View Full Version : Looking for information about mandolins
Does anyone know a bit more about Alfredo Albertini? All I can find out about him is that he was an early 20th century Italian luthier best known for his mandolins, but also built guitars. When was he making mandolins? Are his mandolins any good? Has anyone seen or got one of his creations? How does it sound, if you have? I'll be acquiring one this evening. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks. Bill
I associate Albertini mostly with mandolins in the Lombard and Brescian styles, i.e. six-string and four-string gut-strung instruments with fixed bridges. Those have a very good reputation. I expect Jim Garber has a few photos of his mandolins in his collection.
Well, I've got the Albertini mandolin. It seems to be a standard 4 pair metal string bowlback in reasonable condition except for a couple of problems. The action is too high, partly becaue I think the bridge is not the original and is too high and there may be some sink at the neck end of the top. For some reason the floating bridge seems to have been glued on! The fingerboard needs refretting and possibly replacing. The bowl seems fine and the neck straight. I like the sound of it but at the moment it plays well out of tune. Now I'm looking for a professional luthier who might like to take this on as a challenge to put it into good playable order. Any thoughts on how worthwhile a project this might be would be welcomed.
I think there may be a little confusion here. Carlo Albertini of Milano is the maker of some fine Brescian (4 string) and Lombard (6 string) mandolins. Alfredo Albertini is from Catania, Sicily. Here is one by the latter. jamface, can you post some pics of yours?
Oops, my fault, sorry. I hadn't twigged on that the Milanese Albertini was Carlo, not Alfredo. Ignore what I said.
Thanks, Jim. Mine is identical to yours, including the butterfly and the pattern round the top and sound hole but not in such fine condition as yours. How does yours sound and what strings would you recommend for it?
Bill: Sorry, I don't actually own that mandolin, just have the jpegs in my library. I have been accumulating photos of these instruments to compile some sort of organological encyclopedia.
Where are you geographically? if in the US the most readily available would be GHS A-240s (ultralights). Otherwise Calace Dogal Dolces or Optimas or Fisoma Consorts.
US: juststrings.com for the GHS; Bernunzio.com or classicbows.com for the Calaces; in Europe saitenkatalog.de fro the other strings.
I'll try to post a picture of my Albertini today.
I'm near Hereford on the England-Wales border in the UK. There's not much mandolining going on close by. I have a round trip of 80 miles for my mandolin lessons.
There are a good number of luthiers building mandolins in the UK, as you can see from The Mandolin Cafe list. I'm going through the list to find someone who is particularly interested in restoring old instruments to good playable condition.
Many thanks for the information about strings, Jim. I'll keep you posted.
There are several UK luthiers who are knowledgeable with old instruments, but for the sort of thing you're talking about -- refretting and/or new fingerboard, plus new bridge, plus possibly reglueing a brace to combat a sinking soundboard, plus general setup -- you are looking at 100 to 250 Pounds, depending on exactly how extensive each of these jobs has to be.
For a Carlo Albertini, this may be worth it, but for your Alfredo it won't. Catania instruments in general, with few exceptions such as Puglisi, were cheap massmarket instruments to start with. If yours looks like the one Jim has posted, then it is likely to have considerable charm once fully playable, but it will not be a high-quality instrument. You can get a better mandolin with less work needed for around 100 Pounds on Ebay if you know what you're doing.
Of course, you can take this as a challenge and learn yourself how to fit a replacement bridge (you can get a good bridge blank from Dave Hynds for 12 Pounds including shipping) and how to set the intonation. Refretting is more difficult. These old bowlbacks had bar frets, which are difficult to replace. The best way of remedying worn frets is to raise them by putting a shim in the bottom of the slots, then level and recrown.
The fact that you say there is "some sink at the neck end of the top" is worrying. In that location, sinkage is most likely not caused by a loose brace but rather by the neck having moved upwards. This would also explain the high action. If that is the case, and if the action is too high to be brought back to normal by fitting a lower bridge, then you have a big problem. Shimming the fingerboard or replaning the neck may get you playable action, but both are big operations. If you put a ruler on the frets on the neck and follow that line all the way to the bridge, how many millimetres bridge height do you get?
Thanks Martin. The measurement you asked for is 5mm, that is the height at the bridge from the mandolin table top to the bottom of a ruler when the latter is lying along the fingerboard. I take it that this figure is not good news as it gives me very little room for adjustments to bridge height, etc.
Oh well! Perhaps I should put this one down to experience and have a look for a better quality instrument in better condition and bought from someone who knows about these things. Here's a picture of the Alfredo Albertini mandolin Number 64 - just for the record. Now that I look at the mandolin and compare it to Jim's picture, I think the bridge is original. It made it to 2007 almost unscathed!
Bill -- no, 5mm should be fine. You'll want an action of 1.5mm to 2mm at the 12th fret, which you have to double to get the saddle height above the plane of the fretboard. So, you should be able to achieve a playable action with a total bridge height (base to saddle) of around 9mm. That's perfectly within the typical range of Neapolitan/Sicilian bowlbacks. From your initial description, I was expecting the ruler on the fretboard might hit the soundboard before it reaches the bridge, so this is really not so bad.
I would suggest you leave the soundboard sinking to its own devices (anything you can do about it will be too expensive) and concentrate on the bridge fitting. Sand or carve the bridge down to a high but playable action, then do the final fit as decribed at this (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Technique/Mandolin/FitBridgeFeet/fitfeet.html) page at frets.com. If you can dress and level the frets to remove fretwear without refretting or raising them, that should be relatively straightforward and you will then have a serviceable playable mandolin. You can of course pay a luthier to do the bridge lowering/fitting and the fret dressing, which I would expect to cost around 50 Pounds. More if there isn't enough fret height left and they need to be shimmed.
Many thanks, Martin. I'll give it a go.