View Full Version : newbie posts an old mandolin
I could sure use some helpful comments from this fine group of people... This is my first post on the mandolincafe.
The estate of my adopted mom was just distributed and I have her rather old (approx. 60 years) mandolin. It's not in very good shape, but wanted to post a few pictures of it. It was likely purchased in the late '40's maybe from the Dallas, Texas area.
I hope the pictures work ok:
The instrument measures 23.5 inches in length and 9.5 inches at the widest point in the body. The sound hole looks alot different than the ones I've seen posted on this website. The manufacturer's label, now long gone, looks like it used to be on the inside of the sound hole. (It sure would help to have had that label intact...)
I used to play classical guitar for several years, and then migrated to the lute (7-course renaissance) and alto recorder. I'd like to start on a mandolin, but not sure if this item would be a good one to learn on or not. And this instrument would need new strings, too. (Any advice on strings is greatly appreciated.)
Thanks in advance and I trust I've posted all this correctly and in accordance with the 'standard' rules of mandolincafe.
Someone else will be able to identify the maker, but it looks like you've got a nice oval hole A style mando there. If it's stable, and the neck is straight, tuners work, etc, then you've got a heck of an instrument to learn on. I think she's a beaut, by the way. String her up and see what happens, and let us know how it goes!
Here you go:
The other 2 pix.
Ricer- If there's someone near you (a luthier or instrument repair person) who can give this a "once over", I'd recommend it. It could use a good cleaning and to be checked for the condition of the neck and frets and tuners, strung up (I'd suggest light strings to start), and set up. That's how you'll know whether it will be good to learn on. Looking at the pictures, I don't see any obvious reason why it wouldn't be just fine... but there are some important things that you can't tell from pictures.
I'd say that chances are good that with a little tweaking it will be a fine instrument to start on.
I'm no expert but I've been collecting pictures of old mandos and it looks like it might be a Supertone, which was Sears Roebuck's brand (and made, I think, by Harmony). But it looks like other mandos from the period as well. Enjoy it!
Thanks for all the help and insight. When I got the instrument, it had strings on it, but they were ancient things... maybe the original set, I don't know. They were in bad shape... There's a guy that I can take this to for a "once over". If he gives it a "thumbs-up", can someone recommend the kind of light strings to use?
Your pictures kind of took me aback. My Dad died a couple years back, and while going through his things, I found his old mandolin he'd been storing in his basement since he bought the house in 1945. I remember seeing it there as long as I can remember, but it had begun to deterioriate so bad that it became unplayable by the 40's, so he bought a beautiful old taterbug (which also has no identifiers save a couple of numbers on the inside of the tailpiece.)
At any rate, it had a total of 26 inches of "splits" on the soundboard, there was about two fingers of air between the fretboard at the neck joint and the strings, and you could actually drop a marble in the soundhole and it would roll out the back under the tailpiece where the back had become seperated from the ribs.
In short, it was so deteriorated, no luthier in his right mind would have done anything but use it for kindling.
Since it was his, and he had owned it since he was in grade school (he was born in 1918)I decided it was worth a new life if I could manage it. Considering the fret wear, and knowing when he got it, I'd conclude it was built in the very early twentieth century, and very possibly in the latter 1800's. It was used when he got it.
It appears to me to be the same as yours except for the white buttons and pickguard. It had to come apart totally, piece by piece to repair it. I put some light strings on it once the glue had dried, and was rewarded with a sweet old woody sound, very pleasing to the ears, but a bit quiet, compared to carved top instruments. If yours sounds similar, it will be well worth the effort of bringing it back to life.
Like you, I'd love to know more about it and it's history. I'd think they probably came from the same place to begin with.
I found similar mandolins in many of the distributor catalogs I have from around the 1930s. They go under various names or no name at all. Supertone would definitely be one, Lyra, Sterling etc. Prob made by Regal. Certainly a lowend one and prob Chicago made.
Certainly a lowend one and prob Chicago made.
No argument about the low end comment. In fact the backboard of mine is cut on about a 30 degree bias, which I assume was done to coax more pieces for backs out of a single sheet of wood. That would allow a very high percentage out of a sheet of veneer to be saved rather than scrapped. That angled grain was also a major contributor to the warpage of the instrument that needed corrected.
UPDATE: I've had the instrument inspected and it has a small amount of warpage on the bass-side of the front facing (but not significant enough to warrant any concern).
A set of Martin M400 light strings were put on and tuned up. It plays nicely. It's not loud, but for a beginner instrument, I think this should do well.
I bought a Mel Bay Mandolin book (and CD) for beginners and am currently working on the G scale exercises, trying to keep my pace slow and notes clear...
Thanks to all who offered comments and suggestions. I'm grateful for the help and will likely need more help as I figure out how little I know...