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Thread: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Hi all!
    I'm going to be doing some work on my Lyon & Healy Style A 13 5/8" scale mandolin soon. I had some work done, poorly, and won't go into that at this time. I am ready to get this back in playing condition. I worked at a violin shop a while back, plus I've done fret work and and some bridge work. I am ready to get this mandolin ready as I have some Classical work to do...

    Here were the issues with the mandolin:
    1) Played out of tune. The scale measured 13 5/8" if you doubled from nut to 12th fret. Original bar frets on lower 8 were too worn out.
    2) The bridge was compensated, and I tried moving it, as well as recompensating it, but it was not in tune up and down the neck. Used Calace medium and TI mittels.
    3) 1 3/16" nut and the neck is really thick and rounded. I want the neck reshaped and to have a 1 1/16" nut so that I can double stop in Bach a bit better.
    4) Some scratches/gouges is varnish (not into instrument) that I'd like to have taken care of.

    Here's the current state of the instrument..
    1) Fretboard was replaced and measures 13 7/8", not the 13 5/8". Does not play in tune and still has some buzzes. 37x53 nickel frets were used. Fret size is ok.
    2) An ebony bridge with bone saddle was made...pretty
    3) Some shaping and the nut is 1 1/16
    At this time, sound quality is crap...


    Here's what I would like input on....especially from the L&H people and people who have worked on or restored them :-)

    Fretboard: Should I go with a 13 5/8" like the original, or go with 13 3/4" or 13 7/8" ? I like the idea of 13 5/8". I will be ordering a replacement ebony fingerboard from LMII using their custom size cut.

    Frets: Would 37x53 be ok? I like the idea of going with Evo Gold 37x53 - thought? My Brian Dean Roman mandolin (13" scale) has FW39040 stainless steel, and I don't mind the consistency (maybe in evo or nickel), but would be fine going 37x53 or larger. Larger might be tough to fret way up at the 20+ frets.

    Bridge: Ebony like the original bridge, or do an ebony and bone? Other wood?

    Nut: 1 1/16" a good idea?

    Neck: Any good guides or templates?

    Varnish/Finish: Was thinking of sanding down the back, or using a scraper, and other affected areas and using Target Finish EM2000 and brush it on. Is this easy to use? I can try the french polish finish on top, but if the EM2000 works ok by itself, I'd be fine with that. I could ship it off and have someone else top polish if needed.

    I know it is a lot, but I appreciate your help!

    Thanks!
    Darren
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  2. #2
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Highstrings View Post
    Fretboard: Should I go with a 13 5/8" like the original, or go with 13 3/4" or 13 7/8" ? I like the idea of 13 5/8". I will be ordering a replacement ebony fingerboard from LMII using their custom size cut.
    I would definitely go with the original scale: that will put the bridge where it was intended to be, structurally and acoustically.

    Frets: Would 37x53 be ok? I like the idea of going with Evo Gold 37x53 - thought? My Brian Dean Roman mandolin (13" scale) has FW39040 stainless steel, and I don't mind the consistency (maybe in evo or nickel), but would be fine going 37x53 or larger. Larger might be tough to fret way up at the 20+ frets.
    That's the size I use on mandolins, but it's personal preference at the end of the day.

    Bridge: Ebony like the original bridge, or do an ebony and bone? Other wood?
    Either will work well IMO.

    Nut: 1 1/16" a good idea?
    I don't see you have a choice over this one, you need to go with the original neck width?

    Oh... I see re-reading that you want to reshape... OK, I guess you can go with what feels right, as long as you don't cause any structural issues, remember there's no CF in there!

    Varnish/Finish: Was thinking of sanding down the back, or using a scraper, and other affected areas and using Target Finish EM2000 and brush it on. Is this easy to use? I can try the french polish finish on top, but if the EM2000 works ok by itself, I'd be fine with that. I could ship it off and have someone else top polish if needed.
    Shellac would be my first choice, if you wanted something "easier" then a speed neck with either TruOil or Danish Oil might be the way to go?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Well I have not restored a L&H, but have restored other mandolins and I do have 2 originals (long and short scale) and have made a reproduction if that counts.

    First thing I would do is to get rid of the bone in the bridge. I suspect that is the main reason why it sounds "crap". Use a one piece Ebony bridge, full contact. My long scale has a 13 & 3/4 inch scale length, but it looks like the fingerboard has been replaced. So I would also get rid of the 13 & 7/8 inch fingerboard and use either 13 & 5/8 or 13 & 3/4 inch. If it was me I would keep it as original as possible and use 13 & 5/8 inch. I used 13 & 3/4 inch on my reproduction because that is what my original is and I had the LMI fretting template for 13 & 3/4 inch. That extra 1/8 inch does make a difference.

    You do not explain what you mean by not playing in tune. What do you mean? Is the intonation at the 12th fret correct? The compensation at the bridge needs to match the strings you are using. On my reproduction I compensated the G string 1mm, D string 1/2mm for FT74 and TI Mittel. The TI strings sounded wonderful on the reproduction, and intonation at the 12th fret was spot on.

    Frets are largely a matter of personal preference, but on a L&H I would use skinny frets, especially if you are playing classical music. I used Jim Dunlop 6330. Stainless steel frets are hell to work with so if you are doing the work yourself avoid stainless steel. Evo Gold does not go as skinny as 6330.

    The early symmetric long scale L&H's have a big fat neck and a nut around 30mm. Mine is 29.5mm . They do vary a bit, not all are exactly 30mm. The later L&H Washburn mandolins have a smaller neck. My later assymetric short scale has a smaller neck and the nut is 28mm. I think 1 & 1/16 (i.e. 27mm) is going 1mm too far, but it is really up to you what you are comfortable with.

    Scraping or sanding the finish makes me cringe on anything except maybe the neck which is Mahogany. Scraping or sanding is almost certainly going to land you in all sorts of trouble, it will de-value the instrument and you could end up needing to strip all the finish off and start from scratch - i.e. re-stain and re-finish. A bit of shellac and French polishing should fix most finish problems. What is the problem with the finish? A picture would help. Cutting back bits and pieces if you are not very very careful will give you patches that are visible and ugly. Varnish darkens with age, and the stain can change colour as well and it becomes impossible to match the colour exactly. The varnish on the old L&H's is superb if in good condition. There is nothing wrong with EM2000, that is what I used on the L&H reproduction, but why make life difficult.

    The Lyon and Healy mandolins are wonderful sweet sounding mandolins, that are a delight to play, but they do often need a bit of work to get them working and sounding optimally. Sounds like you drifted off track a bit.

    Hope that helps.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    I think a preservationist approach is always best, as it is very conservative toward modifications of any sort. You can mod anytime. You can never un-mod.

    I would go back to original scale and ebony on fretboard, this is the instrument design. Frets are removable/replaceable so whatever floats your boat, sounds like you know what you like.

    Bridge-ebony according to Peter. Might want to research re: original bridge and find an original replacement, just to have it on hand.

    Never remove a finish. Period. No matter how natty, an original finish is more intrinsically valuable than a refinish. It doesn't affect the playability either way. Having worked with violins, you already understand the acceptable practice of a good french polishing to deal with scratches. I would fill in gouges by puddling in like paint until it's higher than surrounding finish and planing down with a safety razor; done properly you might not need to over paint/spray the gouge repair, esp. if you fill gouges first and french polish last.

    From a preservationist approach, I personally wouldn't whittle the neck down, but it's your instrument and I don't think you're opening a museum. Would you consider simply "V"-ing the neck rather than reducing width? You can always do a reduction of width later. Just realize the depth of the "U" or "V" in the neck is to maintain its integrity and strength. Be careful when thinning the width that you don't thin the depth.

    If you're determined to have less width, I would first glue on the new fretboard and nut as my template and not mod the neck until these were installed, planing the neck after to template of fretboard and nut. One way to maintain parallel width measurements from centerline on the neck, rather than skewed, is to very carefully pre-measure/pre-cut your new fretboard, glue it on centerline, and use the new fretboard and nut as your template guide for taking width off the neck. I usually put the frets in before I glue on a new fretboard. The problem with putting a new fretboard on and then fretting it is this can create a back-bow to the neck that sometimes won't self-correct when strung up.

    Hide glue of course for new fretboard and nut.

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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Thank you for the replies and helpful information. Here are a few pictures of the current state of the mando.

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    Fretboard: I'll order a 13 5/8" 24 fret ebony board from LMII. I like flat fingerboards, so will go flat. I have about a lb of hide glue granules.

    Frets: I will order some Jescap 39040 (39x40) stainless steel frets from CBGitty on ebay....only place I could find that had a small amount (4ft). They are what I have on my Roman mandolin from Brian Dean, and they work for me. This will allow good fretting up in the top frets. I know stainless is harder to work with than nickel, but these are so thin that it's not that much of a chore. Good fret idea?

    Bridge: Ordering some ebony bridge blanks from LMII.

    Finish: French polish topcoating sounds like the thing.

    Question: Since I'm ordering a lot from LMII, should I order the "Very light transparent," "Light blonde" or "Medium/Dark Blonde" shellac flakes? Since I'm just topcoating, my though was light blonde or the very light/transparent so I can use this on other instruments. And just a 1lb cut, except for filling like Lonesome suggested? When I worked at the violin shop, the head repair guy always prepared it and I just used it.

    Thanks for the help, and keep the suggestions coming. I'll update after I get the supplies in and begin the work.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  6. #6

    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Nice pics! I sure got great results using the EVO Gold fret wire. no significant wear after 3-4 years. The finish on your L&H looks pretty intact to me. I'd oil that neck and let it be!

    Scott

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Thanks for the pictures.

    Yep, get rid of that bridge. Looking at the bridge compensation in the picture I think that is where your problem is in terms of playing out of tune. It is definitely not designed for TI strings!

    I can certainly understand why you want to reduce the neck size, you are not doing a restoration job, you want to get the mandolin in playing condition so it suits you. Usually that sort of change is frowned upon, and the recommendation would be if it does not suit you then sell it and buy another that does suit. However, it is your instrument and you can do whatever you like. In general when restoring vintage instruments good practice is to keep originality as much as possible, and to use the same materials used to build the instrument for repairs. So, hide glue and shellac are your friends. Irreversible changes are to be avoided if at all possible. So, be careful with that neck, don't shave it down too much or it will bow upwards. There is no carbon fibre or truss rod, just a strip of vulcanised fibre. With some blonde dewaxed shellac you should be able to refinish the neck so the change you made is pretty much invisible. I would probably get the medium blonde shellac, you will need a bit of colour to match the rest of the neck. To be really safe, get the lot and mix and match until you get the colour right. For a mandolin more than 90 years old the varnish looks pretty good to me so don't touch it. I agree with the previous posters to replace the fingerboard with the original 13 & 5/8 inch scale length. The bridge will then be back in it's intended position. It looks really ugly at the moment.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Hi Darren,

    While I can certainly understand your desire to re-shape the neck on your Lyon and Healy to more suit your personal preference, I would ask that you reconsider and not permanently and irreversibly damage that beautiful mandolin. If you worked at a violin shop, you most likely saw instruments that a previous (and temporary) "owner" altered to their personal taste and greatly reduced the value and ruined it's originality forever. Remember, there have probably been a few people that thought they were the "owners" of your mandolin, but in fact they are now long gone and the mandolin remains.... Sometimes you really have to take a look at the big picture when dealing with a fine, rare, and historically significant musical instrument and be a good and responsible caretaker. There has been more than a few times I wished an instrument had this or that, but if it is not totally reversible, I opt to respect the instrument and keep it's originality intact for the many future "owners". Sometimes a compromise can be made - in your case a new nut with a narrower string spacing can make a world of difference in feel and playability, as can adjusting the string spacing at the bridge (keep the old nut with the mandolin if it is the original, so a future owner can go back to original if they wish). Sometimes repair and restoration must be done, but when doing so please consider the "big picture". If you absolutely can't work with the neck size/shape of this mandolin, surely you can find another wonderful mandolin that better suits your specific preference.

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  10. #9
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    You are the owner of this mandolin as much as you own anything. While I would be reluctant to make irreversible modifications to it myself, I believe you absolutely have a right to modify it as you see fit.
    As far as violins being modified it is my understanding that all but a few (perhaps just one) of the Stradivarius violins have been modified with longer necks with the original pegbox grafted on.
    Bill Snyder

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    I have a similar era L&H to yours. Be very careful of any neck re-profiling. One of the common problems with these early ones is the weakness at the neck/headstock area. Mine had that when I bought it. I think it might have to do with dependence on the vulcanized fibre (a form of cellulose-based plastic) to reinforce the neck and the routing of the headstock for the inset tuners which might have weakened the neck structure. Frankly the one modification I would do would to reinforce the neck with a strip of carbon fiber inlaid before you replace the fretboard. I also agree that the bone saddle should go and you should make a repro L&H ebony bridge. It also looks like the current fretboard looks a little thick to me.

    BTW you say you have some classical work to do... Of course the L&H would be fine for that but what about your Brian Dean? I would think that would be an excellent classical mandolin.

    Aa far as restoration -- despite what everyone says here, it is certainly no criminal act to make serious modifications to a vintage instrument but to just be aware that some of these modifications might impact resale value of the instrument should you want to sell it at some time.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Joey McKenzie View Post
    Sometimes a compromise can be made - in your case a new nut with a narrower string spacing can make a world of difference in feel and playability, as can adjusting the string spacing at the bridge (keep the old nut with the mandolin if it is the original, so a future owner can go back to original if they wish).
    Sage advice, and not irreversible.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    For reasons already stated, I would avoid thinning the neck if at all possible.
    But since you are already intent on replacing the fingerboard there are a few things you can do to the new fingerboard that might make the neck feel a little less chunky:
    The current FB looks a bit thick (1/4"+), I believe the originals were closer to 3/16"- just reducing the FB thickness will make a big difference. In addition the sides of the FB appear square to the top. If you taper the sides of the FB slightly inward it effectively reduces the width of the FB while also improving playing comfort.
    The beauty of these modifications is that they are easily reversible by simply replacing the FB in the future.
    My 2 cents.
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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Lots of great advice and suggestions from all. Thanks!

    I'm going to try and not do anything too outrageous and will try to preserve the instrument. The neck, compared to another L&H, was really chunky and has been sized down to the dimensions of the other one, so it isn't outside 'parameters.' I like the suggestion about the thickness and shaping of the fingerboard, and string spacing.

    Jim - great suggestion about the carbon fiber reinforcement. I had already placed an order with LMII, but called and added in a stick of 1/4 x 3/8 and 1/8 x 3/8. I think the 1/4 x 3/8 will work well, but got the smaller size just in case; will use the leftover for a bowed neck on an old neapolitan mando that's been sitting on my shelf.

    And yes, the Brian Dean mandolin is great for classical and baroque. I have a concert on Nov 2 playing the Hummel concerto and was thinking that the quality of sound of the L&H might be a tad bit warmer for the chamber orchestra. When I play the Vivaldi D major concerto in March, I'll definitely be using the Brian Dean for that.
    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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    Default Re: Repair suggestions for Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Hi all,
    I have finally had time to start working on the L&H this week. The order from LMII with a few fingerboards, dots, carbon fiber reinforcements, and other goodies to get her fixed up came in - what a great vendor.

    I've cut and bound the fingerboard, belt sanded it to a good thickness (4 mm) with a very slight radius only at the lower frets, installed dots and side markers, and installed stainless steel Jescar 34x40. I'll tell you now, I'm not fond of installing stainless, but want this to last a long time. The labor on getting these installed was much more intensive. Also, I installed a 1/4" x 3/8" carbon fiber reinforcement.

    About 30 minutes ago I glued and clamped on the fingerboard with hot hide glue. I also was able to rub down the finish on the top with a violin polish with micromesh mixed in (thanks Mike Willer of Fishburn Violins) and it has shined back up.

    Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions, etc.

    The goal for the next three days is to make the bridge and nut and let her sit under tension with TI Mittels for several days to see how she does.

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    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

  16. #15
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    Default Repairing my Lyon & Healy Style A Mandolin

    Mostly done with the L&H. Only thing left to do is to put a bit of finish on the neck, although it is nice and smooth right now!

    Now what she needs is some good play time to open up the sound. I'll probably drop a small speaker in the sound hole and play some Beethoven string quartets for a few days. The C minor seems to open up the sound quite well with all the tonal and dynamic diversity.

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    Mowry F-5 #37, 2013 Brian Dean "Roman" #85

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