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mandolin repair

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bet 31 Mar 99 - 10:18 PM
DonMeixner 31 Mar 99 - 10:48 PM
BK 01 Apr 99 - 12:18 AM
Hank 01 Apr 99 - 08:32 AM
Bert 01 Apr 99 - 09:01 AM
Margo 01 Apr 99 - 10:59 AM
bet 03 Apr 99 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,Dotti 27 Oct 10 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,Dotti 27 Oct 10 - 12:22 PM
Zen 27 Oct 10 - 12:29 PM
JohnInKansas 27 Oct 10 - 02:38 PM
JohnInKansas 28 Oct 10 - 12:11 AM
GUEST,Rob 01 Nov 10 - 10:54 AM
Richie Black (misused acct, bad email) 01 Nov 10 - 11:39 AM
GUEST,Songbob 01 Nov 10 - 12:44 PM
GUEST 04 Nov 10 - 06:03 PM
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Subject: mandolin repair
From: bet
Date: 31 Mar 99 - 10:18 PM

I've inherited a mandolin from my mother. Unfortunetly it's not in playing order. It needs reglued (I think) and probably things I don't even know about. I think it is problably at least 65 years old and would like to restore it to playing condition. Not sure I'll be able to play it, I'm a 4 stringer, bartitone uke and violin, but I can sure try. Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions on where to have it repaired and what I should be aware of in finding someone to do it? So now I've started my own thread, WOW! Does that make me a realy Mudcatter now? Thanks for any help you can give me. bet

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: DonMeixner
Date: 31 Mar 99 - 10:48 PM


You've touch on a dificult area to discuss. That of worth.

First, how bad is it? Is it meerly dried out and in need of gluing or was a small truck parked on it? Is it a round back that is now suddenly a flat back?

Second, What make is it? Some folks view Martins as awful while others prefere their even, warm tone to the some what brittle sound of a Gibson. Some people will try and fix a Stella themselves but send a Weyman to the shop for a professional job.

Third, What do you plan for it? Stage performance or a wall hanger and a sprig of ivy. Are going to play it? Its just a fiddle with frets in an overly simplified sense.

Last and most important, Sentiment. This was an inheritence from a loved one. Is that enogh weight to make the repairs worth the expense? ( If it were frommy Dad, I'd fix it.)

I haven't answered any questionsand I've really proposed more. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: BK
Date: 01 Apr 99 - 12:18 AM

I will also add a few questions; Would it be possible for you to specifically described all of the visible damage?

You might also pay some attention to, and perhaps describe the tuning machines ("machine heads"). on many older Mandolins, as well as other older instruments, the specifics of machine head design and spacing are quite different than modern practice. It might be very difficult to repair this critical aspect of the instrument to playable condition. Without reasonably functional machine heads, the instrument will be more pain it is worth.

you might consider taking the instrument to a respected repair shop for an opinion and estimate.

Cheers, BK

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: Hank
Date: 01 Apr 99 - 08:32 AM

I'd say that if you don't know how to fix it, don't start fixing with any insterment that has meaning to you. Find a cheep insterment (guitar even) that needs repairs, and rework it a few times. Then find a few more insterments to repair. The idea is that if you rui the first few insterments (you probably will), it is no big deal since they weren't worth the time you put into them anyway. Once you know what you are doing you can work on something that matters. Or just get professional reparis, much as I hate letting someone else do anything this is often the best way to go. (If we are talking about a Gibson Lore, don't consider anything but the best of the pros)

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: Bert
Date: 01 Apr 99 - 09:01 AM


Yes, you're a real Mudcateer now.
If you let us know where abouts in the world you live then maybe there's a Mudcateer nearby who can recommend a luthier.
Then you can take a look at their work before you decide.


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: Margo
Date: 01 Apr 99 - 10:59 AM

Hey bet. I may be wrong about this, but I believe that the mandolin is tuned just like the violin. You ought to be able to pick up the mandolin easily since you play violin.

I also inherited a mandolin from my grandfather. I just had it repaired. It still needs work, but I had just enough repair done to get it into working condition.

If you live in the Portland Oregon metro area I can recommend someone. Where are you?


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: bet
Date: 03 Apr 99 - 05:03 PM

Hi, all. I'll try this again. Just finished a message to you and hit the wrong button. Now, I'm doing it over. That happens to me often on this computer. Thanks for all the suggestions and questions. They made me think a little about the mandolin. I don't think I have top brand, it's a Supertone. Does that ring a bell for anyone? No, it hasn't been run over by a mack, it does have a rounded back. I think it really needs to just be reglued. I have no intentions of trying to fix it myself. (I love to sew new things but hate, to sew buttons back on or mend a seam.) There is a lot on intricial design on it mostly in ivory and mother of pearl. I'm not going to use it as a plant holder or wall decoration. I think I would like to play it if I can find someone to fix it. Margarita, I have an aunt in Euegene that I am going to try to visit this summer. If I haven't found someone to fix it, I'll bring it with me. I live in the northwest corner of Colordo. I'm 45 minutes from the ski resort of Steamboat Springs in the little town of Craig. I drive a lot so things don't seem to remoted. We are 4 hrs. from Denver 3 from Grand Juncion 3 from Glenwood Springs, the closest large towns. There, I think I answerd all the questions I can. Thanks to all of you for taking time to give me some things to think about. I would be interested in hearing more if anything else comes up. Thanks bet

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: GUEST,Dotti
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 12:17 PM

My Aunt played the Mandolin....When she passed away the instrument ended up in my moms house....there was water damage to the house the mandolin which was in a closet....
I used to play violin very badly...I would not mind trying to play mandolin since I do like the sound....BUT
Will I ? and is it worth fixing for myself?
Sometimes an instrument like this is lucky to find a good home....
Someone that could repair it and sell it to someone who would actually use it.
The instrument has retained it's shape but there are kind of expanded pieces in the back...I can sent photos if someone can help with this?
I am in Bronx NY

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: GUEST,Dotti
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 12:22 PM

I can be reached at

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: Zen
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 12:29 PM

Email sent

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 27 Oct 10 - 02:38 PM

"Supertone" is a brand name used by Sears Roebuck in the 1930s era and perhaps into the 40s.

Your mando might be similar in vintage to THIS ONE, although the one Elderly is offering appears to be a flat back. Tuning machines and other "hardware" may be similar enough to give you some clues about what to look for to fix yours.

If you Google supertone mandolin there are enough results to suggest that the brand still survives in a lot of attics, and several people appear to have restoration needs similar to yours. Since Sears was a seller, and not a builder, the Supertone name doesn't necessarily tell you who built the instrument, although they did have long term contracts with a few suppliers. Mandolins were very popular in the 30s, so there probably were lots of them sold (probably for as much as $25 new?).

The round back (tater-bug) body frequently presents a lot more time-consuming work to repair, simply because of the numerous joints that may need regluing, and you may need to look specifically for a luthier willing to work on one. Many good repair shops that will do a great job on a flat back may not have the tools (or somewhat specialized skills) needed to do a good re-assembly of a round back. Competent shops will tell you what they can do, and won't accept a job that's not within their capabilities; but it wouldn't hurt to be very specific about the back style when you inquire.


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Oct 10 - 12:11 AM

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 ... .


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: GUEST,Rob
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 10:54 AM

I have just received a 1933 Cromwell Mandolin, willed from a friend.
It is an off brand of Gibson from that time period. It plays and still sounds great. BUT it doesn't have a pick guard. Does anyone know where I could find one or the dsign so I could have one made for this mandolin....

Any help would be great


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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: Richie Black (misused acct, bad email)
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 11:39 AM

I have just seen you are on the other side of the pond,I have four mandolins myself. If anyone in the UK ever requires repairs to any instrument one guy I can highly recommend is Andy Perkins in Faversham, Kent. He does a professional job and isn't too hard to pay either.
Telephone: 01795 590374

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 01 Nov 10 - 12:44 PM

As for the pickguard, I fashioned one from a cast-off off-brand Les Paul guitar pickguard, and put it on a nice Harmony I have. You probably could cut down any archtop guitar pickguard (and use the mounting hardware from it, too), but the easy thing is to go to Elderly Instruments ( and see what a proper replacement kit would cost.

A-Model pickguard from Elderly Instruments


F-Model pickguard from Elderly Instruments

Good luck.

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Subject: RE: mandolin repair
Date: 04 Nov 10 - 06:03 PM

Thanks for the elderly Inst. web contact.
They gave good advise and were very helpful.

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