it's aftermarket.

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    The pattern on the pickguard matches, so I assume they were added at the same time. I'm now legitimately wondering if it's even an M-300 body, or if someone took a random two-point body and stuck an unused Aria sticker inside, and that's why it doesn't have a serial number. I hope that's conspiracy theory talk, but at this point it wouldn't surprise me.

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  10. #8
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Yea, that looks pretty bad, hopefully you can return it.
    Charley

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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    They've agreed to a return, but I'm not sure how I feel about sending it back just so they can perpetrate the same deceptive listing upon someone else later. I have half a mind to try to get a refund and keep it, so they can't profit from ripping someone off, and then taking the instrument and the refunded money to a luthier to get it fixed up. But somehow I don't think that will work.

  12. #10
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    It would cost you much more to get a luthier to fix it than it is worth, if you could get one to work on it at all. This is a disposable instrument.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Really? I was under the impression that the M-300 was pretty good for the money. In that case, yeah, better I just return it. Especially if it turns out it really is a random body with an unused M-300 label in it.

    Thank you Richard500 for pointing out the bent fretboard. Without that comment I would not have gone down the rabbit hole I did with this instrument, and it may have taken me much longer to notice how broken the instrument is. This is why I came here before doing anything, and it clearly paid off.

  14. #12
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Good luck. When you're ready to buy something else, post about it with your budget and what kind of music you play. You'll get lot of advice.

  15. #13
    Registered User meow-n-dolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Quote Originally Posted by DiMono View Post
    Thank you for the reply. The setup on this one has a wood block that seems attached to the neck, as it floats slightly above the top, and it looks like there is dry residue where glue used to be on top of it. There is also a bracket on the side, but the block on the bottom of the pickguard slides freely up and down the screw, so I'm going to have to reattach it to the block or replace the screw, or both. It looks like everything went on at once, so I strongly suspect I'm meant to use both parts in concert. Is there a recommended adhesive for this kind of work that you know of?
    I had that happen with a mandolin which belonged to a friend of mine. I used Gorilla glue, which worked OK. There is probably something better though. A silicon adhesive would probably work as well or even better.
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    That hump in the neck where it joins the body, and the extreme elevation of the bridge adjustment nuts, are dead giveaways. That mandolin ain't never gonna work. Send it back, get your money back. Yes, the seller will probably unload it on some other unsuspecting buyer, but nothing you can do about that. Cut your losses to the minimum -- and, if there's any way you can leave feedback on the seller, give 'em hell.

    My advice -- which I usually follow, not without exceptions -- is don't buy what you can't try first. The "exceptions" I make are for really rare instruments that I'd never be able to find locally or regionally (examples: Gibson TL tenor lute, Waldo mandocello, which I bought from Cafe contacts who turned out to be scrupulously honest to deal with). An Aria M-300's not a particularly rare or fine-quality instrument -- not that it couldn't be a perfectly OK player, if it didn't have those defects.

    Betcha could find some better buys around Toronto. Good luck; chalk it up to experience.
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    This was the first (and probably only) time I've ever bought an instrument without playing it first. I liked the look, and I took a chance. In hindsight, I should have taken their lack of a reply when I specifically asked if there was any warping in the instrument as a sign to stay away. I just figured they were busy, and I was blinded by how good it looked.

    But, on the bright side, this will be my first time going through the ebay return process. New adventures!

    My goal is to learn on a mandolin that looks interesting and is not a $100 "beginner quality" instrument that I'll need to replace in a couple years anyway if I want to play seriously. I'm willing to drop a few hundred bucks for something of reasonable-but-not-professional quality. Apparently this was not it. Next time...

  19. #16
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    That instrument was sold under a few different names. Including El Degas in Canada (the importer). I had one for a while. It was a fun instrument, clear tones, a bit on the bright side, induced not carved arch. Sorry it didn't work out.
    Cary Fagan

  20. #17

    Default Re: My new Aria M-300

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Fagan View Post
    That instrument was sold under a few different names. Including El Degas in Canada (the importer). I had one for a while. It was a fun instrument, clear tones, a bit on the bright side, induced not carved arch. Sorry it didn't work out.
    Interesting about the name - I mentioned that I had a mando with the same problem! Illustrated here is the el Degas that I converted to mandola range, not because of that, but because it had such a big body - and it worked pretty well. (Ordinary mandola strings). The agricultural lutherie experiment on the fretboard is an [U]external[U] brace that bears on the sidewalls and pushes up under the fretboard. The fretboard is very strongly glued to the top, which is why it followed it down - a design error. The ends of the brace, which is ipe, very strong, are free to move and the part under the center is tapered on the top side. After thorough wetting inside the instrument, the brace slowly jacks up the mess and gets adjusted from time to time. Did I say ‘agricultural’? Now the main part of this instrument top has not collapsed at all, just the warp in the forward part. Now I know Degas had relatives, and a genomiic defect!
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