Thursday, 6 November 2008

Gibson Mandolin - 1918

Well its been a busy week - I've finished a neck re-set on a 1963 Gretsch, replaced a classical bridge that had come off, refretted an Ibanez acoustic and made a bone nut and saddle for it, re-wired a Les Paul as well as numerous set ups and a few fret stones.
But the highlight was a beautiful old mandolin from 1918 its owned by by Nigel Gavin - an amazingly versatile player and an absolute legend. I keep seeing his name on credits on a huge amount of cds and not just from New Zealand.
He's best known as a guitarist and the day he brought this mandol into the workshop he also brought with him a 7-string acoustic. The guitar had been made for him by Laurie Williams and what a fantastic piece of work. Laurie's attention to detail is a joy to see and the guitar has a very light, delicate and sophisticated sound. But the reason Nigel came to see me was his mandolin.
The first string has a slight buzz when played open. As you can see from the picture there's also a piece of binding missing but he's not concerned with that and wants it left. The open string buzz implies to me that one of the nut slots has worn and is now too low causing the string to vibrate against the first fret.
For a mandolin to be playable the nut slots need to be cut lower than on a guitar. There's a lot of string tension on a mandolin and with high nut slots its going to hurt. So if I'm going to keep this nut I'm going to have to put something in the slot to give it a little more height.
The best way to do this is to use superglue and bone dust. Whenever I sand or file a bone nut or saddle I keep the bone dust for doing jobs like this. I first need to clean the slot so the glue will stick. I use specially made nut files
I'm happy to make the slot deeper because I'm going to fill it anyway. I only use 'hot stuff' super glue for this job. It comes in a few thicknesses and for this I use the thinnest. Never apply superglue directly front the container to the instrument- its hard to predict and I've seen a few nasty accidents.
I always pour the glue onto an old string packet and then use an old jewellers screwdriver to apply it. First its a thin layer of glue in the slot then a sprinkling of bone dust. The dust soaks up the glue and gets very hard. I repeat this a few times until the slot is almost filled. It dries very quickly with the dust but I still leave it half an hour or so before re-cutting the slot. Once the slot is cut to the right depth and profile I put candle wax in it to lubricate the string. It did the trick and of course can't be seen. I didn't charge Nigel for this little job. He's a guitar teacher and recomends me to his students so its only fair he gets something in return.
I just had to show you these tuning pegs - what beautifuldetail. And they still work perfectly.

I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups

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