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Thread: Resonator mandolin repair

  1. #1

    Question Resonator mandolin repair

    I'm looking for someone who might be able to repair a resonator mandolin from the 30s. The string tension has pulled up the tailpiece, causing the bottom of the instrument to collapse at the spot where the tailpiece is attached. This is the second time it's happened. I was able to get it repaired before by having the good fortune to meet Don Young, the founder of the National Resophonic company. He agreed to take a look at what I thought at the time was an irreparable instrument. Not only did he fix it, it also came back with a chime and sustain it had never previously possessed. Sadly, just a few weeks after I got it back, Don passed away. So, if there's anyone out there who can help, I'd love to hear from you.

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Try Harry Eibert in Syracuse, NY. I am not sure if he will take it on but he silver-soldered a National mandolin tailpiece for me a number of years ago. No web site but he is on Facebook here.
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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Can you post a picture of the area that needs repaired. I'm trying to picture how the force of the tailpiece caused the body to collapse. Here's a picture of one I used to own taken apart.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Try Harry Eibert in Syracuse, NY. I am not sure if he will take it on but he silver-soldered a National mandolin tailpiece for me a number of years ago. No web site but he is on Facebook here.
    Many thanks for your response. I'll try and track him down on FB.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    Can you post a picture of the area that needs repaired. I'm trying to picture how the force of the tailpiece caused the body to collapse. Here's a picture of one I used to own taken apart.
    Thanks for responding. A key piece of info I neglected to mention in my original post is that the mandolin in question is not a metal-bodied instrument, but a wood-bodied one, which I suppose is a lot more susceptible to damage caused by string tension. I think the accompanying photos will show the problem. It's the same basic problem as last time, though this time the wood has started to split. As I said, I thought the instrument was a goner then, but Don Young was able to work his magic on it. It has a beautiful sound and means a lot to me, so I'd love to be able to restore it if that's at all possible.Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    I'm thinking it took a hit to the bottom button and cracked it. Doesn't look like string tension would have done that. On top of that, Don Young died in 2016 -- meaning his repair only lasted three years (unlikely IMHO) or it got dropped and it cracked when it hit the strap button, under tension. (Armchair detective work based on 50+ years of playing and repair......whatya think?)

    Repair would consist of making an oversized end block to fit inside and push the body back out and give you something solid to screw into. Really doesn't look that bad, IMHO.
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Oct-28-2019 at 9:50pm.

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    If the block wasn't glued well to the top and back this can happen, even without a hit. Glue the block and make sure it is in good contact with the top and back or make a new block. This should be able to be made playable again.
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  13. #8
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    ... Armchair detective work based on 50+ years of playing and repair......whatya think?
    I think "yeah".

    AND I think the damage could have even happened inside the case, if the case's padding geometry allows the end-pin to impact the rim of the case before the body is stopped by the absorbtive padding around the end-pin notch (assuming that there IS an end-pin notch, and assuming that the padding has not packed down - as so readily happens inside ski boots). Being placed on end onto a hard surface, it might take little apparent "in-hand" movement to force the full weight of the instrument onto the end-pin.

    Contiuing the thought: There's a LOT of wood inside the relatively thick body, so it must be somewhat heavier than the average mandolin. And the end-pin is close to the top edge - not centered on the body where the force of an impact would be distributed across the full end-block. I vote for accidental damage inside the case - maybe.
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    The endpin is a screw that screws into the dowel stick coming from the neck. My guess is still glue joint failure to the top, and heavy strings.
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  17. #10

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Thanks, everyone, for pitching in on this. There's a lot of good insight here. It may well be that the damage is impact-related rather than a string tension issue -- that was just an assumption on my part. I can't recall dropping it, but I do take it out to gigs and sessions fairly regularly, so the stress on it might have been cumulative, especially as the only case I have for it is a soft one. Anyway, it's good to know that the consensus seems to be that the damage can be fixed. All I need to do now is find a reputable repair guy. Thanks, Jim Garber, for the tip about Harry Eibert. Any other leads would be greatly appreciated.

  18. #11

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    I imagine the end block has come adrift and the string tension has broken the bodywork. I think this is an easy repair, when you take all the metalwork off you'll see what's going on.

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  20. #12

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    I imagine the end block has come adrift and the string tension has broken the bodywork. I think this is an easy repair, when you take all the metalwork off you'll see what's going on.
    Yes, you could be right in thinking that it's a combination of factors. I'll try to find someone to repair it, but the only problem is that I live in Japan, and I don't know if there's anyone here with much experience dealing with this kind of instrument. But then again, it might be a problem that any decent luthier could fix. Thanks for the comment.

  21. #13

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Both Ishibashi Music and Woodman Guitar are very well known vintage dealers in Japan. I have dealt with both of them personally.

  22. #14

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by bilben View Post
    I'll try to find someone to repair it, but the only problem is that I live in Japan, and I don't know if there's anyone here with much experience dealing with this kind of instrument.
    Contrary to what we think we know about American made instruments, it has been my experience that the Japanese know 10 times as much and have studied it more. That extends to almost everything vintage and "American"........music, cars, cameras, wristwatches, Ray-Bans, Levis, etc.......

    I say this having worked with Japanese music wholesalers for 35 years......

  23. #15
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    I have one of these from the early 30's. The original tailpiece was broken, so I replaced it with this scalloped one from StewMac. Sure I had to drill some new small holes but it better distributes the string tension.

    I have no idea about any dowel rod in this instrument that pops mentioned - seems like it would have to pass thru the cone? My old Stahl banjolin does use a dowel stick but that's a totally different instrument.

    Some of the best advice I ever got here on the cafe was use LIGHT strings on these old reso's. I use Newtone .008's on mine.

    Regarding "taking off the metalwork" - these old cones are very fragile and are responsible for the sweet bell-like tone. DO NOT try to force the old cone off! The top plate goes off and on easy enough but you can't get to the tailblock without removing the cone or the back. I would recommend the back.

  24. #16
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    You may be right Bart, I may have been thinking about a National. Haven't had one of these apart in a while and my old memory is not what it was.
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  25. #17

    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    While I haven't worked on a reso Mandolin, I do work on reso guitars, most recently my own 1937 Dobro made by Regal (as I suspect this mando is based on headstock shape). As Bart noted, the old cones have a wonderful tone that replacements can't match. I never had an issue removing a cone from a guitar... they are simply seated on the inner wooden rim. Are mandolin cones glued in? Assuming they aren't, Id expect the cone to come out with a minimum of effort. Pull the cone and you'll have access to everything you need to see in order to asses the damage. Can't help but wonder if the tailpiece screw didn't split the end block. That's some significant damage with both on the top and the butt pushed forward. Even so, it's wood and there's not much that can't be repaired if it's wood.

  26. #18
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginridge View Post
    While I haven't worked on a reso Mandolin, I do work on reso guitars, most recently my own 1937 Dobro made by Regal... I never had an issue removing a cone from a guitar... they are simply seated on the inner wooden rim. Are mandolin cones glued in? Assuming they aren't, Id expect the cone to come out with a minimum of effort. Pull the cone and you'll have access to everything you need to see in order to asses the damage.
    I was not able to lift the cone out of my 1934 (or possibly earlier) Regal resonator mandolin, even after carefully cutting through the glue/finish/dirt seal formed around the rim with a scalpel. I was going to mount a piezo pickup on the bottom of the cone. The cone did not move even a little so I left it alone and put it all back together.

  27. #19
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    I have a Dobro mandolin, '30's vintage, that needed and got a neck re-set right after I acquired it. My repair tech, Dave Stutzman of Stutzman's Guitar Center in Rochester, said that the neck block was "made of balsa wood!" Of course he was exaggerating, but the point was that it was a very soft wood that deformed pretty easily under string tension. The end block on this mandolin may be of similar quality.

    Regal and Dobro, both in Chicago at the time, had an arrangement that basically "shared" construction of resonator instruments, some labeled "Regal," some "Dobro." I used to think that Regal built the wooden bodies and necks, and Dobro supplied the resonator hardware; I've since been told that it was more complicated than that, but whatever the details, much of the woodworking on these instruments is below the highest quality. I'd have no hesitation in pulling the resonator and investigating what might amount to replacement of the end block.

    Honestly, there's no "magic" involved. These resonator guitars and mandolins were fairly rough-and-ready instruments, though capable of wonderful acoustic output. Fixing them up shouldn't present that huge a challenge for an experienced repair tech, and perhaps is within the capabilities of a determined amateur.
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    Registered User Vernon Hughes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Resonator mandolin repair

    I restored one a while back with very similar damage as the original posters. The neck block and tail block were made of basswood, way too soft for the stresses involved. I replaced both with mahogany blocks, did a neck reset and it left in fine shape.
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