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Thread: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

  1. #1

    Smile Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Hi there.
    I'm brand new to mandolins, and to this forum.
    I've just acquired a mandolin for free which is apparently a Radio Tone and had been sat in a loft for years. The middle aged woman who used to own it said it was her grandfathers so this is the only age guess for the instrument I have.
    As it's been sat in a loft, it's not in the best condition. I haven't yet had chance to have a full look at it, but it's going to be my Christmas break project.
    I know the bridge is currently detached and it has no strings.
    As a complete novice, could someone also tell me what else to look out for in repairing it, and some other hints and tips please? If anyone could tell me any more about this instrument as well then I'd also be grateful.

    Thanks very much

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    North CA

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Well, letting an experienced mandolin tech have a look at it is a good idea.

    Most mandolins have moveable bridges, so if the strings are off the instrument the bridge will be loose too.

    You need to check for obvious cracks and places where the glue joints may be coming apart, loose braces, rattling parts, loose inlays, make sure the tuners work, the frets are not loose, are level, the neck is still straight, the nut functional, clean it up, and choose an appropriate set of strings. Many old mandolins are ruined by using the heavy strings designed for Gibson-style archtop mandolins.

    So it's either a Regal or a German-made model based on searches on this forum.

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Howell, NJ

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Post a picture, it could have been manufactured by one of a few companies. The bridge as David stated should be loose.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is the only pic I have so far. Working on getting some more.
    Thanks for the fast replies.
    From my own research I believe it's a Czech made Radiotone, all one word, from the sharp symbol on the headstock. Possibly from the 1930's

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  6. #5
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Canberra, Australia

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Radiotone was a brand name owned by the English distributors/retailers John Dallas & Sons who had them made in Schonbach (now Luby) in western Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. The Radiotone mandolins I have seen pictures of had Radiotone in a script font on the headstock and often had a secondary internal soundboard with a smaller soundhole on the second soundboard quite visible through the main soundhole. Several pictures at

    Don't know much about the American RadioTone, though there have been discussions here in the past. I suspect the Czech Radiotones would have a 13" scale and the American ones a longer string length of 13 3/4 or 13 7/8"


  7. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Here are some pics of a Radiotone with that same "sharp" symbol on the headstock. Does yours have a double soundboard?

    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #7

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    I'm not sure what a double soundboard is, sorry. I'm a guitar and bass player, but never used a mandolin before in my life.
    I now have a bunch more pics (attached on the mandolin).
    The bridge is completely removed from the mandolin but is complete I believe.
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    This is what I own. Feel free to make comments on the condition, and what may or may not need looking at from your own experiences, of if it's a complete no go as far as restoring it. I'd love to be able to, but if not then que sera sera.

    Edit: after now looking at some previous pictures in more detail, I know what the double soundboard is, but my instrument doesn't have it (don't know if this is good or bad)

  10. #8

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

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    Last edited by bart mcneil; Dec-08-2014 at 10:10pm.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    It's hard to tell whether there is any issue with this mandolin. It seems to be in good shape if you can make sure the followings:
    1) the neck is straight and not bowed, not twisted
    2) the neck angle is about right (hard to describe with just text on how to do this, has some photo there)
    3) the frets are level (again has photo showing how to do this)
    If these are in good shape, it would not be hard to restore this mandolin to playing condition.
    One thing I could not figure out: are the strings get hooked to something UNDER the tail piece ? Do you need to remove the tail piece to install new strings ?

  12. #10

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    I've never seen a tailpiece which works like that one. No screws visible on the outside. The whole visible unit may slide up and off to install strings???? Or maybe the top (cloud) is just hinged so that it can be turned up to replace strings.... Interesting.

    I sure wish this one were mine. A beauty.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Radio Tone mandolin complete overhaul

    Sorry for being despicably slow to reply to this. The tail piece has a cover that un-clips, and moves on a hinge to reveal the fastening for strings to be attached, on the bottom edge of the mandolin.
    I'm probably going to be taking this to a store near me tomorrow. Hopefully it should be a case of new strings and ready to go. I've had a look over the whole instrument and the neck appears to be completely straight as well as not seeing any other faults with the frets or anything similar.It has dings and marks all over the body as you'd expect from an 80 year old instrument that has been played a lot before. But I think this, along with the original case adds character, so I'm fine with that. I've checked it for cracks and can't see any so I'm happy. Hopefully within the next few days I should have an instrument on which to begin my mandolin journey.

    Many thanks to all those who have helped me identify the make and model, as well as any and all potential work that needs doing to it.


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