I have an instrument in my shop that's absolutely befuddling me right now. It's a Weber Sweet Pea mandolin (I've attached a photo), and there are some peculiar things about this instrument. The sides, back, and neck are all one piece of wood, with the body cavity actually routed away. In place of kerfing, the sweet pea has a slightly thicker ledge at the top of the ribs (sides) where the router didn't cut them quite so thin. There is one brace on the underside of the top, spanning laterally across its entire width.

Now here's where things get tricky. There is a crack in the top right where the treble bridge foot ends. It follows the grain for a little ways, and is about five and a half inches long. I've glued up the crack fine, and haven't left any stepping, but the real problem now, as you might have guessed, is the tone bar that ran under the bridge. It was pulled off of the top by whatever trauma caused the crack (it happened while the owner was moving, and he had the instrument in a gig bag). Towards the center of the instrument, and along the entire bass side, the bar is still glued securely to the top. Past the crack on the treble side, however, the bar is lifted off the top, and is caught on the underside of the ledge that acts as the instrument's kerfing. No (reasonable) amount of pressure can lay it back flat against the top.

So I need a way to reach into that tiny soundhole and shorten the tone bar, or find some other way to get it past that ledge which the winter seems to have shrunken inside of the bar's length. Right now my best idea is to use a turnbuckle to spread the ribs ever so gently wider until I can push the bar up. But this seems like the sort of idea that works better in my head than it would in reality. I have small hands, but it's still a tight fit in that soundhole. Any ideas, please?

--D. Scott Nettleton

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I have had this problem b4 i used 2 suction cups to pull the top back into shape b4 i did all this i re humidified the instrument the reason for it not wanting to sit flat may be because of expansion and contraction .if you can copse the wood back into shape this way would be great after humidity i suctioned cupped the top pulled it apart and it gently fell back into alignment dry clamped it and then glued it with this sg
I notice the body isn't bound. Could you separate the top from the rim just along the lower bout to allow enough flex to return the brace?
could be your only way to do it ?i am not sure some others may chime in hopefully in the past i have had to separate a back off a 1/2 violin and cleat it back together and glue the back on again it is possible the music store once pulled out a big house carving knife and started digging one off i shuck my head went home and found a steamer razor blades and went for it started a hole with a small drill bit pushed in some hot steam and went for it i sanded the sides a bit to lessen the damaged area and looked great when it was finished .like sanding for kurffing on a guitar for the top /back I wounder if you can sand the sides a bit on the instrument in question.
Sandpaper stuck to a magnet?
Separating the top from a violin is one thing; this is totally different. Violin tops are made to come off and are glued on with hide glue. I'm about 99% sure this mandolin's top is glued on with titebond, because its brace certainly is. Not to mention that violins have margins to aid you when applying a seam separation knife.

Really, I know that the top could be partially separated for this purpose, but I'm not convinced it will line back up with the ribs since the bar is already too long. I feel like I'd almost have to remove the top completely and shorten the tone bar, then glue it back on and on to the top. Which is far too much work on this little sweet pea. And I'm not about to sand the ribs thinner.

The magnet idea might have some merit, but I'll be darned if I know how precisely to pull it off.

Thanks for the replies, though.
--D. Scott Nettleton
hey Scott have you seen the lmii binding jig i say this to give you hope remove the top and bind the top after the glue job
I've actually used LMi's binding jig before, but the top isn't currently bound. I like to keep instruments in the same condition as they were when they entered my shop; it's hard to know what a binding job would do to the instrument's value.
I would partially separate the top from the sides to about the soundhole area. Doing this should give you enough flex to get to the problem and glue the brace.

D.Scott (May I call you "D"?),

Your turnbuckle idea might work, but I would think these sides weren't very flexible even without a top attached. I can just hear the sound of the back or side cracking. How about taking one of your extra soundpost setters and mounting a small saw blade on the end? Obviously this won't be easy, but all you need to do is nibble a little of the end of the brace. Or you could try opening the top seam near the brace end and nibble at the either the lining or the brace.

This is a $375 (list) instrument. I would try to avoid making it my life's work.

Know what I mean?

The soundpost setter idea is pretty good, but I've already finished the job, and thought I should post an update on what I did.

I actually followed the general consensus and separated the top from the sides. After heating the glue joint with a lamp and scoring the lacquer, my palette knife found the joint just fine. I used a short length of maple, notched for the brace at one end and slightly rounded at the other, to jack the brace up to the top. Everything worked great and cleaned up well, and it's ready for the customer to pick up!

--D. Scott Nettleton


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