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Thread: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

  1. #1

    Default Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    Hi Folks,

    I'm in Australia & have a 1993 Flatiron F5, chocolate finish, Montana label & signed by Mr Weber. It's in fair condition although I suspect it saw quite a bit of playing before I bought it on-line (from a well known store in Lansing, Michigan ).

    It came fitted with an adjustable ebony bridge with an integral pickup with a cable disappearing into the lower f-hole & an end-pin socket. The action was set very high! The frets are in good shape but I'm not sure about the neck. With the bridge adjustment at its lowest setting the fret board intersects it about 1/3 the way down. However I reckon I can see a slight upward bow and maybe a small up & down 'ripple' in the fretboard after about the 18th fret.

    I haven't played the mandolin much, mainly because I couldn't get on with the action - I'm very much a learner - and I have another '95 Flatiron Performer A which I find much easier to use. The F5 has a quite different sound - more powerful but a bit drier & even a little restrained in some way. It seems to invite harder playing which I think of as 'stiffness'. So with a bit more time on my hands recently I've gotten to know the instrument better and start to appreciate its rather different sound! I've decided to get it properly set-up by a local shop and want to better understand what I should aim for.

    I presume I should start with the bridge. I'd like to get rid of the pickup arrangement - I doubt it's original. What's a good replacement standard bridge to look for?

    The end-pin socket - which doubles as a strap pin - looks quite bulky & difficult to attach a strap to. Any ideas about replacing it with a standard pin? How are these socket/pins fitted & what would have been there originally? Is it likely that the end block has been drilled out to fit it?

    And how should I evaluate the neck set - what should I look for in terms of sighting down the fret board & where it intersects with the bridge? Currently, with the bridge at its lowest setting, the board lines up with a point about 3-4mm (around 1/8") down from the top of the bridge. I'm unfamiliar with mandolin neck construction & I guess I'm worrying a bit that it may need re-setting...

    Any pointers very much appreciated.

    Many thanks,

    Sam.
    Last edited by Savvas; Nov-21-2021 at 2:25am.

  2. #2
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his setup guide for free.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    If your instrument was set up even halfway decently by the seller, and the action’s very high, etc. it is possible that the neck did not survive shipment and is pulling loose or bending. Put a 12” straightedge down on the fretboard. If there is more than a sliver of daylight showing through the middle, something needs to be done. Eyeballing this is not adequate.
    The usual advice on this forum about having a local setup or repair is that not every shop has mandolin experience: these are not guitars! Ask around to get a reputable name.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    The nut and truss rod must be correctly adjusted before the bridge height and neck set can be evaluated.
    Mandolins require very little relief in the fretboard if the frets are level and the fingerboard has no humps. And if there are humps or dips in the fretboard, they must be addressed to set the action to reasonable height.
    The accuracy and integrity of modern-era Gibson factory fretwork often leaves a lot to be desired, especially after an instrument has some age on it.

    It is best to avoid re-setting a Gibson mandolin neck unless there is no other choice.
    I have yet to see a modern era Gibson or Flatiron mandolin that needed a neck set. I have seen several that needed the fingerboard planed and levelled and a new set of frets.

    Good quality replacement saddles can be purchased from www.axinc.net for $26.50 USD. Considering the cost of shipping to your location, you might want to buy two. They also sell complete bridges.

    Almost all endpin jacks have been installed by enlarging the hole in the tail block. To return the tail pin to its original configuration requires plugging the hole and re-drilling. Stewmac sells a product called the "no-jak", but it would be difficult or impossible to install on an f-hole mandolin, so stay away from it.

    Your instrument may only need the nut and truss rod adjusted. A bridge saddle can be slightly reduced in dimensions if necessary, but we don't like to reduce them too much because it can weaken the saddle. When a bridge cannot be adjusted low enough without reducing the saddle thickness significantly, we can remove the adjusting screws from the bridge base, take a little material off the top of the pad that the screws fit into, and re-install the screws. This should be done by someone who has plenty of experience.

    Although some local shops employ rock-and-roll electric guitar repairmen that may not have a clue about how to set up a mandolin, it is not rocket science for an experienced luthier. The techniques for adjusting nuts, truss rods, and addressing fret and fingerboard problems are the same for mandolins, guitars, and banjos. The part of set up that can be considered "mando-centric" is fitting bridges and, if necessary, modifying their adjustment range.

    If your local shop cannot handle the repair competently, you might contact Steve Mirwa in Clarkson, WA www.mirwa.com.au to see if he can recommend a competent repair person in your part of Australia. His website indicates that they are very busy, so if he does not respond, try some of our Australian members who build mandolins.
    Last edited by rcc56; Nov-21-2021 at 3:03pm.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    Thanks everyone for your kind, informed & wise advice - I feel very much reassured! The mandolin came in a pretty good case so I think it survived shipment OK. However there is indeed light showing under a straightedge between the first and the 16th fret (nearly 1mm at the 12th) and a definite 'hump between the 16th & the 20th. Which I'm guessing is why the action was set so high.

    So it seems that truss rod adjustment and possibly attention to fret/fretboard flatness might be good first steps. I have emailed Mr Meldrum seeking his set-up guide & I will ask around carefully for recommendation of someone who could do the work - I know of at least one decent local mandolin builder. He owns a Collings so I'm guessing he may know what he's talking about!

    Thanks again for your assistance - very much appreciated!

    Sam.

    ps; Oh - and apologies for my probable posting this query in the wrong forum - just dawned on me that there is a 'repair' discussion!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    Hey Sam. sounds like you are on the right track. I recently had a similar situation and I ended up having the truss rod adjusted to flatten out the neck, dressed the frets, replaced the nut (to correct a string spacing issues) and replaced the bridge. The luthier I used recommended a Brekke bridge (I believe its call the original Brekke, the one without posts and adjustment wheels and instead an adjustable saddle via hex screws and an internal mechanism; the idea is more solid wood contact thus more vibrations from the top through the bridge to the strings). I was skeptical after reading mixed reviews but this guy swears by then so I tried it, and am very pleased. The end result was low action, better tone, good volume, superb playability. I do know he spent considerable time to ensure a tight fit of the bridge to the mando top, obviously a requirement for good sound. You may want to consider a Brekke since Vern Brekke worked at the Montana Weber shop, with the obvious linkage to Flatirons...might be a good choice. Good luck!
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Flatiron F5 - set-up advice needed...

    Thankyou Scotta for this additional helpful advice & thanks to Rob Meldrum for his excellent, freely-given Mandolin Set Up Guide (you can find Rob at rob.meldrum@gmail.com!

    And thanks to all fellow mandolinistas - I knew the Cafe was the right place to turn to!

    Sam.

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