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Thread: Top repair of Stella bowlback

  1. #1
    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Just wondering if anyone has a spare piece of spruce (any description) laying around suitable for a new bowlback top. Some of you guys who build guitars might have an orphan piece which you would part with.

    If so, would appreciate knowing about it and we could have further discussions.

    I purchased a Stella bowlback as a repair project from E-bay and got all the pieces but the top (currently in three pieces) is too far gone to fix. The body and neck are good.

    thanks in advance.
    James A. Sanford

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    You may still be able to repair the top. Check out Dave Hynd's site.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    It would be very helpful if you could post a photo of the top as is....

    It will be close to impossible for you to replicate the top closely and maybe the easiest and best approach will be to salvage it even if it has breaks, missing pieces, etc.

    The pick guard is fairly easy to replicate shape-wise using available material from mandolin parts suppliers or veneer from your local lumber yard. I think your main problem will be to find spruce of the thickness you want and you probably don't have sophisticated machinery to make it yourself. And there are very few bowl back restorers around...

    Another approach is to find another ebay bowl back with a damaged bowl and good top that you can dismantle for parts. Althugh this can present problems too, it may be easier than trying to build a new (period looking) top from scratch.
    Bart McNeil

  4. #4

    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    What sophisticated equipment is needed to thickness spruce? I use one of these.
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    It works real well on spruce. If that is not an option you might be able to go to a local cabinet shop and get them to run it through their thickness sander for a few dollars. Then of course you could just purchase a piece of spruce already pretty close to thickness from someone like bezdez on ebay. He has a few that should do like this ONE for $9.00 plus shipping.
    Bill Snyder
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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    OK, just to clarify my original question....

    I know I can buy complete sets of guitar spruce tops from many places. I was asking if any of our guitar builders had an orphan piece (1) of wood which they might not have a use for. If so, I would buy it so that I did not have to break up a set myself.

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    James A. Sanford

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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    More photos:
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    James A. Sanford

  7. #7

    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    James, the seller I linked to on ebay has several flat tops that would work - not complete sets just tops - from $9.00 -$13.00 plus the cost of shipping. I have not purchased anything from him in quite awhile but what I have purchased has been what he described. Some of it was wood and some hardware. I would recommend checking out his listings.
    If you don't want to do that tell me what size top you need and I might be able to provide you with some dead-on quartered, bookmatched spruce for not much more than shipping cost but you will have to glue it yourself.
    Bill Snyder
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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Thanks Bill I will look at the E-bay site.
    James A. Sanford

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    I have seen worse tops. I think that yours is restorable assuming that there is enough wood along the edge to reattach it. I may have some old pieces of spruce from old bowlbacks that I can send for that missing piece under the fretboard. I can check tonight.

    Then again, if you have your heart set on replacing with a brand new top, that eBay seller might just be the thing.
    Jim

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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Thanks Jim, I appreciate your offer of assistance. The main reason I am thinking of making a new top is that the top is too small to fit at the neck joint even though there was no wood missing in the main part of the center of the top.

    I guess I could cut the existing top down and put some type of binding in to fill to the edge of the bowl.

    This is my first look at a bowl back top and I did not really realize how thin and fragile they are. The wood was cut away at the bend in the top and was only l to 1.5mm thick with no clet or brace there. Is that typical?

    I thought that I might cut a brace to fit the curve and the angle of the top and glue it back that way. Will that affect the sound of the mandolin?

    I really bought this as a learning experience so I may go ahead and try to build a new top anyway. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
    James A. Sanford

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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Posting more photos. The bowl appears to be rosewood. It had a crack between one of the ribs but that was easy to fix in this instance. The neck joint appears to be solid but I cannot really tell if the fret board will fit correctly until the top is in place. The neck looks straight.

    Any idea of vintage. I am guessing 1920 or so.

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    James A. Sanford

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Quote Originally Posted by James Sanford View Post
    Any idea of vintage. I am guessing 1920 or so.
    I would say more like teens or even earlier. I think the label indicates an early version of Stellas.
    Jim

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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Quote Originally Posted by James Sanford View Post
    This is my first look at a bowl back top and I did not really realize how thin and fragile they are. The wood was cut away at the bend in the top and was only l to 1.5mm thick with no clet or brace there. Is that typical?
    Yes, they cut them real thin there so the cant can be put in over a hot pipe, I've never seen one reinforced at the cant either. Normally the shape of the top once assembled keeps everything solid.

    I thought that I might cut a brace to fit the curve and the angle of the top and glue it back that way. Will that affect the sound of the mandolin?
    Well everything effects the sound

    I would probably use a strip of spruce sanded to match the angle of the cant, then glued on to reinforce the join. Then afterwards carve the patch down until it's almost all gone. You would need to get the angle on the patch just perfect as once everything's set the top probably wouldn't bend easily at the cant anymore. And of course you'd still need some spruce offcuts...

    That said, since there's no great decoration on this one, replacing the top isn't such a great sin, and may well be a lot easier!

    Keep us posted on how it goes,

    best of luck, John.

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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    James,

    I recently had to make a similar decision regarding my mandolins badly damaged top. My first thought was to replace the top but my luthier was confident that it could be repaired. The result was better than I thought possible and the mandolin is now a great player.

    Attachment 84858Attachment 84859Attachment 84860Attachment 84861

    Fred

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    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Fred,

    Thanks for the input. I am still thinking about what I will do.

    I tried to look at your attachments but could not get them open.
    James A. Sanford

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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Top repair attachments.

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  17. #17
    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Fred,

    Thanks for the photos. I am still puzzled, in my case, as to how to fix the break at the bend of the top. I have decided that I will go ahead and fix the top once I decide how to reglue that area.
    James A. Sanford

  18. #18
    Albert the Magic Pudding Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    I really don't think you are going to be able to effectively repair that top which is broken off across the bend. Gluing end-grain breaks is problematic at the best of times, as the bend itself and the arching from the transverse bracing is the core of that style of mandolin's structural strength. A glued end-grain join is never going to be as strong as a solid bent soundboard. The original soundboard was essentially undecorated, with only a thin purfling rosette, so it will be as simple as it is going to get replacing that. A couple of pieces of spruce for the soundboard is only going to be a few dollars at worst and it will a good experience to make a bent soundboard.

    Good luck with it

    cheers

    graham



    Quote Originally Posted by James Sanford View Post
    Fred,

    Thanks for the photos. I am still puzzled, in my case, as to how to fix the break at the bend of the top. I have decided that I will go ahead and fix the top once I decide how to reglue that area.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    What Graham said.

    Possible source: http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/thirdpro...ument+Flattops

    Mick
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    I have spare top in old wood..... !!! But I'm away for the weekend
    No such thing as a dead mandolin!

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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Just before I go, I'm with Graham on this one, its an extrememly difficult repair to do, you could spend a lot of time and end up with having to do it all again.....but if you try, Tavy's is the right approach, glue in your strip, then pare down as much as possible.
    In case you decide to go with a new 'old' top.... here are a couple of photos of the ones I have, which originally came from the eastern US and must be around 100 years old......
    15 each plus postage.....
    Cheers, Dave
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    No such thing as a dead mandolin!

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  22. #22
    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    Thanks Dave for your reply and offer. I have started doing the repair and in my "ham fisted" way I have made some progress. I will post photos later. The repair may be too clumsy when I finish but I am trying to learn how to do some of these things so it is all a learning process.

    I have made a brace to support the ends of the cant area and added a vertical splint which will replace the lost wood where the top was originally cut to form the cant. This splint will show and form a line perpendicular to the center of the top.

    Assuming everything fits I will then shave the brace as narrow and thin as I can to reduce the extra mass added.

    Wish me luck!
    James A. Sanford

  23. #23
    Registered User James Sanford's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top repair of Stella bowlback

    New photos showing current state of repair. I still have a good bit of fine tuning to do but maybe I am getting there.

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    James A. Sanford

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