1999 made in Cork mandolin!

Ow here is a tough one:

Spot anything wrong?

Yes the soundboards is smashed inwards. Looks pretty tough to fix. Especially because my hand doesn’t fit inside due to the stylish, and now annoyingly sharp, fret board end.

The inside reads:

Made in cork 

1999

The instrument has an unusual shape and the bracing parern inside seems equally experimental. There is no x brace but rather two braces run down the length of the sound board past either side of the sound hole, under the outside of the feet of the bridge, and taper together towards the tail pice. They stop around where the crack had occured and indeed they run almost patalel to the cracks. 

This bracing pattern leaves a lot of freedom for the wood to vibrate around the bridge and I think it may be the reason it has cracked in this way. It is also the reason, I’m sure, for the reported sweet tone of the instrument. Instrument design is always a compromise between the dichotomy of strength and weakness. We want structural integrity and yet need vibrations to transmit sound. A beautiful sounding instrument that breaks reminds me of the flight of Icarus.

Anyway, philosophy asside, I have been tasked with fixing the thing! So I set about it.

Declan has a great technique for this sort of thing. I can’t push it up from the inside so I must pull it out from the outside! 

A large cleat of quarter sawn spruce will be glued in to bridge the cracked piece and sure-up the worst part of the break.

It will be pulled into place by a guitar string wound onto a guitar machine head. A hole drilled in the top of the guitar, the cleat, and a caul for the cleat, will line them all up and allow the pieces to come together by winding up the guitar string:

The cleat is shaped to meet one brace inside and to cover the other so a housing is cut out of it. The break is cleaned up to alow it to come together more easily

Long support beams hold the guitar tuner level on the sound board.

Now the g string I used snapped dramatically as I tried to tigheten it! That shows the pressure the system is under. I used an E string instead. And left it over night…

Sucsess!? The repair is still visible, as expected with such extensive damage. The edges could be sanded down and refinished but let’s string her up first and see if we’ve really succeeded…

Unfortunately when the strings came back under pressure the sound board started to bow down and it was clear that it would break again in the same way so I loosened the tension and put it back in it’s case, feeling a little dejected, but sure a solution would make itself aparent after some time…

About two weeks later I was playing a gig in The Venue, Clonakilty, with TUO Duo. Our ukulele bass caught the eye of a fellow called Steve Pawsey (www.stevepawsey com). It turned out that he was a guitar builder and we got to talking about the mandolin. He suggested that a sound post, similar to that used in violins, could solve the problem. 

I had considered the idea before, but this was the impitus I needed. Two days later the mandolin had a large mahogony sound post sitting between the back strip and the cleat I had already installed! 

Sorted! 

Next!

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