Recently I experienced the following mandolin related saga directly associated with the condition known as MAS.
With cash burning in my wallet from a recent SF home sale I went looking in earnest for higher quality instrument (finally after all these years...) This desire overwhelmed all common sense and after an aggressive search, I purchased a fine looking Lawrence Smart mandolin via Ebay. (Dumb mistake #1).
The instrument arrived in a slightly worn Calton. Upon inspection it d seemed unremarkable. Following some time beating on it a bit it seemed clear that the A string was difficult to keep in tune. I played it in my living room for about a month. Unimpressed and in some ways too uninformed to see the forest for the trees I sold it via the Cafe to someone in the DC area. (Dumb Mistake #2.)
Unsatisfied with the instrument, this purchaser legitimately returned it to me which caused more than a few sleepless nights, and I am sure the seller experienced a similar case of insomnia.
So now, in review, this Mandolin has traveled twice across the US. (Gotta love those Calton cases.)
I have a couple of well known mandolin playing friends who own Smart mandolins and after connecting with these pals I did the logical thing and contacted Lawrence. Soon thereafter I shipped #124 off to him in McCall, Idaho to see if he could put some life back into this troubled child of a mandolin.
After a wait of a month or so I am pleased to say that following this instrument and it’s more than 8000 miles of traveling it has finally come home to stay.
The initial intonation problem was deduced by Lawrence Smart to be related to a terribly configured LR Baggs Piezo-electric bridge which was hastily swapped out by a previous owner for the hand carved one that originally came with the instrument. The string slots were both poorly cut and optimized for flat wound strings. (According to Lawrence the core of flatwound strings is significantly smaller than for say J74 Phosphor Bronze strings – the ones I favor.) Also the bridge top was not radiused to match the fingerboard. Presumably, whomever owned it before me had attempted to optimize this mandolin for playing jazz but the work they did kept this mandolin from properly intonating.
Luckily the original bridge was in the pocket of the Calton, so Lawrence was able to resolve this issue quite easily.
While he had it in his masterful hands he also dressed the frets, cut the braces to help give it some bark and removed the finish from the neck.
This baby is growling now.
-Ted “Treblemaker” Silverman
More Photos can be seen here on my website: