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Thread: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Puget Sound

    Default Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?


    New here and new to mandolins. My experience is as a novice clawhammer banjo player. Novice is probably being generous. I need some advice and/or referral regarding seam separation repair.

    My issue: I got a Weymann Mandolute style 40 (1921?) from an online auction. Per description, was supposed to have minor dings/scratches, stuck tuner. I paid what I think was an OK price (~$260 with tax) given I would have to clean it, probably naptha the tuners, get new strings, maybe find a tailpiece cover, etc. Elbow grease stuff, nothing technical.

    I am an income-limited student who doesn't *need* a mandolin--but I am a romantic for rescuing older instruments from Throw-Away-Society and I really wanted to play old-time mandolin music. I like tinkering, so I was also planning to see if I could set it up decent with help from Rob Meldrum's e-book. Which, BTW, is very thoughtful of him to create and share with people for free. My goal here is to save money with elbow grease but still have a playable instrument for old-timey music that years from now I could still appreciate.

    I received the mandolute today, and see there at least 3-4" separation in the seam between the pieces that make up the back of the instrument. Also maybe evidence of repair of side seam separation too. The separation/crack in the back seam runs behind the label, but if I hold the mandolin up to light I can see light through portion of the crack not covered by the label.

    Is it a lost cause? Should I return it to the seller and hope it finds a home that can handle that kind of repair? I mean I just met this instrument, so if I broke up with it now before things get real messy, I can move on and probably won't rebound with another bad instrument match.

    I have no idea what the cost of repair might be locally, or what cost would make my total out of pocket exceed the value of the instrument. I assume this isn't a repair I could do without making things worse with ignorance and inexperience.

    Is there a Seattle luthier you would recommend for this kind of vintage instrument? One I could go to for opinion and hopefully free estimate for repair? I had thought there was a Seattle luthier in walking distance from me (Cat Fox) but it turns out she has a newer website that says she is in Vermont.

    I might sound unrealistically frugal, but I have a little while longer to go before I graduate. I could wait until I have more disposable income to cover repairs, if I it isn't a bad investment. Probably won't be able to get another mandolin to play in the meantime. I have 7 days to attempt return for refund.

    Pretty sure this is the best place to get help to figure this out.



    p.s. I apologize in advance if this should have been posted in another forum section, or if I have written anything that goes against mandolin cafe social norms/mores. If anyone reading this participated in the online auction where I acquired this mandolute, LOL, hi!

  2. #2
    Registered User Eric Davis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Seattle, WA

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    Hello Hattie,

    Probably the two best people for this job in they Seattle area are Gail Hester in Poulsbo and Gary Wagner in Burien. Iím currently having Gail repair a slight seam separation on my Gibson Snakehead. She does great work, especially on vintage instruments. Hope you get someone to do the work clean and for a good price!
    Eric Davis

    2010 Gilchrist 5JR Mandolin
    2016 Weber Gallatin F-style Octave Mandolin

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    G'day Hattie. I'm new here too. I've done a few crack and seam repairs, but not on a mandolin. I would suggest that it's something you could do yourself to save money. It's hiding the crack in the lacquer that's the hard part. If you have some way of squeezing it together from the sides - you could use a ratchet strap or wedge type clamping just to see that the plates come together level, and if so, try it with wood glue. Poke newspaper strips inside through the f-holes in case the glue dribbles, and wipe up the glue squeeze-out on the outside with a damp cloth. If you dampen the inside of the crack first with water, then wipe it down, the moisture helps to draw the glue into the crack. Good luck whatever you do.

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Boulder, CO & Chesterfield, MO

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    Welcome to the cafe!
    Pictures would be helpful.
    I suspect that if you humidify the instrument the gap will close and you can work some hot hide glue into the joint

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  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Puget Sound

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    I had a bit of a learning curve for embedding photos. Spoiler alert, though, the worst thing wrong with the mando is not the split seam.

    There is also evidence of a previous repair on one side, where the seam is really pale. Missing finish and some wood. I realize that side wasn't in photos on the listing, either. boo!

    I wanted to get an opinion before the weekend so I took the mandolute to Dusty Strings. John W. wrote out an evaluation for me. He too said humidity might close up the seam some and it could be glued. For $125.

    Unfortunately, John W. thinks the neck is severely distorted and needs to be reset. That's like $450+
    Sooooo sad. John S. came out of workshop and talked a bit with me too. John and John said they rarely ever see that old of a mandolin in that good of condition, aside from those huge flaws. I swear everyone seemed heartbroken about that mandolute's neck. "No one makes instruments that complex anymore."

    Don't really have the money to fix it. Definitely don't have the skill to, yet. I've done work in trade for discounted tuition at banjo camp. It's too bad I can't do that for luthier work! It's a neat mandolin, aside from the huge flaws that make it unplayable at the moment...

    Thank you again for info. I think if it was just the seams, I could live with it now that I know more. The neck reset is terrible though. I have asked the seller for a refund and they asked for pictures of the seam. So I'll see what happens.

  9. #6
    Registered User G7MOF's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    I'd return it as not in the condition stated in the description.
    I never fail at anything, I just succeed at doing things that never work....

    Fylde Touchstone Walnut Mandolin.
    Gibson Alrite Model D.

  10. #7

    Default Re: Back seam separation,Seattle Luthier or return to seller?

    This is not worth repairing (in money terms) but it does deserve to be repaired. You may never see another one, let alone have the chance to own it.

    If you could negotiate the seller down to a price you could bear, and have space to store it, you could keep it until you are richer and/or more skilled, and then fix it. But maybe as a student both these are too hard.

    Seam repair using hot hide glue is something you could try now, as HHG is reversible if you mess up.

    Neck reset is longer down the road, and may never be worth doing by a professional. But you might meet an amateur luthier who would show you and help. It would be useful to ask your current luthier what kind of neck joint (I'd guess dovetail) and note that down for when the day comes.

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