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Mandola neck/action problem

Grab 04 Jan 05 - 08:27 PM
Leadfingers 04 Jan 05 - 09:51 PM
GUEST 04 Jan 05 - 10:11 PM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Jan 05 - 10:35 PM
GUEST,Obie 05 Jan 05 - 04:50 AM
mooman 05 Jan 05 - 06:49 AM
Grab 05 Jan 05 - 06:50 AM
Mooh 05 Jan 05 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,Greg 29 Jul 10 - 05:20 PM
Bernard 29 Jul 10 - 07:44 PM
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Subject: Tech: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Grab
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 08:27 PM

A quick request for advice from the many instrument repairers/builders who I know hang around here.

This last summer I bought myself a cheap flat-top mandola. The action was appallingly high, and the frets were uneven so you couldn't play above the 10th fret. To get it working, I fixed the worst of the unevenness in the frets, and brought the action down from the stratosphere (but still pretty high). Then over Xmas, I decided to sort it out properly. I've filed the frets so they're all equal heights, bought a better bridge and reduced the action to a good playable height, so it's a much more user-friendly instrument. But here is where things started going wrong.

Before, the frets were only catching at the 10th fret and above. With the rework, they were catching at the 6th and 7th frets. I put a ruler on the neck, and found the reason - where a guitar neck would have a little curve in it from truss-rod or carving, the neck on this mandola is dead straight! So of course, the further up the neck you get, the narrower the gap beteen frets and strings, and everything starts catching. It seems that the only thing stopping that happening before was the insanely high action.

Unfortunately this is a cheapo instrument (a "Blue Moon" from Hobgoblin, for reference). I don't think it's got a truss-rod (there's no cover above the nut, and I can't feel anywhere where a truss-rod would be adjusted inside the soundbox) so I can't tweak this. So, as I see it I have three potential courses of action. One is to raise the action slightly and accept that as the cost of playing the instrument. The second is to progressively file down the upper frets so they don't catch. And the third is to do both. :-/

What do people think? Has anyone seen this kind of problem before? I'll probably go for number three, raising the action as much as I can live with and trying to file the frets down as little as possible, because that seems like the lowest-impact work. But do you reckon I'm likely to be able to turn it around and get it good and playable, or is it inevitably going to be a bit nasty?

Cheers,

Graham.

PS. There is always the fourth option of a new instrument, but I'd rather not go that route. Surprisingly for the cost (£60), it has a solid spruce top and the sound from it is very good - loud and full of tone. I suspect I'd have to be paying many times more for something that'd sound noticeably better, so I'd rather patch up the one I've got.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Leadfingers
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 09:51 PM

All I can do is Sympathise - IF you want MY Hobgoblin Horror Story , PM me !!


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Subject: RE: Tech: Mandola neck/action problem
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 10:11 PM

I'd have thought it would need the services of a good luthier to set it right - I'd guess it would cost you more than the instrument did.

There are a number of cheap instruments around now that use good wood and make a good sound. I notice the Hobgoblin model was made in China but there are also a few Roumanian models around. Vintage is one such make and I'm quite happy with it.

If you want another cheaper price range instrument, one other suggestion I can make as I have seen and played one of his mandolins and going by his posts on umf and a little bit of email communication, he does take a pride in his imports is to try David Kilpatrick (http://www.troubadour.uk.com/mandozouki.html).


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 10:35 PM

For £60 new, you're lucky it wasn't made of cardboard. "Guest" has it, I think: for playable budget mandolas and the like, try Kilpatrick. Meanwhile, practise adapting your turkey; you'll learn useful skills, and won't lose much if you destroy it. You might try taking off the fingerboard and planing the neck down to a better angle.


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: GUEST,Obie
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 04:50 AM

Probably the neck bow can be changed with heat and clamps.


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: mooman
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 06:49 AM

I was a repairer many moons ago.

You could also try slightly heavier strings which could produce the relief needed in the neck (provided that the top strutting is strong enough to take them).

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Grab
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 06:50 AM

Hey, I know - you get what you pay for. :-/

I've already run into David Kilpatrick (from the "Cult of Lowden" group) and I got the new bridge off him. For sure, if I was buying again then I'd probably be looking at one of his, bcos this one was clearly a false economy. The annoying thing is that it does sound good, it's just set up for crap. It's the last time I buy anything from Hobgoblin anyway.

Thanks for that tip, Malcolm. Taking the fingerboard off seems like a pretty drastic step, but I guess it might be the best solution. Obie, I'm not sure about the heat and clamps idea - that sounds too likely to lead to disaster!

Graham.


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Mooh
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 08:53 AM

You can induce some relief in the neck with heat and clamps as mentioned, or if you're handy, pull the frets, plane or sand some relief into the fingerboard, refret, and Bob's your uncle. This assumes that you're willing to sacrifice your previous fret work, and take a chance that if the job goes for a crap you'll need to replace the fingerboard.

If I were you, I'd just pull the whole fingerboard, install either a truss rod or carbon fibre rods, replace the board, set the relief, refret, and set-up.

You don't have much money invested, so it's worth the risk if you don't mind some additional work, and you'll learn a few things about the geometry and construction of stringed instruments. But be careful, it's a slippery slope!

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: GUEST,Greg
Date: 29 Jul 10 - 05:20 PM

I've just bought an octave mandola from David Kilparick; one of his Romanian instruments. I think it's pretty good for the money. however, the intonation was very poor largely because of the very light guage factory strings. I have put on a set of mediums (14 first strings) and it has done wonders to the tone and intonation; I had to file the bridge and nut grooves for the last two strings though to accommodate them better. The problem now is that it is much harder to play! David has suggested filing down the zero fret. As I haven't done this before has anybody got any tips? Also, would the bridge need shaving down a bit as well? Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Mandola neck/action problem
From: Bernard
Date: 29 Jul 10 - 07:44 PM

Filing down the zero fret is a little drastic, and leaves you with no margin of error. The zero fret is usually thicker gauge fret wire than the fingerboard frets, so try to match that - if you don't really need the highest fret, use it until you find wire of the right gauge!


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