before and after

Scattered throughout the site are occasional examples of instruments which have been fully restored. I thought it might be of interest to some to see before-and-after shots of some of them. Space doesn't allow for very many, but here are a few nonetheless. They are in no particular order.

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Style B mandolin harp, c. 1935

First up is a late-type Oscar Schmidt Style B mandolin harp from around 1935. This instrument was in excellent structural condition and just required a cosmetic "make-over" (just proper cleaning, actually), new strings as always, and as usual an extensive functional tune-up on the button pad.


Zimmermann "all-chord" autoharp, c. 1895

The requirements of this Zimmermann (Dolgeville) "all-chord" autoharp from around 1895 were similar to those of the mandolin harp above.


Phonoharp Co. No. 2 chord-zither, c. 1915

Here's a Phonoharp Company No. 2 zither from around 1915 that was suffering severe structural damage that had been made even more serious by "monkey repairs", those repair attempts which call to mind the work of apes. They normally involve screws and/or nails and seemingly gallons of excess adhesive (always the wrong kind).

As is always the case, the monkey hardware caused pieces of wood to be ripped out at the tail end of the back. The monkey hardware was removed and the voids filled with new pieces of wood. As the before picture shows, the tail block was disengaged from both the back and top and came completely out. When an instrument is in this condition at the tail end, that's a good thing, as it allows for flattening the back and for all the tail end joints to be re-aligned and re-joined with new glue.

Only hide glue, the granular type that has to be cooked, is used for structural repairs of zither-family instruments. This isn't out of any pretense of historical loyalty or any such nonsense; there are two good common sense reasons for using it. First, it is superior to any other glue for joints of wood that are going to be under stress, because it sets as hard as glass and allows for no movement ("creeping") of components when brought to full string tension. The second is simply that it is known to be compatible with the original adhesive. If total disassembly is involved and all surfaces can be ridded of every last trace of old glue, then aliphatic resin ("yellow") adhesive is probably acceptable, though I have never tried it for this purpose.

Despite the monkeys' best efforts to destroy it, the instrument restored beautifully. It is back to excellent playing condition and is good for the next lifetime.



Marx piano harp, c. 1920

And the story was pretty much the same for this Marx piano harp made by the Phonoharp Company around 1920. Again, it restored very nicely. Since some of the bars were broken, new ones of the protruding type were made in cherry to match the originals.


Dolceola, Type 1, c. 1904

The biggest job of any on this page was this early form dolceola, which dates from near the time production began in 1904. Detailed photo-documentation of this restoration can be conveniently viewed in slide show format by clicking on the thumbnail image below.


Dolceola, Type 2, c. 1906

Though it required disassembly and re-setting of all the frame joints as unrestored dolceolas normally do, the restoration of this late form example was a small job compared to the one above. The thumbnail image is linked to a page with a few before and after shots.


Zimmermann Parlor Grand autoharp, 1898-99

Another magnificent instrument is this Zimmermann Parlor Grand autoharp. Sorry, there is no "before" shot, but aside from a proper cleaning, the work it needed didn't show. The thumbnail image is linked to a page that gives a text account of its restoration, along with additional images.


early all-melody zither, c. 1870

This simple all-melody zither from around 1870 required an interesting repair, so again I devoted a separate section to the documentation of its restoration. Detailed photo-documentation of this restoration can be conveniently viewed in slide show format by clicking on the thumbnail image below.


Marxochime, chromatic, c. 1940

It's woefully common to encounter fretless zithers that have done some hard time in an attic, as had this chromatic Marxochime (so-labelled, as were several other totally different Marx instruments.) The telling sign of this was that the finish had pooled into droplets. Amazingly, the instrument was in perfect structural condition.


mandolin-guitarophone, c. 1920

This mandolin guitarophone from around 1920 needed a little structural work, but under the crud it was in a gorgeous state of cosmetic preservation.


C.F. Zimmermann No. 2 autoharp, Type 1, c. 1885

This Zimmermann (Philadelphia) No. 2 autoharp of the earliest type was in poor structural condition but good cosmetic condition. Again, it restored beautifully. The old shellac finish had "blushed" into an opaque pale yellowish covering. Mere rubbing with linseed oil cures this disorder, restoring the transparency of the finish, thus the apparent drastic color change.



orchestrola, c. 1930

Structurally, this orchestrola was a wreck, requiring the re-setting of the pin blocks at both ends. However, it was evident through the years of filth it was in immaculate cosmetic condition. The gizmos were in excellent functional condition as well and required only cleaning and polishing.



Menzenhauer No. 0 1/2 chord-zither, c. 1910

Like the previous instrument, the joints of this Menzenhauer No. 0 1/2 chord-zither were typically ripped open from string tension and required a major structural overhaul. But the finish was in pristine condition, and it was one of very few examples of this instrument with no cracks in the front or back. As can be seen, it restored beautifully.



Triola mandoline-zither, c. 1920

This Triola mandoline-zither was obviously filthy but in good structural condition. However, the gizmo was non-functional. The most majorly time-consuming part of its restoration was the micro-tune-up of the gizmo; once out of whack, they're very fussy.



interior label, Zimmermann No. 2 7/8 autoharp, c. 1895

And yes, restoration of fretless zithers sometimes involves a bit of basic paper conservation. This label is from a Zimmermann (Dolgeville) No. 2 7/8 autoharp dating from the 1890s. The instrument required disassembly for restoration, so while it was apart the paper label was removed, washed, and alkalinized. The highly acidic late 19th century wood pulp paper was typically embrittled, so removing and washing it was a very delicate job.