Rebuilding a Mandolin Top
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How to rebuild a top

  Some mandolins that I come across, have been almost destroyed, often by shrinkage and resultant splitting of the top. Once de-constructed for rebuilding, the tops can often be in several separate pieces.... You then have a choice, rebuild the original top, or make a new one. Whilst it may seem at first an impossibility, is is often easier, certainly cheaper, and definitely more authentic to rebuild the original.

  This top was a case in point. The centre join was gone, the sound-hole inlay adrift, and the struts rattling around inside the instrument, besides the separations from the back.

Once the fingerboard was off and the top finally detached from the back, rebuilding could begin.

   Photo 1 shows the extent of disintegration, 2 the re-gluing of the section above the sound-hole and the sound-hole inlay, and 3 the fillet prepared for the centre-line split below the sound-hole.
   Once whole again, the sound hole can be re-enforced beneath, photo 4.  Photo 5 shows the curvature being re-instated to the lower part of a table, using cauls and 'hot pads' clamped into the desired position, as the damage included a bad dip in the lower part of the top.
   In photos 6 and 7, the struts  are re-glued, having been first cleaned, and in one case repaired as it had split lengthways. (Note in photo 6, the clamp has just been set, and the excess glue has yet to be cleaned away.)

   The aim was to rebuild the table with as little extra material as possible, to let it vibrate as was intended. Perhaps it will never be as good, but to the untrained ear, the subtle differences may not be too important.