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morgan
Jun-13-2007, 11:54am
I took advantage of a family trip to Rochester last month to visit Bernunzio’s, to check the place out and more specifically to look at their bowlbacks. They seem to be one of the few retail outlets that keeps a good number of bowlbacks in stock.

They were very accommodating and I played a good section of their mando wall. Certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area. The only bowlback that took my fancy has since been sold (a Ciani). As I was getting ready to leave they said “you might want to try this one out too” and handed me a Gelas mando from the 1920s. Bernunzio’s describes it thus: “ca. 1921. extremely interesting, French made instrument with tear drop shaped body; Curly European maple back and sides; amazing double spruce top with interior vibrating chamber; oval sound hole 13-1/4 inch scale with neck joining at the 10th fret.” It’s a bizarre mando with a double top. The fretboard rests on the upper level, which extends to the soundboard and slants down towards the flat full top of the instrument. The result is that it looks like it has a reverse cant, like a “typical” old bent-top instrument but backwards; it bends in rather than out (there is actually nothing bent, it just looks like it). It has a very unique and cool sound and I was quite taken with it.

Thanks to Alan’s posting about his new Octofone, I found out that Bernunzio’s was having a clearance (thanks Alan!) . This was marked down about a third, and I just took the plunge and ordered it.

A web search reveals little about the maker, other than he was French and made guitars and harp guitars as well.

Can anyone provide more info about these? Thanks for whatever info you can provide.

morgan
Jun-13-2007, 11:56am
another foto

morgan
Jun-13-2007, 11:57am
the back

Martin Jonas
Jun-13-2007, 12:08pm
Nice to see somebody actually having one of these. #If you do a search here on the Cafe, you'll find we have discussed them a few times, for example here (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=27;t=41209;hl=gelas). #I tried a couple of times to pick one up on Ebay for lowball bids, but haven't managed yet. #I'm sort of curious to try them, as they seem to have been very dominant in France for a period of several decades, but not curious enough to actually spend much money.

From the various Ebay instruments, it is clear that apart from Gelas himself, a considerable number of French luthiers built these instruments under license from Gelas to use his patented system. #It is also clear that they were first introduced around 1910 and were still built in the 1970s, so they must have been rather more than a flash-in-the-pan curiosity.

Martin

Paul Hostetter
Jun-13-2007, 12:24pm
They also made Hawaiian guitars:

http://www.lutherie.net/gelas.hawn.jpg

Martin, are you sure they were made into the 70s? I don't think I've seen anything post WWII.

Martin Jonas
Jun-13-2007, 12:25pm
Martin, are you sure they were made into the 70s?
This (http://www.hboetzkes.com/index.php?page=shop.flypage&product_id=101&category_id=dbdfb90115618801b66ccd58f4bca730&option=com_phpshop&phpshop=327047687c711ab3bc4041cf320f16f3) one is said to be from 1973, for sale at a Dutch dealer for 325 Euro. Has been there a while.

Martin

Jim Garber
Jun-13-2007, 7:49pm
Lucien Gelas is the inventor of these oddballs. I think, however, he prob had these built under his license. I have a few earlier ones with a Gaudet label and others a little later with a mysterious "JR" on the label. All say "Mandoline Gelas".

Here is one at Sinier de Ridder (http://sinierderidder.free.fr/gb/mandolines/gelasr.html) by Jean Roviès, n° 3911, Paris 1923 (prob the aforementioned JR).

Another maker of instruments in this style was Louis Patenotte. There is a <a href="http://cgi.ebay.com/Mandoline-Louis-Patenotte-Gelas-m-2-Resonanzboeden_W0QQitemZ300070869461QQihZ020QQcate gory
Z21591QQrdZ1QQssPageNameZWD1VQQcmdZViewItem" target="_blank">Patenotte mandolin</a> for sale right now on eBay Germany.

I am not even sure if Gelas ever had any with his own label on them. I have misplaced my copy of Alex Timmerman's book in which there is one. I will check in it to see if it was actually made by Gelas himself.

Jim

Paul Hostetter
Jun-13-2007, 8:36pm
I know Daniel Sinier and Françoise de Ridder (what a shop!) a bit and the Hawaiian was theirs. I have a word out to my pal François Charle, who is extremely close with them (he owns their old shop in Paris) for some clarification. He should know.

Seeing this label simply tells me it's in the style of Gelas, not necessarily licensed:

http://sinierderidder.free.fr/images/mandolines/gelasr6.jpg

It's like "Maccaferri" guitars.

Jim Garber
Jun-13-2007, 10:20pm
I believe that "brevetée" means patented. Since there is mention of th4e patent on the label I would think that there was some sort of agreement for making these in the Gelas style between Gelas and JR.

I have a pdf of the actual international patent that Gelas received in 1906. I tried to post it here but it would not work.

I would be very interested in what Mr. Charle has to say on the subject. That hawaiian is a beauty, Paul.

Jim

morgan
Jun-14-2007, 12:30pm
Thanks to everyone for the input. During my visit to the shop I did not inspect for a label that would indicate whether it was a Gelas Gelas or a somebody else Gelas. It'll arrive next week and I'll post more info.

I guess if these were made for at least 50 years by a variety of manufacturers under license, its hard to generalize about them, especially give how rare they seem to be. The few photos I found show variation in design, including the bowlback model at the sinier de ridder site.

I hadn't contemplated until reviewing the old threads that the string pressure on the bridge is up - making it an even more bizarre design than I'd realized.

Jim, I found that patent in my web search. When you said "I have a few earlier ones" were you referring to photos or mandolins?

TonyP
Jun-15-2007, 11:54am
I have a '32 Gelas bowlback, with original case, all in excellent condition. I don't think it was played much. It even came with a student book, nos strings, and a little bag of picks. The bowlback it's self it hard for me to hold, but then add the "whale tail" from the double top, it's lap full. I do love the tone. All I'd ever played before it was cheap no name and Washburn bowls, and didn't like them at all. There's a lot of stuff about the Gelas that seem modern to me, like the neck profile and the tone. The other bowls just didn't fit my hand. But from info here I've gleaned, Gelas is not a accepted or sought after brand. Too radical?

mrmando
Jun-15-2007, 1:09pm
Holy smoked eels, a Gelas mandobass (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150133048230) on eBay...

morgan
Jun-15-2007, 5:25pm
Tony -

From reading the various threads, it seems like hardly anyone on the board, or at least anyone who has commented on them, has played one. The only comment in the threads, other than yours, about tone described it as "lovely." What little notoriety they have among the cogniscenti seems to derive from interest, or perhaps bemusement, about their construction. I'd never heard of or seen a Gelas before stumbling into this one. My decision was based on ears rather than pedigree. They may be too rare, at least on this side of the pond, to have penetrated mandoconsciousness to the extent of being an “accepted” brand. Maybe we can start a movement.

brunello97
Jun-15-2007, 6:14pm
A Gelas sold a couple days ago on ebay.fr. #I was watching it but had my head under the hood when bidding ended. Though it needed some work it went for a moderate price it seems:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws....=1&rd=1 (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=008&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item=180126642871&rd=1&rd=1)

Curious looking mandolins. #I love to try one out one day.

Mick

Martin Jonas
Jun-15-2007, 6:56pm
For that price, I would have bid for it, too, but I didn't see it. Mind you, what happened to this one is what seems to me inherent in the design: the fixed bridge is pulled up rather than down, and eventually the string tension just pulled it apart. Might be quite tricky to fix, especially without having an intact one as template.

Martin

TonyP
Jun-15-2007, 7:10pm
Mine was bought for me by a friend at my old job(he was a engineer, French owned company, here in the US) who was French. While back in Toulouse he went into a couple of antique stores, and each one had a bowl. This one was in the nicest shape, and the original case, so he got it for me. He was a musician too, but was not really versed in mandolin's, being an accordion player.
Needless to say I was shocked on several levels. First that he'd given me a mando, and then opening the case to something I'd never seen or dreamed of. It didn't take long to see, looking at it, that it was unlike any instrument I'd ever seen. At first I thought the top had collapsed or something. But then started looking close, and was amazed. Personally I've always been amazed from strictly an engineering standpoint that you could get any sound out of a regular bowl, what with the usual crease right behind the bridge. It's counter intuitive to do that as it turns the area right behind or close to the bridge stiff. That's why they put creases in large expanses of sheetmetal to make it stiffer. Well here comes Gelas, not only addressing what on the face of it is a design flaw, but then going even further making the only instrument I know of that the top is not in compression, just the opposite! For the company being around for so long, there doesn't seem to be that many around. I saw one like mine that was on a mandolin dealer's website. He called it a double table, and said it was professional grade. Certainly, not all his bowls had that grade, actually just a very few.
I had to put some lube on the tuners as they'd not been touched in who know's how long. Tuned it up and even with the totally encrusted strings sounded good. Very balanced(amazingly so) and as far as the neck, was easy to play. No cracks and just minor scratches in the bowl and case. I've toyed several times about getting rid of it to someone who like bowls and would appreciate it. I just don't play it

Bob A
Jun-15-2007, 7:36pm
Not only does the crease, or cant, make the top stiffer, but in fact the top of most bowlbacjks has an arch built in, to further stiffen the top. This makes for a very strong design, so long as no part is conmpromised, and is a determining factor in the sound. It's how they could build extremely light instruments that would still resist the many stresses imposed by the string tension.

allenhopkins
Jun-15-2007, 8:20pm
Thanks to Alan’s posting about his new Octofone, I found out that Bernunzio’s was having a clearance (thanks Alan!) .
You're welcome! Enjoy the weirdness of your Gelas, and if your travels ever bring you to Rochester again, look me up. I'd love to see how the mando works out.

Did I mention that Bernunzio has a "prototype" of the Eastman mandocello (http://bernunzio.com/item.php?sku=0710839)in his store now? Maybe, now that the Jazz Festival is over and the place has cleared out a bit, I may take a spin down there and try it out.

Jim Garber
Jun-16-2007, 9:46am
When you said "I have a few earlier ones" were you referring to photos or mandolins?
I have photos of these. I do not own one. They are rare here in the US but more common in France and in Eurpose in general.

Jim

Jim Garber
Jun-16-2007, 9:59am
Holy smoked eels, a Gelas mandobass (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150133048230) on eBay...
Holy smoked eels, indeed! There must be a glut on the market. How rare can these be with two (count 'em) mandolones (mandolini in Italian?) for sale at once.

1933 Gelas Mandolone (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300120543090)

This one has the more std JR label and a much lower starting bid.

Jim

Martin Jonas
Jun-16-2007, 11:09am
Holy smoked eels, indeed! There must be a glut on the market. How rare can these be with two (count 'em) mandolones (mandolini in Italian?) for sale at once.

1933 Gelas Mandolone (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=300120543090)
But this one is a mandocello, surely? It's 118cm length overall, and eight strings. The mandobass is 150cm long overall, scale 100cm, and four single strings.

Now, if we get a mandola, we'll have a quartet on Ebay.

Martin

Lefty&French
Jun-16-2007, 12:16pm
...Well here comes Gelas, not only addressing what on the face of it is a design flaw, but then going even further making the only instrument I know of that the top is not in compression, just the opposite! For the company being around for so long, there doesn't seem to be that many around. I saw one like mine that was on a mandolin dealer's website. He called it a double table, and said it was professional grade. Certainly, not all his bowls had that grade, actually just a very few.
"Gelas" was not a company, but a double top patent for whatever string instrument.
brevet = patent
breveté = patented

mrmando
Jun-18-2007, 12:32am
And here's another Gelas mandocello (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220122990841) for sale, this one in Belgium.

So, then, two mandocelli and a mandobass, all on eBay at the same time, in three different European countries. Maybe an EU ban on the sale of Gelas instruments is about to take effect, and these shops have to unload their stock.

Martin Jonas
Jun-18-2007, 4:43am
And here's another Gelas mandocello (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220122990841) for sale, this one in Belgium.
"A great addition to your Gelas collection", indeed.

What's the grey spot on the soundboard? #Some sort of mutilated pickguard?

Martin

Jim Garber
Jun-18-2007, 7:51am
Just another example of how "rare" these are. I have a feeling that they made quite a few of these.

Jim

brunello97
Jun-18-2007, 8:27am
"Gelas" was not a company, but a double top patent for whatever string instrument.
brevet = patent
breveté = patented
Lefty,

Can you elaborate on this (the Gelas 'patent', not the French grammar-we're down with that.) #

Are you saying that "Gelas" was the patented construction system we are seeing and different makers (such as J.R.) used this method?

What other makers used this system that you know of? #Any idea how a maker would obtain the 'rights' to use the Gelas system?

I really like the looks of many of the French mandolins I've seen.

This is VERY interesting in the face of other threads discussing the 'rights' to Gibson designs and attempts by that company to assert them in the face of many small and large builders.

As well as cracking open the hegemony of discussion at the MC around Italian, GreatLakesRim, MidAtlanticRim and PacRim mandolins. #Vive la France, man.

Mick

brunello97
Jun-18-2007, 8:49am
And here's another Gelas mandocello (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220122990841) for sale, this one in Belgium.
"A great addition to your Gelas collection", indeed.

What's the grey spot on the soundboard? #Some sort of mutilated pickguard?

Martin
I like the tailpiece. #Looks a bit like one from an old archtop guitar. #The profile of the second top always look like water-stains until I put my glasses on.

I'm going to toss a bid on this one later in the week. My niece (who plays cello) is always nagging me to get one of these. (Maybe for the French one I'll #have enough Monet.)

Mick

PS: Just saw the sellers name. Perhaps explains my tailpiece fascination.

Martin Jonas
Jun-18-2007, 9:19am
Are you saying that "Gelas" was the patented construction system we are seeing and different makers (such as J.R.) used this method?

What other makers used this system that you know of?
There were at least six builders: Jean Roviès, René Gérome, Gaudet, Goblet et Fils, Rowies and Louis Patenotte. #Several of these builders definitely also made "conventional" mandolins and guitars. #It's interesting to note that when the Gélas construction was used, we also seem to get a label specifically referring to the name "Gélas" and the fact that it's patented. #That points fairly strongly towards the patent being enforced and some sort of commercial license being involved -- if it were just a generic design, then some people may use the name and some not as we see with all those de Meglio clones. #Also interesting to note that at least the JR and some Patenotte instruments have a signature on the label as well as branded on the soundboard, and that signature says "Lucien Gélas", not "Roviès" or "Patenotte". #Again, not something those builders would do for a generic design, I feel.

The big open question, I think, is whether Lucien Gélas ever built his own instruments (and if he did, whether they were mandolins or guitars). #I have a vague recollection of having seen mandolins with only his name on, but of course the "J.R." ones at least feature his name much more prominently than the actual builder's, so even that may be a red herring. #We can say, however, that the earliest examples built by somebody other than Gélas started appearing very soon after the date of the patent, which would suggest that Lucien hit on the idea of licensing the patent very quickly indeed.

Martin

Edit: Just found a mention of Lucien's dates (1875-1945) and a description of him being a "mandolin teacher and composer". As we know from Raffaele Calace, that doesn't mean he wasn't also a luthier, but at least it suggests his heart was with us, not the guitarists...

Martin Jonas
Jun-18-2007, 9:27am
Found on a web search at William Petit (http://www.williampetit.com/mandole-gelas/mandole-gelas.htm): a Gelas bowlback liuto cantabile!

Martin

Martin Jonas
Jun-18-2007, 9:56am
Just found some really solid information here (http://www.studia-instrumentorum.de/MUSEUM/weissg_doppeldecke.htm) (in German only, unfortunately). #This is the web site of the lutherie department of the University of Zwickau, the department being based in the main Saxon centre for instrument making, Markneukirchen. #

Again, the dates for Gelas are given, but this time he is described as a "guitarist" and teacher and composer for that instrument. #The article implies, but doesn't quite say explicitly, that at least the early instruments were built by Gelas himself. #Apparently, they were also licensed to Germany, where a luthier with the rather generic name "Schmidt" built them. #Another German builder, Richard Jacob Weissgerber (who built for Segovia) also made Gelas guitars.

More interestingly, this site has some more details on the construction, and some references on whether the design actually worked. #According to this, there was a soundpost-like connection between the two soundboards. #Logically, there would have to be something like this, as otherwise the upper board wouldn't resonate. #

There's a 1926 quote from somebody who hated the sound, and a 1989 quote from somebody who liked it. #Somebody (maybe at Zwickau, though that's not clear) has run some acoustical measurements on the modes and resonances. #In summary it says that the measurements confirm the negative 1926 assessment, and that there was no positive effect on overall volume.

Full detailed measurements are here (http://www.studia-instrumentorum.de/MUSEUM/weissg_akustik.htm) -- the Gelas model is the one marked "Doppeldecke" (double soundboard). #Below is the frequency response graph for a Gelas guitar built by Weissgerber. #Here (http://www.studia-instrumentorum.de/MUSEUM/WEISSGERBER/audio/4773_0.mp3) is a soundclip of that guitar.

brunello97
Jun-18-2007, 11:21pm
Amazing stuff, Martin. Thanks for posting this. The burst of popularity for this design seems real enough and fairly intense for a period of time. I'm hoping we hear from someone who is actively playing a Gelas and can shed some more light on the mysterious Lucien and his work.

The website says he was born in Menton, which might explain things. Wasn't that Jean Cocteau's hangout? I wonder if any of the Melonious crew have some background information?

Mick

morgan
Jun-27-2007, 10:16pm
The Gelas arrived last week, and here's my initial report.

The label says Mandoline Napolitane Gelas, Brevelee SGDG, LG, No. 3183 (last # may be an 8), 1921. J.R. is handwritten in ink over the LG, and below everything there is a Gelas signature in ink.

There is a brace between the two tops north of the soundhole. The brace is perpendicular to the long axis. This seems to be the way vibrations are transmitted to the upper table. Neck and headstock appear to be maple; sides and back are nicely flamed maple. The top and back are bound in a darker golden wood that I can’t identify, and the back also has a black line binding. It’s relatively light in weight, especially considering that it seems to be somewhat large-bodied, but not exceptionally so. You can feel every part, including the neck, vibrating when you play.

The gap where the two tables come together just above the bridge is very thin, maybe 1/16th inch, but there is a definite space there. The space between the tables looks to be about 1.5 inches near the soundhole.

It’s strung with Calace Dogal HR 136 Stainless half-round. These are different from the Calaces I have previously used on my mandolinetto, and they sound great.

It’s quite loud with a unique tone. It initially has a bright punchy sound, but has a long sustain. The sustain is more complex than the initial sound. I’ve played it for several folks who are not mando-focused but who recognized the sound as unusual without prompting, and my wife has commented on how strongly it projects. My youngest daughter said it sounds like a guitar, which it doesn’t, but I understand why she said it. It’s dynamically very responsive; slight changes in pick attack provide a dramatic difference in sound.

When I was in Bernunzio’s I had the salesman play it and the difference in tone was even more noticeable than when playing it myself. I haven’t had a chance to have anyone else play it since it arrived.

The sound may not be for everyone, but I’m very pleased with it. At $900 this is a relatively low-end purchase with what I consider to be a pretty high-end sound. Whether this is typical or I got lucky is anybody’s guess, but if you are interested in these things I’d say its worth trying to track one down.

Although I am as subject to MAS as the rest of us, I don’t really have a desire to have multiple mandolins with similar sound. I have a Rigel A+ deluxe for f-hole sound, a Gibson oval hole, a Howe Orme mandolinetto, and a Spira mandola. I have always loved the big, bright, forward sound of the mandolinetto, but my preliminary impression is that out of the group, the Gelas is most likely to compete with it. The sustain makes it somewhat mandola-like, but the sound is otherwise really not very similar (the Spira is more guitar-sounding).

If anyone’s interested I can record something and send a sound file; just let me know.

Jim Garber
Jun-27-2007, 10:34pm
The top and back are bound in a darker golden wood that I can’t identify
From the photo it looks like tulipwood, a very common birder wood on some of the Neapolitan mandolins.

Comgratulations on your new acquisition, Morgan. I have never seen one that was playable. I would love to hear what it sounds like.

Jim

Alex Timmerman
Jun-30-2007, 5:54pm
Hi all,

Thanks Jim for bringing this topic under my attention. It is interesting to see so many 'Gelas' patented plectrum instruments here.
There have been made a lot of these instruments. Both flat- and bowl backs of nearly all instruments discussed here. But also terzino mandolins, altomandolins, ukeleles, six-string guitars, guitars with extra bass strings, tenor guitars etc. All with the one and a half sound table design invention by Lucien Gelas.
Lucien Gelas did indeed invent and make his patented 'Gelas' instruments. The instruments that carry his autograph as a brand at the left upper corner of the sound table and his signature written in ink at the Gelas label - usually visable through the soundhole - glued at the back inside the sound chamber. Those labels do not have the J.R. (Jean Roviès) capitals. They only carry the written 'Gelas' (Brevétée) patent text and his ink signature. I do however not think that his main profession was being a musical instrument maker. The bulk of the instruments are made in the 1920-ties and 30-ties and likely made under Lucien Gelas' licence/supervision by Gaudet and Rowies. Their instruments carry mostly also the 'Gelas' ink signature.

Lucien Gelas was a well known guitarist, composer, arranger and music teacher. He himself was a student of Miguel Llobet and a friend of Francisco Tárrega. A friendship that must have been special since Tárrega dedicated his famous composition 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' to Lucien Gelas.



Best,

Alex


PS. Here is a photo that I took some years ago in my class room at the music school of one of my young mandolin pupils holding a Lucien Gelas 'Mandolone a quatro corde'.

Jim Garber
Jun-30-2007, 10:33pm
Thanks, Alex, for clearing up some of my confusion or at least my conjecture.

Jim

Martin Jonas
Aug-01-2007, 6:09am
Just a follow-up on this recent thread: I've just found out that there is after all a French luthier still making Gelas mandolins today: Claude Patenotte (http://membres.lycos.fr/patenotte/) in Mirecourt (presumably a descendant of Louis). #His web site lists Gelas bowlbacks, flatbacks, mandolas and mandocellos!

Martin

delsbrother
Sep-15-2010, 6:02pm
João Pernambuco com um grupo de Chorões não identificados. Rio de Janeiro, 1914 (http://www.joaopernambuco.com/immagini/af/image018.jpg)

brunello97
Sep-15-2010, 9:02pm
Amazing. Here is another, like some guys out of a Jorge Amado novel. I thought I had my MAS under control, but I kind of want one of these.
Here is one, timely enough, on the ebay.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=250693172099&ssPageName=ADME:B:WNA:US:1123#ht_10799wt_1139

The price is reasonable but the action looks a bit butch for my delicate fingers, though. Tant pis.

Mick

Jim Garber
Sep-15-2010, 9:48pm
For posterity, as posted by Delsbrother.

delsbrother
Sep-15-2010, 10:00pm
Amazing. Here is another, like some guys out of a Jorge Amado novel.

I think it's actually the same guy as in the first photo, and since they're both with João Pernambuco I'm going to guess that's the same instrument - a mandola? How do you say mandola in Portuguese? :) I like the photo you posted better, but chose to link to the first one because it had the Gelas mandolin as well.

Gosh I would love to hear what these guys sounded like.

brunello97
Sep-15-2010, 10:54pm
1914? It is interesting that these guys went for French and Neapolitan style instruments instead of the Portuguese 'Cat People' guitars and mandolins. Those things really give me the creeps.

Mick

Martin Jonas
Sep-16-2010, 4:35am
I might throw a bid at the Gerome at Ebay France, if it stays nice and low. Looks a bit ropey in condition, though.

In the meantime, I have just come across the wonderful French website of the "musée de la lutherie" in Mirecourt, which has an excellent selection of photos of mandolins (and guitars) made by Mirecourt-based luthiers, including many Gelas-type instruments (mandolins, mandolones and Hawaiian guitars).

Link (http://www.musee-lutherie-mirecourt.fr/index.php?rub=collections&idmenu=5&idpage=27)

Particularly interesting are photos of a Gelas mandolin made by Rene Gerome, which has been kept in the white and cut in half, presumably to serve as a demonstration piece in the shop to illustrate the unique construction of Gelas mandolins. I attach those photos to this message. It seems to me from these photos that contrary to what has previously been said in this thread, the braces of the top board do not touch the lower board, in which case the upper board is not directly driven and will only vibrate sympathetically.

Martin

brunello97
Sep-16-2010, 7:57am
Great photos, Martin, thanks for including them. I, for one, was hoping there was no connection between the tops. It is certainly a much more elegant proposition without. As to sound transfer, harmonics etc. I couldn't have an opinion. Morgan's post above states that the 'northernmost' (or in your images the most right hand) braces connect the two tops. Seeing the cut-away view would counter that (at least on this model-who knows what modifications might included on individual pieces.) A connection in that location doesn't seem like it would make much of a contribution either structurally or sonically. I wonder if he can confirm that by closer inspection.

Good luck with the bidding. I hope it turns out well and that the condition is better than we have assumed.

Mick

Martin Jonas
Sep-16-2010, 11:25am
Well, I've won it at 143 Euros plus a fairly reasonable postage of 18 Euros to the UK. Let's see what it looks like when I get it. I'm not sure to what extent Mick's impression of a high action is down to the angle of the photographs and to what extent it's real. Needs a good clean-up, probably some fret dressing/levelling, and a binding repair. I hope nothing structural.

Will report when I get it.

Martin

Martin Jonas
Sep-16-2010, 4:02pm
Having looked around on the web for info on the maker, I'm a little bit apprehensive -- at least for guitars, Rene Gerome appears to have been a cheap-and-cheerful mass market maker and some people are fairly rude about the guitars on French forums. Still, apparently his Selmer/Maccaferi guitar models do sell at pretty impressively high prices now, and the pieces in the Mirecourt museum look perfectly decent, so there do appear to have been some pockets of quality there. The one I've won looks a bit less distinguished than the Jean Rovies and Louis Pattenotte incarnations, but without a direct side-by-side comparison there's no knowing how the sound compares (assuming of course mine will turn out to be playable).

Oh well, I don't have a lot of money in it, so I think I'll enjoy it either way!

Martin

Jim Garber
Sep-16-2010, 4:30pm
I think you did fine, Martin. The only one of these Gelas mandolins I have seen in the flesh/wood was one that was in dismal shape at a store in Greenwich Village in New York many years ago. I hadn't a clue what the thing was only that it looked very odd. I don't think it was playable -- then again, it may have been but these mandolins look like they are broken even when they are not.

I look fwd to your receiving this instrument and your usual in-depth assessment and (of course) a video or two of its sound.

delsbrother
Sep-16-2010, 5:02pm
You know, looking at that cutaway model the geometry reminded me of the guitar designs of Thomas Humphrey (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn5U6RRF8IE). I didn't realize that he died in 2008. (http://www.luth.org/memoriam/t-humphrey.html) :(

brunello97
Sep-16-2010, 9:34pm
I think it will be fine, Martin. The action doesn't look that bad even if it isn't the photo-angle exaggerating it. I'm still purging mandolins so I will be seeing sour grapes perhaps when there are none (at least until it arrives to you from France, and then I will want it to be in exceptional condition.) Good move. I look forward to hearing about it. You do have an eclectic collection of mandolins.

Mick

morgan
Sep-17-2010, 9:12am
Hi everybody, nice to see the Gelas thread revived.

The body shape on my 1921 Jean Rovies is much different than the shape on the Rene Gerome model bought by Martin and vivisected in the fotos above. The back and lower table top on mine are straight (see foto of the back at the beginning of the thread.) On the Gerome, the back is strongly curved, so the depth of the box changes significantly and irregularly from "north to south." On the Rovies the depth of the box is greatest at the tailpiece and diminishes linearly to the "north." I would imagine that this difference has significant effect on the sound.

The bridge on the Gerome is similarly constructed but is much more massive than the bridge on mine.

Regarding connection of the two tables by the brace for the upper table: I managed to slip a piece of paper beneath the brace. So, they're not connected, although the space between the bottom and the brace and the top of the upper table is minimal.

Martin, hope you're successful in getting it up and running. The action looked OK to me in the fotos.

Martin Jonas
Sep-17-2010, 10:30am
Good to hear from you, Morgan. Interesting to hear about the difference in back construction, although this does not appear to be a part of the underlying Gelas system, considering that there are also Gelas bowlbacks. I had also noticed that the bridge on the Gerome is much chunkier (and frankly less elegant). I wonder whether that's because Gelas bridges have a tendency to pull away from the soundboard -- I seem to recall seeing failed bridges in other Ebay auctions. In one of the photos of your Jean Roviès it looks like your bridge is bolted on. Is that the case?

Mine doesn't appear to have a date on it, so it's difficult to say where in the evolution of these instruments it belongs. From what I gather, "René Gérome"-branded instruments were made between the early 1930s and the mid-1960s, after which René retired and the business was run by his sons under the name "Gérome Frères". That gives a 35-year period for the date of this mandolin. Nothing much in the photos to narrow that down, I think. The bisected one above is a "Gérome Frères" instrument, i.e. post-1965, and looks to have very similar design, but fancier decoration. The one I'll get has a pre-war feel to me, but that may be wrong. The poor reputation of the shop appears to have arisen when they were a high-volume supplier of guitars marketed by Hohner and Beuscher in the 1950s and early 60s, which may or may not overlap with when mine was made.

One notable thing is that there is no mention of the name "Gelas" on mine, which may mean that this was made after the patent had expired (or was no longer enforced), or that Gérome made changes to the design that meant it was no longer the "true" Gelas system (possibly to bypass the patent). This may explain differences in bracing or layout between your Roviès and the Gérome.

All speculation until I have it in my hands.

Martin

Martin Jonas
Sep-17-2010, 11:35am
I've just noticed that there was another Ebay auction which ended two weeks ago (Link (http://cgi.ebay.fr/Mandoline-ancienne-signee-luthier-Rene-GEROME-/370423435083)) for a Rene Gerome mandolin that appears to be identical to the one that I won, except that this one was in absolutely pristine condition. So, this is what mine would have looked like when new -- seems a well-made instrument!

Somewhat annoyingly, the previous one sold for only 122 Euros. Still, the differences in condition between the two mandolins do appear to be largely cosmetic, so I would hope that apart from the missing bit of binding mine will be fine after a clean-up and setup.

Martin

morgan
Sep-17-2010, 1:39pm
Martin -

The bridge is constructed with flat fleur de lis-style extensions sticking out from either side of the thicker part of the bridge that has the strings going through it. Small phillips-head screws penetrate this extension adjacent to both ends of the thick part of the bridge. I can't see inside to see if these are attached a plate inside the instrument, or just to the top. The bridge wood is very dark - ebony?

Jim Garber
Sep-17-2010, 2:26pm
I love the French ingenuity in coming up with interesting variants on std designs. I have never played any functional Gelas mandolins but I can truly say that the design makes me queasy. I am not sure what the point is except weirdness and the inverting of the direction of string pressure. Then again, I suppose the proof is in the playing.

I look fwd to hearing the reports from Gelas owners but, unless someone gives me one or I hear the beautiful tones, I doubt there is one in my future.

Still it certanly is an interesting subject.

brunello97
Sep-17-2010, 8:05pm
I love the French ingenuity in coming up with interesting variants on std designs.....

Me too. Which is why I am looking forward to Frere Martin's report. My Father had an unfathomable attraction to French cars. Imagine myself and five brothers (sister, too) crammed into the Renault pictured. But check the Citroen steering wheel. The Gelas design quirks start to come into focus....

Mick

morgan
Sep-17-2010, 9:54pm
Hey, my mom's first car was a Renault Dauphin. I think she had two of those before she got a Renault 5 ("Le Car") before she got smarter about her car buying habits. (We only had to fit four kids in). Maybe that's where the Gelas attraction started...

But I don't remember anything in those cars that matches the Citroen steering wheel.

brunello97
Sep-17-2010, 11:09pm
I think my father went through 2 or 3 Dauphines before getting an R8 (with the pre-dented front hood, remember?) He bagged it by the time the Le Junque models came out. Not that I learned. My first car was a SAAB 96. A Levin mandolin it was not. Never owned a Citroen but rode in a Cockroach from Paris to Pau one time. What a ride. A visit to Mirecourt would be fun.

Mick

Martin Jonas
Oct-04-2010, 7:12am
Well, I've won it at 143 Euros plus a fairly reasonable postage of 18 Euros to the UK. Let's see what it looks like when I get it. I'm not sure to what extent Mick's impression of a high action is down to the angle of the photographs and to what extent it's real. Needs a good clean-up, probably some fret dressing/levelling, and a binding repair. I hope nothing structural.


After a bit of delay, I have now received the Rene Gerome mandolin. There are some condition issues which will need some attention, although it's all doable. There is a crack that wasn't visible on the photos. It's pretty tight and I hope I can stabilise it by just working some glue into it as I don't think it can be cleated from the inside without taking off both tops. That's something I definitely want to avoid. Other than that, it needs some clean-up and some binding repair (I knew that from the photos), the tuners need overhauling and some new screws to hold them to the headstock and it needs a new nut/string spacer (not a precision job, as there is a zero fret). Most significantly, Mick was right that the action is way too high. Not sure why, as there is no sign of the neck, the top or the bridge having moved. I think it can be rectified by shaving quite a bit off the bridge -- it's huge with loads of room for action adjustments. I think I can do it all myself, but I don't know when I'll get around to it.

I'm still confused about the age. From the Mirecourt references I've posted before I had assumed that it was a very late example of a Gelas mandolin, and indeed that it may have been built after the original patent had expired, which may explain why unlike with most of these there is no mention of the name of Gelas or the patent on the label. However, that doesn't sit easy with the fact that the mandolin has bar frets, which I thought everybody except CF Martin had given up on by the 1930s. Rene Gerome only started making instruments in the 1930s, so I would think that makes it a very early example of his work (and fortunately also means it probably predates the time when his factory expanded to make massmarket instruments sold through Hohner). All in all a bit of a mixed bag, but definitely with potential.

Martin

brunello97
Oct-04-2010, 11:17pm
Thanks for the update, Martin. I look forward to hearing your comments on its sound (and maybe someday a bit of video.) Is it odd to play or does your right hand find a comfortable resting place? You are right, the bridge looks a like a bit of a log and hopefully you can get the action sorted out. Keep us posted when you get after it. I can empathize. Work has gotten very busy and my mando repair projects are sitting idly by. Nothing quite as interesting as this, though.

Mick

yellowbarber
Oct-12-2010, 8:32pm
(wow, I can't believe this thread is still going!)
I got started on a conversation about Gelas mandos earlier tonight then got back to the 'puter and strted looking around for more info on them which thus led me here.
So, I am in Paris (as I seem to habitually end up) and an acquaintance has a Jean Roviès made ca. 1930 octave that is in totally sound condition, it just needs a new nut, a clean up and strings. He had another one last year when I was over and I'd go by and play it often. I remember it having a fantastic warm low end and the shorter than usual scale made the upper register come off like an oud. The funky geometry actually sat comfortably in my lap. If I magically fall into a few extra hundred euro-bucks, I just may be looking for a way to get it home (along with all the other french junk I manage to attract).

Regarding the mandolins proper, however I've yet to see one that wasn't thoroughly trashed or seduced me into playing it. Although if I get a chance to go out to StChartier to have a drool at Sinier de Ridder's, I'd say this one looks delicious: http://sinierderidder.free.fr/mandolines/gelas_eng.html (http://sinierderidder.free.fr/mandolines/gelas_eng.html)

Martin Jonas
Oct-13-2010, 8:32am
Thanks for the info, yellowbarber, and I hope you're enjoying Paris!

I don't know if you've seen the photos of my "new" Rene Gerome I've posted in this (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?66358-Gelas-mandolin-bridge-jewellers-hand-drills) thread in the Builders/Repairs forum. I've taken the bridge height down to about the right action now, but haven't got around to putting the saddle back in for correct intonation yet, and in particular also still need to deal with the string guide holes that are the subject of that other discussion. I expect I'll manage to get around to it this weekend and then will have a better idea how the Rene Gerome incarnation of the Gelas design lives up the the generally favourable reports in this thread for the Jean Roviès versions. There seem to be quite a few incidental differences in design and of course there is no particular reason why two instruments by two different builders should be of similar quality just because they are of the same type -- after all we all know that there are considerable differences in quality and tone between bowlbacks from different builders, or F5s for that matter.

Martin

Jim Garber
Oct-14-2010, 9:38am
Gelas Bowlback (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140391664706) on eBay Netherlands. The seller does not mention anything about the actual maker, but there are a few photos of the label which do show J.R.


Gelas bowl back mandolin Gelas patented the double top type of instrument back in the 1920's. These type of mandolins were considered of high quality with very good tone, and were used extensively in mandolin orchestra's. Most of them were flat-backs, That's why this one maybe considered very rare. A bowl-back is A-Typical for Gelas. This mandolin is made in 1932 and also quite early it features all the good things Gelas is known for, quality wood, spruce top, maple back, pearwood bidings, Walnut neck, Excellent condition with the exception of a few gleated cracks on top. The Bridge is still original as are the tuners, and frets, A pretty rare Mandolin, must be very appealling to Gelas Collectors, The Action is pretty low, and the bridge leaves room to lower a bit further. it has a terrific sound. On top of it the mandolin is very fancy and nicely decorated, We have no case for it but take care of excellent double packing and insured shipping. It is a consignment sale.

Michael Wolf
Oct-20-2010, 4:19am
One more Gelas sighting on Günter Amendts (http://www.banjoworld.de/Sale1144.htm) site, though not a mandolin. But I find it very interesting and I reckon Gelas guitars a very rare.

63700

Michael Wolf
Oct-20-2010, 4:50am
While I´m at it, here´s a Gelas "Hawaiian" model that can be seen in the "Musikinstrumenten Museum Berlin".

63703

63704

63702

Jim Garber
Oct-20-2010, 9:06am
One more Gelas sighting on Günter Amendts (http://www.banjoworld.de/Sale1144.htm) site, though not a mandolin. But I find it very interesting and I reckon Gelas guitars a very rare.

63700

Why does he say "internal resonator"? Is there something inside this contraption?

Michael Wolf
Oct-20-2010, 9:50am
Why does he say "internal resonator"? Is there something inside this contraption?

I think that he´s referring to the double top construction and decided to call it a resonator.

delsbrother
Oct-20-2010, 1:30pm
Gelas Harp Guitar (http://www.harpguitars.net/history/org_images/form1/Gelas-sourceunknown.jpg) from Harpguitars.net.

Martin Jonas
Oct-23-2010, 2:17pm
I've been working on my new (to me) Gelas and it's now playable, although there is still some work to be done on the bits of missing binding. To get an idea of the tone and the playability, I've recorded a couple of quick-and-dirty video clips, one very simple (a folk tune from the Swedish community in Finland, "Vem kan segla"), the other rather more complex (Victor's "Ionian Mandolinata"). The most immediate insight from this was that the action was still too high -- my fingers were hurting after I finished playing (which may explain me getting sloppier at the end of the Mandolinata). So, I got the file out again and have taken the bridge down a bit more. Should be OK now. There are a few a poorly-fretted notes in the clips, which I think are largely because I'm not familair with the mandolin yet, but this should also improve with playing time and also with the lower action.

I think the tone is quite nice, and may still improve further. I have put some Lenzner bronze strings on, on the assumption that this is basically a classical mandolin. Lenzners are notoriously slow to settle down, and the mandolin hasn't been played in decades, so presumably the tone will still improve further in the next few weeks. I might try some d'Addario J62 or GHS strings at same stage, too, just to see whether they suit it better. With my Mid-Missouri, I first tried Lenzners and didn't like it at all, whereas GHS are great.

So, it has a nice and strong tone, but I don't think it fits into any categories -- it doesn't much sound like a bowlback and it doesn't much sound like a flattop. Again, I'll reassess that once it has been played a bit, and also once I've tried a variety of strings to find its tru voice. For now, I think this is fairly promising.

Here are the clips:

1. Vem kan segla:



2. Ionian Mandolinata:



[For comparison, the same tune on my Embergher is here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aV5V4keM9I).]

Martin