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Thread: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

  1. #1
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I like the look of this one, but the top is in sad shape. Wondering what you luthiers might think based on the photos. This mandolin is a good hours drive from me.

    Label says "Washburn Model 1923-24 Style F". Top is buckled and split, appears sunken at fingerboard extension. Worth a repair, if repairable?

    And the scratch guard: Think it might be that old natural material, or is it celluloid?

    Thanks for your thoughts ...

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    Last edited by Mark Gunter; Dec-26-2019 at 10:21am.
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  2. #2
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

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  3. #3
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I'm assuming the pickguard is actually celluloid, as it has shrunken and seems to be degrading near the oval hole and causing some damage there, but my assumption isn't based on any real knowledge or experience here. (next to last photo)
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I would think it would be a labor of love. I think it’s very pretty but who knows the sound? I suspect folks have similar ones and could testify to the general tone. You’d certainly be the only guy on the block with one.

    At the right price.
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  5. #5
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    "a labor of love", right.

    I found some old cafe threads on similar ones since I posted. I think one in good shape might only be worth about $500, maybe $800 on a good day. I don't really want a job or a money pit; this one is a case of wishful thinking on my part, I'm sure. It's a shame someone let it get to this condition.
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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Darn Skippy brother, give he a whirl if cheap enough as if all are giving up on we wouldn't have all these ultra KOOL old instruments! GO FOR IT!

  7. #7

    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    This model sold for $25 when new.

  8. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    It's not a real early model and the chances of the pickguard being a natural material is pretty much zero to none. If the top needs to be replaced and you're paying someone to do it chances are that you'll lose on it but hey, I love a good resurrection project as much as the next guy but go in with your eyes open.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  9. #9
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    What a beauty.

    If worth repairing means you can resell for a a profit, um... no.

    If worth repairing means that for a reasonable total price you could have a really cool instrument to love and play for ever, you know what, maybe. Just maybe.

    I wonder if you can get a luthier's assessment of the mandolins woes and the costs to repair, and the sound and playability you can expect when repaired. Then you decide which repairs are musts, which are nice too. But it is possible that in that mix of options one could be found that resulted in a mandolin worth having and playing at a reasonable price.

    I find it too pretty to ignore.
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  11. #10
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    4 years ago I took a chance on what might have been a basket case. But for whatever reason (love has its own reasons) I got it, got it all fixed up, and it is a regular in my rotation. It probably can never be sold except to another mando-nutcase like me. Full story here.

    I should update that thread. I love that little instrument. It is the only one in my collection that has a nickname. I call it L'il Critter. As in "hey, honey, can you go get me the L'il Critter.
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  12. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Mark Gunter: That warpage on the top of the one you mention looks extreme to me and it probably would require a new top or a serious amount of work for a sinple flatback mandolin. If you got it for free for under $50 might be worth fooling with it but if you intend to bring it to a pro to restore it, forget it. I agree with Professor Edgerton that the pickguard is celluloid. I think everyone here knows that the bridge is unorginal and positioned incorrectly, however when I see a bridge in that position I wonder of it also needs a neck reset.

    OTOH if you got it cheap the tuners and scallop tailpiece would be worth $30-50 so might be worth it for that. And if you wanted to fool around with luthiery...
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    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I'd fix it up. I love that kind of job. Rescuing a venerable old mandolin from the brink of death. Doesn't need a new top, that one can be flattened. Wouldn't be worth paying a professional repairer to do it though. It's been played a lot, which probably means it's a good one. There's something strange just above the nut though - it's too narrow for the width of the neck. Looks as if someone narrowed it down - or were they made like that?

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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I'm with Tony, I would fix it up too. The flat/bent tops are a different sound, but nice IMHO.
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  15. #14
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Spotted this last week on Craigslist, and thought I might go have a look and see if it might be worth offering $100. So I contacted the seller who indicated that its still available and that they'd be willing to negotiate. It's listed at a ridiculous price of $225 ... then, after looking more closely at the pics, I decided it would not be worth the drive.

    Yesterday morning, I began to reconsider, and so I posted here. If I decide to try to rescue this I'll let you guys know. Right now, I tend to agree with Jim that $50 is pretty much the max I'd be willing to pay for it.

    https://easttexas.craigslist.org/msg...031107606.html
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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    That top can be repaired in-situ IMO, there's probably a loose brace or two in there for it to have become like that though. These are not particularly difficult or time consuming repairs if you know what you're doing, but it does take a good bit of wall clock time (in other words it's a 10 minutes a day for a week or 2 job). That kind of distortion is pretty common in bowlbacks / canted top instruments BTW.

    Fretboard probably need levelling and re-fretting. The bridge will certainly end up super low, but the one that's on there now is a huge lump anyway, and actually these would have had very low bowlback-style bridges anyway.

    Now for the problem - there aren't many folks familiar with canted top instruments around - and the postage 2-ways to Tony or myself would be a killer.

    Shame, while I can't comment on their flatbacks, the Washburn bowlbacks are super-nice.

  18. #16
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I know Tavy, it really is a shame. This old canted top, oval hole has a strong appeal to me, but making it stable presents a big problem. The seller might get more money from a non player to use it as a wall hanger than I’d be willing to pay for it.

    I gave the seller a link to this thread, BTW. So they can learn a little more about their Dad’s instrument. They also have an old Silvertone arch top guitar that looks cool but is not worth much. The top is coming apart at the joints. I like those old guitars. I had a ‘49 Patrician in great shape that I regret selling this past January.

    https://easttexas.craigslist.org/atq...032910078.html
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  19. #17
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Out of curiosity, what approach do you think you'd take with the mandolin?

    1. Remove strings
    2. Detach fingerboard extension
    3. Remove loose or damaged braces
    4. Humidify for a while to see if top gets better?
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  20. #18
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I wouldn't remove anything that didn't actually fall off

    The top should be repairable (but you know we haven't seen it in person, so your mileage may vary!) by clamping with a damp cloth. I really should have some photos of the process but can't find them at present. But basically the top should flat, so:

    * Clamp the distorted section of top between 2 flat blocks shaped specially for the purpose, with a warm damp (not wet!) cloth over the lower block (inside surface of the top).
    * Don't tighten the clamps up too much or you'll break the top - just firmly will do.
    * Don't leave the damp cloth in place for more than an hour or 2, then remove and clamp up again without it and leave overnight. You want the moisture to soften the top, but not go all the way through and stain the top side.
    * Repeat until it's all flat.
    * Add a brace over that area if there isn't one already to stop the problem from reoccurring.

    Repairing loose braces I would use HHG if there's enough access to get it in there fast, if not liquid fish glue for the longer open time - either will reactivate the existing glue, though HHG works better for that. You will also need a custom made clamping device to hold it all together - at a pinch you can use 2 flat "sticks" for this with the clamp in between the brace being clamped and a pivot point which would be somewhere in the soundhole. One "stick" would be on the outside of the top and one inside. You do need 7 hands for this approach though when putting it all together

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  22. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Interesting. You expert luthiers can certainly work magic. Maybe I am seeing things but it looks like that top in these two photos is seriously warped on both side of the soundhole and you would need to at least remove the fretboard to truly get it flat. And I would guess that the reason there is that bilateral warpage is due to the neck coming loose from the neck joint which would indicate that a neck reset is required as well. It looks like the neck is sinking into the body.

    Then again, it is possible that the photos only look worse to me. Am I just seeing things?

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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I agree with Hogo, I think the brace came loose and caused the warping of the top. Possibly it had too heavy strings on it with a loose brace. Flatten the top and glue the brace and the action will be much improved. Without actually seeing it I could be wrong, but that's what it looks in the pics.
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  24. #21
    Registered User Robbie Hamlett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I think it's gorgeous, I'd buy it and if I couldn't fix it, (which by the way, I couldn't I'd make it a wall hanger!
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  25. #22
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    I've been working on antique instruments for many years, and if anyone can flatten that buckled top without removing or at least loosening the fingerboard, my hat is off to them. I do think Tavy's method would work, but it would take several flattening sessions and a lot of restraint to avoid breaking the top. Also, it is quite likely that there are several loose braces inside the instrument.

    And yes, that is a celluloid pickguard.
    Last edited by rcc56; Dec-28-2019 at 1:38am.

  26. #23
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    >And I would guess that the reason there is that bilateral warpage is due to the neck coming loose from the neck joint which would indicate that a neck reset is required as well.

    Maybe, probably not: when the neck comes loose it can move all on it's own, what typically happens with canted top instruments is that you get a "crumple zone" either side of the soundhole and distortion here allows the body to flex at that point under the string pull. No need for the neck to be loose for that to happen.

    The reason that you see this on canted top instruments rather than other flat tops, is the typical thickness of the top - around 2mm for a bowlback, and I'm assuming, but don't know, that these are the same. They have to be very lightly strung.

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  28. #24
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    >......what typically happens with canted top instruments is that you get a "crumple zone" either side of the soundhole and distortion here allows the body to flex at that point under the string pull. No need for the neck to be loose for that to happen.

    The reason that you see this on canted top instruments rather than other flat tops, is the typical thickness of the top - around 2mm for a bowlback, and I'm assuming, but don't know, that these are the same. They have to be very lightly strung.
    John, you just gave a very clear explanation of what I've tried to write (less clearly) a dozen or so times here.

    The neck typically isn't bent or warped the way we might see in a longer necked instrument, but it rotates around that "crumple zone". Even just a little rotation (not enough to crumple) is enough through playability out the window.

    I've seen in Martin and Embergher bowlbacks a small "stiffener plate" of wood reinforcing the top between the topmost brace and the neck joint. I've been adding one in on all my bowlbacks as a precautionary measure.

    Of course keeping them in their cases with XL strings are much more important precautionary measures....

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  30. #25

    Default Re: Is this old Washburn worth restoring?

    Another option is to just get it stabilized and playable rather than perfectly restored. That way you get to hear it.

    When I was in college I had an old Ford van and was lucky enough to find a mechanic who understood my financial predicament. He would give me three prices --

    1. here's what it costs to fix it right....
    2. here's what it costs just to make it safe....
    3. here's what I can do for $120 bucks.......to get you rolling!

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