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Thread: Effect of storage on a mandolin

  1. #1
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Could someone answer this question for me please? If a high end varnished modern mandolin is stored properly for, say, 15 years, but not played at all, would there possibly be any negative impacts on the mandolin? Thank you. I know, it kind of sounds like a dumb question, but I keep thinking that I once heard long term storage without playing was bad for a mandolin.
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Hmmmmm.........I guess I would first look into witness protection -- they might let you keep the mandolin............

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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    It may have gone to sleep and when awake you may find it sounds like an oboe. You never know.......
    Last edited by Bill McCall; Dec-02-2019 at 7:01pm.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    If it were me, I'd lower the tension of the strings to just barely enough to hold the bridge in place. Then I'd store the mandolin in a case, and perhaps also in a case-bag, and store it somewhere where there aren't significant temperature or humidity swings. And, I'd pray the neck doesn't decide to bow or warp on its own, while it's being stored for such of a long period.

    Just because an instrument is not being played does not mean it won't suffer wear and tear. Finishes continue thinning and maturing over the years, woods continue to settle, glues harden and can degrade. Weather still affects the instrument. Plus, unexpected events and accidents still affect the instrument.

    Playing a mandolin consistently causes wear and tear, but at least when things things start going wrong they are noticed and can be addressed before they get too bad.
    -- Don

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Don - Thank you very much. That is what I wanted to understand. I think the thread topic can be curtailed now!
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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Curious to see what those with more expertise than me have to say about this. I have asked this question in the past with regards to reducing tension while traveling. Leaving some instruments home for up to 5 months. I was mostly advised not to reduce tension. Now, I realize 5 months is not 15 years.
    I hope several people weigh in so I can learn what I don't know.
    Last edited by Pittsburgh Bill; Dec-02-2019 at 11:47pm.
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    If it's stored in proper environment for musical instruments nothing more could happen that with normally used instrument. Perhaps some varnish imprinting may result in contact points if it spends too long without movement if the varnish is not hard enough.
    Adrian

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    it'll be fine, unless it gets all dry and cracked.

    f-d
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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    it'll be fine, unless it gets all dry and cracked.

    f-d
    Don brought up the issue of reducing tension while in storage. To reduce string tension or not to reduce string tension?
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  14. #10

    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Its just like anything else that is stored for 15 years. It could go south, or not. A fair number of luthiers believe that playing an instrument imparts mojo and results in the development of invisible pixie dust inside the sound holes. Storing it properly is far better than storing it improperly.

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    Registered User Dan Cole's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    I didn't play my Ibanez 524 for the 10 years i was in the navy. I was in its case the entire time. when I finally pulled it out the binding had yellowed in spots and i had a crack below the tail piece. That may have been caused by the strings being at tension the full time.
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Fender gives the following advice for instrument storage:

    What’s best for both daily and long-term storage?

    1 - Store in their cases, standing up — not lying down with one case on top of another. When storing several, the cases should look like suits on a rack rather than a giant deck of cards. If standing them up isn’t an option, store (in their cases) on their sides, with the upper side pointing up.

    2 - Keep the string tension on the neck, but loosen the strings one or two half steps. They don’t need regular tension when in storage, but having no string tension at all can lead to neck bowing problems.

    3 - If possible, store in a room or a closet nearer to the center of the building rather than near an outside wall. This helps maintain a constant temperature and is especially helpful if you live in an area that experiences climatic extremes. A case humidifier is a good idea during dry winter months.


    Hope this is helpful.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Don brought up the issue of reducing tension while in storage. To reduce string tension or not to reduce string tension?
    Good or not good; depends. Remember, the mandolin's designed to have proper geometry when under normal string tension. Relax the strings, and the neck may flex backwards, lowering the "action" so the strings rattle when they're retuned to normal pitch. Or the increased tension may pull the neck back into proper alignment, no harm done.

    On the other hand, if the mandolin's stored with the strings at normal tension, there's much more stress on neck and top, and the effect of any glue-joint loosening, direct impact, or increased top-or-neck flexibility caused by temperature or humidity changes, will be accentuated. Which is why instruments are more often shipped with the string tension relaxed.

    When an instrument's shipped, we assume that it's going to be unpacked and tuned back to pitch within a fairly short time. Years of storage without "normal" string tension is a different situation. My general but largely untested opinion, is that an instrument is OK being stored with the set-up for which it was designed. I have some instruments in my accumulation, that haven't been out of their cases in a couple years, and so far, I've not seen any damage caused by their being stored under normal string tension. Of course, when I open one of those cases -- and there was the Eastman mandocello whose tailpiece broke when it was being stored, much to my surprise when I opened the case before taking it to a gig! However, the problem with early Eastman 'cello tailpieces is well-documented, and I got a replacement from Eastman, no questions asked. So I guess I see this as an "outlier," but I'm open to changing my mind based on future experience.
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Don brought up the issue of reducing tension while in storage. To reduce string tension or not to reduce string tension?
    My biggest concern for 15 years is the neck-to-body joint, if glued, no matter the design. It's basically the central tension point on a mandolin that requires the most work to rebuild.

    The Fender instruments have their typically long necks bolted on, so the biggest structural concern with them is bowing or warping. I like the Fender document for their instruments and other than the neck joint, their document applies well for other instruments.

    I'd agree with most everything else that has been said here, string tension is part of the design of most instruments and for short periods should not cause problems unless other problems already exist. But 15 years is a long time.
    -- Don

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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Loan it to someone you trust who will play it for fifteen years. Likely for no charge.
    Indulge responsibly!

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    I've owned my 1920 A3 for over 35 years. I've owned my 1930 L-1 (guitar) for over 30 years. They've been tuned to pitch all those years. I don't have problems.

    YMMV.

    f-d
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    I have a mandolin hanging on the wall. When I hung it up originally, I was in college and had no kids. Now, fifteen years later, I have three kids.
    From this I can deduce that long-term storage of a mandolin correlates in my experience to profound life changes.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    I have a mandolin hanging on the wall. When I hung it up originally, I was in college and had no kids. Now, fifteen years later, I have three kids.
    From this I can deduce that long-term storage of a mandolin correlates in my experience to profound life changes.
    My father sat me down many years ago and told me how babies were born. He never mentioned hanging a mandolin on a wall. By my calculations, for every year you hang it on the wall, you will have a child. I guess if you hang two at once then twins?
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    I have a mandolin hanging on the wall. When I hung it up originally, I was in college and had no kids. Now, fifteen years later, I have three kids.
    From this I can deduce that long-term storage of a mandolin correlates in my experience to profound life changes.
    Yes, but can your kids play it?

    -- Don

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    I don't think reducing tension is required. I do reduce tension slightly for shipping but that mostly to prevent any damage if the box gets abused. Tension may "help" to break the headstock or cause worse cracks if dropped than on instrument without tension.
    There are many instruments that are built right on the edge of structural integrity both cheap and expensive and for that reason I would reduce tension just to be sure. If your mandolin starts developing hump behing bridge or you notice arch sinking you can use lighter strings to stop it (or at least slow down) and find a way to get it back to normal, but if the mandolin is in closet the long term damage may go beyond repairable if things go south. I wouldn't worry about the neck. If it wants to twist or bend it will regardless of string tension.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    One problem with older instruments that had been stored under the bed was celluloid off-gassing when confined to a case. very unstable stuff. I had an A2Z come in once and the case looked like a fire had happened above the pickguard. It was a chemical reaction between the mounting hardware and the celluloid.
    I don't know if modern celluloid is more stable but it's probably a good idea not to leave an instrument cooped up.

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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    The damage I see with instruments that have been in "storage" for a long time is most often due to low humidity and temperature changes. That is, they spent a long time in a case in an uncontrolled environment such as the attic, garage, or even the barn. Sometimes there's damage to an instrument that has been under the bed for years in a dry climate, or one that got wet when the house flooded. I see far more examples of glue failure and cracked wood than warpage. Obviously, proper storage means a climate controlled environment. I think it also means checking on the instrument occasionally to catch any issues that may have started before they become serious.
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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    The A2Z I mentioned had amazingly been in the same family since it was bought new. However it was bought new in India by an aunt of the owner who was a missionary there. It ended up in Boulder under a bed. Every nearly seam had opened up. It appeared to me to be a lost cause but it would have been a labor of love to try to restore it.

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    Default Re: Effect of storage on a mandolin

    One concrete example: A while back I restored a DeMeglio bowlback whose headstock had an historic break - If I had to guess I would suspect the break had occurred pre-1900 and the instrument had been in storage (ie an attic) ever since. After a relatively easy repair, the instrument geometry was perfect - better neck angle and bridge height than any other DeMeglio I've had pass through. It sounded pretty much like the best of those I've had through as well. My conclusion was that I had in effect found a "new" DeMeglio that had never seen any use, or incurred any stress. So I would say based on my utterly unscientific data point, that long term storage with strings off does little harm. The only caveat to that, is that storage must be in a sufficiently humid (and mould free!) environment that no damage is caused that way. That's easy enough in a chilly and damp UK, not so easy in say Arizona (or indeed Guam).

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