These early Sher Mohammad flat-back sitars are prone to issues by dint of their neck joinery. While the necks of most sitars of the era used large dovetail joints, these flat-backs have mortise and tenon joints with smallish, flat, and comparatively thin tenons. Loosening of the joint over time can result in stress on the tenon and, if not corrected, eventual cracking of the tenon and failure of the neck joint. Luckily, we caught this one in the very earliest stages, years before any issue with the joint would have become apparent. The clue was a very slight change in pitch of the open strings when lifting the instrument from the floor at the center of the dand.
To give this rare instrument another half-century of life, we decided to reinforce the neck.
This is a comparatively simple operation using two heavy and very rigid steel brackets and a total of eight screws. After removing a couple of frets, we marked out the area, chiseled the neck and gullu to accept the reinforcement, and screwed down and glued the brackets.
Once the reinforcement was in place, we filled the void with polymer-reinforced resin. This was followed by rough refinishing of reinforced portion of the neck and gullu.
We then polished the affected area of the dand, gullu, and back of the instrument to match, as closely as possible, the original finish and retied the removed frets. We never hide or conceal our work, so we left a faint outline of the butterfly-shaped mortise in the wood and small imperfections in the fill. Leaving these clues, any knowledgeable person decades from now will have a good idea of exactly what work was done and why the neck is so stable.
This is a permanent solution that eliminates a risk inherent in the design of this sitar. Lifting the instrument from a prone position now results in no change in pitch of the open strings, nor does pulling full meend.
The neck is now stronger than it was when it left the Sher Mohammad & Sons shop so many decades ago. Well worth the effort in our view.