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Thread: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

  1. #1

    Default Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    In trying to match my Strad to a catalog there are a few small details I've noticed that haven't been much discussed that may be helpful to narrow down some dates.

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    The first one I noticed is that the curve at the end of the fretboard cuts through two frets, whereas the ones in the early 1930s catalogs seem to have three. It also has graduated fingerboard dots with a double dot at 12, the earliest catalogs have a double dot on 5 as well and later ones usually just single ungraduated dots (though some of the more deluxe models do still have the double).

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    The bridge I believe is original and is quite nicely carved.

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    It has the heat stamp on the neck block but no date stamp anywhere.

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    It has two braces going the full width of the body, which doesn't seem to be a particularly common pattern. Oh, and whats that I can see on the lower one?

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    An absolutely horrible repair, great.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Have you looked at the Artist Deluxe models in the catalog pages on the Strad-O-Lin Social Group? I believe some of those catalog pages are dated. One of them as I recall might have been from the early 40's. There are also catalog pages of this model in the Vintage Mandolin Ads, Catalogs, and other printed matter Social Group.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    I should have added that I don't think that model was made by the same manufacturer as most of the others. I've suspected that for years.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I should have added that I don't think that model was made by the same manufacturer as most of the others. I've suspected that for years.
    Agreed. What is interesting is while the neck joins the body at the 11th fret, the bridge is much higher up than just a shift of one fret. At least comparing it to mine. Which makes me wonder if it's a different scale length?

    FWIW, mine only has one brace in the traditional, below the F hole position. Both the one above and mine have a one-piece back.

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    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Having only opened one Strad from that period, I don't think it was the goal or at least not a requirement to have the lateral top brace in contact with the top along its whole surface. These things were shaped in VERY little time. And it's clear that even though the one I had open was 'top of the line' over the history of StradOLin that it was put together over the course of minutes, not hours or days. (It's actually hard to say what the 'best' Strad period was. I tend to think the solid pressed woods, 3-part comma sound holes, bridge at the South end of the sound hole models. But its really debatable) But on the one I worked on, I think they were aiming for the brace to contact at the edge and center of the top. with the gab you see in the OP on the sides.

    I think this is my photo, but it was 10 years ago when I worked on the instrument and I'd need to dig around to find the originals.

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    Last edited by BradKlein; Mar-21-2022 at 3:34pm.
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    I suppose the catalogs aren't to be trusted as they seem to have used the same photo for the model P-344 (Stradolin Adjustable Bridge) $13.90 (1935) and the H-2013 $20.00 (Stradolin Artist Professional) in 1941, while the copy from 1935 has been reused for H-2012 which from the catalog image is completely different. Neither the P344 or the H-2013 match my instrument exactly but they are mostly the same.

    Scale length on mine is 346mm. Nut to 12th is 173mm. I think that's slightly longer than they usually are?

    Yes, I don't think I'm going to do anything about that wedge that's been added. At the moment it doesn't seem to be rattling. I imagine it was added because the brace wasn't meeting the top and as you say, it might've been like that from the factory, and to my ear it sounds excellent so I'm not going to fiddle with it.

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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Nothing to do with bracing or fingerboards, but here are a few shots of my old Strad (now gone) for comparison with the OP's. Mine had the same bridge/f-hole geometry, and the same nice one-piece figured maple back. But there are differences: mine had binding around the peghead and back as well as the top; also the cutting and edgework on the f-holes looks a little fancier. Maybe the same workshop producing two slightly different models? Mine had no date stamp, so I don't know when it was made.

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    (Tuners and nut on mine are not original.)

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    13.6 inches.......

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by cerebarat View Post
    I don't think I'm going to do anything about that wedge that's been added. At the moment it doesn't seem to be rattling. I imagine it was added because the brace wasn't meeting the top and as you say, it might've been like that from the factory, and to my ear it sounds excellent so I'm not going to fiddle with it.
    Unless the top is sinking or vibrating, I would not change a thing. It may prove expensive.

    That said, braces are suppose to adhere to the top. The purpose of braces is to support he top and they can not support the top if they are not glued to the top. I have a 1938 Weymann branded Artist model (H-2014) Stradolin and it has the exact same two braces. Though it's not the typical SOL bracing pattern, It does happen.

    If you look at the 7th picture of the original post (enlarge it, if you can). There is a groove to the left of the end of the brace. The brace used to fit in there or should have fitted in there and the top should have been glued to the brace.


    Absolutely horrible brace repair or Evil Genius... you decide.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by cerebarat View Post
    I suppose the catalogs aren't to be trusted as they seem to have used the same photo for the model P-344 (Stradolin Adjustable Bridge) $13.90 (1935) and the H-2013 $20.00 (Stradolin Artist Professional) in 1941, while the copy from 1935 has been reused for H-2012 which from the catalog image is completely different. Neither the P344 or the H-2013 match my instrument exactly but they are mostly the same....
    In the 70's I worked for an industrial company that was using artwork in their catalogs from at least the 50's maybe earlier. Most products didn't change that fast either. I don't think it was uncommon for a distributor to use the same artwork for years. As an example, a distributor that was selling Waverly Cloud Tailpieces could have used the same basic drawing from the 20's through the 60's. A manufacturer like Gibson might have changed their artwork but these distributors were not in the same boat.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    1938 Waymann Artist H-2014. Bought in pieces. Was missing lower brace when I got it. You can still see where the brace was.
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    I personally think that some of these sweet Strad-O-Lins would be extremely killer if re-worked! Maybe take some meat off the inside and new tone bars not the mini 2x4's that are on so many otherwise great mandolins from the 20's-40's! I'm hoping to get my little tinker shop up and going at some point!

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    I personally think that some of these sweet Strad-O-Lins would be extremely killer if re-worked! Maybe take some meat off the inside and new tone bars not the mini 2x4's that are on so many otherwise great mandolins from the 20's-40's! I'm hoping to get my little tinker shop up and going at some point!
    I agree! Thin the top & maybe a thinner (or scalloped) brace (or braces), or would you want to go so far as to put two braces running parallel to the F-holes? I worry just how much would be too much. So, I spent four hours sanding the inside of the top with various grades of sand paper (by hand) and I'm still not sure what to do with the brace. Whether it's cracked, bent or unglued braces, I have seen my share of Stradolin brace problems. Should I make this really good Stradolin sound like a really good Stradolin or try for more.

    I think I'm going to keep an original "2 by 4" brace and hopefully get it to last another 84 years. Yes, I've chickened out for fear of future problems.

    Here is another "sunken top" due to brace problems. Notice the huge violin-like "custom" bridge.
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    NY Naturalist BradKlein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by your_diamond View Post
    I agree! Thin the top & maybe a thinner (or scalloped) brace (or braces), or would you want to go so far as to put two braces running parallel to the F-holes?
    I can't imagine thinning the top on any of the solid wood pressed Stradolins I've examined.

    But I'd like to hear from someone who has tried the now-standard Gibson style longitudinal pair of tone bars on a Stradolin, or another solid wood pressed top mandolin. I would not expect miracles, but it would certainly be different than the Strad crosswise tone bar placement. I think it would be especially worth trying on one of the very small percentage of Stradolins where the bridge was centered on the ff-holes, since the original bracing pattern along with the pressed top often did not provide enough structural support when the bridge was unsupported by the brace in that design.

    In the 'standard' Stradolin design the brace is much closer to the bridge.
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by your_diamond View Post
    I agree! Thin the top & maybe a thinner (or scalloped) brace (or braces), or would you want to go so far as to put two braces running parallel to the F-holes? I worry just how much would be too much. So, I spent four hours sanding the inside of the top with various grades of sand paper (by hand) and I'm still not sure what to do with the brace. Whether it's cracked, bent or unglued braces, I have seen my share of Stradolin brace problems. Should I make this really good Stradolin sound like a really good Stradolin or try for more.

    I think I'm going to keep an original "2 by 4" brace and hopefully get it to last another 84 years. Yes, I've chickened out for fear of future problems.

    Here is another "sunken top" due to brace problems. Notice the huge violin-like "custom" bridge.
    I think if you added tone bars in the Loar spacing that would help immensely on tone and the top sinkage!

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    I think if you added tone bars in the Loar spacing that would help immensely on tone and the top sinkage!
    You guys really think I should do this (below) to a Stradolin? My Luther is a guitar guy, who works on (very few) mandolins. Who would you suggest?
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  27. #17

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    I have no opinion about whether you should do that, but I have some questions.

    I make a guess the purpose of having an arched top is to make the top act as
    one piece sonically. How much curve is there in the direction parallel to the
    strings? How high is the center compared to the edges?

    In the earlier photo showing showing the brace in the transverse direction that
    brace north of the sound holes looks not very functional in my view. It would
    be better across the sound holes, or south as it was placed originally. The
    sound holes mess up the structure.

    If a Strad-O-Lin has a flat top does that imply it has a fallen arch? Or is just
    possibly a different version?

    Meanwhile the back appears to be well arched. Do you think that is as
    important to the sound as the top?
    Thanks,
    sounds_good

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Quote Originally Posted by sounds_good View Post
    In the earlier photo showing the brace in the transverse direction that brace north of the sound holes looks not very functional in my view. It would be better across the sound holes, or south as it was placed originally. The sound holes mess up the structure.
    The upper (north) brace looks like it's been there since this was new. I did not move it and it's too short to fit below, near the sound holes. I'm not sure what it's function is (anybody know?) but the guy (or guys) that made this (in 1938) must have had a good reason to put it there.

    I have not seen this upper brace on the cheapest model Stradolins.

    Quote Originally Posted by sounds_good View Post
    If a Strad-O-Lin has a flat top does that imply it has a fallen arch? Or is just possibly a different version?
    Flat tops on a Stradolin are either problems or a cheap model.

    Quote Originally Posted by sounds_good View Post
    Meanwhile the back appears to be well arched. Do you think that is as important to the sound as the top?
    I don't think anything is as important to the sound as the top is.
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  29. #19
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Couple of opinions - really wonder if the two braces are only found on instruments with the bridge closer to the center of the F holes? Would make more sense that way. When the bridge was moved to the bottom, only one brace was needed. (It would also probably cut a bit of time and cost in production.)

    As to the back - just an opinion here - on both the ones I've owned, the backs really don't have much of an impact to the tone. I don't feel any vibration through the back. Which I have felt on other instruments. Also, when trying out a Tone-Gard on both, it didn't make one bit of diffeence to what I heard (or what my wife heard sitting in front).

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    There is an Armstrong branded Stradolin (currently on ebay). Unfortunately, it's badly damaged (at the tailpiece) and over-priced ($428.75). Also, incorrectly called a Harmony by the seller. Black painted back and sides are usually laminated.
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    More photos of that damaged Armstrong SOL.
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  33. #22
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin bracing and fingerboards

    Agreed that's overpriced for the work needed. Would think an endblock repair would be expensive.

    Was also thinking that BradKlein is correct, with the lower bridge placement on most SOL, Loar bracing might not be enough to keep the top up. Plus, I wonder about the heat pressed arch dropping under other bracing. Like the Kalamazoo's do with the X bracing. (Although Flatiron, Siverangel and others use the same bracing to excellent effect. I don't know enough about the strength of a pressed arch top. And at least mine is press arched. Definite burn spots on the underside.

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