View Full Version : Restored American Conservatory bowl back

Cary Fagan
Dec-21-2009, 3:44pm
This is my first restoration. There were two seam separations (one had a botched repair job), some sort of laquer dripped all over it, gunked up tuners, and it was generally sticky and filthy. But the top had no sinking or cracks, the neck was straight, and it cleaned up well. Fitted a new rosewood bridge to it, adjusted the nut slots. Relined it inside along the seams that had separated. It came out well, though one seam didn't line up quite perfectly. Very pretty sounding and easy playing instrument. I put it up for sale on craigslist yesterday and this morning I sold it to a man very happy to buy it for his 73 year old mother who had once played and wanted to again.

It probably hadn't been in playing order in decades. Made me feel pretty good to get it up and running. And to think about who might have played it way back when. A pang to see it go.

Many thanks to the cafe members for all their valuable repair posts.

Here are some before and during shots...

Cary Fagan
Dec-21-2009, 3:53pm
I wish I had taken better after shots.

By the way, though 'Washburn' brand bowlbacks are, it's said, better than the 'American Conservatory' brand (both Lyon and Healy), the few comparisons I've been able to make don't show that to be true.

Dec-21-2009, 7:34pm
Nice work, Caray! I am with you in wishing the AC mandolins more respect. While ostensibly a 'second line' there was a lot of overlap between AC and Washburn in terms of quality at different model types. Perhaps the sheer quantity produced (and the muy sketchioso quality of many) has compromised the allure of GreatLakesRim bowlbacks. I have owned a couple AC bowls that I found to be delightful instruments. The wood quality that L+H was able to get during this period was amazing and the AC line benefited from that. I have 22 stave, ebony fretboard, madreperla trimmed AC bowl on my bench right now. The rosewood is exquisite. It needs some work, but is going to return to being a very nice mandolin. Mighty kudos to you for getting this back up and running and out into the world again. I have a hunch your contribution is going to help make these bowlbacks hip again.


Cary Fagan
Dec-21-2009, 8:02pm
Thanks very much, Mick. I'm still a novice at restoration but I'm learning. I haven't dared a neck reset or anything of that kind. I've got another, lovely AC bowl back in repair that was in almost perfect condition. I've repaired a crack in the fretboard and reglued a brace. Just waiting to get some tuners that will fit, which may take some time.

I also repaired a Stradolin which didn't need much. The neck had separated cleanly and it was easy to reglue. A few minor things. I wasn't even quite finished with it when it flew out the door. Someone who missed getting the bowl back bought it as a Christmas present for his girlfriend. It wasn't one of the nicer Stadolin's but it had a sweet sound, with good lows too.

Dec-21-2009, 9:05pm
Cary, very nice job on the old gal. I am like you, and believe that the "better quality" instruments, need to be played and back into hands of people who will play them, rather than having them as "wall decorations". I myself just got a Stewart bowlback off ebay and have spent the day cutting a new nut and bridge for it. Still have to sand the bottom of the bridge down to lower the action, but all in all the instrument has nice sustain and is very pretty to look at. I collect Stewart label instruments, and yes play them as well, so this was a nice addition to my banjo's and banjolin by the company. Am gonna post my photos in a little while.

Once again, nice job on what you did and getting it turned around and into a players hands again.