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JeffD
Apr-09-2009, 2:53pm
MAS strikes again. My latest acqusition. 1911 Martin Style 3. Brough it home last night. More pictures in my album.

JeffD
Apr-11-2009, 6:11pm
Had a priority work assignment for the last three days, so I haden't really played on my new (to me) Style 3. About 5:07 this afternoon I picked it up and have been having a ball. What a great sounding instrument. And its in wonderful shape, true all the way up the neck.

If I have any complaints, its that work keeps getting in the way.

Margriet
Feb-25-2010, 10:22am
Carrying on in an early-kin vein, most people here who would care have seen this a dozen times before, but just in case...

Here is a ca. 1835 anonymous piece to predate geared tuners and metal tailpieces. Alex Timmerman attributes this to the shop of Clement Eulry, France and that attribution seems as likely as any.

Today I received a similar instrument, but with fluted ribs. Alex thinks it will be made by the same maker, Eulry.
There is some work on: to place the original wooden pegs instead of the mechanical ones, repair cracks, place some frets, make a new bridge.....but it is worth ! Look, isn't she lovely ?

I saw in this thread much more about these instruments.

I am curious how the sound is and how it is with playing.
Do you have experience with it ? Eugene, Jonathan ?

Jim Garber
Feb-25-2010, 10:40am
Margriet... it looks lovely. Do you think that it needs some correction to the neck angle -- it looks a little high above the upper part of the fretboard.? I guess your luthier will tell you that.

I wonder if, as a playable instrument with steel strings might it be better to use something like these Pegheds tuning pegs (http://pegheds.com/). They are geared so the tuning would be much easier and more accurate with still looking like the std violin pegs.

There is an example of a Clement Eulry mandolin (not pictured) in the Victoria & Albert Museum (http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O372413/neapolitan-mandolin/)

Clément Eulry (ca. 1765-1835) was a maker of violins, bows and mandolins. He was based in Mirecourt, main centre for making musical instruments in France, outside Paris. Although undated, this instrument is an interesting and probably fairly early example of a Neapolitan
mandolin, made outside Italy. This version of the instrument was tuned like a violin and played with a quill or plectrum. Those who composed for it included Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).

Descriptive line
French, mahogany, rosewood and sycamore ribs, Clément Eulry, 1800 - 1830.

Physical description
'Body of sixteen ribs of sycamore, rosewood and mahogany, forming a striking banded appearance. Pine belly, slightly bent inwards at bridge level, with an open mouthhole with stringing surrounds and a protector plate of rosewood, inlaid. Bridge missing. Ebony neck with fingerboard extending on to belly and eighteen frets of silver T-section wire. The flat head has decorative ivory studs along the sides, and eight rear pegs for four double courses of metal strings, running to four ivory hitch studs at the base of the body'. - Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments. (London, 1998), p. 41.

Margriet
Feb-25-2010, 4:06pm
interesting....
I suppose that the description you gave of the catalogue the V&A museum belongs to the mandolin mentioned on page 6/7 of this thread, by Jon.
There are similar and also different things. The mandolin of Eugene, Jon and the museum have ribs of two sorts of wood, mine one and fluted. And the number of frets also is different at the different instruments.
It will be difficult to tune with the original wooden pegs, if I understand well the explanation of Jon on page 7. It is because of not having a pegbox on the other side, like on a viola or violin. On my Lombardian there is also a pegbox on the otherside to keep the pegs tied.
As this thread is more than 5 years old, I am interested in what happened after, what experience people of cafe now have on this item.

About pieces written for this instrument: Anthony Baines of the catalogue writes that Beethoven composed for it. There was a thread here "historical mandolins and cultural preferences"". There I read, that there is much evidence that Beethoven wrote also for 6-string mandolins.

I do not want to start this whole discussion again......just mention.

Charles E.
Mar-07-2010, 4:13pm
Here are a couple we have in the shop, a Washburn and an unrestored Embergher.

Jennifer
Mar-09-2010, 9:41pm
Hi, I am new to the forum. I just purchased my first vintage bowlback today; it's a 1900 Salsedo, I think a pretty low-end one but it sounds lovely anyway. I look forward to learning more about it.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v713/jehodges/DSC_0357-1.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v713/jehodges/DSC_0356.jpg

Jim Garber
Mar-09-2010, 10:30pm
It looks lovely, Jennifer. much of the ornamentation does not really add to the sound. IMHO the simpler the better.

Jake Wildwood
Mar-09-2010, 10:48pm
I agree entirely with Jim on this. The sparer the instrument the better the sound from my experience, all things being equal otherwise.

Martin Jonas
Mar-16-2010, 9:55am
Jennifer -- that's a lovely Salsedo! Not that low-end either: it came with a leather "clown shoe" type of case, which were distinctly higher-end than the more usual pressed fibre cases and it has the MOP bridge position markers which the base models don't.

Salsedo was a respected maker, and while I haven't played one myself, at least one Cafe member has one that he's very fond of. He also gets a number of favourable mentions in the Sparks book "The Classical Mandolin".

Have fun with it!

Martin

Jennifer
Mar-19-2010, 3:29pm
Thank you, Jim and Martin and Jake. Martin, "Clown shoe" is the perfect way to describe the crazy case! It's gotten a lot of comments, even from the kind folks at Gryphon where I took it to be serviced and restrung. It has turned out to be a wonderful instrument! Looks like it will be my "main squeeze" from now on. :mandosmiley:

I appreciate the information about the case and the MOP bridge position markers - I will check out the Sparks book, too.

Jim Garber
Apr-14-2010, 8:38pm
Boy, you folks make me have to buy something to keep this thread going. Just received this ostensible Fratelli Vinaccia. A pleasing model with a nicely flamed maple bowl, alternating pearl border, attractive nicely grained spruce top with no cracks (as far as I can see). The poor thing has been thru a bunch including what looks like some amateur repairs. Let's see:

1. Missing nut
2. Apron (is that what we call it?) coming off on one side
3. Missing original bridge which was glued onto the top at one time
4. Nonoriginal clamshell tailpiece (good for parts tho -- nicely engraved)
5. Pearl ornament on the back of the headstock was screwed in.
6. Non-original (I think) fretboard
7. I think non-original rosette
8. Pretty sure that the pickguard was tortoise-celluloid originally
9. I am not too sure of the label -- it looks like the date says 1865 which is highly doubtful -- I would think more like 1890-1900. It is possible that the "restorer" put a printed label in there. However, I do think that it is a genuine Vinaccia -- it has the lightness and the apron is shaped similarly to others i have in my file.

Then again, I could have been fooled. Pictures attached.

Anyway, I hope to have this one restored to its former glory.

Jim Garber
Apr-14-2010, 8:39pm
Here are a few more pics of the Vinaccia.

Tavy
Apr-15-2010, 4:58am
Love the back on that one - restored to it's former glory that one could be stunner.

Be sure to post some more pics when you're done!

John.

Jim Garber
Apr-15-2010, 6:13am
Thanks, John. Now, to find a luthier qualified and willing to work on it in North America. BTW I did find the bridge. I must have fallen out of the packing and I almost stepped on it this morning. I think I would put a new fretboard on it and have the rosette redone. Most of the ones I have seen have mastic and pearl inlays. This one looks pretty amateurish.

Jim Garber
May-22-2010, 10:51pm
Closer look at the Vinaccia: I now see that the "luthier" actually glued a second fretboard over the original one.

Hiin
May-23-2010, 9:52am
Helping to keep this thread alive:

Here are some pictures of my mandola (otherwise known as octave mandolin).
Just bought it about three months ago. Made in 2009.
The maker is Kawada, which probably you never heard before. He is one of a few handmade mandolin maker in Japan.

Jim Garber
May-23-2010, 10:58am
I might as well post pictures here of my newly acquired 1904 Embergher #3.

brunello97
May-23-2010, 6:45pm
I love scallops, Jim. Fresh from the sea, potatoes or on bowlbacks. Bob will be shocked to hear this, but seeing a rw Embergher is actually very refreshing. And in my own uninformed opinion, I tend to appreciate this headstock more than the bottle-opener version on the higher-end models. Same with the subdued strike-plate. I'll curb my design enthusiasm but for Cristofaro and the folks from Catania. Nice score. Get it ready.

My apologies for leaping over your post Hiin.....what more can you tell us about your Kawada? It looks lovely.

Mick

Hiin
May-23-2010, 10:31pm
My apologies for leaping over your post Hiin.....what more can you tell us about your Kawada? It looks lovely.

Mick

Thanks Mick.

What more I can tell about my Kawada?
Umm...lets see.
1. It projects the sound nicely
2. The turn in the head is quite unique, one of the reason why I bought it
3. Because of the head, usual mandola cases dont fit, so I took me some time to find a fitting case.

Jim Garber
May-23-2010, 10:50pm
I have been trying to find a case for my 1974 Calace mandola (also known in the US as an octave mandolin). i assume it is a lot easier in Japan to find cases for these instruments.

Tavy
May-24-2010, 6:49am
Two lovely instruments at once - that OM is expecially nice!

John.

Martin Jonas
May-24-2010, 7:07am
Lovely photos of the Embergher, Jim. I see it has the misspelled name stamp on the headstock ("Emberger" without "h") -- it's always struck me as strange that Luigi would be happy to let them go out like that, but fortunately it's been confirmed a few times on the Cafe that these are indeed authentic, misspelling and all.

It'll be interesting to see how the tone compares to your "Tipo A" once you have it in playing condition.

Martin

JeffD
May-24-2010, 10:56pm
Hiin that is a lovely instrument. I love that scroll. Litte touch of uniqueness. I was looking at a picture of a Kawada D-60 mandola, with the scroll on the peg head in the conventional direction.

Kawada makes some beautiful instruments.

Jim Garber
May-25-2010, 6:56am
The scroll on the mandola reminds me a lot of early banjos (see below).

As for Embergher mispelling... I have a feeling that he was a thrifty craftsman and had a stamp made with the mispelling and did not want to spend the extra money to have it corrected until later. Either that or perhaps people mispronounced his name with the "h" so he left it off intentionally.

This mandolin is pretty appealing to me because it is early which means that the signature is actually Luigi's and more likely he did the bulk, if not all, of the work on it. I also found out that this mandolin by its serial number was in the shop, maybe even on the bench next to the celebrated Embergher mandoliola (mandola in US terminology -- tuned CGDA) owned by Silvio Ranieri. As you can tell, I love getting into the minutiae of these vintage instruments, each with their own story, hidden in the details.

Bruce Clausen
May-25-2010, 11:34am
As for Embergher mispelling... I have a feeling that he was a thrifty craftsman and had a stamp made with the mispelling and did not want to spend the extra money to have it corrected until later. Either that or perhaps people mispronounced his name with the "h" so he left it off intentionally.

Emberger (no 'h') is the German form of the name. An Italian would need to add the 'h' to get his neighbours to pronounce it correctly. So Luigi may have used one form of the name for his signature (local use), another for his trademark (international use). Maybe.

BC

Jim Garber
May-25-2010, 11:42am
That is quite possible, Bruce, esp in the early days. The only thing is that during the Period of Mispelling all examples have that stamp and so he would not have distinguished between domestic or export. Perhaps, once he became known everywhere he changed it to the correct spelling for where he lived (Arpino, Italy). Who knows?

Schlegel
May-25-2010, 11:46am
Emberger (no 'h') is the German form of the name. An Italian would need to add the 'h' to get his neighbours to pronounce it correctly. So Luigi may have used one form of the name for his signature (local use), another for his trademark (international use). Maybe.

BC

I think this is very likely. In the north of Italy, they are pretty familiar with the German tongue, you will see Germanic names and foods, but when you go south, and Rome is very southern, not so much.

Hiin
May-25-2010, 1:03pm
Hiin that is a lovely instrument. I love that scroll. Litte touch of uniqueness. I was looking at a picture of a Kawada D-60 mandola, with the scroll on the peg head in the conventional direction.

Kawada makes some beautiful instruments.

Thanks.

Actually my mandola was the first time instrument that made by Kawada with such unconventional scroll direction. He said he was worried everybody would consider it is strange and will be hesitant to buy it (Japanese people are very resistant to change, they prefer do things the way things were until now).
But my friend and me liked the design. The shop owner told Kawada and he made one more instrument like this for my friend. Seeing how this design has been a hit among mandolin players in my club, maybe it wouldn't be so uncommon anymore in Japan in years to come.

ShannonSunshine
May-25-2010, 1:10pm
Just got my Calace back from Carlo Greco (what a great guy!), I had ivoroid peg buttons put on and chrome bushings put in the peg holes, which were previously misaligned.

http://waveoverwhitesands.com/images/mandolincafe/mando2.jpg

http://waveoverwhitesands.com/images/mandolincafe/mando3.jpg

http://waveoverwhitesands.com/images/mandolincafe/mando8.jpg

She sounds great now too (thanks, Carlo!): Partita No. 3 Bouree, second half (http://waveoverwhitesands.com/images/mandolincafe/bachbouree.mp3)

Jim Garber
May-25-2010, 1:13pm
Nice mandolin and nice playing, Shannon.

ShannonSunshine
May-25-2010, 1:22pm
Thanks, Jim! Scrolling through this thread and seeing all the beautiful instruments you own makes me realize how badly I need a job... :))

Dfyngravity
May-25-2010, 7:18pm
Nice mando and nice stack stone wall too.

brunello97
May-25-2010, 9:32pm
I think this is very likely. In the north of Italy, they are pretty familiar with the German tongue, you will see Germanic names and foods, but when you go south, and Rome is very southern, not so much.

It is not just the Italians who struggle. "I would like to buy an Embergher."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUCDhvbQFmU

Mick

Fliss
Jul-31-2010, 10:41am
I've already posted pics in the "classical, medieval, renaissance" area of the forum, but my purchase of a 1910 Calace is a good excuse to post in this thread too :)

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=60977

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=60985

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=60984

Fliss

Jim Garber
Sep-08-2010, 8:22am
Here is another interesting one -- at least to me. Not sure of the maker but it is pretty ornate for an American bowlback.

See mine on post #6 (page 1). Here is a pearly bowlback (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170534799420) very similar to this pearly one with the same harp player inlay on the pickguard.

>>>I just realized that you can click that small icon in my quote and go right to that quoted post. Nice feature.

Jim Garber
Sep-08-2010, 8:26am
Here is an image of that mandolin on eBay.

Margriet
Sep-24-2010, 9:48am
629486294762949Here is my new Embergher nr 3, 1947, bought in Milano, in August. We had to make a new bridge, we copied the old - broken- one. Hendrik van den Broek will work on the frets and the varnish. I enjoy it a lot, playing! It feels like new, though you can see that it has been played in the past. Maybe VERY long ago.

Also today we succeeded in making a Ranieri model plectrum, of old tortoise. To play with a plectrum like that is really an experience, it is very light and clear. You can see the brand new-made plectrum on the photos.

Thanks a lot to Alex Timmerman, who explains on his website www.embergher.com exactly how to make a plectrum like that, and for his enthousiasm and support. Also thanks to cafe, where I could read threads about plectra and where people share their knowledge and experience.

Jim Garber
Sep-24-2010, 10:12am
Margriet: Congratulations!! That one is in amazing condition. Enjoy it!!I believe that the Emberghers from that era are exceptional since they were most likely made by by master Cerrone. I have played a few from that time... wonderful!

vkioulaphides
Sep-24-2010, 11:17am
MAGNIFICENT! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Cheers,

Victor

Jim Garber
Oct-26-2010, 8:34pm
I just got this mandolin labelled Rohlfing and Sons, Milwaukee, Wis. It looked like it was in pretty good playing shape and also reminded me a lot of Larson instruments, tho I do not see any reference to this brand as having been made by Larson. I do have a very similar set of jpegs in my files from a Maurer. Please bear with me to look and compare. Note especially the 'collar' at the base of the neck joint and the style of the clasp on the bowl. The inlays on the headstock and the pickguard are very similar but i suppose those could be purchased from one source.

Jim Garber
Oct-26-2010, 8:36pm
Not the fanciest of these but nicely made, high quality IMHO. Here is the rest of pics for this one.

Jim Garber
Oct-26-2010, 8:39pm
Now here is the Maurer that resembles this one. Fretboard inlays are a little different and the pickguard has a pearl border, otherwise eerily similar.

brunello97
Oct-26-2010, 9:01pm
Diego, I am feeling a strong Larson vibe. In any event, that is one clean bowlback. I love that collar detail. I have an L+H bowl which has one, not that it has prevented the neck from going south. Now there is the issue about the potential serial number strategically located on the soundhole brace? Any sign of that?

Mick

Schlegel
Oct-27-2010, 9:06am
Jim, also check out this thread for a Stahl which is certainly a Larson http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?59636-Larson-Brothers-American-mandolin-early-1900s-maybe&highlight=larson+stahl

Almost identical to yours.

Jim Garber
Oct-27-2010, 9:17am
Yes, different headstock shape and the purfling is more colorful but same engraving on the gear cover, similar collar at the neck joint and ivoiroid on the inside of the soundhole on all of these. I plan on contacting Bob Hartman and see what he says. And i plan on restringing tonight and seeing how it sounds. I may see about doing a repro bridge since the one on their is not original -- you can see a lightening of the top where the old bridge was.

brunello97
Oct-27-2010, 9:33am
Glad this arrived looking so good, Jim. What type of strings do you plan to use? Any sign of a SN there on the soundhole brace?

Mick

MikeEdgerton
Oct-27-2010, 9:35am
I'd say they were made by the same company.

Jim Garber
Oct-27-2010, 9:39am
Mick... I looked for the SN and didn't see anything on either brace near to the soundhole. I figure I would first try GHS A240s ultralights then Dogals 92b which sound wonderful on my Vega. I also have a set of Pyramids I should try sometime. I can't recall the gauges tho. I don;t want to waste the expensive strings tho at first.

Schlegel
Oct-27-2010, 9:40am
That funny little fingerboard extension on yours, Jim is also a very typical Larson shape. They didn't always use it, but so far I've not seen anybody else use it.

margora
Oct-28-2010, 3:21pm
Some of my friends in the classical section will perhaps be pleasantly amused (surprised!) that I have finally acquired a bowlback, a 2004 Calace Model 13. Very loud, excellent basses, easy to play.

64092

Jim Garber
Oct-28-2010, 3:39pm
Congratulations, Bob and welcome to the Dark Side.

brunello97
Oct-28-2010, 6:56pm
You're teasing us, Bob..... It looks very nice. Tell us more.

Mick

margora
Oct-28-2010, 8:01pm
"It looks very nice. Tell us more."


Not that much more to tell. It is a standard Model 13, which is one up from the base model (Model 26), 24 frets. I am the third owner. Owner #2 is a young musician in NE Massachusetts who sold it because he was moving out of the country. The original owner apparently bought it on a trip to Naples. It has virtually no playing wear. I have it strung with Dogal at the moment (soft tension) and will try Lenzer at some point.

Based on what I tried out so far, the instrument is very well suited to the early 20th century Italian repertoire (Munier, it's namesake, etc), as well it should. The tone colors are very good -- I can get a very bright, airy typical bowlback sound, as well as a warmer sound (though not as warm as my Collings). The construction of these instruments is best described as stout (in this regard it is virtually identical to Victor's model 26), quite a bit heavier than the typical early 20th century American bowlback. Fit and finish is fine but not up to the level of, say, Richard Walz's Vega copy by Dan Larson, or the Embergers that Het Consort play. I tend to think that Calace is to mandolins what Ramirez is to classical guitars -- good, solid workhorse instruments.

Jim Garber
Oct-28-2010, 8:17pm
Bob: You may be able to string those with somewhat heavier strings. I don't know what Victor uses but I believe that the modern calaces are built a little heavier than the vintage ones.

margora
Oct-28-2010, 9:29pm
"You may be able to string those with somewhat heavier strings."

Possibly. The Dogals, though, are fine as far as tension is concerned.

Jim Garber
Oct-28-2010, 10:14pm
I did get confirmation from an expert that the Rohlfing mentioned above is definitely made by the Larsons. I took the strings off and glanced inside tonight. I didn't see this before but there is a Maurer brand on the neckblock. So, this was a Maurer sold by Rohlfing & Sons music store in Milwaukee.

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 12:02am
Man, you guys force me to bump this thread from time to time. Now, look what I did...

This is my recently acquired Vega Pettine Special in all but the nameplate. Strange but it is missing the tuner coverplate that in all examples I have seen have said Pettine Special or even Giuseppe Pettine Special. The one that is on there is definitely a Vega coverplate and looks original to the instrument.

And the bridge is a little odd -- it looks like a decent handmade job of ebony with some fret wire added in an interesting compensation pattern.

I wonder about the provenance since it was found in Rhode Island -- maybe bought originally from Pettine's shop?

Jim

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 12:14am
A few more pics of this mandolin.

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 12:19am
Here are a couple of comparison pictures with my Vega style 3. Primarily, the Pettine has a maple neck, a zero fret and a body slightly wider, longer by about 1/2 inch and a bowl significantly deeper. Other than the pearl border and the fleur-de-lis inlays, it is actually plainer than my style 3.

I apologize for the quality of some of these photos. It has been way too cold to shoot outdoors these days, so I shot this this evening in my dark family room.

Tavy
Dec-05-2010, 5:36am
Wow Jim, that's one nice instrument, so what persentage of US bowlbacks do you own now ? ;)

Just kidding yours, John.

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 9:28am
90% of the US and about 23% of Italy... also just kidding (I hope). The upper level Vegas are among the best of the American bowlbacks. My style three is my backup for classical. Of course I have it strung with Italian strings.

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 3:40pm
Here are a few more photos -- better ones -- taken outside today... Brrrrrrrrr...

brunello97
Dec-05-2010, 9:05pm
Very nice, Jim. I know you are a fan of Vega mandolins, so this one is well deserved. From the photos, the finish appears in very good condition as if it has been well cased. Yet you mention that it needs significant work. What do you think needs to be done? I hope you can get it up and playable very soon.

Mick

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 9:35pm
Despite my ingrained caveat to myself and others to avoid bowlbacks with neck problems, I think this one may have one (or two). With the ancient strings, it seems to play all right in the first position but gets harder up the neck. In any case, after I get one luthier's kids thru college, I have to get another one. I always figure the worst so I am pleasantly surprised -- one can only wish. In any case, I think this one would be worth sinking some money into and rightly so.

brunello97
Dec-05-2010, 9:52pm
A good cause, as long as those luthier kids don't plan on studying Italian, German or French language in college.....I hope it is an easy fix, amigo. Do Vegas have a dovetail (or similar) neck joint like Washburns and Martins or is their something different on the artist models? Could make for an easier re-set if it goes that way.

Do you know many of the Pettine models where made?

Mick

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 10:03pm
I guess I should head to my local airport and ask them to xray to see what joint is in the neck. I would think that it is a dovetail. I might not actually need a neck reset. I have to look at it more closely.

Jim Garber
Dec-05-2010, 10:06pm
Do you know many of the Pettine models where made?

What mean this?? How many were made? I haven't a clue but more than Abt and Scalzo models, I would guess. I have only seen Eric's Abt and no Scalzo except in catalogs. I think that Pettine had a real following and students in RI. Abt went over to endorse L&H later and I haven't a clue about Scalzo.

brunello97
Dec-06-2010, 9:22am
Do you know many of the Pettine models where made?.........What mean this?? How many were made?

I guess I was wondering how many of the Pettine models Vega made;) One I have in my files has a SN on the end of the headstock in typical Vega practice. I thought I have seen some references here to Vega SNs viz date-made, but perhaps am mistaken. I was hoping that source may have had production quantities as well.

Mick

Jim Garber
Dec-06-2010, 9:43am
I have a listing of some Vega serial numbers but they are mostly cylinder backs. I have a few mandolin pages from various Vega catalogs but they had an annoying habit of not putting dates on their catalogs. Here is a list of Vega and Fairbanks Banjo serial numbers. I am not sure if those are the same.

Jim Garber
Dec-08-2010, 7:56am
I have a listing of some Vega serial numbers but they are mostly cylinder backs. I have a few mandolin pages from various Vega catalogs but they had an annoying habit of not putting dates on their catalogs. Here is a list of Vega and Fairbanks Banjo serial numbers. I am not sure if those are the same.

Sorry, I hit the wrong button... Here is the list of Vega and Fairbanks Banjo serial numbers (http://www.whitetreeaz.com/vintage/banjomfg.htm#VEGA). All right, I will make it easier:


A.C. FAIRBANKS/VEGA BANJOS

67..............................992............... ..1890
1464............................1638.............. ..1891
.................................................. ..1892
.................................................. ..1893
....(No information available)......................1894
.................................................. ..1895
.................................................. ..1896
16971.............................?............... ..1897
17021...........................17963............. ..1898
18026...........................18939............. ..1899
19124...........................19993............. ..1900
20107...........................20957............. ..1901
21237...........................21961............. ..1902
22002...........................22897............. ..1903
23071...........................23203............. ..1904
23255...........................23548............. ..1905
23560...........................23969............. ..1906
24092...........................24195............. ..1907
24337...........................24973............. ..1908
25083...........................25986............. ..1909
26023...........................26999............. ..1910
27027...........................27991............. ..1911
28062...........................28930............. ..1912
29029...........................29993............. ..1913
30492...........................30891............. ..1914
31462...........................31711............. ..1915
32290...........................32850............. ..1916
33282...........................33822............. ..1917
34273...........................34759............. ..1918
35017...........................37162............. ..1919
37829...........................39942............. ..1920
40071...........................45235............. ..1921
45608...........................50773............. ..1922
51279...........................56313............. ..1923
56656...........................62248............. ..1924
62419...........................67436............. ..1925
67518...........................72204............. ..1926
73075...........................78371............. ..1927
79025...........................83827............. ..1928
84124...........................87896............. ..1929
89729...........................94716............. ..1930
95374...........................97962............. ..1931
98314...........................98149............. ..1932

n0ukf
Jan-18-2011, 11:49am
My circa 1900 Washburn mandolin.

How distinctive are mandolin brands to identify them by their features (bowl staves, headstocks, etc)? I have an unlabeled one I inherited from my grandfather that looks very much like this. The bowl staves include a narrow orange-looking strip between them. The head looks the same but mine has black knobs and different shaped tuner plate ends. The sound hole inlay looks about the same but there's none around the edge and the painted on "pickguard" has different lines. Mine also has single dots at 5, 7, 10 and 12th frets. This one also looks very much like it. http://cgi.ebay.com/Antique-1800s-Bowl-back-Taterbug-Mandolin-Part-Restore-/150548301316?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item230d60c604

Jim Garber
Jan-18-2011, 2:21pm
I also look at pickguard shapes in addition to the list above and when combined might give a hint who the maker might be.

n0ukf
Jan-18-2011, 5:02pm
Well, here we go then... Grandma said before she died that this mando was over 100 years old, though we could no longer question Grandpa about its history when he and his twin got it. As I was told, Elliott (Grandpa's twin, my namesake) built the case from salvaged materials before he drowned back in the '30s. The D-ring on the tailpiece was my addition scavenged from a pair of shoes, making it easier to attach a strap. The ivory, bone or whatever insert on the bridge was missing a piece until my brother carved a popsicle stick to fill in. some day I'll cut some deer antler to replace the whole insert. The current nut is a piece of phenolic material, the previous nut had the string notches filed too close together for me to play even half way decently with my fat fingers.
67420 67418 67419
67416
Here you can see the worst of the bowl stave cracks I reglued a few years ago, all three in the visible darker staves. The center light stave has a crack by the neck but doesn't seem to be getting worse but I'll watch it.

Can you make out enough here to tell who made this, whether Washburn or another? How about age clues? I know it was made before the mid 30s because of the above-mentioned death.
Would you recommend leaving it as is or refinishing? I stopped using it on a regular basis because in muggy weather the bowl finish would soften and stick to my sweaty shirt.

Jim Garber
Jan-18-2011, 5:08pm
I would say, at the least, sold by L&H and lower end (painted pickguard). It is quite possible that it was wholesaled to other stores by L&H.

I like your D-ring idea and the handmade case. Being a lower end does not mean it will sound bad tho. Enjoy it and also enjoy its close family history.

Jim Garber
Jan-18-2011, 5:43pm
I answered in the Post a pic thread. To answer here: I would not bother refinishing. I would say early decades of the 20th century like circa 1910. Prob made by L&H for wholesale trade. I don't think that I have seen L&H catalog mandolins even the lowend ones with painted "pickguards".

n0ukf
Jan-18-2011, 7:12pm
I'm not familiar with many of the manufacturers. Is there info somewhere on L&H? the forum search says the term is too short. :P

Jim Garber
Jan-18-2011, 8:13pm
L&H = Lyon & Healy. They are the makers/sellers/distributors various brand names: Washburns, American Conservatory, Leland, Jupiter, Lyon & Healy, etc,. They also made instruments to be sold under store names etc. My theory is that yours is one of those.

redhighway
Feb-02-2011, 2:01pm
Hi all, this is a great thread and I want to post a picture of my pride and joy and maybe someone can give me more info it, but I can't see how to upload it, help

Bill Snyder
Feb-03-2011, 11:34am
Click the Go Advanced button. Type your text and then click the paper clip. A new window opens. Select the file from your computer to upload.

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 4:33am
Thanks Bill. O.K, Where to start. I was hoping someboby, you all seem to know a lot about these old bowlbacks, could help me with the history of mine. I bought it 7 or 8 years ago and it is my pride and joy. I have other style mandolins but I'm afraid they sit on the shelf or get lent out because I love the sound and feel of this one, whatever style of music I'm playing, so much. I play it at my local folk club on the Island, hard as you can see, I've used it to teach children how to play at my local youth centre and I practise on it everyday. But, I have always wondered about it's history. I bought it in Germany, there is no writing inside but there is a word that I can't read, to follow, on the base of the fretboard. The eagle has the most beautiful coloured inlay made of what looks like some kind of shell, it changes colour in the light. There are 15 strips on the back if this helps, I would love to have it repaired but I'm loath to go without it while it's being carried out. I will post a photo of the word or name that is written on the fretboard as soon as my new strings arrive because it's even harder to read with the strings on. I have tried googling what I thought it said but with no joy,
many thanks
Jim

Tavy
Feb-04-2011, 4:52am
If it's German , and with no name, then the chances are it was made in the GDR period when folks weren't allowed to put their name on them (communism and all that). What's the back look like? Does it have the typical German dished back, often with some fancy marquetry going on?

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 5:38am
Hi, there doesn't appear to be anything fancy anywhere else on the mandolin. It seems strange that someone would go to the trouble of making a beautiful eagle like and leave the rest of it plain. The tuning pegs are Ivory, I don't know if this helps in dating it. The letters in the word at the base go something like this. GOLDKIANL but until I get the strings out the way and rub something dark over them, the G could be an S and the I could be L. Also, even though I bought it from Germany is there a chance it made it's way there from somewhere else?

Jim Garber
Feb-04-2011, 7:58am
The word is "Gold Klang" which (I think) was a German brand name. I think it translates to golden tone or golden sound. Here is a catalog page with the bird pickguard one pictured. Yours may have had a slightly different peghead with a hole and the top part broken off.

I don't speak German (there are a few of us bowlheads here who do and will do doubt chime in) but I think it says is is made in the Italian style.

Martin Jonas
Feb-04-2011, 8:34am
It's "Goldklang", which translates as "golden tone". They were a large brand of instruments in Germany in the 1920s and 30s, probably the house brand of a major wholesaler. I would expect that the instrument itself was made in an anonymous small workshop in the Markneukirchen are of Saxony and rebranded by the wholesaler, that being the typical business model back then. Your instrument looks very much like one of the ones shown in the catalogue page posted by Jim, which puts it post-1923 as the prices are denoted in Reichsmark (RM) -- it would have been simply "M" for Mark before then. Prices on the page go from 21RM to 36RM. Yours cost 30RM, i.e. it was solid middle-of-the-road and no bargain basement.

The German description translates as:

"Maple, 21 staves, gray in the Italian style [whatever that means, maybe "unstained"], polished lacquer finish, scratchplate inlaid in mother of pearl with swallow motif, rope binding, finest workmanship"

I note that from this description, this isn't quite the same as yours after all -- yours doesn't have 21 staves, and it doesn't have rope binding -- so maybe yours was cheaper than 30RM.

Martin

Jim Garber
Feb-04-2011, 8:42am
Thanks, Martin. I knew you would come through. "Schnurrand" translates to rope-binding? Interesting.

Hey, I was not that far off, right?

Jesse Harmon
Feb-04-2011, 8:44am
Just thought I would update. I posted a pic of my American Conservatory that served as a decoration on top of a cabinet for a number of years. I previously had White Bros String shop in Okemos Mi take care of some tuner issues but had not played it. At first I had hand issues with it, but since acquiring a Rigel and playing that, along with correcting some hand technique problems, I can now play the AC and it sounds more wonderful all the time. Don't know whether instruments open up when played but I always thought they did. I always loved the look of these so......... hmmm......

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 11:24am
Hi all, WOW I'm touched that you've been so helpful. I can't believe that I couldn't find anything about it. Where did you get that catalog pic from? I've tried typing lots of variations into google, and I speak a little German! and have never come up with anything. Also, how expensive do you think it would be to have the split in the bowl repaired, and how long would it be off the road for?
Jim

Jim Garber
Feb-04-2011, 11:34am
I have been doing this for sometime and am pretty obsessed with accumulating as many details as I can about these instruments. The crack should not be too much to fix if you find the right person. Also, if you just fix the structure and not care that much about making the repair invisible it will prob cost you somewhat less. In any case, it should not be a big deal.

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 11:50am
Hi, many thanks. I think that finding anyone to repair on the Island I live on would be hard. So...if there's anyone reads this in U.K and you cab give me a ballpark figure I'd love to know, once again many thanks
Jim

Martin Jonas
Feb-04-2011, 11:55am
Under 100 Pounds, I'd say, and probably well under. The repair is fairly simple, but requires a luthier experienced with bowlbacks or lutes, or willing to go outside his comfort zone: guitars don't have staved round backs and therefore don't require the same techniques. Whereabout in the UK are you?

Martin

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 12:55pm
Hi, I'm on the 'always sunny' Isle of Wight. Do you repair bowlbacks? Your playing is outstading by the way.
Jim

Martin Jonas
Feb-04-2011, 1:27pm
Thanks, Jim. I do a few hack repairs on cheap bowlbacks, but wouldn't do it on my better instruments -- I give these to a luthier. I don't know any luthiers on the Isle of Wight or in Hampshire. I can recommend Jon Springall of Devon Strings in Exeter (he used to be a regular here on the Cafe and has worked on both my Embergher and my Vinaccia), but that's not particularly close to you. South Coast, anyway...

Martin

redhighway
Feb-04-2011, 2:09pm
Hi Martin, thanks for that. As it happens I go to Devon 3 0r 4 times a year for my other passions. I'll look him up and see how much it would cost.
Jim

mlewis17
Feb-04-2011, 3:19pm
This was a gift from my Italian father-in-law, I play it every day. The label inside says "craftsman made" "Marathon" "Model No. 80" It's not terribly fancy but the inlay is good. Anyone know anything about this, where it came from? Thanks

http://www.silverblues.info/images/mandoBB-200.jpg

Jim Garber
Feb-04-2011, 3:32pm
This was a gift from my Italian father-in-law, I play it every day. The label inside says "craftsman made" "Marathon" "Model No. 80" It's not terribly fancy but the inlay is good. Anyone know anything about this, where it came from? Thanks

Looks to me like a product of the Suzuki factory, Japanese made and copy of Calace. Prob 1970s, at least most seem to be that.

mlewis17
Feb-04-2011, 6:16pm
Thanks, that sounds right.

mlewis17
Feb-06-2011, 1:39pm
You were absolutely correct, it's a Suzuki M80 model--it's odd that it is labeled "Marathon." I think you can still get them, although the models they are making now are expensive. http://www.suzukiviolin.co.jp/catalog/cat.html

Jim Garber
Feb-06-2011, 2:35pm
I have seen Suzuki's under a number of names including Kent, Cortez, and Commdore qand prob a few others I can't recall at the moment.

Jim Garber
Mar-14-2011, 8:34pm
Really... just another excuse to bump this thread...

According to reliable sources the only instruments by Philip Interdonati, an Italian immigrant to the US (New York area) that have been discovered have been a couple of amazing guitars and two violins that are owned by descendants. This is (so far) the only mandolin done in his inimitable style that exists.

I believe that the fretboard is not original -- it should have been thinner and extended similar to that on ones made in Napoli. Neck construction is more similar to Italian makers of the period rather than American.

Ornamentation is a little over the top for me, however I am hoping that tonally it will be unique. The two guitars that exist supposedly sound and play wonderfully.

Jim Garber
Mar-14-2011, 8:37pm
Here are a few more to round out the set.

eastmountain
Mar-14-2011, 9:39pm
I don't have it anymore, but my first mandolin was a bowlback I found hanging on a wall in an antique store. It was labeled with a metal tag on the slotted headstock: "Heinrich Moritz Schuester, Markneukirchen Germany." Maple bowl, 22 staves if I remember correctly. Inlaid ebony pickguard with flowers and vines. Top was spruce and split to pieces. Not much of a mandolin, but I wish I still had it.

Tavy
Mar-15-2011, 4:15am
Wow Jim, if it sounds as good as it looks it'll be a cracker!

Ed Goist
Mar-15-2011, 2:27pm
circa 1900 John Brandt Bowlback
She (Anne-Sophie) is now officially mine, though she's in Max Girouard (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/member.php?3481-Max-Girouard)'s shop for her 111 year tune-up and make-over before she'll get to me.
More pictures to come!

69687 69688

69689 69690

Jim Garber
Mar-15-2011, 2:34pm
Ed, what kind of make-over? It looks pretty nice already.

Ed Goist
Mar-15-2011, 2:44pm
Let's see...
* Install new tailpiece (Most likely German kidney-shaped tailpiece (http://www.mandolinluthier.com/mandolin_tailpieces.htm) from Dave Hynds - I LOVE this tailpiece)
* Repair very small crack on soundboard
* Standard set-up stuff: level bridge to soundboard, adjust for intonation, polish frets, install new strings (GHS X-Lite Classical), etc.

brunello97
Mar-15-2011, 8:56pm
Very nice, Ed, thanks for posting (and Jim, too!) A bit of a contrast between these two bowls. I think there is room for a bit of exuberance in the Loyal Order. I think it is a matter of finding just the right sport coat to play the Interdonati in.

Ed, I think the Brandt looks great. I can't quite tell from the photos, are there no position dots? It certainly helps give the neck an even more attenuated look. Are there side dots a la Martin?

Mick

Ed Goist
Mar-15-2011, 9:31pm
...snip...
Ed, I think the Brandt looks great. I can't quite tell from the photos, are there no position dots? It certainly helps give the neck an even more attenuated look. Are there side dots a la Martin?
Mick

Hi Mick:

Thanks much! I'm very excited to have her join the fold!

No, the Brandt does not have position markers on the fretboard, but it dose have the side dots. Here is a pic Max took to show the current action, which also happens to display a couple of the side dots:

69720

brunello97
Mar-15-2011, 10:56pm
Thanks, Ed. The action looks robust in your photo. Does Mr. Girouard have a plan for that?

Mick

Ed Goist
Mar-15-2011, 11:12pm
Hi Mick: Yes - Max noticed that the bridge is currently not making full contact with the top (see cool attached pic). This will be fixed by re-fitting the bridge to the top. This re-fitting and re-shaping of the bridge to the soundboard will also bring the action down. Also, he pointed out that with the action measuring around 0.075 to 0.080 there will be plenty of room to bring it down without fret buzz.

BTW, I am really glad I had the instrument sent directly to Max. I think this was a smart move.

69722

Ed Goist
Mar-24-2011, 12:47pm
...snip...
BTW, I am really glad I had the instrument sent directly to Max. I think this was a smart move.


Speaking of this, look at the excellent work Max has done with the small crack in the soundboard, and with the fretboard!

Top Crack & Fretboard Before:

70102 70101

70100

Top Crack & Fretboard After:

70105 70104

70106

Jim Garber
Mar-24-2011, 10:24pm
He better watch out... he may find a pile of bowlbacks on his doorstep. :)

Ed Goist
Mar-29-2011, 9:20pm
I'm excited to say that Max has just finished the work on my Brandt bowlback!

As you'll see, Max installed a new German kidney-shaped tailpiece we bought from Dave Hynds (thanks Dave!), leveled the bridge with the soundboard, and lowered the bridge. He cleaned-up the fretboard (as shown above), and (after leveling a couple of frets) was able to significantly lower the action. (Mick, Max was able to get the action down to just a hair over 0.040" [which was the 'target' I requested]).
Well, here she is:

70343 70344

70346 70345

Needless to say, I am excited that she'll be home soon.
Once I get to know her, I'll be sure to post a clip!

Jill McAuley
Mar-29-2011, 9:40pm
Nice! Look forward to hearing that one!

Cheers,
Jill

brunello97
Apr-01-2011, 7:26pm
That is good news, Ed. I look forward to seeing/hearing more about your Brandt.

Mick

Ed Goist
Apr-05-2011, 6:29pm
I'm excited to say that Max has just finished the work on my Brandt bowlback!...snip...
...snipped a few pics...
70345

Needless to say, I am excited that she'll be home soon.
Once I get to know her, I'll be sure to post a clip!

Well, here I sit looking at the box containing the Brandt.
She was delivered today, but sat on our outside porch for several hours before my wife brought her inside about 5 hours ago.
It was quite chilly here today (mid 30s F / 2-3 C), and she is over 110 years old, so...Here I sit looking at the box.
The box is still slightly cool to the touch, so I'm thinking of waiting until tomorrow to open...
Boy, this is really a tough wait (tougher that with my previous instruments for some reason [?]), but based on her age I'm thinking this is a good precaution.
Thoughts?

Jim Garber
Apr-06-2011, 8:24am
So... ed... did you finally open it at 1am?

Ed Goist
Apr-06-2011, 9:45am
Jim, I unveiled the Brandt late last night after a difficult eight hours of acclimatizing the box. When I performed the "hand test" at 10:30 pm, everything felt to be at room temperature.

First off, let me say that I am somewhat shocked by the exceptional quality of this mandolin. The build quality and the light weight construction combine to make for a very attractive and responsive mandolin. A few general observations:

* I'd call the condition "excellent plus". I clearly had a very generous seller.
* As I mentioned, this mandolin is light…Incredibly light. Build quality and responsiveness rivals modern mandolins in the $2,500+ range. No kidding.
* The old, original leather "clown shoe" case is too cool for school, but not very practical, and a little delicate for real-world use. If I plan to ever transport the mandolin, a new high-quality case will be in order.
* In my opinion, the neck on this mandolin is quite fast, and anything but "clunky". I'd say it has a narrow 'slight oval' profile, and the nut width is quite narrow (I measured it at about 1 1/32" with a ruler, and the string spacing is no more than 7/8" between outside G and outside E!). It will take me a little time to adjust to this narrow width, but it sure makes fretting adjacent courses with one finger a joy! :)
* Thanks to Max Girouard's exceptional pro set-up I found the playability to be quite remarkable. This was somewhat of a surprise to me. I expected that the Brandt would be kind of a novelty, and a second or third instrument that I'd play, but not very often. However, due to the exceptional set-up, the fine responsiveness, and the surprisingly friendly neck; I'm thinking that the Brandt is in for a lot of playing time!
* I really like the feel and ease of play of the GHS extra-light classical strings (though, being brand new, they are still quite bright).
* This mandolin has a flat fretboard, so I expected to only be able to tolerate short playing sessions. My tendonitis tends to flair-up quickly and severely whenever I play a flat board on a modern mandolin. However, due to my enthusiasm over the Brandt I played her for 2+ hours late last night, and have experienced no pain! I'm thinking the incredible action Max was able to achieve on this mandolin (~.040" at the 12th fret), combined with the 'finger friendly' extra-light strings makes for pain-free playing even on a flat board! YAY!
* Open chords strummed up over the fretboard sound like angel song!
* Downsides/challenges:
- Developing a good and comfortable playing position for the mandolin. This will take some getting used to with my small lap and generous gut. :redface:
- John Brandt put reverse gear tuners in his patented headstock…Not my favorite. :(

Overall I'd rate this mandolin as a solid "A". Also, I'd have to say this is by far the greatest mandolin value I've experienced…By a mile.

I'm sure that the abundant supply, the lack of modern popularity, and the unique tone keep the prices on these vintage bowlbacks down. However, the overall quality of this instrument is miles beyond what I have invested in it.

I look forward to getting to know her better. I hope to upload a clip this weekend.

Oh, and my favorite pieces to play on her so far are JS Bach's Joy of Man's Desire and Minuet in C, and Jay Ungar's Ashokan Farewell.

(sorry for the long post...I got a little carried away :mandosmiley:)

brunello97
Apr-06-2011, 10:03am
Jim, it sounds like the Loyal Order has a new cult, I mean club, member. ;)

Be careful, Ed, these bowls grow on you and soon your other mandolins will be barking for your attention. I'm glad it has worked out so well. I wonder if the shorter scale helps out with reducing the hand pain after extending playing sessions? When I switch back and forth from one of my Gibsons to the a bowl it takes a little up front stretching exercises. Admittedly, though my old A is doing the most sulking right now.

Mick

Jim Garber
Apr-06-2011, 10:53am
bowled over

mtucker
Apr-06-2011, 11:39am
Aren't there other names for them...?...perhaps in (romantic) italian or something... when i say it fast 5 times it sounds sort of funny and i catch myself reaching for the toilet handle....;)

Ed Goist
Apr-06-2011, 3:01pm
Mick, one thing I definitely did notice about the shorter scale (what is it, about 13"?), is that I was frequently over-reaching (landing on the fret itself) at the 5th, 6th & 7th frets last night. I found this ironic as this is exactly what happened to me when I first started playing the mandolin having come over from guitar.

mtucker, maybe 'Neapolitan', but I believe this term actually refers to a a subset of bowlbacks (http://www.mandolincafe.com/glossary/glossary_15.shtml) which would include my Brandt?

Anyways, it doesn't seem that the word "bowlback" is regarded as a derogatory term by mandolinists who play them (whereas "taterbug" is often seen as a derogatory term).

Jim Garber
Apr-06-2011, 3:26pm
The outside world might call all bowlbacks Neapolitan but we bowlheads only call ones made there or of similar construction by that name. Roman mandolins are different in a few ways tho still bowlbacks. I like that term because it is very generic and distinguishes from the other mandolins: carved tops and flatbacks. It woukld even include the German style of mandolin.

Some folks do call them roundbacks but there is also the Portuguese style which is rounded but sort of partway between flatback and bowlback.

Ed Goist
Apr-06-2011, 3:44pm
Jim, looking over the Brandt very closely last night I noticed a very slight natural cant to the soundboard just below the bridge (maybe of about 2° or so), instead of the more noticeable 'bend' I've seen on the soundboards of some other bowlbacks.

What are some of the tonal differences caused by the different soundboard shapes on bowlbacks (flat, slight natural bend, noticeable bend), and what is the contemporary wisdom as to what is preferred?

Jim Garber
Apr-06-2011, 4:28pm
Whatever sound good.

Ed Goist
Apr-06-2011, 6:11pm
Here are a few more pics of my Brandt:

70692 70693

70696 70695

70694 70697

brunello97
Apr-06-2011, 6:58pm
Ed, I am not a luthier, just a ham-handed tinkerer and I am sure you can get more informative (and factual) information from conversations in the 'builders' area. My understand of the 'cant' in bowlbacks and their flatback/canted top successors here in the USA is that the cant helps produce a sharper string break angle over the bridge. Comp the cross section of a canted top mandolin and the tall bridge/fretboard geometry on a Gibson or L+H archtop and you can get a sense of the strategy. Sharper string break angle helps induce more downward force on the bridge, as I understand it, and more energy into the top. That we see a variety of such angles across the range of bowlbacks, flatbacks, flat-tops etc. has as much to do with construction logics as anything else. The goals of the geometry appear to be similar. The arch or curvature across the top is primarily structural (like a pre-tensioned concrete bridge beam.) This also varies in radius from the quite pronounced to the 'relatively' flatter. I have had some USA bowls that have been almost entirely flattened out by string pressure and others quite flat through what appears to be errant (flatter) geometry in the profile of the bowl itself. Pretty hard things to make when you start to dissect them. Just like a great hand-carved archtop. To think you can get a very good bowlback mandolin (rosewood, mahogany, select spruce) with that much craft for what? $200? Promise that you will keep it a secret......

Mick

Ed Goist
Apr-06-2011, 7:31pm
Thanks Mick, excellent information!

michaelpthompson
Apr-06-2011, 7:38pm
Some folks do call them roundbacks but there is also the Portuguese style which is rounded but sort of partway between flatback and bowlback.

Somebody called my Ovation a roundback the other night, so I'm not sure there a term that's totally non-ambiguous.

Tavy
Apr-07-2011, 5:28am
Jim, looking over the Brandt very closely last night I noticed a very slight natural cant to the soundboard just below the bridge (maybe of about 2° or so), instead of the more noticeable 'bend' I've seen on the soundboards of some other bowlbacks.

What are some of the tonal differences caused by the different soundboard shapes on bowlbacks (flat, slight natural bend, noticeable bend), and what is the contemporary wisdom as to what is preferred?

I'm not sure there is any conventional wisdom, but here's a couple of observations:

On the Neapolitan mandolins, the neck is always in a straight line with the top - in fact underneath the neck veneer the top often extends all the way up the neck to form a sort of sandwich/laminate construction, which is part of what gives the neck enough strength. As a result a steepish cant is required to give a decent break angle over the bridge. Combined with an often high arch on the top, this gives a very stiff/strong top, and presumably gives these their characteristic trebbly sound.

I'm not so familiar with the US made instruments, but many seem to have cant's so low they're barely discernable, also lower arches on the top. I assume they don't continue the top up through the neck, and as a result can have a slight neck angle to generate some bridge-break angle? The couple I've handled seem to have chunkier necks than some of the Neapolitans - a few of which have quite crazily slim necks. Also the better US ones seem to have more bass response...

All just different styles I guess.... Oh and the German ones are different again!

brunello97
Apr-08-2011, 10:21am
Nice to have you join the conversation, John, with your experience at hand. The cant on American bowls that I have seen or worked with seems to vary a lot from instrument to instrument as well as between makers. I have an L+H American Conservatory bowl on my work table now and the cant is every bit as steep as on my everyday player Lanfranco. My Ditson/Vega and Favilla have similar strong break angles. No surprise these are the ones that I have kept because they sound so good. I also had a Rudy Ciani/Galiano that had almost no cant. It wasn't a matter of the top sinking, you could trace the perimeter of the bowl and see that the geometry didn't even allow for one. I had a Martin bowl for awhile with such a sunken top that it was like a potato chip because of the severe cant geometry at the bowl rim edge. The lack of consistency across the tens of thousands made seems to me a blend of design, construction methods and human intention or error.

The Neapolitan necks are an amazingly curious design evolution. Softwood construction on many I have seen, with laminated top overlay-very strange indeed-also of softwood and then wrapped in a decorative veneer. Someone here once implied that added some structural stiffness but that is wishful thinking-it is paper thin. All super slim and lightweight. No wonder Sig. Embergher went for the one piece neck-head construction. Still, everything seems in balance and the whole instrument resonates so well. Midwest made US bowls seem so much stouter (Vegas and Favillas share some of that lightweight Italian qualities.) Hardwood necks and thicker everything. You don't see as much of that common top sink/neck rotation as on the trade level Neapolitan bowls but the trade off is in the responsiveness and sound profile. I have never seen the top overlay method on a US bowl, but that doesn't mean it wasn't tried, maybe in some of the smaller east coast shops that had a lot of Italian immigrants working. Typically, though not exclusively, a dovetail joint between neck and block. Martin, of course, has an awesome one. My bowl playing technique has improved enough that I am enjoying getting around on the thinner neck profiles much more now. (I have very large hands.)

It is so great that you and Dave H hang out here and share your knowledge, skill and experience. I am continuously amazed at the design, structure, technology, materials, and craft of these bowlbacks. I have a couple bowlback mandolas that need to be re-topped and all sorted out this summer. I am looking forward to that work and no doubt will be pestering you guys for some advice.....

Mick

Martin Jonas
Apr-26-2011, 4:33am
I recently got the fancier of my two Umberto Ceccherini bowlbacks back from my mother, who instead borrowed my Giuseppe Vinaccia. So, I took the opportunity to record a couple of Neapolitan songs on it -- appropriate in time and space to the instrument. This one has the suspended second soundboard and it makes for an interesting tone, a slightly amplified or reverby tone character if that makes any sense. Pretty loud, and very responsive with a bright sharp attack.

"Ciribiribin":



"Rosamunda" (aka "Beer Barrel Polka"):



Martin
(also posted in my Embergher videos thread over in the classical forum -- apologies to those who see this twice)

michaelpthompson
Apr-27-2011, 9:32pm
Great clarity and sound Martin. That's a nice instrument.

Gina Le Faux
Apr-29-2011, 5:31am
About a year ago I bought an interesting mandolin from an antique dealer in the UK where I live. The mandolin was labelled "Sentchordi Hermanos, Valencia". The Sentchordi workshop was in operation between 1861 - 1905 and they made guitars and bandurrias and after extensive research we found no evidence that they made any mandolins. When I first saw my mandolin I thought it was either a late 18th century Neapolitan mandolin or a copy of an instrument from that period and I assumed that Sentchordi had made it. When I had a good look at the instrument I couldn't work out the connection with Sentchordi as the mandolin was a lot earlier than 1861. The conclusion I reached was that like many other makers and dealers the Sentchordi brothers had inserted the label when they sold the mandolin. The search for the actual maker began and we couldn't find anything that bore any resemblance to my mandolin. It was a chicken and egg situation, we could not find out who made it because we had no makers name! Then, yesterday we had a "Eureka" moment whilst looking at some old threads on the cafe, we were looking for info on Lignatone mandolins. There amongst the posts was a picture of a mandolin that looked like mine and a makers name and a date. I will try and post some pics of my mandolin and I'll put some more information about it's construction and materials.

Gina Le Faux
Apr-29-2011, 6:29am
Here are some more pictures of my mandolin. The colour is a bit too blue, these are pics I took with my phone. The pegs are a set that I fitted as there were only a couple of pegs in the mandolin when I bought it.

Jim Garber
Apr-29-2011, 8:07am
Welcome, Gina to our little bowlback haven. And isn't it satisfying to find some closure for your search.

Gina Le Faux
Apr-29-2011, 9:04am
Hi Jim, Yes it's great to share information with like minded people. I'm so pleased to find another mandolin like mine plus the vital information as to who built it and when it was built.
Gina

Bruce Clausen
Apr-29-2011, 6:01pm
Nice looking instrument. Eugene's photos are on p. 4 of this thread. Are those the ones you saw?

I used to have a Panormo guitar built about 1825. It had a large label inside that said something like "Webb's House of Quality, Calgary, Alta., across from the CNR Station", probably from the 1890s. You get two bits of history for the price of one.

I'm sure we'd all be glad to hear it if you can manage a clip of some sort.

Gina Le Faux
Apr-30-2011, 6:31am
Hi Bruce, Yes, I saw Eugene's photographs. I have seen many instruments with dealer / retailer labels in them and I had a hunch that the label was not the makers once I started to do some research. I thought I may have bought a picollo mandolin but once I had a good look at it I started to think it was a gut strung mandolin made in the old style or an early instrument with a later front by the people who's label was inside it. I realised what it was when I found the pic's on this thread. I'll see about putting some sound clips up in a few days. Gina

Margriet
May-06-2011, 11:01am
Hi Gina,

I am glad to find someone else with a mandolin like these. I have one that is a bit the same. We have not yet made it playable. The machines are not original, there need to be pegs in, like in yours.
I also have seen the photos of Eugene and the ones in the museum in London, somewhere on cafe, in this thread or in "bowlbacks of note"at the classical section.
Here some photos of mine: ( maybe I posted them already in this thread, then sorry for doubling)
71790
71791
71792

Margriet

Margriet
May-06-2011, 11:23am
Today I worked on my Embergher Orchestra type Nr 1. It is an early model, as you can see at the symmetric scratchplate. The date is not readable, as there is a label of a german seller glued half over the Embergher label.
When I got it, I noticed a sticky somewhat dark orange varnish on it. Today I cleaned it, set it up.
Now time to play !!!!
The sound is a bit different from the later models, in my ears a bit more delicate and perky. Very bright, warm and crispy, surprising. I love it a lot !
717937179471795

Margriet

Charles E.
May-06-2011, 8:41pm
Here are some more pictures of my mandolin. The colour is a bit too blue, these are pics I took with my phone. The pegs are a set that I fitted as there were only a couple of pegs in the mandolin when I bought it.

Woah, that is one skinny headstock! A very pretty mandolin.

Gina Le Faux
May-07-2011, 6:14am
Hi Margriet, Yes, it's nice to see a couple more of these mandolins, thanks for posting the pics. Your mandolin looks a bit broader than mine, mine is quite narrow accross the belly. It measures 6 5/8th inches accross the belly at the widest point and the whole mandolin is just over 22 1/2 inches long. My mandolin does not have a fluted back, it has 11 ribs alternating between medium figured maple and rosewood covered in an orangy / brown varnish. The front of your mandolin is the same as mine except mine is narrower. I have put a set of Aquila Nylgut mandolin strings on my mandolin and it sounds really sweet. The peg hole spacings were large enough for me to fit some baroque violin pegs. There were a couple of what I think were the original pegs in the mandolin when I bought it, they were plain ebony and when I find where I put them I'll post a pic. Gina

Margriet
May-07-2011, 6:24am
Hi Gina,
yes, your mandolin seems to be in good condition, nice.
I think these mandolins are early French copies of Neapolitan mandolins, like Vinaccia. These were not stringed with gut strings, but with light metal strings. The gut strings were usually on the 6 - course mandolino's, the 6 - string Lombardo 's, 4 - string Brescian, Cremonese etc. I am not an expert, Alex Timmerman has specialized in the history of mandolins, you can read threads about this item here on cafe.
Cheers,
Margriet

Gina Le Faux
May-07-2011, 6:50am
Hi Margriet,
Thanks for the information.
Take care,
Gina

brunello97
May-08-2011, 7:17pm
I posted first in the 'bowlbacks of note' thread viz a modest Vinaccia that I purchased a couple weeks back on the ebay. A lively discussion about an Embergher entry-level models is taking place so rather than interrupt that, I thought to move my new Vinaccia post over here.

A range of curious discoveries now that I've had it awhile. First off, the Waverly cloud tailpiece seems to be original, or else replaces an Italian tailpiece with precisely the same screw hole geometry. I thought when removing the Waverly I'd find the palimpsest of a four-knob Italian tailpiece. No such luck. I only have a few of them around to compare, but none match the Waverly profile. Very curious. Did Vinaccia or other Italian makers in the '00 era import tailpieces? Was this imported into the US and fitted out with components? A mystery to me right now.

Two holes were apparently drilled directly beneath the bridge and getting my fingers inside the bowl finds two small wood blocks glued to the top directly astride these holes. Someone trying to rig up an internal pickup? I've never come across anything like this before. They do need to come out, but how?

I have been in touch with Dave Hynds about doing a neck reset and that remains a mid-range option. I spent a couple evenings fiddling with an old Italian bridge and with the Vinaccia nut and was able to get the action and playability in surprisingly good shape. Albeit the bridge height is wincingly low. Thank goodness for the steep break angle in the canted top. (Wasn't there just a conversation about this topic a while back?)

I strung it up with some GHS ultra lights to try things out. Still working on refining the intonation, but what a delightful tone it has. Very splendid in the treble range (the E string is wonderful) as well as in the bass (same goes for the G). I am going to put some Calaces on it after a couple weeks or so with these. Hard to put it down. I've only had a few MOR Italian bowlbacks before this one and am thus thrilled. (This was $170 US + shipping.) I am starting to realize what I have been missing. The tonal balance across the strings is remarkable even on this modest model.

I have to figure something out viz the scratchplate. I've seen nothing from Vinaccia from this period that is similar to give me a clue on what these were made of. Some of the modest Calaces from this period have nice rosewood or burled veneer inset scratchplates which look good. I have some pieces of faux tortoise NC material around as well to give a try. Without a model to work off of, I am shooting in the dark, so I won't try anything that isn't reversable.

Lastly, the lost headstock. A scroll? A carved head? I am leaning towards thinking it was a scroll due to some carved overruns on the headstock. It seems these were in fashion at the time. Curious to see on a modest model, however. Still a carved head would be great to attempt to reproduce. Who? Garibaldi and Queen Margherita are first choices. Some bunches of dried grapes (Vinaccia, after all) a close second.

Recommendations (and technical suggestions) are sincerely solicited. Excuse the long winded post. This is a very curious addition to the posse.

Mick

Jim Garber
May-08-2011, 7:41pm
Mick: C'mon... how about some better pics and from other angles. Some of the back?

brunello97
May-08-2011, 9:02pm
Uh, sure. Sorry for the lame photos. It was getting dark out and was using the flash. Will post more in the am.....

Mick

porthos
May-09-2011, 3:52pm
Hallo to all, I'm new here. I hope I soon can post some photos of my Fratelli Carabba bowlback (a 130 years old instrument).


I have to figure something out viz the scratchplate. I've seen nothing from Vinaccia from this period that is similar to give me a clue on what these were made of. Some of the modest Calaces from this period have nice rosewood or burled veneer inset scratchplates which look good. I have some pieces of faux tortoise NC material around as well to give a try. Without a model to work off of, I am shooting in the dark, so I won't try anything that isn't reversable.
Definitely, tortoise shell (celluloid, now) with mother of pearl inlays


Lastly, the lost headstock. A scroll? A carved head? I am leaning towards thinking it was a scroll due to some carved overruns on the headstock. It seems these were in fashion at the time. Curious to see on a modest model, however. Still a carved head would be great to attempt to reproduce. Who? Garibaldi and Queen Margherita are first choices. Some bunches of dried grapes (Vinaccia, after all) a close second.
A dried grapes decorated half scroll to resemble Vinaccia's name. Never thought at Vinaccia as dried grapes, and I live in Italy. Great idea.

Margriet
May-09-2011, 5:05pm
I have put a set of Aquila Nylgut mandolin strings on my mandolin and it sounds really sweet. Gina

Hi Gina,
I phoned with Alex Timmerman and he confrims that usually these kind of mandolins were stringed with brass strings, some of them twisted.
The earlier Neapolitan mandolins had often gut strings for the highest ones, the e. These Eulry 's are from later date and at that time they were stringed with all brass.
I do not know how much it means for you to be historically accurate, but I thought you might want to have this information.
Good to hear that you are playing and enjoying your mandolin ! I wished I could play mine as well, I am curious to hear the sound. Patience......time will come.
Margriet

brunello97
May-09-2011, 9:51pm
Hallo to all, I'm new here. I hope I soon can post some photos of my Fratelli Carabba bowlback (a 130 years old instrument).

Hello, Porthos....welcome to the Mandolin Cafe. Where in Itay are you from? I (and others...) would love to see your Carraba. I have only a few in my files and they are great looking mandolins. Very interesting design stylings.

The curious flourish of the scratchplate shape on my F. Vinaccia makes me wonder if they used something as complex as tortoise shell pattern or perhaps something more elegant as wood veneer. I think I will cut one of each and have a look on the mandolin itself. The wine grape/scroll idea does sound good. (Though the Garibaldi bust is a great challenge. Think of the beard! Also we in America don't know enough about Queen Margherita-except for the pizza! She deserves some attention....)

Sì, siamo stati qui per fare il vino da alcuni anni. Non sappiamo mai cosa fare con il vinaccia. Abbiamo intenzione di fare ad una distilleria in modo che possiamo fare la grappa. Forse quest'anno ...

Mick

porthos
May-10-2011, 4:24am
This is my mandolin. I think it is datable near 1900 (so its age is 110-120, not 130), because the label quotes the Palermo International exposition of 1891, and another "Esposizione italo americana" (Genova 1892).
When in 1975 i got it, I restored the neck (broken near the headstock) ad made a new fretboard. Afterwards, i had to glue two minor breaks in the back.
The other parts are all original.

porthos
May-10-2011, 4:26am
I live in Catania (yes, the city of Carabba, Puglisi, Sgroi, and many other craftmans-luthiers of the far and near past). Two other images:

Gina Le Faux
May-10-2011, 6:01am
Hi Margriet,
Thank you for the information about strings. I would like to get a set of strings that are correct for the period my mandolin was made. I do like the softer tone and lack of tension that Nylgut strings give, but I'd like to see what brass strings are like. I will record something on my mandolin and post it shortly. There are still repairs to do on my mandolin, one of the bar frets is missing and when I was restoring the fingerboard I had to fill the hole the fret was in. Now I need to make a fret and set it in place and I'll be able to play some music. How much work does your mandolin need to make it playable?
Gina

Margriet
May-10-2011, 6:38am
Hi Margriet, I would like to get a set of strings that are correct for the period my mandolin was made.

I would like as well. We will need to study or ask f.i. Eugene, Alex or maybe Eric (etbarbaric).


I will record something on my mandolin and post it shortly.
Nice, I am looking forward.


How much work does your mandolin need to make it playable?
I do not know exactly. We have the issue of removing the mechanics and filling and making holes for the pegs. The strings are too high above the fretboard; we will need to make a new bridge etc. It is not on the "priority list".

I wonder if we should open a new thread, about these mandolins.

Best, until later,
Margriet

brunello97
May-10-2011, 8:37pm
I live in Catania (yes, the city of Carabba, Puglisi, Sgroi, and many other craftmans-luthiers of the far and near past). Two other images:

Thanks, Porthos, for posting these. That is a beautiful mandolin. Very curious tuner arrangement on the headstock. Carraba mandolins are extraordinary. I see a very tapered bridge. Is the fretboard also tapered 'Roman' style? The neck appears rounded in profile rather than the Roman v-shape. Can you describe the sound of the Carraba? What music do you enjoy playing?

I am thrilled that we have someone from Catania to join us at the Mandolin Cafe! We know some things about Catania luthiers, but not nearly enough! I think Sicilian mandolins are very lovely and unfortunately get somewhat overlooked here. Credo che ci sia un po 'di snobismo qui, sbilanciata verso Embergher, Vinaccia, Calace ecc. ;)

I have a Puglisi mandola and have always loved their exuberant design styles. Our friend Plami (from Bulgaria) is also a Puglisi aficionado. Do you know much about the history of the company? They made so many mandolins in so many styles. In my opinion they have a very fascinating approach towards design.

Again, welcome to the Mandolin Cafe. We are glad you found your way here and hope you continue to join the conversations.

Mick

Graham McDonald
May-10-2011, 8:52pm
Coming in late to this conversation, but looking at Gina's mandolin, it could well be a mid 19th century instrument. The fingerboard extending over the soundboard is one clue that it is of that era. There is a French catalog from around that period which showed mandolins with pegs, even though mechanical mandolin tuners were around from the 1830s or so. The soundhole decoration does rather look mid 19th Spanish as well

Just some thoughts

graham


About a year ago I bought an interesting mandolin from an antique dealer in the UK where I live. The mandolin was labelled "Sentchordi Hermanos, Valencia". The Sentchordi workshop was in operation between 1861 - 1905 and they made guitars and bandurrias and after extensive research we found no evidence that they made any mandolins. When I first saw my mandolin I thought it was either a late 18th century Neapolitan mandolin or a copy of an instrument from that period and I assumed that Sentchordi had made it. When I had a good look at the instrument I couldn't work out the connection with Sentchordi as the mandolin was a lot earlier than 1861. The conclusion I reached was that like many other makers and dealers the Sentchordi brothers had inserted the label when they sold the mandolin. The search for the actual maker began and we couldn't find anything that bore any resemblance to my mandolin. It was a chicken and egg situation, we could not find out who made it because we had no makers name! Then, yesterday we had a "Eureka" moment whilst looking at some old threads on the cafe, we were looking for info on Lignatone mandolins. There amongst the posts was a picture of a mandolin that looked like mine and a makers name and a date. I will try and post some pics of my mandolin and I'll put some more information about it's construction and materials.

porthos
May-11-2011, 9:44am
[...]I see a very tapered bridge. Is the fretboard also tapered 'Roman' style? The neck appears rounded in profile rather than the Roman v-shape. Can you describe the sound of the Carraba? What music do you enjoy playing?
Mick
The original (rosewood) fretboard was only 3 mm thick. When I made the new one (my first attempt in repair) I started from a 6 mm thick ebony barrel, that is too much. In fact, the action is high, and the fretboard ought to be reduced to 3.5 mm, and refretted. It is hard to use this instrument for agility performances in higher positions.
The neck is V-shaped (a bit rounded V after my treatment) and covered with veneer.
The sound (I hope my poor english helps) is very powerful, loud and crisp, with a good sustain, but it is possible to obtain a ppp tremolo still sounding and present.
I like folk (root) music of my country, and I lead a little amateur group. I'm not a professional player, but we are able to make people dance until they say 'stop, stop, it's too fast'...

About Embergher, Vinaccia and Calace: They are considered real high-class luthiers, i.e. people think that every instrument with those labels is individually designed, and assembled under the direct supervision of the master, from the choice of the wood to the last screw.
In my opinion, it is true only for very few instruments, I think 1 or 2 per cent of the total.
Since 1850 to 1950 there were a big commerce of half-processed parts (primarily bodies and necks, in numbers of hundreds at a time, but also soundboards, pickguards, fretboards and inlays). So, an aristocratic-labelled instrument can be the result of a whole south Italy partnership.

Vice versa, most of the craftsmen in Catania, while working for the dirty money, really did know how to make quality instruments. Often the quality is aesthetic more than the quality of sound, but many of these "pride" instruments survive and play.

Puglisi (or Puglisi-Reale): I'll post a brief history of the company, that actually involves many years and many actors.

brunello97
May-11-2011, 7:35pm
Ciao, Porthos

From your post:

"Since 1850 to 1950 there were a big commerce of half-processed parts (primarily bodies and necks, in numbers of hundreds at a time, but also soundboards, pickguards, fretboards and inlays). So, an aristocratic-labelled instrument can be the result of a whole south Italy partnership."

......Though some folks here are skeptical, this is what a few of us have long suspected and expressed some conjecture about. Of course we wouldn't know for certain. Our Greek friend, Victor, has hinted at some inside information about this: Mandolini, come il vino siciliano, in direzione nord per essere imbottigliato in Toscana (o Napoli!)

"Puglisi (or Puglisi-Reale): I'll post a brief history of the company, that actually involves many years and many actors."

.....We would love to hear more, particularly about Puglisi and other Catania luthiers.

And of course about your music and that of your gruppo.

thank you for joining us,

Mick

Gina Le Faux
May-13-2011, 5:14am
Hi Margriet,
It may be good to open a new thread re Eulry mandolins, or early mandolins.
What do you think?
Take care,
Gina

Margriet
May-13-2011, 5:25am
Hi Gina,
that will be more "fitting" to the topic. I hope, that there will chime in more people. Maybe "early mandolins" is better, that way it can handle about more types, like mandolino's, Brescian, Lombardian, Milanese, Cremonese mandolins. I also was thinking to start a group. But I think a thread will be fine.

Margriet

Gina Le Faux
May-13-2011, 3:38pm
Hi Margriet,
That sounds good to me. When shall we begin the thread?
Gina

Margriet
May-13-2011, 4:05pm
Hi Margriet,
When shall we begin the thread?
Gina
Ha, yesterday....
I am available from sunday. Maybe the best is to start the thread within the classical section. Let us find a nice attracking title.
Cheers,
Margriet

Gina Le Faux
May-14-2011, 2:17pm
Here are some pics of another mandolin I have. I think it's an Embergher 5-bis model and I think it's a copy. Has anyone got any idea who made it and when it was made please?

Ed Goist
May-14-2011, 5:28pm
Wow Gina, that is a gorgeous mandolin!
Looks to me like it might have a Mahogany top(?)
Congratulations. Very nice.

Schlegel
May-14-2011, 6:23pm
That is not a bad-looking copy, actually, but the bridge and fretboard extension don't look quite right. I think it feels German. Peghead looks incomplete? Originals would have a square finial.

Gina Le Faux
May-14-2011, 7:44pm
Wow Gina, that is a gorgeous mandolin!
Looks to me like it might have a Mahogany top(?)
Congratulations. Very nice.

Thank you Ed. The belly is spruce and it looks like mahogany because of the colour of the varnish.

Gina Le Faux
May-14-2011, 7:50pm
That is not a bad-looking copy, actually, but the bridge and fretboard extension don't look quite right. I think it feels German. Peghead looks incomplete? Originals would have a square finial.

Hi Schlegel, The scroll has been broken off and I think the fingerboard is not the original one. The nut looks as though it has been moved back and a zero fret has been added. The fingerboard on this mandolin is flat and I would have expected it to have a radiused fingerboard. I don't know if the bridge is a replacement or it's the original, it's not a compensated bridge and it's not what I would expect to see on an original Embergher.

Schlegel
May-14-2011, 8:02pm
Yes, the originals are radiused, but a zero fret is normal for an Embergher-type mandolin. How is the sound? It does appear well-made at first glance.

Gina Le Faux
May-14-2011, 8:13pm
It is a very well made mandolin, but it's not playable at the moment due to a previous owner putting the wrong strings on it and the action is a bit high as a result. I could probably play it as it is but I would prefer to re-set the neck and put a better fingerboard on it first. There is a small belly crack that needs glueing and studding and I need to check over the inside and see if the struts to the belly are all ok. I have worked on hundreds of violins and quite a few flatback mandolins over the years, but I have not taken the top of a roundback mandolin before and I'm open to any advice as to the best way to do it.

porthos
May-20-2011, 10:49am
Hello,

I intended to rush myself a little bit more in finding out informations about "Puglisi", in order to make a more comprehensive profile of the factory and the instruments, before to publish it. There`s still a file in my PC with the names of few people "to write to" in order to learn something new or to cross-confirm already known things, but Jim`s request and the hard days which come along my life, make me to share with you the results of my Puglisi research at the moment. I hope it will become more complete in the future.


The Company.

The Puglisi family has started to build musical instruments in Catania (Sicily) since 1820. Giuseppe(G.) Reale was born in 1852 and was the son of a piano and organ builder. In 1880 he has founded one of the largest Italian factories for manufacturing bowed and plucked string instruments. After 1906 the firm`s name appears already as "G. Puglisi Reale i Figli(o)". Figli(o) means "sons" in Italian. The sons are Concetto Puglisi and Michelangelo Puglisi. Michelangelo Puglisi ran the workshop successfully after 1909 and his son Salvatore also played a part in this. They were active makers of fine violins (mainly), bows, strings, guitars, mandolins and unique cellos. Unfortunately the factory was destroyed during WWII by bombardment in 1943. Although it was rebuilt and some noted instruments were built after this time, many of the original Puglisi family susbsequently migrated from Sicily to USA, Canada and Australia. After Salvatore`s death his son-in-law Buccheri took over the factory. Before he died he gave all the factory tools to Alfredo Privitera, who established the Privitera company in 1962, which makes the instruments like Puglisi used to make. The Privitera factory still exists in Catania and is located on "Via Scuto Costarelli".


The Instruments.

Most of the "G. Puglisi Reale i Figli" mandolins I`ve seen have very similar construction or even the same. No doubt for me - typical Neapolitan bowlback mandolins, 21 ribs - bowl and neck made of rosewood, ebony fingerboard, spruce top, oval hole. Ebony bridge with ivory on it, the headstock has a typical form. V-form neck, 28-30 mm. at the nut, flat fingerboard with 17 bars (usually with dots on 3. 5. 7. 12. ending at the hole) or over the hole extension with 26 bars. Butterfly inlay of a different kind is also very typical, but also decorations with flowers, birds, etc. could be found. The mandolins are often mother-of-pearl inlaid, cuts ornamented, but there are also plain instruments. The most mandolins have an oval seal on the top, behind the bridge with the inscription "G. Puglisi Reale i Figli Catania" and an Ant inside. This is a distinguishing mark of the "Puglisi" mandolins. Inside the mandolin there should be a label with the same ant mark, but round and the following inscription: "G. PUGLISI REALE & FIGLI; PRIMO STABILIMENTO ITALIANO PER LA FABRICAZIONE DI STRUMENTI A CORDA; MARCA DI FABRICA CATANIA". The year of manufacture should be written as well. Once I came across an information about 12-string, flatback mandolin made by Puglisi, but this isn`t confirmed by now. The Puglisi mandolins should be defined as a middle class instruments. They were made exceptionally for export. So, today you can find them all over the world - in every European country, Russia, Japan, USA, Australia, Brazil, South Africa. The last one, that I saw was in Uruguay. Of course, it depends on every single instrument, but I think the price for a Puglisi mandolin in a good playable condition should be around 200-300$.
The price of the other "Puglisi" instruments - violins and cellos is much, much higher.


I was trying to post a brief story of the Puglisi (Giuseppe, the father, and Michelangelo and Concetto, the sons) family of luthiers in Catania, but Palmen Ivanov from Sofia already did that.
Nothing much to add, except for some details.
The firm by Michelangelo and Concetto Puglisi (sons of Giuseppe) was founded in Catania on 4-4-1925, based in Via Carità 59 as a "Fabbrica di mandolini".
Both the two brothers also were violin makers, but they labelled the violins personally.
A few days later (25-4-1925) Luigi, another son of Giuseppe, established a firm also based in Catania, via Messina 184, as "Commercio di pianoforti e fabbrica di strumenti musicali a corda" (Piano trading and stringed instruments factory), ceased 1937.
A daughter of Michelangelo, Graziella Puglisi, on 12-6-1957 established a partnership with Francesco Catania (another recurring name in that years) to establish another firm that lasted only until 29-7-1959 when it was declared insolvent.
Another attempt by Francesco Catania and Graziella Puglisi was started on the same date, 29-7-1959, and ended with another declaration of insolvency on 30-1-1962.
At that time Alfredo Privitera, a former employee of Michelangelo from the age of 12, bought for a symbolic price the tools and the remaining wood and started his firm.
I personally know Alfredo Privitera, now in his seventies. He and his 2 employees fiercely fight the battle of entry level instruments against the almond-eyed competitors. His bowlbacks and flatback mandolins are very simple and cheap. They are serially and rapidly built but they have an exceptionally good sound and playability for their price.
I also tested a few very high quality mandolins he made with precious wood. From time to time he makes a few of them, and their sound and look are really exciting. He also builds bouzukis, banjos, mandolas and mandoloncellos.

Margriet
May-20-2011, 1:56pm
A daughter of Michelangelo, Graziella Puglisi, on 12-6-1957 established a partnership with Francesco Catania (another recurring name in that years) to establish another firm that lasted only until 29-7-1959 when it was declared insolvent.
Another attempt by Francesco Catania and Graziella Puglisi was started on the same date, 29-7-1959, and ended with another declaration of insolvency on 30-1-1962.



I have a mandolin with a brandmark "Graziella". I wonder if this is from the same atelier. To me it seems to be from older date, in the Vinaccia style.

72397 72398

Margriet

brunello97
May-20-2011, 2:06pm
I highly doubt this is from the same Catanian builder that Porthos is speaking about, Margriet. I have a label from a 'Graziella' which locates that particular firm in Napoli. (Thought there may be others, it is not an uncommon name....) This label is from a far more modest bowlback than yours, but as Porthos suggests it may have actually been made somewhere else and labeled in Napoli. Do you have an image of the label in yours?

Porthos, thank you for the update on the Puglisi story. It is amazing how long that tradition has lasted. Do you have any images of Alfredo Privitera's work to share? Is his shop in Catania?

Mick

Margriet
May-20-2011, 2:50pm
Do you have an image of the label in yours?
Mick

Thanks Mick,
Unfortunately I have no label, only that brandmark, that your's doesn't seem to have. It is a well made instrument, with (German silver?) between the ribs.

Margriet

brunello97
May-20-2011, 3:55pm
Margriet, the photo you posted appears to have a label visible through the soundhole. It is hard to see but resembles the Graziella label I posted. Is this a mandolin that you own?

Mick

Margriet
May-20-2011, 4:08pm
O, Mick , I am só sorry !

It is an instrument that we own and I went upstairs to find her. But it was in a place that I could not reach and my dear Beert was not at home. Sorry, sorry :redface::redface:
Stupid me.....

Indeed, it has eaxactly the same label as yours......

Do you know something of this maker?

Thanks,
Margriet

brunello97
May-20-2011, 4:14pm
Thanks for checking, Margriet. I don't know anything more about Graziella. The picture I have is from the web, I don't own that mandolin. I have a collection of images of Italian bowlbacks and am putting together a compendium of the makers. I know Jim Garber and Dave Hynds both have extensive image collections (and maybe some others do as well.) Jim and I have spoken about combining our files but haven't done so yet. I would like to format a little 'coffee table book', as we call them, and have some copies printed up. I have begun setting up the basic pages but it will take some time. I'm always adding to the collection and your 'Graziella' stamp/imprint is a welcome addition! Thanks!

BTW, does your piccolo mandolin that you have been repairing have a label in it?

Mick

Margriet
May-20-2011, 4:31pm
Soon I will make a photo of the label of Graziella and send it to you. The piccolo, yes, it has a label and a very nice one ! You find it at "bowlbacks of note", recently posted.

Margriet

brunello97
May-20-2011, 5:15pm
Doh. Yes, thank you, Margriet. I had already double checked the Rubino label. I'm getting sloppy.....

Mick

porthos
May-21-2011, 4:05am
...Do you have any images of Alfredo Privitera's work to share? Is his shop in Catania?
Mick

Yes, it's in Catania.
I'll go to his shop next week, I think, because I need advice about a 1965 Eko banjo with a too much high action, and I'll carry the camera. If he's not overloaded with work, i'll take some photos. Anyway, I could take a photo of a mandolin that a friend recently bought from him.

brunello97
May-21-2011, 2:35pm
Eko! Ecco è un grande nome per gli strumenti. I have a bowlback made by the Favilla brothers (in New York) probably in the '10s or '20s with "EKO" inlaid in the headstock (along with a Favilla 'Marca Aquila' label.) I've never been able to figure any connection between this and the EKO company active in the post-war era. Tom Favilla told me their was an earlier EKO company working in the '20s but didn't have any other information on his family's relationship to them. All kind of confusing. This Favilla is a great sounding mandolin. They are an under-appreciated builder here.

I look forward to your photos, Porthos. Some street views from Catania would be great also. :) It is one of the four mythical mandolin cities (Napoli, Roma, Kalamazoo, Catania). I have never been there but would enjoy a visit one day, hopefully soon.

Mick

brunello97
May-21-2011, 3:32pm
Porthos, is Carlo Privitera related to Alfredo Privitera? I recently saw this mandolin advertised on ebay.it.

http://cgi.ebay.it/MANDOLINO-NAPOLETANO-A-DOGHE-M-CARLO-PRIVITERA-NUOVO-/250781104894?pt=Archi_e_Strumenti_a_Corda&hash=item3a63b7fafe#ht_689wt_1036

It looks fairly modest, but it is important, as you say, to continue making instruments in the homeland in the face of an onslaught of inexpensive imports.

Mick

porthos
May-21-2011, 6:26pm
Never heard of Carlo Privitera.
You can see a mandolin by Alfredo Privitera (the most basic bowlback) here:
http://cgi.ebay.it/MANDOLINO-NAPOLETANO-LIUTERIA-SICILIANA-/350453840743?pt=Archi_e_Strumenti_a_Corda&hash=item5198ad3b67

My banjo is from Eko in Italy, made in 1965. I know the Eko (italian) firm, based in Castelfidardo, the city of many accordion factories, as the first Italian attempt to make cheap and popular string instruments. Eko still exists and resells chinese instruments.

porthos
May-25-2011, 7:56am
I'm looking for info about this mandolin. No label. Probably 1940-50, probably Geneva or North Italy. Cedar top, maple body and a somewhat strange bone/ebony Greek Mask as a pickguard. The inner side of the body is coated with parchment.
Some pics:

Jim Garber
May-25-2011, 8:00am
Very interesting. Can you post some pics of the back of the neck joint and headstock? Round vs. oval holes are relatively unusual for this period. Why do you say Geneva or North Italy? Just curious.

porthos
May-25-2011, 8:14am
...Why do you say Geneva or North Italy?

The mandolin has been hung on a wall for near 50 years in a region of Northern Italy, Piemonte (brunello, it is a great wine land), and now a luthier friend (she makes harps and early music instruments and hates mandolins) is restoring it, mainly varnish work and top repairs.

I posted the only pics I have.

Jim Garber
May-25-2011, 8:27am
The mandolin has been hung on a wall for near 50 years in a region of Northern Italy, Piemonte (brunello, it is a great wine land), and now a luthier friend (she makes harps and early music instruments and hates mandolins) is restoring it, mainly varnish work and top repairs.

Hates mandolins.... then why is she restoring it? That should be against the law. She might smash it!! :)

Any clue what that mask inlay depicts?

brunello97
May-25-2011, 10:05am
The mandolin has been hung on a wall for near 50 years in a region of Northern Italy, Piemonte (brunello, it is a great wine land), and now a luthier friend (she makes harps and early music instruments and hates mandolins) is restoring it, mainly varnish work and top repairs.


Very curious mandolin, Porthos, and I can't offer much help. If I had to guess I'd say it looked Catanese from the headstock shape and the way the fretboard terminates at the round hole.

Not to be a quibbler, but are you thinking of Barolo as the signature wine from the Piemonte? Nebbiolo based wines thrive there (I love the word....nebbio) such the great Barbarescos. Also wonderful wines from there are Barberas and Dolcettos, the later particularly hard to find in the US and typically overpriced. I'm very fond of them. We've driven up through that area a number of times and it is beautiful. My wife makes a great hazelnut cake that she learned from a woman up there. From my experience, Brunellos are Tuscan wines, from down near Montalcino.

Mick

porthos
May-25-2011, 12:21pm
To be precise: she hates playing the mandolin. I think that when she wants to pluck some strings, she plays her psaltery, or her many harps.

I'm not skilled at all in classical greek theater masks, and I think that a mask on a mandolin means only "this deals with art".
However, this kind of grotesque triangular masks (that are called "sphenopògon" or "wedge bearded") were used for characters like old men or slaves.

brewcrew82
Jun-10-2011, 12:52am
purty dern fancy, a work of art, good luck. Im sureit will sound as nice as it looks.

roady43
Jun-25-2011, 6:42pm
Hello
Just found mandolincafe some days ago and like to introduce myself by presenting some pictures of my recently acquired "La Gioiosa" made by Klaus Knorr. As everybody here will recognize it is one of those modern German style instruments. It is nearly brand new and has rarely been played yet. Fortunately the fret board is not extremely broad which is an advantage for me because I don't have big hands and my main instrument is the violin. I bought it from a friend who had 2. I took it because of the sound quality which I like very much and its beauty. After 3 weeks of daily playing it is developing well. There will be done some tiny adjustments to the saddle and the bridge to fit my needs even better...

roady43



73643736447364573646

brunello97
Jun-25-2011, 7:38pm
Welcome, Roady. Thanks for sharing images of your new mandolin. It is nice to get a good look at one of these modern German instruments. Is that maple (ahorn) on the back? Very pretty.

La Gioiosa, eh? That's wonderful. I've been feeling a bit that way myself this week.

Mick

Ed Goist
Jun-25-2011, 7:48pm
Roady; welcome to the Cafe.
Wow - What a beautiful mandolin!
I love the overall look, and especially the slot-head.
Does the fretboard have a radius, or is it flat?
Thanks;
Ed

Tavy
Jun-26-2011, 2:33am
That's one lovely looking instrument - congratulations!

roady43
Jun-26-2011, 7:24am
Thank you all!
Yes the bowl-back is maple (the friends Knorr mandolin is of rosewood) and the fretboard is flat (I guess this is German standart). During the month of May I had the chance to borrow an as beautiful Seiffert from the same person (we played together several performances). Must be one from his last working period (2001). It was maple as well, very similar build but had a wider fretboard (that really was a challenge for me!). The sound was softer and not so "substantial" in the lower registers (D/G string).
More about Seiffert here in the forum:
http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?9320-Reinhold-Seiffert-mandolin

The Knorr "La Gioiosa" weights less which makes it a bit easier to keep. Still, I need a rubber cloth to prevent those slippery bowl-backs to turn wherever they like... The sound is much defined and focused, sustain is like on a Steinway, it carries very far (I think because of the strong overtones) and some friends prefer to enjoy the sound more keeping some distance. I do not play with these German rubber plectrums (didn't even know they exist until I got one with the Knorr) but with a approx. 0.7mm kind of celluoid pick which I cut and file to the desired shape (still testing).

roady43

roady43
Aug-10-2011, 5:58pm
Here comes a cute little mostlikely German made Mandolin (ex GDR, Vogtland 70ies?) with some interesting features.

The maple back has uniquely "arranged" ribs. Does anybody know other instruments with a similar configuration? The side ribs show some slight birdseyes. The curved (!) fretboard is extremely strange and rather uncomfortable to play (one never reaches the wood). I made a lower bridge and it is better now but I really don't know who can play on such high frets seriously? Or is it only me wondering?

I think the all-in-all concept of this instrument could be influenced by Roman models. Several parts of the instrument are marked with the same number (e.g. under the bridge, on struts). It is very carefully crafted, only the frets show some raw spots in the highest positions. The spuce top shows 1 gued crack on the right and another one in the middle wich probably has been glued from inside (it doesn't move so far!). The sound is sweet and elegant.

roady43

Jim Garber
Aug-10-2011, 8:33pm
I think the frets on this one are a way to introduce some radius to the fretboard without touching the actual wood. I believe that student model Emberghers have that set up with the radiused bar frets.

delsbrother
Aug-10-2011, 9:50pm
Is the way the ribs are arranged (in a chevron pattern) common?

roady43
Aug-11-2011, 7:01pm
I think the frets on this one are a way to introduce some radius to the fretboard without touching the actual wood. I believe that student model Emberghers have that set up with the radiused bar frets.

Yes it seems that on some Embergher student (A-?) models this is similar. On mine the wood still has a curve but not as pronounced as the frets. BTW the fretboard is some milimeters higher on the G string than on the E string side. Even the scratch plate is shaped very similarly and there is a zero fret too. It has 27 frets which I think is rare on student instruments.

roady43

roady43
Aug-11-2011, 7:40pm
Is the way the ribs are arranged (in a chevron pattern) common?

That's what I was wondering about. I couldn't find pictures of mandolines from this perspetive. Maybe "mantled" bowlbacks are build the same way beneath the bottom cover.

roady43

Schlegel
Aug-11-2011, 8:46pm
That's what I was wondering about. I couldn't find pictures of mandolines from this perspetive. Maybe "mantled" bowlbacks are build the same way beneath the bottom cover.

roady43

It's not the usual way, no. Most often the staves come more or less to a single point, but there are variations.

roady43
Aug-30-2011, 5:19pm
Now since I made a new bridge (not the one on the pictures) I'm getting used to play with these high-heel frets. At least the string position is fine now. It still feels strange but it doesn't make playing impossible any more. It's like walking on a grid. I'm more and more convinced that the mandolin was influenced by the Embergher student model A. The intonation is extremely good (I would say perfect) through all positions and octaves - this is very gratifying and was not self-evident, specially for an Ebay cheapo...

roady43



Here comes a cute little mostlikely German made Mandolin (ex GDR, Vogtland 70ies?) with some interesting features.

The maple back has uniquely "arranged" ribs. Does anybody know other instruments with a similar configuration? The side ribs show some slight birdseyes. The curved (!) fretboard is extremely strange and rather uncomfortable to play (one never reaches the wood). I made a lower bridge and it is better now but I really don't know who can play on such high frets seriously? Or is it only me wondering?

I think the all-in-all concept of this instrument could be influenced by Roman models. Several parts of the instrument are marked with the same number (e.g. under the bridge, on struts). It is very carefully crafted, only the frets show some raw spots in the highest positions. The spuce top shows 1 gued crack on the right and another one in the middle wich probably has been glued from inside (it doesn't move so far!). The sound is sweet and elegant.

roady43

sonicbaker
Sep-04-2011, 1:47am
75919


I found this Mayflower on my father in-law's shelf collecting dust (for about 50 years.) He's not a player and just had it as a decoration since the 60's when he obtained it. The original pickguard was brittle and much had already fallen off, so I replaced it. Otherwise, it was in great shape. Here's a link to the whole set of pictures.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonicbaker/sets/72157627587500524/

and a sound sample

http://snd.sc/oeOlcD

Schlegel
Sep-04-2011, 7:21am
Nice! Looks like a Vega-made mandolin. I've become rather fond of Vegas.

roady43
Sep-04-2011, 8:48am
Here comes a picture of the new rosewood bridge which I adapted for better playability. The original bridge (in the backround) was much to high and was positioned to close (string length to short!). It seems to be made of painted pearwood or similar.

75921

roady43

loess
Sep-29-2011, 1:25am
Cafe friends,

I've enjoyed this thread immensely, especially as I've become increasingly fascinated with bowlbacks and with classical and Italian mandolin repertoire. Naturally, I developed a desire to own an American-made bowlback of ~100 year vintage. I've spent the past few months poring over the Cafe forum archives, Google-ing my heart out, and scouring eBay for research and potential purchases. Two days ago I posted a wanted ad on my local Craigslist, but not really expecting to land anything worth my while (Nebraska is not known for being a mandolin hotbed, and certainly not for bowlback instruments in playable shape).

Well, it's evident that the universe is smiling upon me, and truly wants me to achieve my dreams. I'm elated that I can now humbly submit my application for membership to the Order of the Bowl. Yesterday I received an e-mail from an 85 year-old gentleman who lives not more than a few miles from me, indicating that he had a "very purty" bowlback for sale. I met him last night, and after a lovely chat and an hour of picking together (on his Gibson F4 and A2, no less!), I left as the joyful new owner of this MayFlower Mandolin:


76667 76670 76671
76668 7666976672

I'm fairly confident and excited that this is a possible Larson-made instrument, given the information that I've culled from here and elsewhere on the web. It appears mine is virtually identical to this one (http://www.gbase.com/gear/larson-brothers-mayflower-ornate-bowlba-1905#). The gentleman I bought the mandolin from owned it for over 30 years. I asked, but he couldn't recall where he originally obtained it. In any case, he's taken impeccable care of it, always leaving the strings de-tuned while in storage. There's not a crack on it, and as far as my amateur eyes can tell, no top sinkage or neck heel separation either. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to call this beautiful mandolin my very own, and to have a new friend with which to pick rags and jazz tunes.

I'm curious about the bridge position. Before I take it to a bowlback-experienced luthier for a once-over and setup, I'd like to ensure that the bridge does in fact belong on the lower side of the cant, as pictured. How come some bowlbacks are constructed with the bridge on the top side of the cant, and some on the bottom? As for a fresh set of strings, I understand GHS A-240s are the most widely available, but I'd greatly appreciate any suggestions for an upgrade to those. Much thanks for any advice y'all can impart.

Adam

Tavy
Sep-29-2011, 5:58am
Looks like a nice one Adam!

I'm fairly sure however, that all bowlbacks were intended to have the bridge on the upper section of the soundboard and not the canted section. The key word here is "intended" because ultimately bridge position is determined by whatever location you need to get the instrument to play in tune. Sometimes lowering the bridge to get a decent playing action can fix problems like this though - which is to say a bridge that gives a lower action can be further forward and still play in tune compared to a higher bridge which requires a position further back to compensate for the strings being pulled out of tune when fretting. In addition a higher bridge results in more pull on the neck, often pulling a weak bowlback neck further forward resulting in an even higher action - resulting in a viscious circle of issues.

HTH, John.

Jim Garber
Sep-29-2011, 7:01am
I'm fairly sure however, that all bowlbacks were intended to have the bridge on the upper section of the soundboard and not the canted section.

The only maker that I am aware of that breaks that rule is Vega and they did make instruments for other brands tho i am not so sure about Mayflowers. I do have a Mayflower catalog in my files and will check to see what the pics there show. However, as John says, the proof is really in the intonation.

I just checked the Mayflower catalog (http://www.paperclipdesign.com/19ctunes/mayflowercatalog_sm.pdf) (which you can look at at that link) and the pictures all show the bridges on the tailpiece side of the cant. I am not sure whether Vega made these, tho it is possible.

BTW the OP's mandolin looks like a high end on the MF line.

roady43
Sep-29-2011, 5:37pm
Cafe friends,

... As for a fresh set of strings, I understand GHS A-240s are the most widely available, but I'd greatly appreciate any suggestions for an upgrade to those. Much thanks for any advice y'all can impart.

Adam

Congratulations! What a beauty in mint condition! As the former owner carefully de-tuned the strings when not played, the bridge probably moved back each time a bit more (but not into position any more when tuned again)...

Maybe try the Fisoma Consort Mandolin strings (Burnished Bronze) by Lenzner strings. These strings were developed for the Embergher mandolins and other historic mandolins. I see that big city string shop has them.

roady43

brunello97
Sep-29-2011, 8:36pm
Thanks, Roady, I usually get my strings from Big City but hadn't yet had a recommendation for the Fisomas. I will give them a try.

BTW, I'd love to see more pictures of the Mayflower……

Mick

Jim Garber
Sep-29-2011, 9:12pm
I have used Fisomas -- they used to be under the Lenzner Label and were designed by Alex Timmerman. I personally prefer Dogal Calace RW92b (dolce) (http://bernunzio.com/products/QRRW92B). They sound quite nice on my Vega.

brunello97
Sep-29-2011, 9:25pm
Jim, I didn't know that Alex was behind the Fisomas. I've tried some of the Dogals and like them very very much. I have them on my two Ditson/Leland/L+H/Larson/Vega (whatever?!) canted top flatbacks. They sound really great. (Carlo A tried out the Ditson/Leland when I was down visiting Eug in Ohio and was very complimentary. That mandolin is a dream.) The Fisomas are earmarked for my Favilla bowl. I'm looking forward to that and will get back with a response.

Mick

Jim Garber
Sep-30-2011, 8:25am
I believe that Lenzner and Fisoma merged and the Consort strings originally commissioned by Alex under the Lenzner label were transferred to Fisoma. or something like that. I prob have a set of those earlier consorts. I wonder if they are collectible?

loess
Sep-30-2011, 2:03pm
Thanks all for the helpful and congratulatory comments, and for the links to Bernunzio and Big City. I've just placed an order at Big City Strings for the Fisoma Consorts. I understand from perusing the forum archives that they have a bit of a break-in period, which will be a great incentive for me to practice daily! I'll probably give the Dogals a try and when it comes time to change strings.

Mick, I'd be happy to shoot some additional photos taken this weekend. Are there any areas on the mandolin that you'd like to see detailed close-up photos of?

Very cool Mayflower catalog, Jim. These two Mayflowers and Larson-made Stahl show the bridge on the tail side as well:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/L132-NR-ANTIQUE-1905-LARSON-BROTHERS-MAYFLOWER-ORNATE-BOWLBACK-MANDOLIN-/300597471629
http://www.folkwaymusic.com/images/instruments/misc/larson-0511.jpg
http://www.larsonbrothersguitars.com/mandolinpopuphtml/mandobowl.htm

Adam

Schlegel
Sep-30-2011, 2:46pm
Not sure on this one. I have long thought that many of the Mayflowers were made by Vega, and this one has a lot of Vega looks. all 3 of my vegas, the bridge is intentionally below the cant, my three Larsons, the bridges are all above the cant. And the bridge saddle construction on this one very much matches the Vega style. But the fretboard end profile on this one matches one of my Larsons and not the Vegas. I suspect interior construction details will be needed to convincingly settle things. The Larsons had their own ideas about what to put on the inside of a soundboard and that can help us out in times when the outside was made to the wholesaler's specs.

roady43
Oct-01-2011, 4:26am
Bridge position should be possible to be defined by measuring string lenght up to 12th fret and then be at least double distance from the nut.

The Fisoma strings by Lenzner exist and existed as "normal" Bronxe (before the Consort version). Alex Timmermans found them the closest to the old Roman originals sold by Embergher and got in contact with Lenzner to refine them for historic instruments (that's how I understood that field of knowledge). I think that Fisoma became a label of the Lenzner brand (the Fisoma company was founded in 1790 by Johann Georg Ficker http://www.museum-markneukirchen.de/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=835 ).

roady43

Jim Garber
Oct-01-2011, 8:27am
I just checked my Maurer bowlback and the correct position of the bridge seems to be the soundhole side of the cant. In fact, all the pics of the Maurers I have in my files have the same bridge position.

brunello97
Oct-01-2011, 10:09am
Adam, for me it is hard to feel confident about the bridge location on any mandolin based on its photograph in an ad. Once in a player's hands and set up correctly then I would feel better about making projections. The bridge may be improperly positioned in the photos, or perhaps located to improve the action on a mandolin with a neck that is out of alignment.

That said the location of the cant on a bowlback is tied to the geometry (and construction) of the bowl. Any discrepancies in the bowl edge profile is going to influence where the cant is. From the many examples, Vega did seem to develop its bowl geometry to position the bridge south of the cant. But I have backed off on that being a sole indicator of Veganess. It doesn't obviate how small deviations in construction on individual mandolins might result in the bridge position varying. I have had a few bowls (Italian and American) where the proper bridge position was directly on top of the cant. Hard to imagine that was a design decision.

I'm with Schlegel in proceeding slowly with Larson attributions. With all due respect, Bob Hartmann himself hasn't always proved to be the most reliable source. I'm certainly no expert, and I hope the mandolin proves to be whatever you best wish it is. I think it is a beautiful mandolin with a nice balance between flair and elegant proportions. Any additional images would be a pleasure to see. Closeups of the neck, soundhole detailing, top etc. would be great. The Larsons often showed their hand(s) around these areas besides.

Thanks!

Mick

loess
Oct-03-2011, 1:43am
I'll defer to proper intonation with regard to the bridge placement. My initial concern was that I had read that over time, a bridge placed on the tailpiece side of a mandolin that was designed to have the bridge sit on the soundhole side could potentially cause damage to the instrument.

As for the mandolin's Larson-ness (or lack thereof), I'm mostly interested for historical purposes and the enjoyment I get out of pursuing its genealogy. Hopefully the photos below will shed more light on that. But ultimately, whatever its pedigree, I'm delighted that it has come into my hands, and look forward with excitement to the musical journeys that it will take me on.

76783 7678276784 7678576786 76787

loess
Oct-03-2011, 1:49am
More neck photos:

76788 76789 76790

brunello97
Oct-03-2011, 7:52am
Thanks, Adam, for the additional photos. It is extremely well crafted and in truly pristine condition. Had it been cased all these years? Of course let the intonation guide the location of the bridge. If it is south of the cant by a few millimeters, provided that the instrument maintains its structural integrity I doubt it will be a problem. I don't recall if I have ever seen the bracing on a Vega to see if it was repositioned relative to mandolins with 'normal' bridge positioning. Maybe someone here has a photo that shows something.

I think the Larson Debates will go on as long as there are mandolin players. Whatever its provenance it is a beautiful instrument and is again in good hands. Enjoy playing it!

Mick

Schlegel
Oct-03-2011, 6:39pm
Even if it is Vega made, it would still be among the better American mandolins. The equal of Martin, IMO.

brunello97
Oct-04-2011, 10:59pm
Even if it is Vega made, it would still be among the better American mandolins. The equal of Martin, IMO.

Good point. For all of the conversations and debate over Larson-ness here (and their typically high level of craft) there has been little discussion about how they sound. I have a couple 'Brilliantone' mandolins, marketed by L+H, which Bob Hartmann attributes to the Larsons in his book. I am leaning towards Vega these days. They both sound exceptionally good whoever made them.

Mick

roady43
Dec-26-2011, 9:22am
This is a nice Herwiga bolwback I bought from eBay recently. The seller says it's about 80 years old. Many similar instruments every week to be found. If in good condition, these can be an excellent alternative to the much more expensive italian bowlbacks (which often are offered in very bad condition). There was a crack which possibly is a result of shipping (was not visible on the pictures). First I tried to glue it just from outside by pressing the sides together but it wasn't possible to get it fixed. So I placed a wood splint into the crack and glued again (always with hide glue). I have to make a new bridge because the one it was delivered with, didn't fit.
These instruments are often very good build and were really made for playing (in contrast to many italian tourist crap bowlbacks). The sound, intonation and sustain is very good.

roady43

Cary Fagan
Dec-26-2011, 9:53am
I've always understood Mayflowers to have been made by Vega. And photo comparisons have always confirmed it in my own mind. The headstock and the shape of the bowl particularly. I restored a Mayflower once and was impressed by the way the ribs of the bowl were curved so that the bowl had a lovely smooth feel to it, unlike Lyon and Healys in which each individual rib was flat so that the bowl was really a series of angled planes (if that's the way to describe it.)

Kip Carter
Dec-26-2011, 9:56am
I must say these are some beautiful pieces!
Kip...

roady43
Jan-31-2012, 7:14pm
Now my "Embergher Orchestra 1" (1913) is back home after repair: new fretboard and bridge (customized for my needs on special order), fixed gap in back, bowl varnished new. I'm thrilled by it's brilliant "silvery" tone, volume and stunning sustain and: this little mandolin seems to carry very far...

roady43

Jim Garber
Jan-31-2012, 11:14pm
customized for my needs on special order

What was done to make it custom? Was the fretboard widened?

roady43
Feb-01-2012, 5:02pm
What was done to make it custom? Was the fretboard widened?

Yes, by giving more height and continuing the angle of the neck (= more stability as a desired side effect). We won an extra 3mm specially at the nut (I used to slip down from the E-string before). On the other side the distances between the strings at the bridge are smaller than on the original Embergher bridge (now playing fifth is still possible even in higher positions). Then: the markings (mother-of-pearl) now are on the side instead in the middle of the fretboard (where they were useless for me). The bronze frets are slim like the originals. It is very comfortable to play.

roady43

Jim Garber
Feb-01-2012, 5:21pm
Yes, by giving more height and continuing the angle of the neck (= more stability as a desired side effect). We won an extra 3mm specially at the nut (I used to slip down from the E-string before).

Is this what you mean?

roady43
Feb-01-2012, 7:27pm
Exactly Jim. Slightly more material on the left (G-string), like on original Embergher fretboards (and copies).

roady43

brunello97
Feb-01-2012, 9:58pm
Very interesting detail, Roady. I thought those were shadow lines in your upper right photo of the back of the mandolin. So that is the 'overhang' of the fretboard. Nice.

Mick

roady43
Feb-02-2012, 8:26pm
Very interesting detail, Roady. I thought those were shadow lines in your upper right photo of the back of the mandolin. So that is the 'overhang' of the fretboard. Nice.

Mick

Thank you Mick. In fact it turned out exactly as I hoped it would. Very comfortable. For the bridge I gave the luthier a 1:1 foto of my Knorr so he made these proportions the same. Last summer I replaced the original nut and bridge of the Knorr for the same reason: comfort and playability of fifth (etc.). Therefore the "overhang" here is now mainly on the G-srting side on top of the fretboard. But that does not disturb me - it only looks a bit strange for a "well informed eye". Funny thing: no problem to switch between the two instruments although they're completely different.

roady43

Fiffoff
Mar-09-2012, 7:12pm
Here's my Weymann Bowlback Mandolin, serial # 5699
835608356183562835638356483565835668356783568
83569

Jim Garber
Mar-10-2012, 4:09pm
That is a classy instrument, Chris. I love the detail on the bridge ...very unusual.

vic-victor
Mar-10-2012, 8:36pm
The pictures of a no-name ornate bowlback's wreck offered for sale on a Russian website. I thought I'd post them here before they perish.

836098361083611836128361383614

vic-victor
Apr-04-2012, 6:36am
The pictures of a no-name ornate bowlback's wreck offered for sale on a Russian website. I thought I'd post them here before they perish.

836098361083611836128361383614

This is actually a higer-end Puglisi. The owner wants over a grand for this wreck :)

brunello97
Apr-04-2012, 7:53am
This is actually a higer-end Puglisi. The owner wants over a grand for this wreck :)

It must be filled with tiny amphorae of (still drinkable) wine.

Mick

Tom Haywood
Apr-14-2012, 10:59am
Can anyone ID this one? There is no identifying info in or on it. The tailpiece has no engraving. All I know is that it was played at folk dances in California in the 1940s.
8501985020

Jim Garber
Apr-14-2012, 2:08pm
That is not so easy. Lots of no-name mandolins with eagles on the pickguard. I think that various eagle inlays were available from pearl manufacturers and that various makers used them.

One possibility is William Tonk. I have a 1901 catalog picturing a mandolin (on the right) with a similar inlay in the pickguard and similar peghead shape. The fretboard is much fancier.

The other I have in my files is Hartmann & Reinhard from New York City which has a different peghead but a similarly shaped pickguard shape. Take your pick of those.

The tailpiece is a standard one found on many instruments of the period.

Tom Haywood
Apr-15-2012, 2:24pm
Thanks, Jim. I had not found pictures of anything with an eagle on the pick guard. This mandolin looks in all details like the Tonk No.17 shown in the catalogue with the ebony fingerboard, but with the alternating wood and pearl binding and simple dot inlays on the fretboard as shown on the No. 6000, and no inlay on the headstock. The tuner buttons look like the 6000. Sorry my pictures are so bad. I've been trying to decide for a couple of years if this thing is worth repairing. Knowing a little more about it helps.

billkilpatrick
Apr-15-2012, 5:20pm
just bought an ebay bowlback ... please forward "bro' di bowl" admission papers - when, when will i ever learn?

Jim Garber
Apr-15-2012, 7:26pm
Bill: you will never learn. However, in order to receive your papers, you must post pictures and details of you newest acquisition.

brunello97
Apr-15-2012, 7:55pm
I'm looking forward to seeing this. Bill the Reluctant Bowlhead. My hunch is that this will be good.

Mick

billkilpatrick
Apr-16-2012, 1:50am
ok

billkilpatrick
Apr-16-2012, 2:50am
... and i was doing so well, too ...

can't lift the photos off ebay - it has "supertone sing" stamped on the sound plate and lettering stamped on the bowl near the neck: "patent no. 1184879" - very peculiar - a prototype perhaps? quick delve in the archives reveals "supertone" to be a "sears & roebuck" label. plus mention of someone named albert shutt.

the sound hole is oval but unlike others, it's placed vertically, instead of horizontally - looks a bit like a "scream" mask. ("supertone scream?") what made me go for it was its lute-like appearance - no binding and a nice looking headstock (which looks new - a replacement, perhaps?)

i was the only bidder, which is a bit worrying - normally i'm quite happy to have no competition (maynard krebs was my hero.) sold on ebay uk by someone calling themselves "halpaosto" - if he/she is a denizen of the cafe, please let yourself be known ... all-i-all-i-in-free

vic-victor
Apr-16-2012, 5:18am
Ah, I've seen this one on ebay. Very unusual indeed. Quick google search tells us that Supertone was a brand of Sears and Roebuck Co.

riffhard
Apr-16-2012, 7:28am
I bought this nameless italian Mando for a few bucks.
It needs a little restauration. For now it is only deco. The tuners don't turn anymore.
I think i buy this (http://www.thomann.de/at/dixon_mandoline_mechanik_set.htm)ones.

8509085091850928509385094850958509685097

Jim Garber
Apr-16-2012, 8:08am
... and i was doing so well, too ...

can't lift the photos off ebay - it has "supertone sing" stamped on the sound plate and lettering stamped on the bowl near the neck: "patent no. 1184879" - very peculiar - a prototype perhaps? quick delve in the archives reveals "supertone" to be a "sears & roebuck" label. plus mention of someone named albert shutt.

the sound hole is oval but unlike others, it's placed vertically, instead of horizontally - looks a bit like a "scream" mask. ("supertone scream?") what made me go for it was its lute-like appearance - no binding and a nice looking headstock (which looks new - a replacement, perhaps?)

i was the only bidder, which is a bit worrying - normally i'm quite happy to have no competition (maynard krebs was my hero.) sold on ebay uk by someone calling themselves "halpaosto" - if he/she is a denizen of the cafe, please let yourself be known ... all-i-all-i-in-free

Bill: you could have saved me some searching by just posting the eBay item#. The eBay listing (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Mandolin-mandolino-mandoline-SUPERTONE-SING-/280859108075?pt=UK_Musical_Instruments_Sting_Instr uments&hash=item416481e2eb) is here. Your seller is in Finland but it looks to me that the mandolin was made, or at least patented in Germany I think that is what Gesch. means something like manufacturer -- I really do not know German. We need Martin here.

Here are the pics. It says Superton Sing not Supertone. No relation at all to the Sears line. Also, i would guess that this dates much later than the US Supertones, maybe 1950s or even later. It does look interesting with that vertical soundhole -- I like that and a very deep bowl. Let us know how it is when it arrives.

Jim Garber
Apr-16-2012, 8:18am
I bought this nameless italian Mando for a few bucks.
It needs a little restauration. For now it is only deco. The tuners don't turn anymore.
I think i buy this (http://www.thomann.de/at/dixon_mandoline_mechanik_set.htm)ones.

Before you buy those new tuners you might try a little bit of oil on the ones that are on the mandolin. Also, those tuners might be fine but the spacing of the posts may not be exactly the same as your old mandolin. If you can buy the new tuners in a store with the mandolin there that would be better.

From the fragment of the label and the type of tailpiece I would guess that your mandolin was made in Germany, not Italy.