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Ausdoerrt
Sep-03-2015, 4:04am
So I went and bought a Lyon & Healy from a local listing. Pics below. Condition is average - you can see the flaws in the finish, the cracked plastic on headstock and the heavy-handed attempt to fix it by the previous owner (this is after some luthier work, was worse and non-functional). At the same time, there are no cracks that I found, the neck is straight, and it sounds very nice even with the old, rusty strings on.

The inscription reads, "Chicago makers of highest grade musical instruments. Sold under our unlimited guarantee. No.: 103. Style: Special A". The tailpiece inscription (under the cover) reads, "Pat. Apld For".

Any comments on the instrument from the local experts? Possible dating, value, suggestions for restoration?

Is there a piece of fretboard missing/broken off, or is it supposed to end like that?

What da heck is that retractable/removable thing on the bottom of the mandolin?

Thanks for your input! Please note that I have little interest in selling the instrument at this stage.


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DavidKOS
Sep-03-2015, 9:05am
What da heck is that retractable/removable thing on the bottom of the mandolin?

]

I love those mandolins!

Nice score, a bit of TLC and it will be great.

The "retractable/removable thing" is a pull-out leg rest to help support the instrument in proper sitting playing position.

Ausdoerrt
Sep-03-2015, 9:13am
The "retractable/removable thing" is a pull-out leg rest to help support the instrument in proper sitting playing position.

Err, so the tip goes on top of your leg? Or the chair you're sitting on? :confused:

Also, is it supposed to be in the extended or retracted position when in use?

P.S. The lack of an endpin/strap button would suggest that it's not meant to be played standing up...

JeffD
Sep-03-2015, 9:24am
Very cool find, very much worth fixing up.

MikeEdgerton
Sep-03-2015, 9:25am
Extended or partially extended. It maintains the mandolin at the correct angle when sitting. It would sit on the chair and act as a stop to keep the instrument from rotating out of position. As for a strap, see that rib that runs across the bottom of the tailpiece? Thread a piece of rawhide through that to attach a strap. Take a look at post number 3 in this (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?30705-No-strap-button-no-problem) thread.

The L&H tailpiece appears to be a standard Waverly with a custom cover.

Timbofood
Sep-03-2015, 9:34am
You can slip the "leg" into a vest pocket and play standing up.
Looks quite restorable, nice find.

Ausdoerrt
Sep-03-2015, 9:40am
Oo, thanks, didn't think of that! Now I'll make a custom strap for the mando using your method.

On an unrelated question, is there any significance in where you tie the other side of the strap? I'd normally think to do it between nut and bottom set of pegs, but you have it between 2nd and 3rd set of pegs...

Ausdoerrt
Sep-03-2015, 10:04am
Question for all talking about restoration, as I'm no expert on this, and need at least some basic knowledge to see if the luthiers I may contact have a clue or not.

How would one go about the restoration? What kind of work (typically) needs to be done? What's to be avoided? I mean, the thing plays and stays in tune, so I'm guessing we're talking about mostly minor and/or cosmetic improvements?

MikeEdgerton
Sep-03-2015, 10:59am
Oo, thanks, didn't think of that! Now I'll make a custom strap for the mando using your method.

On an unrelated question, is there any significance in where you tie the other side of the strap? I'd normally think to do it between nut and bottom set of pegs, but you have it between 2nd and 3rd set of pegs...

Nope, tie it where you have room.

mrmando
Sep-03-2015, 11:37am
We've discussed a couple of other Style A "Special" mandolins here, in particular No. 30 but also No. 29. It's hard to say how many were in the "Special" batch altogether, but now it looks like there were at least 103.

The tailpiece was patented in April 1919. A pre-patent tailpiece makes dating this thing a bit tricky, since it has asymmetrical points, which are usually regarded as an early-1920s feature. Of course, I expect L&H would have used the "Pat. Apld. For" tailpieces for some time after the patent was approved, until they ran out and could get a new batch stamped with the patent date. The tailpiece base is not identical to a Waverly; it only looks that way from the end of the mandolin. Underneath the fancy engraved shield is a string-damping system that Waverly tailpieces do not have. (The shield will in fact fit perfectly on some Waverly bases; the L&H Style A mandolin banjo and, allegedly, the Style A mandocello both featured a standard Waverly base with the shield cover.)

It's a shame the pickguard is missing. L&H pickguards were patented in November 1918, so it would have been interesting to see whether this date was stamped on the pickguard, or whether the pickguard also said "Pat. Apld. For."

As for the headplate, by great good fortune someone's selling one on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/262024243271?_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

It does appear that the fretboard extension has been hacked off, which is a shame. Perhaps you can pretend the mandolin once belonged to Sam Bush.

The one characteristic that seems to be common among the three Style A Specials we've discussed is this: they have the asymmetrical points belonging to the later Style A's, but they also have the 13.75" scale length belonging to the earlier Style A's. Perhaps that is what makes them special. (Most asymmetrical A's have the 13" scale, and most 13.75" A's have symmetrical points.)

So this is something of a rare bird. Dating, as I said before, is tricky. I'm inclined to put the "Special" batch, with its mix of older and newer features, around 1920. (Asymmetrical short-scale mandolins were available in 1921; my hypothesis is that the Specials are transitional instruments made just before then.) Missing pickguard, hacked fretboard and messed-up headplate will impact the value somewhat, but in other respects it's in good shape. Worth at least $3K in present condition.

Am I to understand that you picked this up somewhere in Ukraine for the equivalent of a few hundred bucks? If so, there may not be anyone around with experience specifically repairing L&H mandolins. But a violin maker or traditional domra maker will have applicable skills. It would be nice to get a replacement pickguard as long as it doesn't entail drilling any new holes. The headplate could be replaced with an ebony one, which a good violin maker could fabricate, or jolly well left alone if it isn't hurting anything.

All it really needs is a new set of light-gauge mandolin strings. Many L&H players, including myself, sing the praises of Thomastik-Unfeld flatwounds...

David L
Sep-03-2015, 2:00pm
Oo, thanks, didn't think of that! Now I'll make a custom strap for the mando using your method.

On an unrelated question, is there any significance in where you tie the other side of the strap? I'd normally think to do it between nut and bottom set of pegs, but you have it between 2nd and 3rd set of pegs...

Many people find that tying next to the nut puts the strap in the way for playing close to the nut. I would prefer between two sets of pegs.

billhay4
Sep-03-2015, 2:20pm
These a wonderful instruments and this one is well-worth restoring. I'd find a builder who has restored one of these before specificially as they have some quirks to the construction. The fibre black strip in the neck for one. Your retractable rest for another. The tailpiece (which is quite valuable by the way). The tuners. Etc.
I'd want it restored so as not to harm the value (which is in the $4000 range in good condition), but to make it structurally sound and playable again.
There are some builders who have built replicas of these, but they didn't use the building methods or accessories mentioned above. I'd want someone who is very familiar with those.
Oh, from the photos I can find, I think that fingerboard has been modified a bit. They were short, but rounded at the end and the last fret was higher on the board than this.
Enjoy this for years. It's worth the effort.
Bill

JeffD
Sep-03-2015, 2:47pm
I have to say I don't use a strap with mine (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/album.php?albumid=10&attachmentid=79165). I feel so formal playing it that I sit upright with my foot stool and get all Mike Marshall on the thing. I have to admit it plays beautifully when I do.

mrmando
Sep-03-2015, 2:48pm
As is, the board has 23 frets. It should have at least 24. Some Style A's have extended fretboards. Style A Special No. 29 has a 29-fret extension although the 28th fret was left off:
http://mandoweb.com/Instruments/Lyon--Healy-Style-A-Special-1912/1407

However, given the shape of what's left of the fretboard on No. 103 (the first "bite" out of the board at fret 20 is only 2 frets long, whereas on No. 29 it's 5 frets long) and the absence of markers above the 15th fret, it's my guess that No. 103 had a standard 24-fret board and only the last fret is missing. Unless Ausdoerrt plans to regularly venture into the nosebleed section on this instrument, he probably won't miss that 24th fret all that much.

I should add that it's important to have a luthier check the internal bracing and all the seams to make sure nothing is amiss before tuning it up and playing it.

Knox Al
Sep-03-2015, 3:47pm
Nice to see these beautiful, old instruments brought out of storage and returned to playing condition.

Is the sound of the A, B and C models similar or is it unique to the each model?

Al

Ausdoerrt
Sep-04-2015, 3:02am
Thanks for all the great input!


As is, the board has 23 frets. It should have at least 24. Some Style A's have extended fretboards. Style A Special No. 29 has a 29-fret extension although the 28th fret was left off:
http://mandoweb.com/Instruments/Lyon--Healy-Style-A-Special-1912/1407

However, given the shape of what's left of the fretboard on No. 103 (the first "bite" out of the board at fret 20 is only 2 frets long, whereas on No. 29 it's 5 frets long) and the absence of markers above the 15th fret, it's my guess that No. 103 had a standard 24-fret board and only the last fret is missing. Unless Ausdoerrt plans to regularly venture into the nosebleed section on this instrument, he probably won't miss that 24th fret all that much.
Looking at the shape and similarities to the fretboard on instrument JeffD posted, it would seem that only the last fret is missing. A shame, but I definitely won't miss it, I rarely even venture that far on the violin these days. Not on the fretted one, anyway :)


It's a shame the pickguard is missing. L&H pickguards were patented in November 1918, so it would have been interesting to see whether this date was stamped on the pickguard, or whether the pickguard also said "Pat. Apld. For."
Well, the curious thing is that there are no holes anywhere in the body or any other remaining features, which would suggest a past presence of a pickguard. Unless it was supposed to be glued-on, I guess, but even then, the finish is fairly uniformly worn on both left and right sides, so if there was a pickguard, it's probably been missing for some time. If any case, I don't think I'll miss it, I rarely hit the soundboard with the pick anyway, and I'm still working on my technique :)


The one characteristic that seems to be common among the three Style A Specials we've discussed is this: they have the asymmetrical points belonging to the later Style A's, but they also have the 13.75" scale length belonging to the earlier Style A's. Perhaps that is what makes them special. (Most asymmetrical A's have the 13" scale, and most 13.75" A's have symmetrical points.)
What does "scale length" refer to? Length of the fretboard? How would I check it (or is it clear from the pictures)?


Am I to understand that you picked this up somewhere in Ukraine for the equivalent of a few hundred bucks? If so, there may not be anyone around with experience specifically repairing L&H mandolins. But a violin maker or traditional domra maker will have applicable skills. It would be nice to get a replacement pickguard as long as it doesn't entail drilling any new holes. The headplate could be replaced with an ebony one, which a good violin maker could fabricate, or jolly well left alone if it isn't hurting anything.
That is correct, but I will look around for a competent repairman to check the overall condition of the instrument.

Otherwise, I'll have it strung with the light-gauge Dean Markleys I have at hand. It's already quite playable and stays in tune. The original plan was to replace the headplate with a new wooden one, but then the repairman managed to make to with the original cracked piece - and I'd rather leave as much original material on the instrument as possible. Perhaps it'd make sense to re-finish the headplate so it doesn't look as painful)

mrmando
Sep-04-2015, 10:13am
Well, the curious thing is that there are no holes anywhere in the body or any other remaining features, which would suggest a past presence of a pickguard. Unless it was supposed to be glued-on, I guess, but even then, the finish is fairly uniformly worn on both left and right sides, so if there was a pickguard, it's probably been missing for some time.
It was a floating pickguard, and unless my eyes deceive me there are two pinholes in the treble side of your fretboard. The pickguard would have been held in place with two very small nails going into those holes.


What does "scale length" refer to? Length of the fretboard? How would I check it (or is it clear from the pictures)?
It's the distance from the nut to the bridge, which is also twice the distance from the nut to the 12th fret. On Style A's one can tell from photos by noting the relative position of the fretboard to the neck/body joint. But if you don't mind measuring, you should find a distance of 6 7/8" from nut to 12th fret and 13 3/4" from nut to bridge.

The original plan was to replace the headplate with a new wooden one, but then the repairman managed to make to with the original cracked piece - and I'd rather leave as much original material on the instrument as possible. Perhaps it'd make sense to re-finish the headplate so it doesn't look as painful)
The headplate, as well as the pickguard and the black strip in the center of the neck, are all made from that wonderfully mysterious substance called "vulcanized fiber," a chemically processed plant material from the bygone days of non-petroleum-based plastics. I never realized that the stuff had a finish applied to it ... until I saw your instrument I thought the material was black through and through.

The Dean Markleys should do just fine on this instrument ... it'll sound a little more Celtic than classical, but that's not a bad thing.

DavidKOS
Sep-04-2015, 10:47am
I have to say I don't use a strap with

No need for one sitting with the endpin resting on the right inner thigh to hold the instrument in playing position, preventing slipping.

If you plan to play in a Bluegrass band and belly up to the mic for your breaks, you may like a strap.


It was a floating pickguard, and unless my eyes deceive me there are two pinholes in the treble side of your fretboard. The pickguard would have been held in place with two very small nails going into those holes.

...as well as the pickguard and the black strip in the center of the neck, are all made from that wonderfully mysterious substance called "vulcanized fiber," a chemically processed plant material from the bygone days of non-petroleum-based plastics..

If I recall that is how the pickguard was attached to some of these.

mrmando
Sep-04-2015, 11:02am
If I recall that is how the pickguard was attached to some of these.
Well, on earlier symmetrical Style A's, there is a screw attaching the pickguard to the treble point, but not so on the asymmetrical ones.

Ausdoerrt
Sep-07-2015, 10:26am
So I put a new set of strings on it, gave it a much brighter sound. It's actually pretty playable now, and with a rather "woody" tone compared to my other mandolin, The Loar LM220.

There is some buzz, so it appears that some fret/nut work may be necessary. The bridge is also well-worn, so I may have to order a replacement - the grooves seem to be carved in with too much distance between the courses...

I may try to record some footage with it later :)