For the last several month, I have been juggling many hobbies. This includes record buying, YouTubing, reading forums, blogs, and tweets all in search of bluegrass knowledge. Also, getting in on a friendly pickin’ circle with the Foothills Bluegrass Music Society! This enthusiasm for everything “old-timey” landed me a 40 year old mandolin from my father-in-law. Other than being in storage for many years, there was nothing wrong with the basic structure of the mandolin.
First thing I noticed was the hardware was slightly rusted and had built up some dirt and grime. Using the finest steel wool I could find seemed to do the trick
Although, I did enjoy the rustic and seasoned look of the exterior, the reality was that the finish was very dry, cracking and coarse feeling. Without having any real plan, I decided I was going to strip and sand it down, revealing it’s natural wood. First using a medium 100 grit sandpaper, than switching to a extra-fine 220 grit sandpaper until it was very smooth to the touch.
Having never stained a thing in my life, outside of wine spills and Tubbydogs gone wrong, I had trouble choosing the colour and type of stain to use. I ended up with Saman water-based “Brandy” stain and a Shellac polish.
After a few late afternoons on the balcony in whatever sunshine a Calgary spring would offer, I had myself a newly stained and polished mandolin!
I went out and bought some strings and started re-assembling all the hardware back to the mandolin. After having done some research, I noticed that the tailpiece was nailed in as opposed to screwed in, like everything else I had seen online. This made me wonder if I should buy a modern tail-piece that would be, what I would think, more secure and solid for sound.
Finally, I strung it up and started putting it into tune. I found most of the tuning pegs to be stiff and some to be very difficult to turn. In my excitement and anticipation to hear it, I broke one of the pegs!! After some mandolin-C.S.I. to this devastating incident, I noticed that the peg itself was slight bent.
Now I’m looking into ordering new hardware all together. I would have liked to maintain the original parts to this mandolin. However, in the name of playability and quality of sound, I think new hardware would be the right choice. Oh yeah! I didn’t really tell my father-in-law I was doing any of this. I’ve been singing heavenly gospel tunes lately, just in case…