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Thread: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Hi

    This isn't a question about what brand, or gauge, or material of string to use.

    Background: I'll try to make my story short. I've been a guitarist for 40+ years and inherited my great-grandmother's 1895 bowl-back mandolin (Montgomery Wards -- Harmony, I think). I'm changing the strings for the first time. The old strings have a blue 'fuzzy' sheath' (see picture) at the loop end to protect the strings at the bend (I assume) and to muffle the discordant resonance that occurs for certain chords (I assume) like an Am7.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I cleaned up the instrument and oiled the fretboard, and it looks pretty nice for a 125-year-old piece.

    Mistake 1: I strung the mandolin with Elixir bronze lights directly out of the package. The strings are so slippery that the extreme ends slip off the brace and half onto the body. And, as mentioned, there's an ugly discordant resonance because the string isn't muffled from the point of attachment (loop-end) to the bridge -- my guess.

    Mistake 2: The second D-string broke where the near end of the loop-end comes together -- there's no apparent stress -- Elixir was already notified and is sending a new set. So, in essence, I'm starting over.

    Questions: So, the blue sheath, is that something I need to do myself? If so, are there products on the market to make this simple? What are they? Or, are there string makers that include the sheath in today's world? If so, whom and what types? The sheaths that were on the mandolin were wound so tightly and precisely, I don't think a human (at least no one in my family) did it.

    Any pointers in the right direction would be appreciated and thanks for reading this far,
    Patrick
    Last edited by pbaumann22; Apr-10-2019 at 1:13pm.

  2. #2
    Chu Dat Frawg Eric C.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Weaving a piece of leather (bootlace?) through the strings between the bridge and tailpiece will eliminate any overtones from there. I would also put extra light strings on that mandolin. Light strings may still have too much tension.
    Kentucky KM950 and loving it.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Thanks Eric C. I've detuned the instument to reduce the stress after checking the gauge of the old strings versus the new ones. Should have done that first -- mistake 3, I guess. I'll pick up a pair of GHS A240s as they're the only pair of ultra-lights I can find.

    You've sparked my imagination about how to solve the overtones. Was hoping for a lazy-person's solution, but I'm thinking a mandolin isn't a lazy-person's instrument.

  4. #4
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Seems to me that Vega strings used to use that chenille fuzz. I don’t know if they still do or not.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pbaumann22 View Post
    Thanks Eric C. I've detuned the instument to reduce the stress after checking the gauge of the old strings versus the new ones. Should have done that first -- mistake 3, I guess. I'll pick up a pair of GHS A240s as they're the only pair of ultra-lights I can find.
    I've purchased quite a few old mandolins with those fuzzy sheaths on the string ends -- I think they were designed to reduce breakage. Today's strings are better-made, so no need for the string coverings.

    I'm glad we have the A240s, but I wish an American manufacturer would make strings more like the older designs -- softer materials, and tension light enough for old bowlbacks. There are a couple of good European options, such as the Optima Lenzner Consort strings. For my antique bowlbacks, I'm still piecing together sets from single strings, and parts of other sets.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Good advice, August. I ended up reusing the wraps for the old strings. It was easier than I'd imagined. I needed them to eliminate an overtone that occurred when the strings weren't wrapped. Of course, that reduces harmonics and it made it harder to position the bridge, but I managed. I guess I could piece together single strings to try bronze sometime.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    Seems to me that Vega strings used to use that chenille fuzz. I don’t know if they still do or not.

    - - - Updated - - -


    I couldn't find Vega -- went with GHS.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    I thought some of you might like to see said instrument. Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    My favorite strings for vintage bowlbacks is still Dogal Calace RW92b Dolce strings. In the US Bernunzio.com has them.

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    Jim

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  12. #10

    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    My favorite strings for vintage bowlbacks is still Dogal Calace RW92b Dolce strings. In the US Bernunzio.com has them.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks, I'll check those out.

  13. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Bring your wallet; seventeen buxx per set.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Bring your wallet; seventeen buxx per set.
    You want the tone, you pay the price.

    Have you tried them, Allen? For my bowlbacks, I usually start stringing with GHS-A240 (affordable) but they lose tone quickly and never sound as sweet as I would like them. If they pass the GHS test then I try the better Dogal strings.

    To compare:
    Thomastik: $54.95
    Optima: $19.99-$29.99

    Besides that doesn't sound like a terrible price for tone. Assuming you like them. Frankly, even most D'Addario strings with few exceptions (none that would work for vintage bowlbacks anyway) are in the $12 range.
    Jim

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Loop-end strings with 'sheaths' for 1895 Bowl-back Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ...Have you tried them, Allen?...
    No, my standards are low. GHS or equivalent (Stutzman's "Donel" brand, GHS-made). I restring my bowl-backs every couple Presidential administrations, whether they need it or not...

    Some day I'll develop a more discerning ear, maybe. Or not.
    Allen Hopkins
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