View Full Version : Which strings for a 1915 bowlback?

May-28-2020, 2:33pm

What strings should I use that would be safe for a circa 1915 bowlback? I suppose its Rosewood cause of the inscription "bandolim especial".

I have easy access to these brands:
São Gonçalo
Ernie Ball

Also, I would like to ask which kind of "capotraste" could I use safely?
Is there a recommended kind of pick?

Theres one tuning peg missing, is there some good practice about this to do at home? Perhaps some tool to help tunning or even a way to fix?

Thank you.

May-28-2020, 4:13pm
Any brand, just as long as the strings are light gauge. Like 9-32 would be a good gauge. By all means not 11-40 that modern mandolins use.

May-28-2020, 5:02pm
What would be a good brand from those?
For guitar i know D'addario is considered good, i found D'addario 10-34, would it be too much? From Giannini I found a 10-30, but no 9

Peter Coronado
May-28-2020, 5:17pm
Not on your list but GHS A240 ultra light are a good choice. They are 9-32 as pops1 suggests. Heavier strings can damage a bowlback and render it unplayable.

Jim Garber
May-28-2020, 7:59pm
Siruiz: By the strings available I would guess you are in Brazil? This Giannini set (http://www.gianniniguitars.com/produto_grupo/33/126/84/1195/gesbb%20-%20light%20-%20bronze%20.html) might be fine, a little heavier overall than GHS 240 but I think they may be fine.

Do you know who made your mandolin?

May-31-2020, 9:47pm
I know, but theres not much information about It. I guess ill get a set of Giannini and import the ghs to use later. Ill probably try to tune the missing peg string with a pliers.
Thank you, mandolins are amazing 😊

Jun-01-2020, 4:30am
You can get the GHS Ultra Light strings from Strings & Beyond in North Carolina by mail. If you are overseas, then from time to time, they do free international shipping. Their price for the strings is the lowest I have seen anywhere. In fact in the UK, nobody sells these strings so I have to get them from overseas.

Jul-03-2020, 10:18pm
Thank you, i wouldnt know where to buy those strings.

It just came today, its made by "Lo Turco Vicente", its written also "Factory of special mandolins and guitars" and an address. all I could find about this brand is that they won a Silver Medal in the Turin international Expo in 1911, probably with my Mandolin 😊

I liked It a lot, playing around with the old strings, a lovely instrument, and came to change to new strings,

Im with an issue, the metal thing close to the end of the Mandolin, i believe its called the "Nut", has only 4 carved entries on the metal, not 8.
In fact, this Mandolin was being used as decoration, and It came with 4 very old strings on It. Its possible to see some near carving in other parts of the nut, but only 4 full carved, and of irregular sizes
I could remove the strings and im trying to put New ones starting with low G, but they dont stay cause theres only one entry for two strings. The two G strings keep competing for the same position and dont stay side by side.

Jul-04-2020, 12:12am
I just realized my Mandolin came without a Nut, those slots shouldnt be on the metal part, but on a Nut (I looked at my guitar and it has it lol)
So, I guess I need a Nut. 🙄

Jim Garber
Jul-04-2020, 7:01am
Siruiz: it would help us to help you if you posted some photos of your mandolin here. Some older instruments have tailpieces with only 4 posts but you can put two strings on each post. Also you can sometimes replace a tuner button or possibly replace all the tuners. Photos will help.

Jul-08-2020, 4:57pm

Thank you,

I'll post pictures of It as soon as I find a way to post the pictures here.

The tailpiece has only 4 places, but I realized I could put 2 strings on each. On the absence of Nut, only 4 strings stay, cause the first fret seems to be carved by time with space to act similar to a Nut but only in 4 places.

I was getting much buzz and some notes(frets positions) made no sound, but then I realized the bridge was in wrong position. I put the bridge on a better position and all the frets became ok, and theres buzz only when I play the lower G string freely. I dont know how to fix this buzz. Perhaps in old times strings were thinner?

Other issue is a missing tuning peg and another one which is too hard, making It Impossible to use. I tried oil to soften the tuning mechanism of this peg but it didnt help.

I believe I'll have to add a Nut and a new whole tuning machine kit. With this the only issue left would be the G string buzz.

The tuning machine is kept by little screws, is It ok for a non-specialist to change It? Ill have to carve holes on the Nut too, cause I only found for sale (online) raw Mandolin Nuts. Its difficult to go to a Luthier cause of quarentine.

Ill keep guarded the old tuning machine, which I find beautiful (for being old) and didnt want to change, unless I could fix it somehow.

Jim Garber
Jul-08-2020, 5:33pm
It is possible that you have a zero fret but you would still need a nut. Post photos and perhaps we can help you. And the nut can be set up to raise that g string or you can put some thin wood on the bottom of the bridge to raise that string.

Aug-14-2020, 8:48pm
Here are some pictures of the Mandolin:


I guess Ill have to buy a nut and a New tuning machine.
When looking for tuning machine Ive found two types, the thin and the thick. Which one should I buy?
It plays nicely but with only 4 strings for now 😁

Aug-15-2020, 3:32am
If there are notches in the zero fret, the action may be too low, when playing open strings. I was going to say you'd need to replace the zero fret as well as adding a nut. Unless it was extra high to begin with. (Sometimes the zero fret is larger than the others).

But hold on a moment - I can't tell from the photo, maybe it's a trick of the light. Are there slots cut into the first fret too?

Aug-15-2020, 9:18pm
There are slots cut in several frets, some very softly other a bit bigger.

About the tuning machine, there seems to be two models for sale, they call It here "thin pin" and "thick pin"
Ill post a link for each with pictures

Thin pin

Thick pin

Not sure which one I should buy 🤔

Jim Garber
Aug-15-2020, 9:41pm
You will need to know what diameter the tuning posts are but also the distance between the posts. Frankly, after seeing the photos of this mandolin it looks like it was worked on by an amateur and the lower part of the top was sloppily replaced. I am not even sure if the bridge is in the proper place. I am not too sure if you can get this to be properly playable. I might suggest that instead of spending money for parts for this just buy a decent playable mandolin and hang this one on the wall.

Aug-27-2020, 9:26am
Oh, this one has been for too much time without singing.
I put the bridge myself when I realized it was wrong, I measured and saw pictures of other Mandolins till I found a place that all frets work and theres only the buzz with open G issue.

It was not replaced I think, but there were cracks that were fixed, not sure if by amateur cause I dont know through how many repairers/luthiers it passed by over the decades. The actual varnish is somewhat bright, seems to me not be done to be played.

However, the sound with new strings is quite good - not that I've touched a Mandolin before, but to my ears it sounds just beautiful.

Hoping that I can fix nut and tuners, cause if it plays as well with all strings that would be great!