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Thread: Crack~say it isn't so!

  1. #1

    Default Crack~say it isn't so!

    Still on my hunt for a Vintage Gibson Oval, looking for a ~ hundred year old instrument is challenging.
    With great advice from a forum member I am looking at a very nice A-1 but when discussing it the owner advised that it does have a very small crack on the back. Good news I guess that it is on the back.

    Curious what others feel this may do to the value considering it is a hundred years old.

    And of course how to repair considering it could get worse.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. #2

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    You would think a cracked instrument would be worth a lot less than one without a crack, but I see a lot of instruments listed with repaired cracks and it doesn't seem they are being discounted much, if at all. A peghead crack might be the exception. Also, how well the crack has been repaired. If the crack is into a shaded portion of a sunburst, for example, sometimes a repair can be almost invisible, if done well.

    But, yeah, 100 year old instruments crack, so that is part of the game if you like vintage instruments. A repaired back crack shouldn't affect the sound, IMHO.
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Aug-25-2019 at 1:55pm.

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  4. #3
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Sugar Grove,PA
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    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    Nothing wrong with little cracks or big cracks-they can be fixed! My old stuff has some small hairlines and that's going on 100! Others older have them, sure don't hurt the sound! You play em they will get bumps and such and wood is unpredictable!

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    My 1913 A1 is crack free with astonishingly little wear. Everything is original and intact except the case has been replaced. I had been looking at old Gibsons for a while and decided I wanted an inlaid logo, which meant A1 or above. When one showed up at my favorite store, I decided to pay top dollar for it and never looked back. I could have bought a mandolin with no pick guard, non original tuners and a repaired crack or two for around half and had the same playing experience, but opted for clean and trouble free.

    So it really depends on what you want. To me a white A 3 that hasn't had paint worn to bare wood just looks wrong to me. To others it would be a negotiation. But do pay attention to top sink or other structural problems and pay accordingly. I have no problem with mandolins with repaired areas, especially if I know they were done at a shop I trust. That is why I'd consider paying more for a mandolin repaired at Gryphon or Elderly, or other top shop.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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  8. #5
    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    May 2010
    Zanesville, Ohio

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    Every mandolin is built with a crack right down the centerline of the top.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    I started wondering how many get one home to find that there is a crack somewhere after the humidity is lowered. Not saying anyone would do that but if exposed to a higher humidity could that help to swell up the wood & make a crack minimized?

  11. #7
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    Warwick, NY

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    A back crack would worry me more than top. It may structurally affect it I would think.

  12. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    There are many different types of cracks and also reasons why they appeared on the instrument. Some would worry me less while some would be complete NO BUY.
    Considering that mandolins are not very easy to disassemble for thorough repair (unlike high end violins). Generally cracks that are more accessible would be less concerning than those far away from soundhole(s).
    First I would ask why the crack is there - simple fall from stand or similar disaster, dryness, or structural failure over time? The first when properly repaired would worry me least, the second a bit more, while the last would be worst even if repaired nearly invisibly.
    If the crack was repaired I would ask how it was done (and by who) because all glues or methods are not equal and suitable for all cracks.
    I would expect significant price drop for larger cracks, especially in structural areas (neck, centerjoints).
    Unlessthere is shortage of clean (uncracked) mandolins of same make I would always expect price drop for damaged instrument. May not hold for rare and sought after instrument, though.

    On violins simple top cracks are usually accepted on older valuable instruments (as they can be repaired again if necessary and old instrument without such cracks are rare) but bass bar crack or soundpost cracks easily reduce value by half (even if properly repaired with patch) and back cracks (especially in structural areas like the soundpost back crack) will make the violin nearly unsellable to serious buyer.

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  14. #9

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    Maybe I will look at fiddles later but for now a mandolin (not smart enough to try more that one instrument!!!)
    But then your replay is appreciated!!!

  15. #10
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Crack~say it isn't so!

    I've been keeping my nose out of this one for reasons the OP understands. But . . .

    While I believe in servicing all cracks, some are of minor consequence, and some must be serviced as soon as possible to insure the survival of the instrument.

    The most serious cracks are top cracks which intersect a sound hole, intersect the bridge, or are parallel to the fingerboard. If not serviced, they allow for unequal lateral and/or vertical movement of the top adjoining the crack, resulting in distortion of the top plate. On violin family instruments, cracks which are near the soundpost are equally critical, whether they are in the top or in the back.

    Long side cracks also allow for a good deal of movement and distortion, and should be addressed immediately.

    Short back cracks near the edges are of little structural concern, but they should be serviced to keep them from getting longer. Long back cracks are of greater concern, especially on carved mandolins and violin family instruments, because of the lack of bracing.

    I have seen guitars with long back cracks that have been unattended for decades, and show few signs of distortion. But bear in mind that the backs on flat top guitars have 3 or 4 braces, and the braces will often hold the instrument in shape as long as the glue joints are still good.

    Unserviced cracks of any type are not going to help the tone of an instrument. Well repaired cracks can restore the tone of an instrument to its original state. However, the injudicious use of oversized cleats can disrupt tone. Cleats, if necessary, should in most cases be kept as small as possible.

    As far as the effect on the value of a fretted instrument, large and unattractively repaired top cracks have the most significant effect. Small, well repaired back cracks have much less impact on value, especially on older instruments. A small, near invisibly repaired crack may have little or no effect on value, depending on the buyer.

    Well repaired cracks are of little or no consequence to an instrument's long term structural stability. In other words, those of us who have old instruments with repaired cracks might worry about them, but the instruments are not going to fall apart. My mandolin is a lot older than I am, and I have no doubt that it will last a lot longer than I will.

    The mandolin world, the acoustic guitar world, and the violin market all function differently from each other when it comes to cracks.

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