I'm a hack guitar player who has wanted to learn to play the mandolin for many years. A recent trip to the Smokies coupled with the purchase of some good bluegrass albums got the best of me and I started shopping.
I shopped all the stores in town, and all had the ubiquitous Johnson/Savannah models but then stepped up to mandolins way out of my price range. Nothing in the middle.
I ended up picking up a vintage Kay off the 'bay. It looked fair, but I knew I had some work to put into it. When it arrived, I realized I'd probably bitten off more than I could chew. My amateur luthier experience was limited to making a new saddle for my acoustic guitar and building up some electric guitars.
When she arrived on my doorstep, she came with a split center seam on the top, tuners that would not tune and a lot of other little ugly details.
For the center seam, I made a clamp which pressed everything back into place and I used hide glue to reglue it. I figured I should use what it must have left the factory with. The neck looked like it was pulling too, so I elected to inject hide glue into it as well (I'm no skilled enough for a true re-set and the Kay is not worth enough IMO for a pro job). After gluing the split seam, I fed a cleat through the f-hole to the seam on a bent piece of wire and cleated the split. So far its holding together nicely.
The tuners are Kluson Deluxe and by the marks and holes in the headstock, they're original. I dissassembled them, cleaned them and adjusted them so they'd hold the settings. So far they work great and look really good too.
I was able to buff the pickguard out with some plastic polish meant for car headlight covers. I used modern brass screws in place of the rotten old ones, but I turned them down to the same top radius as the originals and buffed them to a shine. Similar buffing on the adjuster wheels for the bridge made them look great.
I've now been playing it for a couple days now and it sounds pretty good. Better than the pac-rim cheapos, but not nearly as good as a high dollar instrument (but I did not pay for a high dollar instrument). Most importantly, it has character and I'm enjoying it.
The Before Pictures