The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10056   Message #3017422
Posted By: JohnInKansas
28-Oct-10 - 12:11 AM
Thread Name: mandolin repair
Subject: RE: mandolin repair
Looking back at this thread to see if I'd killed another one, it occurs to me that the description of this instrument as "has a rounded back" doesn't necessarily mean it's the classic "gourd bowl roundback."

Lots of mandos have had "rounded" or "shaped" single plate or book-matched board backs that anyone not really familiar with the instrument might call "rounded." Any that have only one or two boards would be called a flat back, even if the box is "somewhat shaped" or even "significantly bowed" to the extent seen on arch-topped guitars or almost as seen on fiddles.

The classic "round back" is usually made with 20 or more separate strips of wood, sometimes with an "ivory" separator between each pair, glued edge to edge to make a very deep bowl. The problem is not so much with gluing them back together, but with getting the old glue out of all the cracks so that the new glue will stick. Often a layer of canvas will be seen on the inside, used partly to reduce stress on the many glue joints during use but also just to hold the pieces all in place until the "real glue" in the joints has time to fully harden.

On older "gourd" mandos, the liner cloth may be partly or completely missing (possibly because the closet bugs seem to have like chawin' on it). Presence, or absence, of the liner doesn't seem to significantly affect the tone, but cracks - beyond very minor ones - between the strips may.

Also, my note that the Supertone might have sold for "as much as $25 new" shouldn't be taken as disparaging the quality of the instrument. Before, and up to about that time the mass market instrument (like the recent $150 Walmart guitar) could have been more like $10 or $12, so $25 would get you about as good as you'd find by mail order, and some of them have survived in quite good shape.

I believe my dad once said that the paid $16 for his "tater bug" back when he was a teener - probably about 1926 to '29 when the "courtin' urge would've hit him(?). The head was split when I found it tucked up in the rafters in the garage, and repairs exceeded my 9 y.o. skill level so it was never playable. He played violin as a kid - and as a result refused to permit either of his kids to bring one into the house; but he did seem to display some "pride" in his mando and mentioned it being "the best around back then." My mom never commented on the "beauty" of his serenading, and I never had a chance to ask any of her half-dozen sisters that dad might also have "courted" about how good (at mando serenadin') he was ... .