View Full Version : Restore a vintage mandolin case?

Vernon Hughes
Jun-23-2010, 7:48am
Does anyone out there restore vintage gibson shaped mandolin cases,mostly just recovering the outside..I've poked around the net and don't see anybody offering this service..It's a shame to have nice vintage mandos and really awful looking cases..

Jun-23-2010, 9:43am
Look for people doing luggage repair, leather-goods repair, or general antique restoration.

I managed to find a local tack-and-saddle guy who's worked on several vintage cases for me, mostly restoring the handles.

Russ Jordan
Jun-23-2010, 10:15am
I think the hitch on re-covering a vintage case is the the hardware/interior has to be removed. Paganoni did not want to re-cover a friend's Loar case because the interior would have to be taken out to remove and install latches, etc.

Jack Roberts
Jun-23-2010, 2:19pm
I restored the handle on my 1918 A-1 case. It involved sewing a new handle. The local Tandy leather company helped me out. I also dyed the old case and put new finish on it. It looks pretty good.

The red interior I left alone except for gluing a ribbon to keep the lid from opening too far. Finally, a trip to the local locksmith turned up a key, that with a little bit of filing, allows me to lock the case.

I'm trying to restore the handle on my 1954 A-5 case, but the handle is connected differently, and my first attempts do not look so good. That case has "hot pink" interior, and a cool "Gibson" name plate with a star on it. Way cool, daddy-o.

Jun-24-2010, 9:39am
I saw a 30s-vintage banjo case the owner had re-covered, and he had used something along the lines of a palette knife to push the covering behind the edges of all the metal fittings. No hardware was removed, but you can't tell by looking at it, and it appears to be a pristine old case. I don't know where he got the material, but it appeared to be virtually identical to that era's case exterior covering, (He passed away a few years ago at age 96, so we can't inquire) like a vinyl with a thin fabric backing, thinner than the tolex than I have seen that is currently available.

Sep-27-2012, 6:27pm
Old thread resurrected: I do know where the search button is. But the keywords I used returned surprisingly (to me) few results.

I'm interested in re-covering an old case that has had the tolex-like surface covering scraped through at the corners. Not just at the pointy pyrimidal corners, but sort of everywhere two flat surfaces meet at an angle. Does one buy tolex and then spray or brush contact cement on it? Does the material come with adhesive and a protective paper covering? Is there a two-sided adhesive film that is used to attach the material to the case?

Or maybe, since what I'm looking for is good hinges & hardware, I should just buy those and apply them to a new case with sketchy thin stamped hinges and clips? Anybody with opinions around here? Ah....I thought so. I'm listening.

Sep-28-2012, 3:56pm
I got the end roll of some 'Gaffers Tape' it is a dense fabric backing (unlike'duct tape"), and conforms well.
and cover the exposed wood scuffs with that.. Good stuff.
[Gaffer is the film crew guy that makes all the cables run, taped together,
in such a way people have less chance of tripping over them]

Paul Kotapish
Sep-28-2012, 4:11pm
[Gaffer is the film crew guy that makes all the cables run, taped together,
in such a way people have less chance of tripping over them]

The term gaffer--in the movie business, anyway--typically refers to the chief electrician (who is sometimes also the lighting designer/director/technician) on the set. I suppose on a very small production the gaffer might actually use gaffer's tape to bundle some cables, but more likely it would be--depending on the size of the crew--a grip or electrician or possibly (on a smaller crew) a key grip or best boy who would wrangle any actual gear.

Bill Burch
Sep-28-2012, 7:10pm
After you recover your vintage case, you might want to consider a fabric case cover. I asked a seamstress friend to fashion a cover for my 1911 Gibson A4 case with cotton duck material and leather piping trim. A brass zipper on the middle of the side opposite the handle opens the cover up for putting it on and off.



Sep-28-2012, 7:39pm
Look half-way down this page and you'll find my Case Restoration Tutorial. http://theunofficialmartinguitarforum.yuku.com/topic/1449/Vintage-cases-for-old-Martins-30-s-40-s?page=14

As has already been stated, to completely recover a case you essentially have to tear it completely apart, which doesn't make much sense. I use a technique of applying replacement strips of keratol along the edges to repair a badly worn case.


Sep-28-2012, 8:11pm
That's a very nice tutorial. I appreciate it. The application I have in mind is only for a few decades-old case with worn/tattered edges. I had wondered about the glue to be used with replacement Tolex. Your tutorial mentions "water-based contact cement," which is a new concept to me. I've only known of the solvent-based contact cements, some of which even come in aerosol cans(!).

It was only after I saw the case with tattered corners that I understood what can happen to the surface of a case through use. I'd seen pasteboard cases come apart after decades, but I'd not realized that use without abuse can really degrade a case. Now I know.

Sep-28-2012, 9:03pm
What kind on case are you trying to restore Michael? Have any pics?

Sep-29-2012, 1:02am
For the exterior of a case you could use either solvent-based or water-based contact cement. Personally, I don't like solvent fumes anywhere near the finish of an instrument, but on the outside it's not a significant problem. With any contact cement you need to apply two or more coats to build up a thick enough film. I've found that a hair dryer really helps to dry the coats and speed up the process, unless it's already a hot day. I wouldn't use spray cement for repairs because it will get all over everything.

Believe it or not, up until the 1960's all cases were put together with hide glue. It actually works very well as it gets quite tacky, and you can wipe up excess with a damp cloth. White glue or carpenters glue isn't as tacky but does have the advantage of being able to clean up with a damp cloth. When working with white glue I can usually rub the tolex into place with my fingers and get it to stay, then wipe it clean with a damp cloth. If this isn't working, then contact cement is the answer.


jim simpson
Sep-29-2012, 1:27pm
I did a quick and dirty repair on an old soft shell case that was falling apart. It was paired with an old mandolin that was off to a guitar show. I used a tube of black silicone applied to all of the seams. It didn't look bad and actually held it together pretty well. It provide minimal protection to the instrument.
I've glued down loose fabric on hardshell cases with Elmers glue which dried clear.

Sep-29-2012, 3:36pm
What kind on case are you trying to restore Michael? Have any pics?I've been considering an older (and worn) TKL case for purchase. The (cheap) new case I bought suits my immediate intent well, but the hardware is flimsier than I'd have liked. I thought I should prepare for things like this. I may yet ask the owner for it. Hmmm. I guess I'll post the pic from a computer which understands the cafe's picture post process.

OK. this is the headstock end of the case. Other end looks similar. I -could- be better off just buying upgrades for hardware. No vintage attraction for this one, but this thread had relevant content for me to revive.

Oct-11-2012, 12:50pm
Anyhow The Gaffers tape is good.
3M used to sell little short consumer rolls of a similar fabric back tape.

Capt. E
Sep-11-2014, 3:03pm
I wanted to add a great product I have used to repair scuffs and tears in the old cases: Pro Seal makes "Black RTV Silicone Instant Gasket". You find it in auto parts stores. I have even used it as an adhesive to tack down loose fabric and separating joints. You might want to wear gloves and old clothes as it doesn't come easily off your hands or wash out of clothes. Put it on those edge scuffs like the ones shown above and you hardly notice them anymore.

Sven the Impaler
Sep-11-2014, 7:58pm
You might try posing the question to these guys:


Capt. E
Sep-16-2014, 1:59pm
Thanks to Steve Kirtley for his history of Geib cases. Now I know my case with the Geib, Inc "Challenge" stamp on the bottom was made no earlier than 1937. So, it could not possibly be the original case for my pre-Loar era Gibson A. Never the less, the case is still well over 70 years old and still functioning. That is Quality construction.

Here's the article on Geib: http://www.stevekirtley.org/geib.htm