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Thread: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

  1. #1
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    What are the general opinions of y'all on this question?

    Some years back I bought a 1923 Gibson A2 because it was priced very low. It is in near mint original condition and has a huge sound, as good as any A2Z I've played despite having very little "play time."

    Thing is... it has a 1-1/4" nut and the usual period correct flat fingerboard which keeps me from playing it. Even though I love the sound I really don't like the feel.

    Which brings me to this, I'm thinking of having the neck narrowed and a new radius, 1-1/8" nut width fingerboard added which would make it very accessible to me.

    Thoughts...?

    Billy

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  2. #2
    Registered User Denman John's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Sell it and buy a mandolin that you like the feel and sound of. I'm sure someone would love to take it off your hands.
    ... not all those who wander are lost ...

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  4. #3
    Registered User LKN2MYIS's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I wouldn't.

    IMHO, it would devalue it. It's had a good life in its original form, why change it now?

    If you aren't playing it, sell it and use that money to buy what feels right for you. You'll be happier having the right instrument and someone else will be happy buying your Gibson.
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  6. #4
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Keep it original and sell it and look for the one that fits your needs and ear
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  8. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    My thoughts are you own the mandolin, you don't play it because it isn't what you want and what the heck, I like hotrods. Some will tell you that you are simply the steward of a piece of history to preserve it for the next generation. Instruments are made to be played. A writer once told Guy Clark that he had a guitar that he didn't play because the neck was too wide. Guy simply said to him "You don't have a pen knife?" You want to play it make it playable for you. You want to preserve it's pristine condition do that. It's your instrument and there are no original Stradivarius violins in the world as far as I know.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  10. #6
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I agree. I am not a preservationist by any means and fully defend your right to do what ever you want with your instrument. But I agree in this case. Someone will love it for how it is right now. Love it a lot. (I love mine, and in part for the neck feel and flat fingerboard.) Let that person purchase it and enjoy it and play the potatoes out of it, while you get something you can love a lot.
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  12. #7
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    When I bought my A2 I wanted the 1 1/4" nut width, now I prefer narrower due to old age and hand problems. There are a lot of folks who would prefer the neck on your A2 and if you like something narrower swap. I am in the same position my A2 has a sound that few can compare to, but I don't play it much as I am now preferring a narrower neck. I also prefer more reach than the short neck gives me, sooooo what do I do. Wait and figure it out at some point I guess. Good luck with your decision.
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  14. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    If he's going to sell it and get another more worthy of hotrodding he first has to find one that "...has a huge sound, as good as any A2Z I've played..."

    That part has to be considered. Anybody can buy a run of the mill instrument that doesn't speak to them. Do it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  16. #9
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    If he's going to sell it and get another more worthy of hotrodding he first has to find one that "...has a huge sound, as good as any A2Z I've played..."
    Definitely something to consider.
    Fill your boots, man!

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  18. #10

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Denman John View Post
    Sell it and buy a mandolin that you like the feel and sound of. I'm sure someone would love to take it off your hands.
    Good idea!

    Quote Originally Posted by darrylicshon View Post
    Keep it original and sell it and look for the one that fits your needs and ear
    Agree!

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Someone will love it for how it is right now. Love it a lot. (I love mine, and in part for the neck feel and flat fingerboard.) Let that person purchase it and enjoy it and play the potatoes out of it, while you get something you can love a lot.
    Absolutely!

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    There are a lot of folks who would prefer the neck on your A2 and if you like something narrower swap.
    +1!

    Of course you could send it to Steve Gilchrist for the alterations...Then it's all good.

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  20. #11
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Chris Thile would tell you to change the neck to your liking. He's done it to well over 400,000 dollars worth of Loar, plus other awesome instruments he had before the Loars, thus far. I agree with him. If you weren't crazy about the tone, I'd agree with those telling you to trade or sell it, but since the tone is awesome, get it fixed to your liking and enjoy it for years to come. Just get it done by someone who knows what they're doing and has a proven track record.

    I've actually considered putting a radius board and larger frets on my Flatiron pancake, but my daughter took it to college and hasn't played enough to know what she likes yet, so it remains original...for now. (Yes, putting that $$ into such an inexpensive instrument may seem crazy to some, but I really love that little mandolin's tone and volume. If I don't alter it I'll probably trade or sell it, but if I do alter it I know I'll never get rid of it, so I'd only be losing a little cash, well worth it for the years of enjoyment IMO).
    Chuck

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  22. #12
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Billy, looking at your website it appears you have three pretty hot mandolins...

    If you made the changes to the neck you described, would you play this mandolin as often as one of the other three?

    If yes, then sure, by all means make the neck changes.

    But if not, it would be best to sell it in stock condition and use the money for something you like without reservations, be it mandolin or not...

    Life is too short to agonize about the tools we use.
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  24. #13

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Good chance it will not sound like it does now once you start reshaping, reducing wood mass, adding new parts, etc. I know musicians that have done this and seriously regretted it. Problem is, you won't know if it'll change or not. I know someone that had a Nugget neck reshaped. Very, very unhappy. The skill of the individual doing the work can have something to do with it, and you might not like the way you thought you would after the work is done. Or, I suppose, it might be better. Problem is, it's a risk either way.

    So the real answer is: tastes great, less filling. You'll receive as many answers as there are people willing to weigh in. Personally I would not, and not necessarily because of the value of it as original. The risk isn't worth it to me, but that's just me. There's a serious possible downside. Everyone thinks they have the only one they'll ever want. But there's always another one out there, and if it's not for sale right now, it will be at some point.

    And remember, once a vintage instrument has been seriously altered, the value will significantly decrease. Yea, maybe Thile's Loar won't, but Chris and his Loar is the apple. The rest of us, most of us, can only hope to be an orange.

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  26. #14

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Removing mass will change the sound. Do you feel lucky? I would sell and find another more to my liking.

  27. #15
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    What a great country....er... Mandolin community.

    Y'all are so fine.

    I do love the sound this instrument has, it is quite different from my other mandolins, breathy and somehow SO mature sounding, really big in that way, it's hard to describe. And, honestly, if I didn't really like the mandolin and in particular the sound I would cash in at some point for sure. These last few days have been a journey discovering this mandolin I've been holding onto but almost forgetting I own. I don't remember playing it more than a few minutes after buying it then putting it away. In other words, I'm falling in love.

    As far as 'originality" goes, I'm of the opinion that the instrument is built to be played and a wide board or a narrow board or a flat board or a radius board is the purview of the 'artist' who uses it.

    Regarding alterations, after owning the Gilchrist A3 for three years Stephen took it back and replaced the whole neck and it didn't suffer at all, it is a magnificent example of his stellar work. Also, after owning the Weber Fern for a similar amount of time Bruce stripped the finish and re-graduated the top and back plates which produced the best Weber I've ever heard which compares favorably with the Gil.

    Scott, your comments are of concern. My thoughts are that while the relatively minor reduction of wood from the neck shouldn't affect the body or sound the addition of a new fingerboard is another matter. At this point my intention is to visit Michael Lewis who lives nearby and get his opinion. Also, over the years I have remained friends with Stephen Gilchrist and I intend to communicate with him.

    Billy
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  29. #16
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Billy - My immediate thoughts are that it's your mandolin to do what you like with..However - I find it hard to change things on my mandolins,that's why i still have the quirky Weber tailpiece on my Fern instead of a James tailpiece. Unless,you can find another mandolin that would suit you more than the A2 as it is,& since it seems that it would be a real 'keeper' for you,then i see nothing wrong with your proposal. Somewhere down the line,it'll have a new owner who will like it for the way it is ''at that time''.
    Some folks like wide necks / flat fingerboard & others don't. It's got every chance of being appreciated in it's ''new state'' as it has now - maybe more,& it'll certainly get it's share of playing time after the modifications - i can't see how that can be a bad thing (apart from the purist in me - down boy,down !!!)
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  31. #17
    Registered User James Rankine's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Are you sure it is the neck width and flat fingerboard that is the problem, rather than the string spacing? I have mandolins with flat and radiused boards and various neck profiles and can switch between them with no problem. What I am very sensitive to is the string spacing when playing in the first position. Have you thought of getting a new nut cut with string spacing to match your other mandolins and see what effect this has on your opinion of the mandolin - after all it is the string spacing that is important rather than the width of the nut per se. The most you have to lose is the cost of having a new nut cut.

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  33. #18

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    This topic reminded me of the old 60's tv commercial proclaiming their product was "a silly millimeter longer" -- for those of a certain age demographic. Not that there is anything "silly" about finding a neck profile and size that suits your playing -- I'm sure "silly" was chosen to rhyme with "milli" and just meant to sound funny.........unfortunately, now I've got that goofy jingle in my head, again!

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  35. #19

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Chris Thile would tell you to change the neck to your liking. He's done it to well over 400,000 dollars worth of Loar, plus other awesome instruments he had before the Loars, thus far. I agree with him.
    Not exactly the same situation, as Loars have some bad frets that render them unable to actually be played in tune. Stephen Gilchrist's pictures from his recent restoration of the first one have put that argument to bed forever. I don't believe any neck thinning was performed on Thile's Loar(s) either. Of course it is the original posters to do with what he wants, just as it was John Nuese's to saw off the bass bout of Mike Bloomfield's '63 Telecaster so he could play it "lefty." The downside to it is the single most important electric guitar of the sixties was butchered.

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  36. #20

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    On the brighter side, it made me Google "John Nuese" and view some cool pictures, one of Gram Parsons with an Inspector Clouseau moustache! It seems there are pictures of Nuese with the guitar intact and using it that way with an oddly placed strap button on the face of the guitar near the upper horn. Great nostalgia!

    While we are off the topic, check out some of John Mayall's Fenders from the 60's, he would cut them down to just a sliver of a guitar, why, I'm not sure -- either to save weight or just look different, I guess......

  37. #21
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Well. You could have a new neck made to replace the old neck and if you didn't like it have the old neck put back on. If money isn't really a part of the question that is. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  38. #22
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Gee Mike you cut me to the quick! Using my "Patek Phillipe" stewardship line!
    I understand the inclination for "hot rodding" and there are times, places and, items which are good for it as well as some which I think are better left original.
    I see Ivan's point as well, it's YOUR mandolin and you "can" do with it as you please, if you choose to modify, some of what you are planning is irreversible, keep that in mind too.
    I'm big on originality but, what you do is your business and your business alone. Scott makes an excellent point, the potential for tonal change through the modifications you are considering, should enter the equation too.
    Have you considered the removal (and reserving) of the original FB and replacement with a radiused one of the existing width? That's easily reversed anytime, it might be a touch wider but, you can have the spacing tweaked some when having the nut (and saddle) cut, can't you?
    One more fly in the ointment for you to consider!
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  39. #23
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I have the original gut strings off my Martin uke that I have preserved in case the person I sell it to wants it all original. Tim, if he goes as far as to having the fingerboard radiussed I'm pretty sure that fingerboard isn't going to mean a whole lot
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  41. #24

    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I wouldn't, but that's just me. There aren't that many of them. There are a lot of mandolins in the world. You should be able to find one you'd like.
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  42. #25
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Mike, you're a real piece of work!
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