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Thread: I have a superton, what next?

  1. #1
    Registered User RandyC's Avatar
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    Default I have a superton, what next?

    I just picked this up at a flea market for $50. It looks to be in really good shape except the nut. I know they are not collector items. I bought it for two reasons. I thought it would be a good cheap mando for festivals and such that I don't have to worry about it. Also I thought it would be a fun project to maybe sand down and re finish.

    But on the way home I thought, I kind of like it the way it looks now so maybe just clean it up. So my questions to the experts is, what should I do?

    The nut is broken up. Should I replace it? The tuning knobs, should I take them off and clean them up? That bridge doesn't look like the original to my, but may it is. Should I replace that?

    I really don't know anything about this stuff so any and all advise would be great. Thank you.

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  2. #2

    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Yes, take the strings off and clean that thing up......and wear rubber gloves

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    The bridge looks like it's from a classical guitar, not original. Be sure to check inside with a mirror and light to see if the brace is glued well. The nut looks like ebony and can be repaired or easily replaced. You may want to read about restoring tuners if they turn hard. Should be info on here somewhere, my memory is blocking the author, but some younger person will remember and post it I am sure.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  4. #4

    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    I think it looks cool. Have fun!

  5. #5

    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    You may want to read about restoring tuners if they turn hard. Should be info on here somewhere, my memory is blocking the author, but some younger person will remember and post it I am sure.
    That would be the late, great Paul Hostetter (sp?). Frank Ford also has tuner care pages at Frets.com. I think it would be very cool cleaned up and set up with new strings. Enjoy!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Observe that the bridge has two pearl dots on it. In most cases, these are covering bolts or screws.
    If you decide to replace the bridge, you must take this into account.

    Ebony mandolin nuts are difficult to make because it is very easy to accidentally split out the wood inside the string pairs. I would suggest using bone for a replacement nut.

  8. #7
    Registered User RandyC's Avatar
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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Thank you for the replies everyone

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Be sure to check inside with a mirror and light to see if the brace is glued well. The nut looks like ebony and can be repaired or easily replaced. You may want to read about restoring tuners if they turn hard. Should be info on here somewhere, my memory is blocking the author, but some younger person will remember and post it I am sure.
    I don't have a mirror small enough to fit inside. We have small ones at work though so I will bring one home tomorrow. All the tuners turned with no problem.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Observe that the bridge has two pearl dots on it. In most cases, these are covering bolts or screws.
    If you decide to replace the bridge, you must take this into account.

    Ebony mandolin nuts are difficult to make because it is very easy to accidentally split out the wood inside the string pairs. I would suggest using bone for a replacement nut.
    The bridge turned out to be a floating bridge so I got lucky there.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    So I really do not know what I am doing so I have some basic questions.

    1. What do I clean up the mando with? From what I read online just use a wet rag. Do not use furniture polish like some sites say.

    2. The tuners turned no problem. Should I take them and the tail piece off and clean them with some sort of metal clean/polish?

    3. Should I buy a new floating bridge? If so any suggestions on which one.

    4. I have no experience about the nut. Can I buy one ready made or is it a solid rectangle I would have to file grooves in for the strings?

    5. I normally use D'addario EJ74 strings. Would that be alright on this mando or should I use lighter strings?

  10. #9
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    A couple of quarts of cocktail components and time. Some for cleaning parts and the rest to get you through the rest of the project one step at a time. There will be lots of little things you will find to tweak.

    Also, get the “Set up” guide from Rob Meldrum. Then slow yourself down and be prepared for an interesting weekend!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    The bridge would have most likely looked like this one. This is on a mandolin that my uncle got used in the 30's.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by RandyC View Post
    So I really do not know what I am doing so I have some basic questions.

    1. What do I clean up the mando with? From what I read online just use a wet rag. Do not use furniture polish like some sites say.

    2. The tuners turned no problem. Should I take them and the tail piece off and clean them with some sort of metal clean/polish?

    3. Should I buy a new floating bridge? If so any suggestions on which one.

    4. I have no experience about the nut. Can I buy one ready made or is it a solid rectangle I would have to file grooves in for the strings?

    5. I normally use D'addario EJ74 strings. Would that be alright on this mando or should I use lighter strings?
    1. A damp rag, not wet.

    2. If the tuners work well clean them up or not, up to you.

    3. Mike shows an original bridge, but you may want to put on a bridge that has intonation. Will most likely be a solid bridge.

    4. While you can buy a nut kind of ready made, it will need to be fit to your instrument, so no not really.

    5. J74's are too heavy for this mandolin, more like a 10-36 would be in order.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    ... some younger person will remember and post it I am sure.
    If "younger" means 73, here ya go - Paul Hostetter's tuner-maintenance guide:
    http://63.249.102.84/tuner.maintenance.html

    BTW, the wear patterns, especially the back of the neck, indicate that it's been played long, hard, and probably well. Some of those older "economy" models can sound surprisingly good, just like, ya know, a mandolin!

    So yes, clean it up a bit, maybe seal the wood with some light oil finish, but please don't hide its hard-earned battle scars.
    - Ed

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    For the most part, I agree with the info so far shared. Here's my 2 cents worth of advice:

    1. What do I clean up the mando with? From what I read online just use a wet rag. Do not use furniture polish like some sites say.


    Yes to the damp cloth. Here's another trick: While I've heard a lot of folks disagree with me, I've had excellent results cleaning up old instruments using Virtuoso brand guitar cleaner (not the polish) http://virtuosopolish.com. The chief complaint I've heard is that is will leave a white residue in cracks and chips (it does) but it cleans like nothing I've ever come across and does not damage vintage finishes. I've been able to remove any while residue with a damp cloth or a soft wet brush.

    2. The tuners turned no problem. Should I take them and the tail piece off and clean them with some sort of metal clean/polish?


    The tuners look fine. You can remove and clean if you like but purely up to you. I usually put a bit of petroleum jelly on the gears as a lubricant and work the tuners to spread it out.


    3. Should I buy a new floating bridge? If so any suggestions on which one.


    What was on this when you bought it is a Ukulele bridge. I've used a wide range of old time mandolin bridges as replacement and even made a few simple ones of my own. Since this isn't a collectible instrument, but rather a "player" find something that fits and works well. The biggest issue will be string height and action. I usually have to slant the bridge to get better intonation. A compensated bridge may solve that issue.

    The bridge in

    4. I have no experience about the nut. Can I buy one ready made or is it a solid rectangle I would have to file grooves in for the strings?

    I'd buy a mandolin nut ball and cut the slots specifically for that instrument.

    5. I normally use D'addario EJ74 strings. Would that be alright on this mando or should I use lighter strings?

    As suggested above, I'd only put light gauge strings on this.

    I don't have a mirror small enough to fit inside.

    any Auto supply store has small mirrors on expanding handles that are perfect for this. Usually under $5.00.

    These can be surpassingly decent instruments if set up properly. Usually they are birch which will give a clear, bright tone. I just completed a re-build on a vintage Regal Mando and it sounds and plays quite well. Good luck!

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Nice find! I've had good luck making my own bridges, if you have some scrap hardwood lying about. Here's one I made recently for my Mid-Missouri M2 out of maple. I used a 2" sanding drum in my drill press, a coping saw, and some needle files (for setting the intonation). That was all! Sounds great.

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    This is where I first read about making fixed bridges. A lot of good info here, especially about intonation: https://www.murphymethod.com/index.c...t&contentId=87

    Enjoy it! Well worth $50.

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    Registered User RandyC's Avatar
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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Thanks for the advise everyone, I really appreciate it. I am just going to clean it up a bit and keep the original finish. I like the look of it as is. I'll get a new nut and bridge.

    What I meant above when I said floating bridge, I meant adjustable bridge. I think and adjustable one might be too tall for this mandolin. I also want to add a peg for a strap.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    I think you're right about the height of an adjustable bridge. Usually for these older, cheaper ones, you need a non adjustable one. Something like mreidsma suggested above could be a good alternative.

    RE a strap button. You may be able to simply use a leather shoelace for a strap and tie the end around your tail piece, space permitting.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Looks like this Mandolin has been played a lot of the years.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    If you want to fix them take a look at this page on Frank Ford's www.frets.com.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  21. #19
    Registered User RandyC's Avatar
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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    If you want to fix them take a look at this page on Frank Ford's www.frets.com.
    Thanks, that is a great plan of action. I'm not so worried about the fret boars, I kind of think the wear looks cool and as it said in the link should not impair play. I'm a little more concerned about the grooves in the frets. They could impair playing. Should I file them down a little? I don't know how to change the frets and am not sure I want the expense of having it done.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Get a cheap, small dental mirror at a drug store.

  23. #21
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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by RandyC View Post
    Thanks, that is a great plan of action. I'm not so worried about the fret boars, I kind of think the wear looks cool and as it said in the link should not impair play. I'm a little more concerned about the grooves in the frets. They could impair playing. Should I file them down a little? I don't know how to change the frets and am not sure I want the expense of having it done.
    String it up and see if it plays without problems. If there are issues then you can try just taking the frets down a bit but chances are you'll run out of meat on those frets and you'll have do something about them.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  24. #22

    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    RE: Fret grooves. Caution, untested theory. . It looks (I haven’t done it) that easing a fret out isn’t such a difficult thing, but how’s this quick and very dirty idea. The grooving is on the A and E, in the first couple of frets. Since you’re making a new nut, why not offset just those two strings about half the distance between each pair. At that end of the fingerboard, the strings are very well located sideways, so there shouldn’t be much chance of dropping into the old grooves. So, maybe 1/32” shift, and you’re on untouched metal. No re-leveling or anything else to do. If there was a little more room, you could keep all the same nut grooves, but just displace it a bit.

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    I would prefer you buy a fret crowing file. You don't need to do a complete fret level if you are nervous about it. If you use a good light and there is no buzzing now, simply use the crowning file and file each fret. Watch the center line and the dents. File until the dents are centered and very small on top of the fret and stop. You won't have changed anything with fret height, but will make it more playable. You could always get an actual fret level, but I have done this many times to slow the wear of leveling and lowering the frets. It works very well, and is easy.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    ... simply use the crowning file and file each fret. Watch the center line and the dents. File until the dents are centered and very small on top of the fret and stop. You won't have changed anything with fret height ...
    Extra encouragement to the OP: Being a purely amateur home tinkerer, I've done exacty as pops1 suggests, and it worked well.

    My $.02 hint: Besides a straight-edge (I cut an old steel "computer-print design" ruler into shorter usable lengths), look up Stew-Mac's "fret rocker" and then substitute a plastic credit card - it works well for us non-professionals!
    https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...SAAEgLjyfD_BwE
    - Ed

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  27. #25

    Default Re: I have a superton, what next?

    That "crown" tailpiece cover would cost about $40 or more on ebay- so $50 is a good buy- especially as the mandolin is a player. Mandolin maker Jerry Rosa uses Simichrome polish to buff up old instruments- just try it in a small area first. I have used other chrome polish brands or paint scratch remover to good effect. However, I will repeat that please use with care starting in a small area first to get a feel for what the polish will do to the finish. I would assume the mandolin is from the 1930s. You can date a Supertone mandolin from its label- if it is still there- or as it is a Harmony made instrument, there may be a date stamp-an S or F followed by a two digit date.

    Edit: That oblong blue and silver label is mid-30s. It was first produced as a large label then reduced in size later in the 30s before it became a circle in 1939 or 1940- all those labels being blue and silver. I think that is the big label but as it is in a mandolin, it might be the small one but it looks big! The small oblong label is in a 1937 date stamped Supertone guitar I have. It is probably not quite two inches wide.

    This is that Supertone being played by the restorer- I bought it off his customer. Anyway, he brings the best out of it- fingerstyle while I am a pick man! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkaIm_IkcRU Don't go looking for the label- it also has the tuning label- a great gimmick!
    Last edited by NickR; Oct-16-2019 at 12:22pm.

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