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Thread: My old/new Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer broken/excellent mandolin

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    Default My old/new Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer broken/excellent mandolin

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    I value items which I’ve invested my time and emotional energy in, with which I share a story. Despite the fact that I’ve only logged a few hours on this instrument we already have been entangled in quite a story.

    Preparing to check out of a CHEAP Reno casino resort on our way home to Sequim, WA from Santa Fe, NM. I bought a mandolin. A week prior, the day before leaving for Santa Fe I hurriedly returned another obscure mandolin, a Pricetone, when the seller, after shipping it to me a week late, freaked out and revoked my one week trial after I had it in my possession for two hours. While packing my suitcase in Reno, I took another shot at an ebay F-style with a 1 3/16” nut, this one made by Ike Bacon, a farmer in Indiana. I sent $500, got a fraud alert from paypal but got it sorted.

    Then commenced 3 weeks during which the seller said he had sent it but refused to say when, how or where. It took a paypal dispute to get this information and I then informed him that it was still sitting at the post office where he had failed to successfully ship it. A few days later I opened the shipping box and the case to gaze upon a nice mandolin with a collapsed top, missing tips on the points and notched frets.

    I’ve exchanged a number of emails with Ike Bacon. He sold his mandolins over the years for $1500 to $1800. Ike made forty, starting in the early 80’s and has been retired for many years. This was #18 but doesn’t have a date. While two local luthiers told me that this top was “too thin” it’s worth noting that it was played heavily for three decades and I might have played it unaltered for years to come if the seller had not put it in a loose case without padding allowing the bridge to be slammed during it’s 3 week odyssey.

    Anyway despite its problems, the neck was to die for and my buddy who has played mandolin for thirty years agreed with me that it sounded pretty damn good, albeit with a very weak G due to the collapsed top. It had a modern 1 3/4” deep box, like a Gilchrest or a Weber and the flamed sides and back were attractive. Looking at the possibility of repair I contacted several luthiers and ended up sending it to Barry Kratzer for a whole new red spruce top, new tips and fret work. I also sent him a new Allen tailpiece and a K&K twin which he installed. He confirmed that the sides, back and neck were very well made (he especially noted the properly proportioned back) but that the top had been carved too thin. He also reinforced the bottom of the fretboard which overhung the body, made a new nut, recarved the back scroll to match the front, made side markers on the fretboard binding, put on a new Randy Wood bridge and refinished the back and sides. The original quote for an $800 new top and general refinish ended up being $950 with all the additional work. Before sending this to Barry I checked forum posts and they were all positive and indicated that his mandolins delivered a lot of bang for the buck. I got a tremendous amount of top quality repair and replacement for my money.
    My total investment is now $500 + $950 + $55(Allen) + $100(K&K) + $90(shipping both ways) = $1,695.

    The thing I wanted above all else was strong even volume across the four strings. I got it and the clarity and volume is maintained up to the high G on the E string. I’m hitting that G chop chord with ease; I guess because it is now easier to avoid muffling adjacent strings. The resonant “chime” is appealing, big and broad, the tone somehow reminds me of my Tacoma jumbo guitar. Some of the transitions from Ike’s back to Barry’s front took some thought and time. The top is beautifully done.

    In short I’m very happy with how this turned out. Barry was a joy to work with and sent me many work in process photos.
    Last edited by Greg P. Stone; Sep-28-2019 at 4:39pm.
    1989/2019 Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer F5
    1945 Levin 330
    192? Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) banjo-mandolin
    early Eastwood Mandostang
    2005 Tacoma CB-10 acoustic bass guitar
    Fender Tweed Deluxe clone

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  3. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Jun 2019
    Balama, Mozambique, Africa, Earth

    Default Re: My old/new Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer broken/excellent mandolin

    Looks great, congrats! Got video?
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: My old/new Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer broken/excellent mandolin

    No video, Gunnar. I'm technically challenged.

    I wanted to put this out there partly because repair reports are far less common but, unfortunately, something many of us will face. From reading this forum for almost a year I can tick off the details of dozens of highly rated builders but had no name come to mind when I needed extensive repairs. The local guy I know quoted over a grand just for the top and really didn't want to do it, said it was too time consuming. So I hereby recommend Barry Kratzer for big repairs, where the quality and savings dwarf the cost and bother of shipping.

    I had already heard of Barry (Bulldog Instruments) for building fine instruments at an affordable price. He seems to have finished an extended period of trying a bunch of things and settled in on what he believes are the constituents of the best mandolins he can make. For instance, after going through all the alternatives for mandolin tops, even fiberglass reinforced wood, he uses only red spruce. That gets you great value if you are the type that wants the expert to make most of the decisions. Being in my first year with this instrument I reluctantly fall into this category. My natural, and perhaps less wise, tendencies are illustrated by the fact that I have a 6 piece custom sapele stave drum set.
    1989/2019 Ike Bacon/Barry Kratzer F5
    1945 Levin 330
    192? Bruno (Oscar Schmidt) banjo-mandolin
    early Eastwood Mandostang
    2005 Tacoma CB-10 acoustic bass guitar
    Fender Tweed Deluxe clone

  5. The following members say thank you to Greg P. Stone for this post:


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