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Thread: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

  1. #76
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I'm planning new tuners for my SOL and so have been taking measurements and looking closely at the headstock. Brought up a question - anybody else have stamped numbers/letters on the back between the tuners? Mine seems to read L9G6496

    It was suggested to me before that this was done after the fact, but I don't think so.

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    Back in the 60's-70's there was this movement to mark items of value with a driver's license number of even a SS number so the item could be identified if stolen. I suspect that is some sort of identifying number such as a drivers license number that was stamped on by an owner. I've never seen a serial number on one of these and I would think they would have had a jig to hold the die set even. I think it was done after the fact.

    With that said, I might be tempted to find new tuners that would fit under the original covers.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  3. #77
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    ...With that said, I might be tempted to find new tuners that would fit under the original covers.
    That's the plan. I'm going to take off the covers and measure tomorrow.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Back in the 60's-70's there was this movement to mark items of value with a driver's license number of even a SS number so the item could be identified if stolen. I suspect that is some sort of identifying number such as a drivers license number that was stamped on by an owner. I've never seen a serial number on one of these and I would think they would have had a jig to hold the die set even. I think it was done after the fact.
    I recall using a DYMO label maker to put ID marks on things (loved that thing as a kid, ha ha), and my Dad had an engraver, kind of a vibrating pen. What would have been used to do this kind of embossing?
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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  5. #78
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    ...What would have been used to do this kind of embossing?
    A number and letter die set. I've had two sets for 40 years. They are quite common.

    You can still buy engravers as well.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  6. #79
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Still have my engraver. Don't think it's been used since the 1980's. But one never knows.

    Sue, hopefully a regular set of tuners should fit under those covers. Is there something wrong with the set you have on?

  7. #80

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    The electric engraver is the curse of the vintage collectable camera hobby. Nothing worse than finding an original, otherwise mint condition Leica with a some idiot's Social Security number sloppily scratched into its beautiful satin chrome top....

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  9. #81

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    So here’s some persons likely Oklahoma license number scratched into the plating on my American Conservatory; he also got the bowl. Possible to remediate both, but not inexpensive. Sue’s lettering could be minimized I think if and when the tuners are removed, but I also wouldn’t write them off unless they were really damaged unless you are set on easier tuning, and are willing to also drop in ferrules and change the topside look.
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  10. #82
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I'm not that concerned about that number on the back of the headstock, even if it is someone's ID. I played a Martin Style B up at Jake Wildwood's that had peoples names scratched all over it, a college thing back in the day, I guess. It looked kind of cool and didn't bother me. The mandolin sounded good.

    Anyway, on the tuners, here's a picture with the cover off.

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    There is no screw holding the cog to the post, and I'm told this allows no ability to adjust and lots of play. "Crap tuners", they have been called, and some of them are super hard to turn, despite lubrication, etc. I personally think the holes are off, as well, as the measurements on center between posts vary from .88" to .96" flush with the headstock, and even more at the top of the posts. So maybe those holes need to be redrilled. Jake W. said he could straighten them up and add ferrules, but he didn't think it would be a huge improvement. So that's why I'm thinking about new tuners.

    It seems like the Stewmac Golden Age tuners will fit under the covers. I'm thinking about black buttons, and trying to decide if the shiny ones are okay (the plates will be under the covers) or if I should spring an extra $30 for the relic nickel ones. I'm wondering if the holes get redrilled, if I can get away without the ferrules so it looks more correct. I'm open to anybody's thoughts, public or private. It's a pretty big deal to me to modify this instrument, it was totally stock and pristine when I got it. But it's more important to have it easy to tune and play.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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  12. #83
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    If you are going to collect it, and hang it on the wall, don't modify it. If you are going to play it, do what ever it takes. I like playing mine.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  14. #84

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    IMHO, or not even humble opinion, all conventional tuners are crappy, as mechanisms. Some are built to tighter tolerances, have some anti-friction washers, and better cut worm and gear, but all of them depend on the top surface of the post hole as the bearing that takes the string force. Anything, wear, misdrilling or dirt can tilt the string post, jamming the gear against the worm (for worm-over layout). Ferrules make this contact point metal-metal and reduce some of the problem, but the alignment still requires accurate spacing and the string post to remain perpendicular to the plate despite string tension. It’s like a car axle where the bearing at the wheel isn’t a bearing at all.
    Because of other threads here, I’ve measured the tuners on many old mandolins, and find that both tuner construction and installation vary a lot: more than the supposed two standard spacings.
    So changing tuners is sometimes a drop-in, DIY thing, and sometimes a procedure with fitting and woodworking. One can easily put in new tuners that bind. Or reinstall old ones and make them better.
    About those ferrules: to ameliorate one problem, the leaning post and the worn headstock hole, I’ve been inserting little Teflon bushings that won’t show, topside. These restore the geometry and remove one source of friction. However, a really accurate ferrule-less installation should also be plenty sufficient, but is a skilled procedure. And also, the screws that hold the plate to the headstock will have to be relocated without causing post misalignment either. Nothing here that requires a professional in the trade, but a bit tricky.
    Tuner brands: don’t know, have been exclusively keeping the old ones and doing things like making buttons where needed. I think it’s simply immoral to buy certain tuners that cost as much as a used car, but also have bought (one set) of the $12 variety that was unusable. So name brands, and something that gives you the decorative aspect you like. Since the plates will be covered by those stampings, no need for gold plate or engraving; you may have to widen the shaft slots in the sides of the coversfor clearance with a little file.

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  16. #85

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    To keep it vintage, there are used vintage tuners for sale every day on eBay, etc. It's a gamble, you might get lucky or end up buying someone else's problems. At any rate, there are plenty of "parts guys" on eBay that seem to be taking apart complete working instruments. YMMV.

    Richard500, I like your small Teflon bushing idea.

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  18. #86
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Richard500 has good insight. It's also why I would not suggest replacing those vintage tuners with other vintage tuners. Too iffy.

    My first suggestion would be slightly reaming out the holes. Did that on the older (1930's) SOL and it really helped. Tuners move much smoother now. Was lucky in that I had a drill bit just ever so slightly larger than the stock hole.

    As to swapping out the tuners, a vote for the Stew-Mac restoration. Have had a set on the A Jr since shortly after purchasing (the original knobs were breaking off). They look good and fit without any modification on that instrument. And they should fit under the valve covers without any filing of the ends. Unless you luck out and find a good used set on eBay, it's going to be hit and miss whether they will work much better than what is on there now.

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  20. #87
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I'm not going to be doing this myself. I don't have the tools or shop space, never mind skill level. Also probably not willing to risk inheriting other people's problems.

    I do like the teflon bushing idea, and would like to consider it. Where do you get such a thing, Richard?

    Eric, did you use the Restoration ones or the regular Golden Age ones? Pretty sure Bill Drellow used the regular Golden Age on his SOL, but it's a bit of head scratchier comparing my measurements to the specs on the stewmac site.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

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    Sue, this is what I did decades ago for tuners on my Gibson. There were no options for the spacing and it is such a small difference I opted to cut the new tuners. The screws still hold them on even tho I cut thru the screw holes. It gave me the spacing I needed without altering the mandolin. Looking at the picture I can see I drilled new holes in the tuners where they didn't match up to the mandolin.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  23. #89
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I'm not going to be doing this myself. I don't have the tools or shop space, never mind skill level. Also probably not willing to risk inheriting other people's problems.

    I do like the teflon bushing idea, and would like to consider it. Where do you get such a thing, Richard?

    Eric, did you use the Restoration ones or the regular Golden Age ones? Pretty sure Bill Drellow used the regular Golden Age on his SOL, but it's a bit of head scratchier comparing my measurements to the specs on the stewmac site.
    The regular Golden Age model. Had double and triple checked other discussions here on the Cafe before purchasing. Didn't need to modify or adjust anything. Even kept the original bushings on the Gibson.

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  25. #90
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    That Strad-O-Lin should have the modern posts spacing.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
    --M. Stillion

    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
    --J. Garber

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  27. #91

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Unfortunately, the Teflon bushings are shop made for each specific post, because they correct the alignment as needed. If alignments are ok, one could just slip in thinwall 1/4” ID Teflon tube, sometimes used as high temperature wire insulation. Haven’t tried that.

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  29. #92
    Registered User Denis Kearns's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I couldn’t get the tuners on my SOL 2-pointer to function properly, despite my taking them apart, cleaning with naphtha and with new lubrication. I replaced them with Rubners and they dropped right in and work great. Plus, I think the black buttons are much snazzier than the original white ones (see below)
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  31. #93
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I appreciate everybody's thoughts, but feel kind of bad about hijacking this thread. I should've started a new one just about SOL tuner replacements.

    Those Rubner tuners that Denis used are currently on sale. Better/worse/same as the Stewmac ones?

    Too bad Richards teflon bushings are custom. I was really liking that idea, but I'm pretty positive there's geometry that needs correcting.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

  32. #94

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Sue, I have quite a few of those 1940s Kluson tuners with the rivets- or peened as they are sometimes called and I find they work well and stay in tune. Whether there is a problem with the holes in terms of their spacing, I can't say.

  33. #95

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Sue, I have quite a few of those 1940s Kluson tuners with the rivets- or peened as they are sometimes called and I find they work well and stay in tune. Whether there is a problem with the holes in terms of their spacing, I can't say.
    The sometimes advice to loosen the little screws is borderline, and more likely to result in lost screws and gears than improvements. Extra play, or clearance under the gear just allows more uneven wear. True, peened gears are indicative of cheaper tuners, and the impossibility of disassembly, but not a bad thing. Last night I did a kind of a necessarily cheap bodge job actually replacing tuners with new ones: there were three rounds of woodwork, and it only worked out nicely when I did add ferrules.

  34. #96
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    To let folks know - just posted a video comparing my two SOL's in a different section of the Cafe. This might show a basic difference in the sound of the 1930's smaller body models to the 1940's/50's version.

  35. #97
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    The minor plethora of 2 point Strad-O-Lins that have come up on ebay recently has got me wondering about them.

    What is the oldest known 2 point example? Are they generally a fifties phenomenon or are there some earlier?

    The most recent one, pictured below, bears a fair amount of superficial resemblance to my early 40's instrument. The F holes are different, though, with those little notches, different tuners, and no racing stripe on the back of the neck. (I'd be interested to know from the new owner if there's a date inside.)

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    Insights, anyone?
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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  37. #98

    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I don't know if one of the members here has a chronological collection of catalogue pages that might show when the two point Strad-O-Lin debuted. I assume it was in the late 1940s but it may have been later and the one in your photos does have those Waverly tuners, suggesting it is 1950s.

  38. #99
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    That two pointer is very close to my later one, which I think is late 40's early 50's. Mainly because of the 2 tone case. They have - same style fingerboard design, same tuners, same celluoid for pickguard and tailpiece cover, same version of the bridge with a wide top and same short neck that meets the body around the 9th fret.

    My guess on the date is because mine has aluminum fingerboard dots. Which would not have been available during WWII and the rod was probably excess material after the war.

    FWIW, the person in my profile pick is holding a SOL with the same pickguard and tailpiece cover, but the headstock is the smooth curve instead of pointed top.

  39. #100
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    So, to throw a wrench into some of our ideas - here is a 1935 date stamped SOL with bullet end f holes in the classifieds - https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/201028#201028

    Still makes me wonder if there were two companies building. Still can't see one company with two different body molds and making the f holes different on each size. Seems like more work and expense than necessary.

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