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Thread: That sinking feeling

  1. #1
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default That sinking feeling

    Cafe member Marc Woodward was brave enough to let me loose on his 1887 Angara and D'Isanto which was suffering a bad case of top sinkage around the soundhole - and suggested I document progress here.

    With the strings off and some light and a mirror inside it was apparent that the forward brace had separated from the top at either end.... so time to get the top off and see what could be done... it actually came off rather alarmingly easily with just a touch of damage:

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    Time to take a decent picture of that nice lable:

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    The braces are actually quite far forward, certainly well forward of the bridge, note the distinct scorch mark where the top was bent as well:

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    Unfortunately the braces are not too well attached:

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    Time now to start cleaning things up, and see if those braces will separate cleanly so they can be reused....

  2. #2
    Registered User Marc Woodward's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Great John, glad to see it's going well so far! Its a nice instrument I'm sure it'll be worth doing,
    Cheers
    Marc

  3. #3
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Interesting to see these photos. The bracing pattern is the same as on my 1898 Giuseppe Vinaccia, shown during repairs at Jon Springall's site:

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    Not surprising, I guess, as Angara & d'Isanto were Vinaccia pupils.

    Martin

  4. #4
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    Not surprising, I guess, as Angara & d'Isanto were Vinaccia pupils.
    Indeed, I guess once he was trained in a system that "worked" there would be no need to change from it.... especially as he was trading on the "pupil of Vinaccia" thing!

  5. #5
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Great photos, John and Martin! A lot of slop on the A + D'I top, is that from earlier brace-re-gluing attempts?

    I love seeing that reinforcement plate above the soundhole. I have seen many a bowlback where this area has given way. CF Martin used this as well, but I haven't seen it on other US makers even the more 'Italianized' builders on the East Coast. I would be interested to note if that detail did turn up on some of the higher-end Vegas. This and the center-seam strip seem fairly low-cost ways of adding considerable durability and longevity to an instrument.

    There sure appears to be a lot of dish in the Vinaccia top, Martin. That is a really telling view.

    Mick
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  6. #6
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Great photos, John and Martin! A lot of slop on the A + D'I top, is that from earlier brace-re-gluing attempts?
    I don't know, but there sure is a lot of crusty old glue about the place that needs to be scraped off!

  7. #7

    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Great photos, John and Martin! A lot of slop on the A + D'I top, is that from earlier brace-re-gluing attempts?

    I love seeing that reinforcement plate above the soundhole. I have seen many a bowlback where this area has given way. CF Martin used this as well, but I haven't seen it on other US makers even the more 'Italianized' builders on the East Coast. I would be interested to note if that detail did turn up on some of the higher-end Vegas. This and the center-seam strip seem fairly low-cost ways of adding considerable durability and longevity to an instrument.

    There sure appears to be a lot of dish in the Vinaccia top, Martin. That is a really telling view.

    Mick
    I've seen the reinforcement on some of the better Washburns also.

  8. #8
    Registered User Jim Ferguson's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Great pics guys.....thanks for sharing. Amazing to be working on such classic & old instruments, eh!!!!! Good luck with the repairs.
    Peace,
    Jim

  9. #9
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Update:

    Braces came off nice and clean, judging by the amount of glue in all the wrong places, this one has been repaired in the past.

    However, removing the forward neck reinforcing block, the whole thing turned to wood dust, and looking at what was left shows a great deal of woodworm damage:

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    No wonder this baby collapsed there!

    The top looks pretty fragile too, so I filled every fragile looking area I could find with CA (since this stuff sets hard as stone and wicks into every fissure).

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    Looking carefully at the top, there are signs of old filled/repaired woodworm holes (couldn't see them under the dirt before), so hopefully this is all antique damage! You know it even scares me just looking at those pictures... I really really hate woodworm... you never really know how far the damage goes inside... still it looks like most of the damage was in the reinforcing block which can easily be replaced.

    The top's currently clamped with a hot compress to straighten out the distortion, then it's a case of waiting for a day with suitably low humidity before gluing the braces back on...

  10. #10
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    With the top straightened out, it's time to put everything back together along with a new neck-reinforcer to replace the old worm-eaten one:

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    Interestingly the top where the braces are is incredibly stiff - probably because the two braces are so close together - on the other hand there is some small amount of give around the bridge area (where the cant is), and the tap tones look promising - there are actually some lower frequency resonances in this one

  11. #11
    Registered User Marc Woodward's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Looking good John, I'm fascinated to hear what it sounds like - although it was a reasonably rounded sound with some bass response before. Hopefully the action will be better now as well. Has the inlay round the sound hole stayed in place? - I thought the pearl triangles might pop out....!
    Cheers,
    Marc Woodworm (see the clue was in my name all along!!)

  12. #12
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by Marc Woodward View Post
    Looking good John, I'm fascinated to hear what it sounds like - although it was a reasonably rounded sound with some bass response before. Hopefully the action will be better now as well. Has the inlay round the sound hole stayed in place? - I thought the pearl triangles might pop out....!
    Cheers,
    Marc Woodworm (see the clue was in my name all along!!)
    LOL

    Yes a couple of bits of MOP popped out - had the devil of a job finding them even though I new exactly where they fell! Those are back in again, but the pickguard is starting to pop off now - to be expected really as they glued these in with hide glue and it just doesn't really stick that well to the acetate... I'll wait till it's all back together before fixing that down properly as there's more flexing to come when the top goes back on the bowl!

    BTW have you come across those really high end classical guitars with "double-tops": two ultra thin pieces of spruce separated by a high-tech honycombe structure? Well you can get the same effect for a lot less effort by just introducing a couple of worms to your instruments top!

    To be serious for moment though - the top on this one is always going to be fragile - if it goes again then it's probably curtains for the top I'm afraid. The good news I guess is that the neck and back look to be in good order and well made - actually better built and stronger than the other bowls I've had. So.... I can't promise that this repair will be good for another 100 years... but hopefully a few 10's of years if you look after it. Come think of it, that's probably what the last guy to work on this one said!

    Looking forward to hearing it myself, will keep you posted, John.

  13. #13
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Top back on, new bridge and nut, fretboard leveled and re-fretted with the original bar frets:

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    The felt at the tailpiece end is my addition, and is probably more trouble than it's worth (it's just held on by string pressure).

    Interestingly, this one has quite the widest fingerboard I've come across on a mandolin - nut width is 32mm, and even keeping the strings a good distance from the edges the bridge spacing (outer G-E) is 50mm. Seems to be much wider than any images I've found of Vinaccia's or Angara'a.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    NIce One John, any other interesting restorations in prospect??
    Last edited by dave17120; Mar-14-2011 at 8:35am.
    No such thing as a dead mandolin!

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  15. #15
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by dave17120 View Post
    NIce One John, any other interesting restorations in prospect??
    Not sure... I really need to get back to the mandolin I've started building, it might not be vintage, but lots of vintage instrument inspiration going into the design...

  16. #16
    Registered User Marc Woodward's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Thanks John, looking great, can't wait to pick it up and have a play!

    I always knew it was a wide fretboard but it's interesting to hear how it compares with others you've worked on.
    Apparently it's so wide that Embergher players are only allowed near if they have a map - otherwise they could be lost forever in uncharted territory (rumour has it that Hugo D'Alton is lost in a parallel fretboard world somewhere on the neck of my A&D'I!).

    If I ever sell it I'll advertise it thus:
    'Fat fingers? Dumpy digits? Want to play a bowlback but afraid your podgy sausages won't fit? Never fear - Angara and D'Isanto mando here!' etc

    Anyway, look forward to seeing you shortly.

    Thanks,
    Marc

  17. #17
    Registered User Marc Woodward's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Just recorded a little tune with my repaired Angara & D'Isanto! Thanks to John ( Tavy) it's sounding sweet and playing well. This is just noodling around a chord sequence based loosely on Ave Maria. Obviously I'm simultaneously playing the mandocello with my feet!
    Marc

  18. #18
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Beautiful playing Marc, so so sweet!

    Oh and I could hardly see your legs moving

  19. #19

    Default Re: That sinking feeling

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Top back on, new bridge and nut, fretboard leveled and re-fretted with the original bar frets:

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    The felt at the tailpiece end is my addition, and is probably more trouble than it's worth (it's just held on by string pressure).

    Interestingly, this one has quite the widest fingerboard I've come across on a mandolin - nut width is 32mm, and even keeping the strings a good distance from the edges the bridge spacing (outer G-E) is 50mm. Seems to be much wider than any images I've found of Vinaccia's or Angara'a.
    Woah, you did a great job with the restoration. Looks beautiful.

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