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Thread: Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

  1. #1
    Registered User woolenegg's Avatar
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    Question Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

    We pulled this old mandolin out of the attic the other day. Didn't even know it was up there until we ran across it (house belonged to my husband's parents, mandolin belonged to his grandmother).

    Anyway, I brought it down and took a bunch of photos. It seemed in pretty good shape, considering where it's spent the last couple decades, but I noticed right away that there were some cracks in the fretboard. The other crack I did not notice right away, and wonder if that happened after I brought it down and it reacted to the change in temp and humidity.

    Regardless, we would like to get this cleaned up and restrung, but I assume the crack in the top will have to be repaired. Obviously, we'll need to find a luthier, but my question is whether this crack is not really a big deal, a serious but fixable problem, or a "don't bother wasting time/money" sort of issue.

    Same question for the fretboard. The neck itself seems quite solid and firmly attached, and not warped in any way thus far.

    Many thanks!
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    Karen

  2. #2

    Default Re: Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

    I would take it to a luthier, to get an estimate. The top crack should be repaired before putting string tension on it (assuming your goal is to play it again.) A good luthier can repair the fingerboard cracks with a superglue and ebony wood dust technique, provided the neck is straight, frets are still good, and the neck angle is still good.

    In general, most bowlbacks do not bring a lot of money, but you might want to restore it for sentimental reasons. It would be easy for the repair cost to be more than what the mandolin is worth, IMHO.

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  4. #3
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

    Those aren't bad issues, the top will glue up, and maybe require some cleats inside for insurance.

    Fretboard looks like a classic drying-out issue, those fretboards were generally pretty slim and non-structural, so as Jeff says, super-glue and ebony dust followed by levelling and re-fretting would see it back in decent shape.

    Hard to tell what the model is from those photo's, but be aware that the cost of fixing it up likely exceeds it's value several times over - that's a more a reflection of the lack of value some of these have than the cost. That said, depending on what it is, you could end up with a very nice playable mandolin and get your money's worth (in terms of playing/enjoyment) even if the notional resale value is low.

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  6. #4
    Registered User woolenegg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

    Yes, it is rather a shame that these old instruments have so little value. It has a significant wear spot in the finish where it must have sat against grandmother's lap so it was apparently well-loved in its time. We may just clean it up and then put it on display somehow in the house. It is a pretty little thing, even with all the dust.
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    Karen

  7. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage bowlback with cracks in fretboard and top

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    A good luthier can repair the fingerboard cracks with a superglue and ebony wood dust technique, provided the neck is straight, frets are still good, and the neck angle is still good.
    All true but FWIW my guess from the looks of it is that fretboard is pearwood dyed black—very common in those days for lower-end mandolins. Still the ebony dust would probably be fine solution.
    Jim

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