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Mending a mandolin

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McGrath of Harlow 12 Aug 01 - 02:50 PM
Rick Fielding 12 Aug 01 - 02:56 PM
Justa Picker 12 Aug 01 - 03:16 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Aug 01 - 08:16 PM
Gypsy 12 Aug 01 - 09:48 PM
catspaw49 12 Aug 01 - 10:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Aug 01 - 11:33 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 13 Aug 01 - 11:40 AM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Aug 01 - 01:37 PM
McGrath of Harlow 13 Aug 01 - 02:41 PM
catspaw49 13 Aug 01 - 04:10 PM
Arbuthnot 13 Aug 01 - 05:54 PM
mooman 14 Aug 01 - 04:33 AM
mooman 14 Aug 01 - 04:41 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Aug 01 - 06:44 PM
catspaw49 14 Aug 01 - 07:00 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 15 Aug 01 - 02:22 AM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 15 Aug 01 - 02:27 AM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 09:43 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 15 Aug 01 - 09:53 AM
McGrath of Harlow 15 Aug 01 - 10:01 AM
GUEST,Roger the skiffler 15 Aug 01 - 10:07 AM
mooman 15 Aug 01 - 11:18 AM
catspaw49 15 Aug 01 - 03:21 PM
GUEST,Ben Seymour 16 Aug 01 - 09:23 AM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Aug 01 - 03:38 PM
catspaw49 16 Aug 01 - 03:55 PM
mooman 16 Aug 01 - 06:03 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Aug 01 - 06:54 PM
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Subject: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 02:50 PM

I've got a mandolin I'd like to mend and I'd appreciate any advice.

I picked it up very cheap a few years ago, because someone had broken the back, and it had been given a very botched repair job. But I'd like to get it into proper shape because it's a nice instrument. Either do it myself if I can, or find someone who can do it for me if that's needed and affordable.

The plate on it says "The Michigan, B & SL Sole Agents". It got a slightly arched back, with twelve triangular pieces which converge on the centre, together. I've got all the pieces, some of them a bit damaged, and essentially they need to be removed, cleaned, and the back rebuilt so they fit snugly together, with the right kind of glue and so forth.

So if anyone knows of a decent book or website which might be helpful, or if they have advice themselves, I'll be very grateful. (And anything about the actual Michigan mandolin would of course be interesting as well.)


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 02:56 PM

Hang on to it McGrath. It's connected to Gibson. I tried hunting down information on Michigan banjos with little luck. Maybe you'll do better.

I think Spaw and some others have probably tackled that kind of repair. Don might have some feedback as well.

Rick


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Justa Picker
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 03:16 PM

A search on Google reveals a lot of good links to mandolin repairs.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 08:16 PM

Some kind of Gibson then? Now I'm going to have to get it fixed.

Most of those links seemed to be repairers, rather than advive for repairers - but I found this useful looking Mandolin links site


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Gypsy
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 09:48 PM

Check out Stewart MacDonald...have tons of tips in their catalogues, should have same at website. And the tech site at Gryphon is quite useful, as well. Our local hotshot is good, but busy. Yell out for 'Spaw, as well.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: catspaw49
Date: 12 Aug 01 - 10:13 PM

Mac, are you saying rounded or bowl? And I assume it's a A shape?

Gypsy is right as well as some of the tips from Frets.Com Stew-Mac has some good stuff and they're about 40 miles from me.

If you have all the pieces and they're intact, you may still need to add a bit somewhere. You will probably end up making a mold or frame of sorts of the back and then gluing the back together on it and then replacing it on the body after adding the braces. This will probably also mean a bit of a change in the binding pattern or the addition of some purfling. Got a few more details?

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 11:33 AM

Thanks everyone - incidentally, that link I meant to put in last time I missed out, so I'll put it in here so I'll know where to look for it and in case it's handy for anyone else.

The back is rounded rather than bowl-shaped - it's not a Italian style. Lie it on its tummy, and it's a pear-shaped shallow dome about an inch or so high, resting on walls which are about three inches high. There's not any kind of joining strip (purfling) where the tringles lie on tye walls.

The back is made up of triangles - well, they aren't triangles, because the outside edges are curved, and each one on either side is a slightly different shape, so that they fit on to the side wall; there aren't any braces on the back, but where they come to join at the centre they fix onto a bit of wood inside about two inches square - the whole dowl acts as a brace for itelf it seemes

The triangles are alternately plain light brown, or they are made up of 4 smaller pieces in contrasting dark brown and light brown, each meeting at a point in its middle, a sort of saltire shape. Fortunately these pieces are all intact.

The 5 triangles at the machine head end are properly in places, but the others are either loose, or need to be re-seated. At all the edges the triangles meet each other (including the "saltires" I mentioned, there's are black lines which I imagine is some kind of inset veneer or somethoinhg of that kind.

Hard to describe this kind of thing. This is where the virtual world is frustrating.

Maybe what I need to do is find an evening class in this kind of thing, with the double aim of getting the skills specifically for fixing this one, and of having the skills, so I can get into making and mending other instruments. But there don't seem to be any classes like that in range. Or chase around for a mentor.

So I suppose the things I really need to know are
1)how to set about removing the pieces from the mandolin, and cleaning off the old glue, without causing damage, and
how to build a frame on which I can reassemble them and
3) how to carry out the reassembly, including adding in a few little patches especially where the whole structure comes together at the centre, and replacing some of those black veneer lines or whatever.

The whole thing looks like something which would be fairly straightforward to do well; and very easy to totally screw up.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 11:40 AM

Kevin, I know nowt about instruments or carpentry but try what used to be the London School of Furniture, now part of the London Institute. They used to have a course on musical instrument making and might do short evening/vacation courses as well.
RtS


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 01:37 PM

They don't seem to have one under the London Institute - but hunting around I have found this site - National Association of Musical Instrument Repairers, with various useful links.

So maybe I'll get somewhere.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 02:41 PM

And here's some fascinating stuff I never knew A Brief History af the Mandolin"

(And I've just noticed thar my Michigan - which in appearance is not unlike the A-Model Gibson in this picture, has a little mark on the back of the head showing that it was Made in Germany.)


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: catspaw49
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 04:10 PM

Okay Mac.....I kinda' got it and you're right....it's tough on either end here to explain. I'm goona' try to put all this on wordpad and transfer it over this evening and see if it can help you....I'll get back later and post the stuff.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Arbuthnot
Date: 13 Aug 01 - 05:54 PM

I think there's some confusion between Michigan and Kalamazoo - the latter was used by Gibson from time to time as a trade mark for cheap line instruments. Kalamazoo accoustic guitars are supposed to be very worthwhile (as used by THE Robert Johnson - J shape & black), although the three I have seen in GB were small jazz guitars, fourteen frets, no cutaway, black finish. These all played and sounded good. Others I have heard of were solid electrics with a composition body and bolt-on necks, which were not very good. I believe the Michigan name was used by a 30s mail order company to market instruments made by Framus and Hofner - I've seen it on banjos and banjoleles.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: mooman
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 04:33 AM

McGrath,

The ex-London School of Furniture should still be running an instrument-making repair course as far as I know which could include evening courses. Another one that was good and which I studied at back in the early 80s was at Merton Technical College but I don't know if that is still going and anyway it's a long way from Harlow.

Any chance of a close-up photo of the back of the manolin by email? I've done one or two similar repairs and it sounds perfectly feasible to make a good repair on your mandolin from what you've described.

Normally the glue on a mandolin of this vintage (like Arbuthnot I think it might be of Framus or Hofner origin -nothing wrong with that as they made some good instruments in their time) will be hide glue. That can readily be freed by gently easing a heated, thin-bladed knife (an old thin bladed table knife will do nicely)between the parts to be freed.

You could complete the repair without a mould but this would be tricky in the extreme. I would agree with Spaw that a mould of some sort would make things easier. You could make a solid one by sanding down a suitable sized piece of soft wood, e.g. deal, to the correct curvature and profile or perhaps an easier way would be to construct a frame the same dimensions as the back. You could do this by pencilling an outline round the sides of the mandolin once the back is removed and then using small blocks spaced regularly and glued to a base to retain the edges of the back components.

Next glue in a block of the right height centrally, with a slightly curved upped surface to mirror the curve in the back. You than have a basic mould on which to piece together the back. I would recommend numbering the inside surfaces of the "triangular pieces" so you know which order they go in as things will often get mixed up on the workbench.

Use hot hide glue (wonderful smell as you warm it up (in a water bath!) on the kitchen stove as it is more forgiving and easier to loosen if you make a mistake. The trickiest bit might well be replacing the thin pieces of black veneer and patience will be at a premium here.

Being domed, the finished back will have inherent mechanical strength but, if necessary, the joints could be reinforced internally with thin strips of veneer or even canvas (a la Neapolitan mandolin).

These are just some initial ideas based on experience with "one-off" repairs (where you often need a bit of lateral thinking and creativity!) and the fact that you won't have "professional" repairers' equipment to hand, and also bearing in mind I haven't seen the mandolin. I'm pretty sure however that with care and patience you would be able to effect a more than passable and aesthetically pleasing repair.

Good luck

mooman


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: mooman
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 04:41 AM

McGrath

P.S. If you can get a copy through your local library (or even buy a copy) I regard the following rather ancient book as my "bible" on fretted intrument repairs. It is packed with good advice and suggestions on how to deal with tricky problems:

"The Acoustic Guitar: Adjustment, Care, Maintenance and Repair", Don E. Teeter, University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN: 0806128143

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 06:44 PM

I start to get glimmerings. Thanks mooman and spaw and others. That book is in print in a recent edition, and avalable through Amazon - they say there's a voloume 2 as well. My library doesn't seem to have it, but I might put in a request for them to borrow it in from elsewhere -in the meantime I've put a hold on this one, which they've got a copy of on the other side of the county: Guitar repair: a manual of repair for guitars and fretted instruments / Irving Sloane.

Would you say that little rectangle block in middle is how it is supposed to be, or a later addition, and would it be a good idea to keep it anyway? I'd be inclined to do so.

I think it'll be into the autumn before I get round to doing anything about this other than reading and gathering information. But it could be fun. I'll report back. (Unless I make a total cod's arse of it...)


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: catspaw49
Date: 14 Aug 01 - 07:00 PM

Well, I'll scratch about 80% of what I have......thanks mooman!!

Be very careful with the knife. An X-Acto is great but don't cut away the wood, and it's easy to do. another thought, and like moo, I assume it's hide glue, vinegar will also help loosen the stuff and will not cause a problem. It's especially useful when pieces are apart and you're trying to remove the old glue with as little wood as possible.

I'm still for the mold and mooman described that quite well. I think I'd go with some kind of interior brace/reinforcement and cloth would be my suggestion. Perhaps not as heavy as canvas, but a cotton cut in thin strips.

I got confidence Kevin....You can do it! I often lack patience and that is the only thing that you need in long supply on a job like yours. You can do it. When you put the back on again....or are ready to, let me and moo know huh? If it's a bit off or short, I think we both have some ideas that will help.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 02:22 AM

McGrath-I found this site you might find useful, sorry I fogot how to do links, http// www.mimf.org. It is The musiacal Instrument Makers Forum, also one of my friends called Phil has got a mandolin, I will ask if he has any advice for you.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 02:27 AM

Sorry its www.mimf.com not as i put above.john


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 09:43 AM

It works just as well with org or com - thanks john.It's amazing what you can find up there. And thanks to everyone on this refreshingly unnameable-free thread.

The thing that's puzzling me at present is how to get round the problem that the walls of the mandolin aren't an even height all round - they range from about an inch and a half at the fingerboard end to three inches, and not a straight line either. Very elegant, but tricky. I've got about three ideas for getting round that...But I'm not sure they are good ones.

Vinegar...hot hide glue...it's as well the shed I'm planning to do it in is well away from the house, my wife has a much more sensitive nose than I have.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 09:53 AM

Kevin, I was wrong about the London College of Furniture (no surprises there then!) it is now part of London Guildhall University and their grandly named Department of Musical Instrument Technology home page is at www.lgu.ac.uk/mit/ OR CLICK HERE (Bet that doesn't work either!)
RtS (I've mentioned on these threads how my granddad's old mandolin imploded when restrung after years of drying out in the attic, saved the world from my learning an instrument!)


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 10:01 AM

That would have been the Captain Corelli style Italian style, I suspect - I think they are supposed to be intrinsically unstable (as with Greek bouzoukis).

The thing that encourages me is something I heard about the Louvin Brothers. Ira Louvin was a bit temperamental, and when he got cross he was likely to smash his mandolin into little pieces, But he'd always pick up the pieces and take them home, and come back with it patched up and sounding good. So it can be done, and my little mandolin isn't anywhere near as bad as Ira's must have been.


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 10:07 AM

Yes, Kevin it was the bowl-back type.Good luck with yours!
RtS


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: mooman
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 11:18 AM

If it's any consolation Roger and Kevin, I've got a perfectly servicable and playable 101-year old DiMeglio neapolitan mandolin hanging on the wall. It never seems to go out of tune and the multipiece bowl back is in as good a condition as the day it was made. Sounds like either excessive dampness or dryness got to your granddad's before coming under string tension again Roger. Had a few of those when I had an instrument repair shop, especially fiddles!

Best regards

mooman


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 Aug 01 - 03:21 PM

I assume you are talking about the sides when you said walls?

The thing that's puzzling me at present is how to get round the problem that the walls of the mandolin aren't an even height all round - they range from about an inch and a half at the fingerboard end to three inches, and not a straight line either. Very elegant, but tricky

This is why I like the mold. Between having the side dimensions and the shape of the pieces, you can make an excellent little mold. A bit of time, but worth it.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: GUEST,Ben Seymour
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 09:23 AM

Hullo, I just finsihed repairing a similar sounding instrument although this one had a scale length of 18 & 1/16". An arched back and made of multiple pieces. All the staves were loose and it was quite a job to get them all back together. I didn't use a mold as the curvature of the pieces was still intact. After removing them I reattached them all to the neck and heel blocks. Had to make some new black inlay strips in between and increased their width by about 8 to 10 thousanths. This took care of some wood shrinkage that had occurred. I then used cheesecloth attached to the inside of the back and coated it with hide glue. This acts as a pretty good bracing and strengthening system as was used on the old bowl back mandos.When I got it up and runnig it was wonderful. Put it in Mandola tuning and it sounded great. If you have more questions email me through my website at : http://www.kudzupatch.net


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 03:38 PM

The curvature of my bits is still intact as well. And the triangle that is attached to the heel block of the neck, and the sides, is pretty firmly attached, never been broken.

So rather than try to remove it, I'm thinking of going the way Ben Seymour seems to have - building up the back using the sides of the mandolin as a base, and articulating the shape with the triangle that remains in situ, and that little rectangle in the middle, but without fastening to the sides. Maybe have some bit of flexible wood or plastic wrapped round the sides temporarily, jutting up an inch or so, to help hold it together while I'm assembling and gluing - then remove, put the reinforcing cloth or strips in, and then glue the whole thing to the sides and the heel block triangle.

The black inlay strips - would those be something I had to cut myself, or would it be possible to buy from a craft shop or something? As mooman said, I reckon that might be the trickiest bit.

It's complicated trying to write this stuff out - especially since I'm not sure of any of the terms. (Yup, spaw, walls meant sides, which I imagine is the better word to use. And reading it through some of the language sounds a bit bizarre: "the curvature of my bits is still intact as well"..ye Gods!


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: catspaw49
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 03:55 PM

Glad your bits are intact Kevin!!!

I was wondering about the shrinkage on the edges too and thought that might be a problem, but it didn't seem to be for Ben Seymour so perhaps yours will work out there too.

If you can find a woodworking store you can find the strips you need for fill....Moo might know more about where because I don't know what's which and who's when over there. If you were here, it'd be a different story.

Spaw


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: mooman
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 06:03 PM

Dear McGrath

If your bits still have curvature (like Bill Clinton's so we're told) and you have adequate anchorage points to glue onto as you describe then you might get away without making a mould or frame in the way Ben has described above.

Indeed, the black or dark inlay pieces might be the trickiest part of the repair. I have just been raiding my box of assorted veneers in the hope that I might have something to send you but I have nothing that dark left, dark greyish brown is the closest I have.

When living in the UK I used to get my luthier supplies from Touchstone Tonewoods in Reigate, Surrey which was fairly local to me. I don't know whether they are still there or even in business but it might be worth looking them up in the phone book to see as they used to have a good range.

Best regards,

mooman


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Subject: RE: Mending a mandolin
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Aug 01 - 06:54 PM

Thanks mooman - I just tried Google and Touchstone are still going, now with a website Looks as though they have an impressive range of stuff.


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