This is a Harmony Monterey H417 mandolin in it’s faux Alligator original case. These were made between the late 1930’s and the 1970‘s and have solid spruce tops (pressed) and solid maple back and sides. This one appears to be a very early model. Judging from the style of the headstock and name lettering, as well as the oval stamp on the
inside (which indicates that it’s pre war) I’d guess late thirties, perhaps ‘38. I bought this to steal the cover plate from the tailpiece for a better grade mandolin I restored a while back. The instrument already had 2 face cracks repaired but a center seam was split wide open and the previous repairs, while solid, were quite conspicuous.
After re-humidifying the mando, I was able to glue the center seam split with hot hide glue. I colored the damage from the previous repairs with a lacquer pen and over coated with french polish. Then did a full fret level, crown and polish (my first). When I went to string it up, it was clear the the mandolin needed a neck re-set as well.
Up to this point, I thought it would be an easy fix but pulling the neck proved to be quite an adventure! After heating and loosening the fretboard tongue, I pulled out the 12th fret, drilled down into the neck block and applied steam, the standard method of neck removal. Unbeknownst to me, these
have a butt joint rather than a dove tail joint, and while the neck eventually gave away, it was very slow going and broke the poplar heel in the process. I was eventually able to remove the broken section of heel and epoxy the pieces back together. The neck was glued back in place with hot hide glue and big rubber band straps. Due to the neck re-set, the fingerboard pulled slightly up after the neck met
the body. I created a spruce wedge to fill in the gap and also bring the fretboard back down. The mandolin now required quite a bit of drop filling around the neck joint and I went ahead and drop filled the larger crack by the lower end of the bass f hole as well. Once the drop filling was sanded out, I began the finish work.
The top, upper sides and and the heel of the neck got about 10 coats of french before buffing out and waxing. Finally, she was ready for strings and set up.
I had to re-level and polish the frets again, then set it up for the easiest action I could and still have it play clean.
This should be a good, solid instrument and the 75 + year old spruce top should sound beautiful. The tone is quite bright now, but will become fuller and richer the more it’s played.
It’s nice to know that a perfectly serviceable mandolin will live on! This one is destined for a Christmas Tree at an undisclosed location.