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

  1. #26

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

    Chris Thile on the subject in his own words. I wonder if he's speaking from experience?


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  3. #27
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I actually own and play a 1923 Snakehead A with a replacement neck that has a radiused fingerboard and EVO gold frets. It is an absolute monster and it sounds and plays like a million bucks.

    Do it. Have John Hamlett do the work.

    But maybe take a cue from banjo players and have the entire neck replaced so you can keep the old one?

    -PJ
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  5. #28

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

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    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'm thinking about 30 seconds each side of the neck on a belt sander should do it..................just kidding, but actually we don't really want to know what goes on at the repair shop after we leave!!!

  6. #29

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

    I've never seen a 1923 A model with a neck that wide at the nut. Can you provide photos here before you do whatever you plan on doing?
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Sounds like a holdover, my '22 has an 1 1/4" nut also. It's a paddle tho, but the nut width was 1 1/4" at the time
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  8. #31
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Chris Thile is the model of perfect form, right and left hands. Amazing. Also, his opinion noted.

    PJ, thanks for your comments. When Gilchrist replaced the neck on my A3 he said it was the proper thing to do rather than do modifications to the original neck. BTW the first neck had a poorly done fingerboard that Steve spotted instantly and insisted on taking it back home for repairs. I could not hear any difference once I got it back. Actually it sounded better because the bridge could be set up properly whereas with the first neck the bridge had to be at an extreme angle to compensate.

    Also, I was up way late continuing to play this wonderful A2, what a wonderful sound it has. The strings are ancient so I'll be changing them today which will improve the sound. I'm feeling less like altering it because it just sounds so good as it is.

    I spoke with Michael Lewis at length today and his position is 'don't mess with it'. Though he thought PJ's comment about changing out the whole neck and leaving the original intact was a consideration but cutting up the existing not so much.

    Also, I can adjust!
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  9. #32
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    It is yours to do with as you see fit. I do not think you would dishonor history by modifying it. If, however, you flip mandolins like many of us here on the Cafe, then don't do it as you would greatly reduce the re-sale value.

    I had an old snakehead that sounded great but I hated the tiny frets and flat fretboard. I shelled out about $300 to put on new frets and fingerboard. I eventually sold the mandolin and lost more than the $300 modifications... live and learn.

    Sam

  10. #33
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Its the Loar Era pixie dust. You don't want to inadvertently let any of that dust leak out.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  12. #34
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I hope this works Brad. If I had an extra hand or so I'd hold up the ruler to display the 1-1/4" nut. It's there, believe me. The serial number is 72554 which is right in the Loar period.

    In the photo it looks black but it is the typical Sheraton Brown.
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  14. #35
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Also the neck has a rather pronounced V-shape to it, coming to a point right where the thumb rests. I'm not too up on what the various shapes Gibson has made. Thile makes reference to that in the video above.

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  15. #36
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Packard View Post
    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.
    Interesting...I also have a '23 A2 that I love. However mine has a 1-1/8" nut it is a snakehead. Is yours a paddlehead or a snakehead? I wonder when they changed the width of the neck at the nut.

    I love playing mine. It is the perfect neck for me and if I ever have as luthier build a custom mandolin for me I would use that neck as the template. I have had that mandolin for over 30 years now. With the exception of my National RM-1 (and some bowlbacks) all my mandolins have 1-1/8" width at the nut and that is my preferred width. I can pay with wider but I have to adjust.
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  16. #37
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Jim,

    Mine is a paddle-head, (see photo above). My Weber Fern and Gilchrist A3 are 1-1/8 and 1-3/32 respectively both with radius fretboards. I have seen Gibson paddlehead's made well into the 1930's- maybe later. One guy I know has a 1906 Gibson F2 that has a 1-1/8 nut. I have no idea who was making the nut width decisions but most of the oval hole Gibson's I've seen have had the wider nut.

    Would you say the neck profile of your A2 is V shaped? or more round?

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  17. #38
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    I just adapt to what i get.. in a couple cases the old favorites need refrets...
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Upis Land View Post
    Chris Thile on the subject in his own words. I wonder if he's speaking from experience?

    Reference one of the Cafe's interviews with him when he discusses his Loars. He didn't necessarily change the neck shape, but he did radius the boards and he had the frets (fretboards?) replaced so they'd intonate correctly. The Loar boards were apparently off ever so slightly...

    If you can adjust, leave it as is. But, if you just can't get used to the neck profile and nut spacing, fix it to your liking. Go in with eyes wide open, but go in! I've had the pleasure of playing 2 Loars, one at Carter's, a Virzi model, and one at Lowe Vintage in Burlington, NC. The Virzi was nice, but didn't blow my skirt up. The one at Lowes, however, which had some work done, is one of the top three mandolins I've played in my life.

    My sister in law has a degree in Historic Preservation, and I'm very much a fan of preservation rather than restoration, so I really do get the opposing view, truly. But, if you've got one of the best Loar era mandolins in the world, and you don't play it because it's not comfortable to you, what's the point in having it? These instruments were meant to be played, not stuck on a shelf to represent instruments that "used to make great music."

    Well, OK, I'll give you Bill's Loar and the HOF display...begrudgingly...
    Chuck

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

    I changed the fingerboard of my A2 to make it more playable.
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  22. #41
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Pete, please tell me your story..

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  23. #42
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Well, it's not like you are removing a virzi from a Loar with a hammer and screwdriver...
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/news/pub...s_001170.shtml
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    From Billy - " I'm feeling less like altering it because it just sounds so good as it is.". If that's the way things are going as you get used to it,that's the solution !. It's a glorious looking mandolin & having seen the photo. I doubt whether i'd change a whisker of it unless i simply found it way too hard to handle. I've got large hands & my problem 'should be' cramming finger tips the size of cat's paws onto a 1/1/8" neck - but it ain't !. I've learned to adapt my left hand positioning to cope, & i'd adapt my left hand to cope with that beauty that's for sure - it is very nice,
    Ivan

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

    There isn`t that much wood to be removed to get it to the width that you want so I don`t think it would change the tone all that much, if any...I vote to thin it down and put a new nut on it...Not a hard job to do that either...

    Willie

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  28. #45
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Mendel View Post
    Removing mass will change the sound. Do you feel lucky? I would sell and find another more to my liking.
    That's what I think. You may of course improve the sound when you do it.

    Although did thiles sound change when he changed the fretboard?
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  29. #46

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

    Sounds like you love that mandolin and would miss it if you let it go. I am with the go for it crowd. Whoever built that mandolin didn't intend for it to sit in its case unplayed. For some reason (or no reason at all) it wound up yours. It's not like you are planning on making it into a wall clock. THAT might get some pushback around here...
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  30. #47

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

    I would suggest consulting Stephen Gilchrist.

    If you went down to a 1&1/8 or 1&3/16 nut, and replaced the fretboard with a radiused one, the net change in mass would be negligible (pluses from the board, and minuses from the neck). Keep in mind you'll likely need a new bridge with appropriate spacing if you go narrower.

    Most Stradivarius violins had their shorter necks and fretboards completely replaced with longer ones as knowledge of acoustics and instrument design grew.

    The instrument is worth more if playable and maintained. Frankly, a 1&1/4 nut is not comfortable for most people, unless you're Adam Steffey... 1&1/8 or 1&3/16 will also open up a larger player market for resale in future.

    I don't think you'll diminish the value if the changes are done well and documented properly. The provenance matters a lot... which is why I'd have Stephen do the work, photograph it, and keep any original material that is not put back on the instrument.

    But, don't listen to me... talk to the expert (SG).

    Best of luck,
    D

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  32. #48
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    If you need this much validation to make a change, maybe you need a banjo to "adjust"!
    Timothy F. Lewis
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  33. #49
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: To Do or Not To Do, that is the question

    BANJO!! Never, Timothy. Yikes...


    BTW I did shoot off an email to Mr. Gilchrist asking his opinion regarding this issue, but not asking if he was available or willing to do the work should I decide to go that way. It seems the best option would be removing and replacing rather than reshaping.

    I am really enjoying playing this wonderful sounding little beauty. I am adjusting a bit but the difference between 1-1/8 radius vrs. 1-1/4 flat with narrow frets is challenging if not daunting. The bright, responsive, vintage sound is rewarding, however.

    Billy

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  34. #50
    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 Billy Packard View Post
    Also the neck has a rather pronounced V-shape to it, coming to a point right where the thumb rests. I'm not too up on what the various shapes Gibson has made. Thile makes reference to that in the video above.
    Mine is a snake head, but has that V shape as well. It is my preferred neck shape.

    Many mandolinners, myself included, avoid thumb in the center of the back of the neck anyway, preferring to have it ride up on the up side of the neck. It works well for everything but classic barre chords. But, I don't do many barre chords actually.
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