Actually, it’s the second, and it’s not even a violin, but let’s not pigeonhole The Blog too much, ‘kay?Several years ago a former associate mentioned that he might want to learn to play the mandolin some day. An inexpensive model was purchased online and he was soon plucking away. But. The cheapy mando did not stay in tune. A better mando was soon acquired and the cheap model was relegated to a hook on the wall. Poor mando!

The cheapy (but pretty) mando was occasionally brought it down from its hook, dusted it off, and tuned up. Alas, it was always a no-go, slipping out of tune after just a few minutes of gentle playing.

Enter your aspiring fixer-upper of stringed instruments. Shopping locally, I found mando tuners and good strings at the local music shop. The tuners fit perfectly. It took over an hour to re-string the little beast, but it was well worth it – the mando stays in tune and sounds great!

But. You should know by now that there’s always a “but” when yours truly embarks on a DIY journey.

The action was too high. I mean, really high compared to the Better Mando. It hurt to press the strings down far enough to finger notes. Crap! What to do? Take it apart and make adjustments, of course. What fun!

It seemed pretty obvious (after comparing bridge and nut measurements on the Good Mando) that the bridge needed to be lowered and the nut filed down to put the strings closer to the fingerboard. The nut is made of plastic** and fell off when the strings were removed. It had been applied with a clear epoxy-like substance which required some time with a sharp scraper to remove. What a bumpy mess! The nut was easy to sand and re-apply*** leaving about 2mm clear above the fingerboard –

I sanded the bottom surface of the nut to keep the string grooves intact, changing the angle slightly to make it more closely match the neck and fingerboard for a nice, tight joint.

The bridge looks like teak and was sanded down about 2mm in total. A steel rule is a handy clearance gauge:

I strung it up, made a custom strap and handed the prize back. I would love to show some pictures of the mando back together again, but I’ve been informed that I’m not allowed to touch it, since all I want to do is take things apart.

He’s got guards on it now, but no one is watching the old school cello tucked in behind the guitars in the other room…

* Last year, [name deleted] lamented that his favorite acoustic guitar would not stay in tune. He enjoys playing along with YouTube and this particular (not expensive) guitar is just the right size for sitting in front of the computer. “Hmmmm,” says I, “I bet the tuners are worn out, and it sure could use some good strings…” A quick order with Stew-Mac and WebStrings, a couple of hours of cleaning, installing the new tuners and strings and the old Decca was good as new. Easy-peasy! And cheap, too 🙂

** Yes, the “right” thing to do would be to carve a new nut out of a little piece of ebony, but sometimes the extra mile is just a long walk in the middle of a long day that does no one any good.

*** I used TiteBond wood glue. So sue me. Yes, I could have used hide glue, but time was of the essence and it seemed kind of silly to heat up the glue pot for what amounted to about two drops of glue. It dried quickly, seems to be a good join and no one was hurt by the application.