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Thread: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

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    Default Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    A question for the more experienced mandolinists: Once a mandolin has been set up (properly), and it's played at least an hour a day, how long have you gone between setups? Thanks for your comments!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    There is really no way to tell. A lot depends on environmental conditions (dryness or humid conditions in your house, for example), the way you play, how you care for it. I have some instruments I have played for years before getting a set up and others that I may hardly play and open the case one day and find it needs serious help. There is no rule of thumb or rules for any of the other fingers as well.
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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    when I change strings, I try to check the intonation and if it's really off, then I'll see about a setup. I've been known to go years between them, though.
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    the little guy DerTiefster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    As said above, different parts of the mandolin will go out at different times for different reasons. Top sag (oh NO!) would do it for sure on an unpredictable time scale. So would neck bowing. Fret wear could necessitate a tune-up. But apart from those "special" events, changing the strings is a time for the unwary to suffer bridge drift. You might want to change the action height as an elective thing. And changing the string gauges would probably cause a change in intonation and make you want to adjust the bridge position. At random times you might find a fret walking out of its slot. I don't know what else might cause a problem other than, say, buzzing on the tailstock side of the bridge. But basically, the only things requiring repeated setups would be items which change the geometry of the instrument. Those are few and are generally "special" one-time or long time interval events.
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    Aside from fret wear, an instrument can maintain it's setup for many years if it is kept at a stable temperature/humidity level.

    Michael does bring up top sag and neck bow, which can come over time. Especially if climate is not controlled. How well your frets are seated is also a factor. If they are not seated tightly, there is more importunity for them to move over time.

    At one hour per day, the main thing you will run into is fret wear. This will be directly related to your technique. Aggressive players can do enough damage to warrant fret work a couple of times per year. Players with a light touch may make it a few years.

    As a general guideline, have it setup when you notice an issue, or have it looked over every year or two. Most shops will give it a look free of charge, or pay for a string change and ask them if it needs anything else.
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    As to the original posters inquiry--- Can anyone impart any wisdom for the diligent (many practice hours/day) player who can do fret, bridge, nut and minor repair work and adjustments and provides overall good care and maintenance to his instruments.

    I am a bit perplexed as to the mystery involved in Truss Rod adjustments...?? I'm seeking solid feed back on how to proceed with a needed truss rod adjustment to correct a very slightly exaggerated neck bowing. Do you pro's out there gauge the instrument with feeler gauges before you begin the (torque-up) process? where, and at what fret? What are the mm clearances you are e looking for...? And on what frets??

    Do you "un-torque" the truss rod before any adjustment or just go full blast and start tightening up on the truss rod??

    Appreciate any input...thanks, Donzen

    I would appreciate any enlightenment in this regard.............many thanks..!!

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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    Donzen,

    You are shooting for dead flat to .010 (0.254 mm) relief around the 7th fret. I check using the string itself by fretting it at the 1st fret and up around the 14th, then looking at the gap. There are occasions when a mandolin may need an adjustment outside of the "standard" range. This can come up if there is some problem with the neck and the customer wants it as good as it can get without addressing the main issue.

    Whether are not I tighten, loosen, lube or otherwise mess with it aside from adjusting depends on the instrument and how well the truss rod works. In the case of mandolins, a good portion have a fixed allen head on them and you can't do much anyway. They either work or don't.

    I am careful about tightening the truss rod with the strings under full tension. There are some cases where I will, if the truss rod is working well and I only need a slight adjustment. Otherwise I loosen the strings first.
    Robert Fear
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    In answer to the original question, it depends on the instrument, but it also depends on the player and how much he/she is willing to put up with. I feel like the only instruments that don't need any set up work (adjustments) at all are the ones on which the set up is just being finished up on the luthier's bench. By the next day something has changed.

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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    If you know you are not going to be playing the instrument for some time...should you loosen all the strings just to relieve stress on the neck??

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    What do you mean by "some time"?
    If the instrument is played regularly, that means it is observed regularly. When an instrument is observed regularly, problems that develop tend to be noticed and can be remedied. If an instruments is left un-played and unobserved for longer than a few weeks, there is a chance that a problem could develop and get worse from string tension without anyone noticing, so yes, it can be a good idea to slack the strings on an unobserved instrument just in case. No damage will result from lack of string tension. The "old saw" that says; "instruments are designed for string tension, it's not good for them to be left unstrung" is not exactly correct. Instruments are designed to withstand string tension, but they are not designed so that string tension is needed for their well-being.

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    Registered User OU1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    Ok, I have a even dumber question, if you could answer it, I would just be more "mandolin" smart. I have been playing for about 10 years, I own two mandolins...an A style and an F style...and currently building one from stew/Mac.....one of those campfire kits...fun stuff......my question is: what is a "set up" and what goes into that?

    I have heard the term set up before...I have no idea what goes into it or how much I need to pay attention to that on my mandolins.

    Thanks....GO SOONERS!

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    The "old saw" that says; "instruments are designed for string tension, it's not good for them to be left unstrung" is not exactly correct. Instruments are designed to withstand string tension, but they are not designed so that string tension is needed for their well-being.
    Hear hear...

    Although I did read an interesting point somewhere on the Frank Ford website where he opines that an instrument that is going to be stored should have both the strings slacked and the truss rod dialed down to a tension where it's not going to warp the neck.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Setup - How Often?

    A 'set up' can mean anything from making sure that the bridge is in the right position,to a 'full' set up ie. bridge adjustment both for position & string height,truss rod adjustment (if required),checking the bridge & nut slots for correct depth/width.Also checking the tuners for ease of movement & polishing the frets to ensure ease of fingering.
    As Robert Fear says,once set up,a mandolin can maintain it's set up for years as long as it's in a stable environment. Personally,i do a quick check on bridge position & string height every time i change strings just to make sure nothing's moved. I'd only do a full set up or more correctly a full check out if something went wrong. If it ain't broke - don't mend it,
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