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Thread: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

  1. #26
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Honkety, put an ad in the classifieds that you're looking for a tailpiece cover. Somebody around here has one or more from instruments that couldn't be salvaged. When does it arrive???

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    "The link to the Marissa Carroll video in post #12 actually shows her playing a bowl back! Must have been before she joined the L&H club?"

    Louise - oh my gosh! I'm so used to her playing an L&H I never even noticed she was playing a bowlback! Sorry Dan LOL!!!!

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Honkety, put an ad in the classifieds that you're looking for a tailpiece cover. Somebody around here has one or more from instruments that couldn't be salvaged. When does it arrive???
    Spozda rive Thursday, 6/21. It's been a while since I last dealt with Elderly, so I had forgotten how professional and helpful they are. Thank you, Elderly Instruments, and Mike (sales rep I worked with).

    Good thinking on the tp cover. I might put up an ad at some point. Or I might just leave it as is. Or I might make something appropriately honkety. I have a couple of old cloud tp covers that might fit and I have some thin ebony planks - I could do something with ebony and glue it to the cloud. Its gotta look classy though. No bling if I can't get the real thing.
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    HH - Peter Coombe had one made for his model A that looks really nice. You might check out his web site and contact him. Let me know about the new purchase.

    I'm grateful for all the knowledge, experience and help from everybody. Much of what was said seems to be so! (Yes, especially Tim and Louise.) After talking with some really good luthiers held in high esteem on the Cafe, I've decided to go for a vintage model C that's in good shape. This is my first deal with Sylvan and I'm impressed with their knowledge, patience and service. If interested, I can follow up with a post when it gets here.
    Last edited by dan in va; Jun-12-2021 at 3:07pm.

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  6. #30
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    My tailpiece cover is different from the Lyon and Healy tailpiece covers so won't fit onto a vintage tailpiece. It also has my name on it so is not suitable for a vintage Lyon and Healy.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  7. #31
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Congratulations to both of you, and I hope both those Style Cs have safe and speedy trips across the country. Let us know when they arrive!

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    peter - Thank you for the info. Whoever made your tail piece could sell quite a few if they would fit properly. I've seen the vintage covers go for 300 USD.

    Louise - I appreciate your kind words and am grateful for the wisdom shared here. I'll post after it arrives and hope the luthiers were right who said these mandolins were consistent in materials, workmanship and sound. Good pickin' to ya.

  9. #33
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    peter - Thank you for the info. Whoever made your tail piece could sell quite a few if they would fit properly. I've seen the vintage covers go for 300 USD.
    The original tailpiece covers are curved, and I believe they were stamped. Mine are brass sheet engraved by a CNC machine, plated with nickel and are flat. I can also get them plated with gold, chrome or black nickel. Making them curved makes the CNC engraving more complicated because it then becomes 3D, and thus more difficult and more expensive. A silversmith made mine, and they fit onto a normal Gibson style of tailpiece base. He outsourced the engraving to a CNC shop and outsourced the plating as well. I would like to be able to make them myself because they are expensive to get done and with a long lead time, but I need a CNC machine that can engrave brass, and the programming of the engraving is probably better done by an expert any way. I do have a small CNC, but it is only good for inlays, it can't engrave brass, but I could use it to program the G code if only I had the time. The tailpiece covers work extremely well, they have a layer of felt on the underside which dampens the strings behind the bridge very effectively, so the tailpiece mechanism that Lyon and Healy patented is not necessary.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  11. #34
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    peter - That's an interesting process that brings up a few questions.
    * Would it be possible to engrave when flat and then put a curve into the work afterward?
    * Or how about just making them flat?
    * With so many original tailpieces sans covers out there, what about making them to fit the original tailpiece base? This would preserve the mandolin's original condition.

    For what it's worth, I would rather have a flat tailpiece cover than none at all.
    Last edited by dan in va; Jun-13-2021 at 2:07pm.

  12. #35
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    For what it's worth, I would rather have a flat tailpiece cover than none at all.
    Agreed. I have just looked at one of my originals and the cover is domed, not just curved. That does tend to suggest that it was stamped. I have showed it to some other silversmiths and they all passed. I translate that to too much tricky work so would be very time consuming and expensive. I guess you could dome it after engraving, but metalwork is not my forte, so I have no idea how you would do it without damaging the engraving. Stamping seems to me to be the best approach, but getting a die made up is likely to be very expensive, but you could then make up hundreds or even thousands until the die wears out. I suspect that is how it was done originally, but would need to be done by someone who specializes in that sort of thing. The other alternative is to shape it first and then get someone to hand engrave. Hand engraving by an expert in the craft is nothing like CNC engraving, it can be stunningly superb, but expensive and not practical for large numbers.
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  14. #36
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Heck, the things are somewhat on the large size anyhow. It would suit me to have a smaller flat one, with or without engraving. i wonder if L&H has the tooling in storage. Wouldn't it be a nifty thing for them to pull out the old dies and stamp out bunch and charge a couple or three hundred bucks each?

  15. #37
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Until Tim posted above, I was going to say the same thing. There have been some L&H copies but few that tried to replicate the tone. I have personally not played any of the copies but own one short (Washburn A) and one long scale (earlier L&H). I did have the L&H restored and played it quite a bit but never played it with the T-I strings. And it is not playable at this moment, sadly. OTOH the Washburn is a wonderful instrument and, aside from my treasured bowlback, my main choice for playing classical and Italian music.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan in va View Post
    Now i'm wondering how the L&H mandolins were carved - research so far is coming up empty.
    As for your question above, if we were to go with the L&H catalog circa 1920, these pages describe the construction.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    And here is a page from 1925 catalog for more detail:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. #38
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Beware of construction figures given in sales literature.

    If the 1925 catalog description that describes the top thicknesses as varying from 1/32" to 3/32" was accurate, the mandolins would likely have imploded before they ever reached concert pitch. 1/32" equals .031", which is less than the thickness of a G string. 3/32" is .093", which is considerably less than the thickness of even a lightly built flat top mandolin or guitar.

    Although it is apparent that L & H did design and graduate their tops very thoughtfully and carefully, and that they did not imitate Gibson's carving patterns; I think it is safe to say that the thicknesses given in the catalog are not anywhere near accurate.

    BTW, I just took a very rough measurement of an L & H top at the back end of the soundhole. It is approximately 3/16", or twice what the catalog says, and only slightly thinner than an arbitrarily chosen 'teens Gibson. One of the builders with a good set of calipers will have to give us some more accurate figures.

    An example of how inaccurate catalog descriptions from the period could be: Gibson catalogs claimed maple for all mandolin models during the teens and early twenties. But except for the F-4's and F-5's, they were actually made of birch, At least L & H really did build the mandolins out of maple.

    It would be nice if the tailpiece dies had survived, but I would consider the possibility of that to be virtually nil. I suppose that if a hundred year old fine metalworking shop still exists in Chicago, that would be the first place to look.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-14-2021 at 6:45pm.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Jim - Thank you for posting the L&H catalog pages. Since they took some liberties with the descriptions, it seems likely they would have trumpeted the notion of violin luthiers if it were so.

    rcc56 - i think you're likely right and suspicion is high the tailpiece work was farmed out. It's difficult to tell from internet pic's, but there are some similarities between the L&H and Waverly cloud tailpieces. Could it be that Waverly did both? I wonder if the screw holes in the bases are in the same places.

    Is there anybody out there who has both bases and can compare the location of the screw holes?

  19. #40
    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Beware of construction figures given in sales literature.

    If the 1925 catalog description that describes the top thicknesses as varying from 1/32" to 3/32" was accurate, the mandolins would likely have imploded before they ever reached concert pitch. 1/32" equals .031", which is less than the thickness of a G string. 3/32" is .093", which is considerably less than the thickness of even a lightly built flat top mandolin or guitar.

    Although it is apparent that L & H did design and graduate their tops very thoughtfully and carefully, and that they did not imitate Gibson's carving patterns; I think it is safe to say that the thicknesses given in the catalog are not anywhere near accurate.

    BTW, I just took a very rough measurement of an L & H top at the back end of the soundhole. It is approximately 3/16", or twice what the catalog says, and only slightly thinner than an arbitrarily chosen 'teens Gibson. One of the builders with a good set of calipers will have to give us some more accurate figures.
    Although L & H may not have copied Gibson construction, I found it interesting to see that a ca. 1920 long scale Style C had a top thickness quite similar to several Loar F5s I also measured (with Hacklinger gauge). Those tops are, of course, are thinner than average Gibson oval hole mandos.

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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    HA - i suppose L&H was first with the top thickness since the L&H models A/B/C preceded the Gibson F5.

    Would a new bridge be needed when TI Mittle strings are used, as the A strings are wound? The original bridges appear compensated the standard way for plain A strings. It would be great to hear from the folks who've played the TI strings.
    Last edited by dan in va; Jun-22-2021 at 2:59pm.

  21. #42
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Dan - On mine I believe Bruce Weber compensated the original bridge when he did a tune up and fretboard work. I think he said the original bridge was not compensated but not sure.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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  22. #43
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Dan - On mine I believe Bruce Weber compensated the original bridge when he did a tune up and fretboard work. I think he said the original bridge was not compensated but I'm not sure. And I do use TI Mittels.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

  23. #44
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    The bridge on my style C is a straight blade type, not compensated.

  24. #45
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Hmm - I didn't think about bridge compensation for the TI's. Theoretically, I am sure you are right. Probably practically, too, if you spend any amount of time playing up above the seventh fret. You'd want a bridge with compensation similar to a mandola. Me being a perpetual Newbie, I plan to think about the issue when I can hear the poor intonation (and my ears aren't as good as they used to be).
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  25. #46
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Mine compensates pretty well with TIs just by slanting the bridge a little, not really a problem.

    I found by trial and error that the amount of slant needed for good compensation depended on the tension of the strings. A famous builder disputed this, but I saw it. Really. When I first bought the instrument it had J74s on it. I didn't think that was right so I bought a set of the very light GHS bowl back strings. So with those on, I really had to twist the bridge to get it to intonate. So much that intonation between pairs in a course was noticeably, ridiculously, off. I thought the strings were still too heavy, so I bought a set of Newtone super light strings, which made the problem worse. So I don't know why exactly, maybe compression of the top or set of the neck, but with TI mittles compensation is good.

    I had arranged to ship it to a well known guy for a refret job with modern frets and a good setup including bridge work, but chickened out. I had it packed and in the UPS store open for inspection, but when I heard the insurance cost flipped out and took it back home. $400 for insurance? How in hell does anyone ship anything?
    Last edited by lowtone2; Jun-22-2021 at 8:25pm.

  26. #47
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    My B has a compensated bridge that may well be original. It's strung with TI mittels, I regularly play way up the neck, and the intonation is good. It's not perfect—no fretted instrument is or can be—but it sounds fine and the chords up there are sweet.

    Does anyone know what strings were commonly used on mandolins in Chicago in 1918?

    Edit: The Lyon & Healy ads in Jim Garber's post, #37, state that A, B, C all come with compensating bridges

  27. #48
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    My B has a compensated bridge that may well be original. It's strung with TI mittels, I regularly play way up the neck, and the intonation is good. It's not perfect—no fretted instrument is or can be—but it sounds fine and the chords up there are sweet.

    Does anyone know what strings were commonly used on mandolins in Chicago in 1918?

    Edit: The Lyon & Healy ads in Jim Garber's post, #37, state that A, B, C all come with compensating bridges
    The bridge shown in the 3rd ad, from 1925, looks just like the uncompensated bridge on my mandolin

  28. #49
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    I've had at least 7 L $ H carved mandolins on my workbench, and have seen at least 3 variations on their bridges.

    One had a compensated bridge with an ivory saddle inlaid into the bridge top. This was an early style B.
    The other compensated bridges did not have inlaid saddles, they were simple one piece ebony compensated bridges. I have seen these on styles A,B, & C.
    I have also seen uncompensated bridges on at least one style C. I do not remember whether I have seen that type of bridge on an A or B.

    I just looked up current UPS insurance practices. It doesn't look good. You can declare "added value" up to $50,000 for $1.15 per hundred dollars of value, BUT; UPS states that "added value" is not insurance, and from what little information I can find, if a package is damaged, you must be able to prove that the damage was caused by UPS. They have been known to claim damage was due to improper packing, even in cases where an item was packed by someone with plenty of experience and knew what they were doing. UPS wins, the customer loses. They do offer true insurance under a separate operation called UPS Capital Insurance Agency, but from what I can gather, their service is available to companies, but not necessarily to individuals. When I tried to go through the process of getting a quote and specified "musical instrument," they designated it a special case and their on-line form required a company name. No, it doesn't look good at all.

    It seems like these days, if you don't have instrument insurance through Heritage Insurance that includes a shipping option, the only effective shipping insurance is to pack the thing extra carefully, following all the rules of "pack it so it can't move," and cross your fingers that they don't throw it, drop it 6 feet of a loading dock or out of the back of an airplane, or leave it to cook for a couple of days in an uncooled metal warehouse building.

    If I'm wrong about any of this insurance stuff, please correct me and refer me to something that is both effective and reasonably affordable.

  29. #50
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon & Healy mandolin scales

    UPS can be difficult, to put it politely. I was the librarian for an orchestra for several years, which involved shipping a lot of music to and from rental companies. Pieces that were rental-only and out of print were valued at as much as a few thousand $$ for a score and set of parts, and the rental companies insisted they be shipped insured. I was told by more than one source that UPS's insurance would cover only the cost of the paper the music was printed on! I assume this means they would pay out a claim for a signed Loar according to the value of the wood and wire involved? Scary.

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