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Thread: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

  1. #1

    Default Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Hi folks, I'm into 12 hours of a 48 hour review period for a 1920's Lyon and Healy Style C. I was hopeful that I was purchasing a "player's instrument" that had been compromised because of a non-original tailpiece and some funky re-attachment of the original pick-guard, and indeed while those modifications may affect collectability neither has turned out to affect the sound.There are three aspects of this instrument that I am concerned about: 1. the fretboard has been planed : it's straight (and flat: no radius at all), but it thins out toward the bridge end. (it's also ugly because whatever dye it originally had was planed off) 2. The action is a tad high. and 3. it has a lot of fret wear and IMO should have a complete refretting.

    Is this worth keeping? Is the fretboard a deal-breaker? How much would a full refret be?

    This is my first forum post - opinions welcome!

    Thanks!Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Well how about a whole side photo showing the entire instrument so we can see the entire neck-board- strings and the top, bridge to check angle? A re fret shouldn't cost too much I'd think? Also depends on how much you paid? If you got a deal and it just needs a re fret and not a neck-set or new board? and you love the tone overall voice? Every now and then an original tailpiece cover can be found!

    It looks pretty nice to me, the board may have been replaced? I don't think that's ebony on there and I believe these had ebony boards.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    Well how about a whole side photo showing the entire instrument so we can see the entire neck-board- strings and the top, bridge to check angle? A re fret shouldn't cost too much I'd think? Also depends on how much you paid? If you got a deal and it just needs a re fret and not a neck-set or new board? and you love the tone overall voice? Every now and then an original tailpiece cover can be found!

    It looks pretty nice to me, the board may have been replaced? I don't think that's ebony on there and I believe these had ebony boards.

    Good idea - here's a side view. Paid $750 for it and I rarely see them listed for less than $1800, so it might be worth it.Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks.

  4. #4
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    If it was mine yeah man, get a re-fret and new nut-the neck looks good to me and it doesn't look like your top is flattening out in the middle "where the bridge is" and your bridge can be taken down, looks too tall, I think for 750 great deal if you like the sound and talk to a good luthier depending where you live? Someone can point you to one, I would say if that's all that I said is needed it shouldn't cost more than 500-600 bucks? maybe less as I don't know what a re-fret costs and new nut/bridge fit?

    Let some others chime in and get more of an opinion but I believe I'm right with what it needs, it can be hard to tell without the instrument in ones hand though-can you take it to a repair guy or gal that does mandolins-not just someone that does guitars as some don't know jack about mandolins! I've also seen original tailpiece covers for yours for sale-so keep your eye open as they've been here in the classifieds before.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Good suggestions - keep em coming!

    I usually take my instruments to Bob stubblebine in Cambridge ma but hes always way backed up. Further complication is that Im on cape cod for vacation - anyone know of anyone competent here to have a look-see within the next 24 hrs?

    How does one lower the action on the bridge side with a non-adjustable bridge - is it a matter of grinding and re-notching?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by mjbee View Post
    How does one lower the action on the bridge side with a non-adjustable bridge - is it a matter of grinding and re-notching?
    No, it's a matter of removing wood from the base of the bridge that contacts the top of the mandolin. You'll need to remove enough wood to lower the action and to perfectly match the contour of the carved top.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Yep what Lenf12 above said-I know nobody on cape cod brother! But if you like it, keep her its worth getting a bit of work done to play right!

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    I'm not sure, but the bridge doesn't look original to me, the peghead is not one I've seen before, and IIRC the tailpiece may not be original either. The fretboard is ugly.

    If it was my decision to make, I'd figure that by the time all the little niggly issues were resolved, I'd have spent enough to buy one that was closer to original.

    On the plus side, L&H made great mandolins. I really like mine, but it was in good shape when I bought it, so I knew exactly what I was getting. (It was so great when I picked it up to play that I totally forgot to haggle over the price.)

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Nothing wrong with a players grade mandolin if you don't have to put too much into it! Looks like a nice mandolin to me with potential if you like the tone/overall voice!

  11. #10

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    I've often said that an L&H style C missing its tailpiece is the best value in vintage oval-hole mandolins. Headstock looks fine, but that fretboard is a puzzler, and the bridge is probably a replacement. I would get a price from an experienced luthier on a new unbound ebony board fretted of course and set-up including bridge adjustment. That'll probably come out to $500+ but you'll have a great playing instrument, ready for a century of use.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by mjbee View Post
    Hi folks, I'm into 12 hours of a 48 hour review period for a 1920's Lyon and Healy Style C. I was hopeful that I was purchasing a "player's instrument" that had been compromised because of a non-original tailpiece and some funky re-attachment of the original pick-guard, and indeed while those modifications may affect collectability neither has turned out to affect the sound.There are three aspects of this instrument that I am concerned about: 1. the fretboard has been planed : it's straight (and flat: no radius at all), but it thins out toward the bridge end. (it's also ugly because whatever dye it originally had was planed off) 2. The action is a tad high. and 3. it has a lot of fret wear and IMO should have a complete refretting.

    Is this worth keeping? Is the fretboard a deal-breaker? How much would a full refret be?

    This is my first forum post - opinions welcome!

    Thanks!

    To refret and adjust that mandolin in my shop would cost perhaps $450 to $500 if the neck is straight, the fret slots are correctly located, the nut can be re-used, and there is no additional work necessary. That would include staining the fingerboard, adjusting the bridge height, adjusting the nut, and new strings. It would not include radiusing the fingerboard.

    There is no need to replace the fingerboard unless it is weak, rotten, or the fret slots are mislocated. The tapered cut under the last few frets was the former owner's or repairman's take on how to minimize fingerboard interference with a player's pick. Unless you want to play above the 17th fret, it is of no practical concern.

    I usually adjust a bridge from the top. It can be done more quickly, even if the saddle slot needs to be deepened.

    That is one of at least 3 different peghead styles I have seen on L & H style C mandolins. I've also seen at least 3 or 4 bridge styles.
    That bridge looks similar to a 1911 - 1914 Gibson bridge with a replaced saddle.

    You could put a lot of extra money into the mandolin to make it look "historically correct," but it would have little or no effect on the sound.

    $750 is a good price for that mandolin.
    Last edited by rcc56; Aug-28-2019 at 3:30pm.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Correct me folks if I am wrong, but I don't think the fretboard is at all original. I think the A, B, & C models all had ebony fretboards. I don't have my L&H but I do have a scan from a 1920 L&H catalog which specs the style C fretboard as ebony. And from many example photos I have i onoy see what looks like ebony fretboards. I believe that the other lettered models which were all flattops may have had dyed fretboards.

    Here is the 1920 catalog page:

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    Last edited by Jim Garber; Aug-28-2019 at 4:04pm.
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    I am convinced that the fretboard is non-original. It just looks wrong to my eyes. But here his same era style C from Frank Ford's site for comparison. I know the angle is not exactly the same but take a look at the end of the fretboard. Yes, someone cut the very end off but the shape of the end looks wrong aside from being the wrong wood.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    If the existing fingerboard is doing its job, the only reason for replacement would be cosmetics, not structural concerns.
    In other words, "elective surgery."
    Fingerboard replacement will increase his repair costs a couple of hundred bucks.

    Instead, the existing fingerboard can easily be stained.
    The OP will have to decide how important historical accuracy is to him on an instrument in this price range.

    It's easier to spend someone else's money than it is to spend your own.
    Last edited by rcc56; Aug-28-2019 at 5:25pm.

  18. #15

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    thanks everyone for the range of opinions so far. Should I be concerned with how thin the fretboard (original or not) gets as I move down the neck? Would it make fret replacement hazardous ?

    I am worried, as Bob A stated, about the cost of repairing all the things that are wrong with this coming close to the cost of a well preserved one.

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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    As long as the neck is straight and the instrument seems to be stable, there is no major concern. There is enough wood there for a refret. The frets at the angled end of the fingerboard can be left out if necessary, and the slots filled.

    If you like the mandolin, you can go for the necessary repairs and leave the rest alone. If you want one that is historically accurate, you might want to look for another one instead.

    $750 plus $500 for repairs puts your cost at $1250, which is a good price for a good mandolin that is not all original. If you add the cost of a fingerboard and an original tailpiece, which are elective, you might as well buy one that is still in more original condition.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Obviously, the instrument was priced accordingly at less than 1/2 the retail price for a good reason. If I were the OP I would get it over to a competent luthier, if possible, since no one here can truly assess the amount of work needed without having it in hand.

    My point about the fretboard was not to insist that it be replaced if it is functional but only that its non-originality detracts from the inherent value of the instrument. I assume the OP is buying this from a reputable dealer. It looks to me that this dealer knows what he/she has and priced it accordingly.
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  22. #18

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    I do believe that there is a difference between seeking an original tailpiece, which would be purely cosmetic, and restoring the fingerboard to ebony, which will probably affect the sound, playability, and ease of future refretting in a good way -- and increase the resale value substantially. Of course, I can't really tell what the existing board is made of, and it may be that once stained black it will look better, and assuming it's rosewood, then it may be dense and stiff enough to serve.
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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    As I said in post #2 I didn't think the board was original, but for what was paid and if he likes it, it'll be a fine player for a few bucks more! Nothing wrong with that IMHO! I say for the price paid get her fixed, I've owned 100's of mandolins and if I liked the voice $ went into them to be a player. That's just my opinion as that's a nice mandolin!

  24. #20

    Default Re: Lyon and Healy Style C with planed fretboard

    Thank you all for the wide-ranging suggestions. It is indeed hard to know for sure without the instrument in hand, and I'm the only one with that opportunity. Given all the uncertainty, and the fact that I may be going down a rabbit hole for a third mandolin (my other rides are a 1931 National and a 2014 Phoenix Jazz) , I'm deciding to return it. If anyone with thicker skin wants to take this up, it'll probably be re-listed in a few days on music-go-round, gahanna ohio. THANK YOU ALL!

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