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Thread: French table top mandolin

  1. #1
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Saw one like this on Ebay, If you know the old Martin mandolins that have an angle-top, imagine one with the angle pointing inward rather than out.

    Can anyone give me a highly subjective opinion of what they sound like? I love this shape.

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  2. #2
    Got Buckstrips? Jerry Byers's Avatar
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    Interesting how they created the break angle across the bridge.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    This particular one was built by Rene Gerome, but the system was invented (and patented) by the French luthier Gelas. They were very popular in France, and Gelas mandolins were built for many decades. I've seen instruments dated from the 1910s to the 1970s. I've never played one, although I've placed a few half-hearted bids on Ebay now and then to catch one. If you search the archives for "Gelas", there have been a number of discussions on this layout. The diagram below (from crane.gr.jp) shows the basic design, with the double-top and the peculiar upward string break angle.

    Martin



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  4. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    That style mandolin was first developed by Lucien Gélas, a French luthier in Marseilles.

    This is not a singel bent top with the top concave but actually two tops built at an angle

    From Paul Sparks, The Classical Mandolin:
    Quote Originally Posted by
    These instruments had a revolutionary design feature to increase the volume of the sound -- the 'double table d'harmonie' or second soundboard, parallel to the first -- and were extremely popular with French orchestras, many of whom used exclusively Gélas mandolins.
    Actually I am not sure why Sparks says that the soundboards were parallel. It looks more like they are at an angle with one overlapping the other.

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  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Looks like Martin and I cross-posted and duplicated some info. I have seen a photo of at least one Martin guitar with a similar negative neck angle.

    Here is a rather fancy Gélas at Sinier-DeRidder.

    Jim
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    This one "Gélas" was made by Gaudet, Paris 1915.
    (Gélas was a trademark and patented instruments.
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  7. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Lefty&French @ Jan. 24 2007, 16:09)
    This one "Gélas" was made by Gaudet, Paris 1915.
    (Gélas was a trademark and patented instruments.
    Interesting... I went thru almost all my jpegs of Gélas mandolins and all have the label of other makers with a mention of the Gélas patent.

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  8. #8
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    jim, can you post some jpgs? I'd love to see the realm of possibilities. I'm very curious how they sound. Does anyone still build them?
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  9. #9
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  10. #10
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  11. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Here is a 1911 Gélas/Gaudet mandocello.

    Maybe Lefty knows the answer. I don't think anyone still builds them.

    Jim
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  12. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    A Gelas classical guitar. There were also bowlback mandolins and even ukuleles.



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  13. #13
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    You want photos, we got photos...

    First another one from Crane. You will notice this one is "Gelas" branded, but "J.R", not Lucien.

    Martin



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  14. #14
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    The Dutch dealer Boetzkes has had two Gelas mandolins on offer for several years now, at fairly affordable prices. This one is from 1929, offered at 450 Euro.

    Martin
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  15. #15
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    The other one at Boetzkes is from 1973 (the youngest I'm aware of), offered at 325 Euro.

    Martin
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  16. #16
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    And finally, here is a 1952 Gelas, from another Dutch dealer, Palm Guitars.

    Martin
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  17. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    My Austrian friend Christian sent me this patent for Gelas guitar (which applies to the construction of the mandolin as well).

    Jim



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    I, too, don't think anyone still builds them.
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  19. #19
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    There seem to be a fair number of them around, at least in Europe. Despite the odd look, they must have been pretty popular.

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  20. #20
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    The heavily-inlaid mandolin (above), posted by JGarber is now for sale in Europe for about $2800 US. I would love to hear what it sounds like.
    Explore some of my published music here

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  21. #21
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (beluga @ Jan. 25 2007, 13:29)
    The heavily-inlaid mandolin (above), posted by JGarber is now for sale in Europe for about $2800 US. I would love to hear what it sounds like.
    That one has been there for over 2 years now. I don't know any classical players who play this style of mandolin these days. That is not to say that they are not fine instruments, just strange. I have never played one myself.

    Jim



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  22. #22
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    I, too, have never played one and don't know anybody who has. I think they were only ever a French/Belgian thing and don't seem to be in use there any more either. Maybe Richard Walz has some direct experience. I remember only one Cafe member who has actually played a Gelas-type mandolin (or at least his father has), and talks about it in this thread.

    Martin

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    Tomorrow, I'll visit a friend who owns some Gelas and other double soundboards instruments, including a mandobass! I'll take some pics, and perhaps sound files.
    I think tou're right, it was a french thing (like "Concorde")who was intended to emulate the sound of napolitan mandolins. Seems to generate some trouble with tailpiece...
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  24. #24
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    yah i was thinking the same thing. that two-piece table would put a lot of stress on that bottom bout. However, I have seen so many old ones for sale on the internet, (all of them from europe) that this is not a generic problem. There are so many survivors over 60 years old.
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  25. #25
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    While we're on our little Gélas love-fest, how about a Hawaiian guitar:

    .
    ph

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