View Full Version : The stork is in :-)

Mar-30-2004, 10:34am
Well, folks, the stork (a.k.a. U.P.S.) just came in this morning, bearing my baby Calace, model Nº 26. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

First —and, naturally, immature—#impressions: A stout, healthy baby. Love that new mando smell!

I can only speak in comparisons, unfair as that may be: Compared to the Greek mandolins I have bought brand-new, this one is uncommonly quiet, mute one would say; the former come out of the womb hollering. Compared to my vintage Neapolitans, its tone-quality is simpler, not having manifested personality yet. Compared to the instrument I recently acquired from Musikalia (for my dear mother-in-law), this one is more carefully built— as it OUGHT to be, at three times the price!

The baby is strung with carbonsteel strings, but lacking the colored windings at the bottom that distinguish Dogals; I would hazard a guess of medium gauge (*shudders*), especially on the G's. The action is, of course, spot-perfect, despite the heavy stringing. As soon as I wear these strings out, perhaps I will switch to Lenzner Consort strings, as I am ever of Bronze Age, Homeric persuasion. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

While I am reluctant to be overly critical of my newborn baby, I do see the signs of mass-production that differentiate this from, e.g. my 1881 Ceccherini: The machinery is massive, industrial one would say (to go with the, ehm... bovine headstock), the bridge/saddle, tailpiece, and other components built with a degree of "competent indifference".

All in all, however, I am pleased with the delivery and would not hesitate to also sing the praises of the newborn one: Wonderful handling, impeccable intonation, buttery-soft action, a curiously automatic tremolo (*Raffaele, are you there?*), beautiful, if also simple aesthetics (virtually all rosewood)... I would rather think of this as a lower-end Mercedes than a last-ditch Studebaker.

Images and, hopefully, a more mature evaluation will follow soon. Cigars, anyone? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Jim Garber
Mar-30-2004, 10:45am
May I be among the first to offer hearty congratulations. I assume that it resembles the #26 on Calace's site (http://www.calace.it/)? Do they keep pretty much to the specs?

I am looking fwd to seeing the photos of the new addition. Depending on scheduling I may even hear a few notes. I will keep you posted as to further developments.


Mar-30-2004, 11:12am
Yes, Jim, all is as per the catalogue description of Nº 26, although the pictures posted do (as usual) give you an altered, darker impression of the colors; no surprise there.

*carrot on stick* Indeed... As this instrument was delivered to my office (i.e. and not my home), for this brief, ever evanescent moment in time, I will have not one but two —yes, TWO, Jim #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #mandolins here (de Meglio and Calace), should anyone, anyone simply happen to pass by, wanting to play through a few duets without the hassle of having to shlepp his own mandolin, etc., etc... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Mar-30-2004, 11:19am

mr mari told me (about his "calace" strings)
he said, "these are the exact gauges given to me by Calace himself[/I]"

my guess would be that those are mari strings?

I think I know what you mean about the greek mandolins. they are deep and rich sounding, yes? my cheapo musikalia is more shrill..
of course I am comparing a mercedes to a pinto.

Alex Timmerman
Mar-30-2004, 11:22am
Congratulations Victor!!! I wished I lived next door!


Alex http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Mar-30-2004, 11:26am
Thank you, Jeff and Alex.

Jeff, these are not the Marí strings I know of, i.e. the super-light, silverwound ones; these are carbonsteel strings, much like the Dogals, but without the Dogal insignia. Perhaps some other Marí product; I wouldn't know.

Oh, when is my next break? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Bob A
Mar-30-2004, 12:33pm
I'll join you in a celebratory cigar, certainly. Nothing better than a chubby new babe to tickle and bounce on one's knee. And certainly the relief inherent in receiving the bundle of joy (from the midwifery of the US Customs, no less) is worth celebrating.

Perhaps it's a bit early to be scrutinising for family resemblances; more since this one is more or less adopted. Still, it's reasonable to suppose that Calace blood should run fairly strong, and the infant's tone ought to convey at least a distant echo of its forbears' voices. (My recent Pecoraro sounds recognisably like the Embergher played by D'Alton, even though my playing emphatically does not).

My Greek babe, having passed its first birthday last month, is as loud as ever, and learning to speak with a sensibility only hinted at last summer. I'd say the only handicap your infant might labor under would be vying for attention in the crowd of available instruments. But we all know that the newborn gets the lion's share of attention in any family, and I dare say this one will prove no exception.

Have you thought of a name, yet?

Mar-30-2004, 12:41pm
You sound to be building quite a lovely little stable, Victor. Congrats on your newest! I really need to develop a taste for the new and readily available, because subjecting the old and rare to work always involves an element of stress. Always keen on the vicarious mandothrill, I'm pining for a few images to augment the newly resurrected "post a picture" discussion.

Mar-30-2004, 12:48pm
Thank you, Bob. As for a name, I will have to find something hinting at infantile chubbiness. How do you say "dimple" in Italian? It escapes me right now... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif Oh, yes, I DO remember Cicciolina, the pudgy porn-star-turned-politician. Hmm.... on second thought, maybe something else. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Does your Greek babe still bear the original silverwounds? If so, they must be near death by now. I would suspect that Lenzner lights (if you have some) or other, quality bronzewounds would give the instrument's tone a whole new dimension.

First-after-first impression: I tried a thinner pick and got more sound out of the instrument. With the thickness of the G-strings (and the consequent proximity of the strings), I had been "gliding" over the G-course as opposed to digging in a bit more. Upon return home from the... hospital, as it were, I will be able to play with this baby, utilizing all my various and sundry picks. It is really unfair to judge it by the results it gets with the dime-a-dozen plastic picks I keep in my top drawer at the office.

Thanks again, Bob; from one happy father to another #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jim Garber
Mar-30-2004, 12:50pm
Always keen on the vicarious mandothrill, I'm pining for a few images to augment the newly resurrected "post a picture" discussion.
Please, feel free to literally resurrect that thread with some of the old reliable images. Do not feel obligated to go out an buy some new (or newly acquired) instruments only in order to fill the bandwidth. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Mar-30-2004, 1:10pm
And thank YOU, Eugene. Once again, we must have been typing simultaneously!

I must say that I do not view my instruments in any collective sense, stable-like, as it were: One lives at my birthplace; another (WILL live, that is) at my wife's birthplace and our occasional vacation-spot; one at my place of (diurnal) work; and two at home, the new baby included. The Senior Domestic Mandolin (the Ceccherini) has days it wants to sing like a nightingale, and days it wants to simply hang like a sloth; age (and physical condition) matters. Enter the new, (presumably) indefatigable baby!

Jim, your wishes are my command. Just give me a few days, won't you?

Mar-30-2004, 2:24pm
Congratulations to your new baby Victor; there is a long and great tradition of Calace mandolins; maybe i will also buy one http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif Anyway, I hope it will serve you long and good. Enjoy..!

Tony R.
Mar-31-2004, 3:11am
Having a recent addition to the family myself, I know what you're going through!
Also like you, a dad of five, my advice, as I give to new all New Fathers is:
1.) Put them to bed early and get plenty of sleep.
2.) Don't neglect the others, they get resentful!
Best Wishes and Enjoy!

Plamen Ivanov
Mar-31-2004, 3:44am
Congratulations Victor! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif Stable?! May be a small Academy, because I`m sure all your mandolin babys will grow up with a lot of cognitive stories from your big brain stock, instead of drowsily songs! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Good luck!

Plamen Ivanov
Mar-31-2004, 3:46am
O, and Tony, nice to meet you and thanks for the advices. I`ll need them soon!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Mike Buesseler
Mar-31-2004, 8:15am
I hope you gentlemen do not take offense at this comment, but this tread reads very much like a script from the sit-com "Frasier."

....ah, perhaps the writers of "Frasier" get get their inspiration here!

Mar-31-2004, 8:34am
Oh, Mike, I am absolutely sure many writers COULD get some of their best ideas just by hanging out with such, ehm... eloquent writers as the folks at the Café.


Mar-31-2004, 1:28pm
What, still no pictures? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif


Jim Garber
Mar-31-2004, 1:41pm
When my first child was born we took lots of photos and videos. You know what happens with the later children. Actually, I think Victor is too buisy playing to take any photos.


Tony R.
Mar-31-2004, 5:22pm
Hi Plami!
Great to meet you too!
What sort of baby are you having?
(Oh God, might it be a REAL ONE, ie. 1 neck, 1 belly, but 2 arms and legs ??!!**) http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif

Plamen Ivanov
Apr-01-2004, 2:25am
Hi, Tony!

Yes, I`m expecting to be a father of a real baby in the middle of october. I really hope it will have everything, that an ordinary human-being needs, nothing less and nothing extra. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Bratsche, nice to see you! It would be interesting for you to know perhaps, that your colleague, the violist Yurii Bashmet - the greatest violist of the XX c. made a great performance yesterday evening in Sofia with the "Moscow soloists". He played the Hoffmeister cocnerto for viola and a Largo by Vivaldi. In the other pieces by Schubert, Dvorjak, Schnitke and Schedrin, he was acting as a conductor.

Good luck!

Apr-01-2004, 8:11am
Patience, bratsche, patience... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #And yes, I AM in fact too busy playing to be posting pictures. Or, I am either too artistically inclined or too darn vain (on the instrument's behalf, of course http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif to shoot some lackadaisical pictures and post them; I would, for example, want a nice backdrop, a sunny day perhaps, a few cherry blossoms as a font...

One more curious observation regarding my baby: The strings, although Dogal-like carbonsteels, are of really, really odd gauge (this without a micrometer): The D-strings seem thinner than those of the Dogal dolce set; the G-strings, on the other hand, much, MUCH thicker than the respective ones of Dogal. Hmm... Could it be a mix-and-match kind of arrangement, with the G's being of a Dogal medium ? That would truly be odd.

Also, while I am used to uncompensated, vintage Neapolitans (or just as uncompensated modern Greeks), this baby has a VERY compensated bridge, with a very elevated G-side. There seems to have been an effort to "punch up" the tension on the G-side. Hmm (again)... Somehow, I see one, uniform set of Lenzners or Dogals in this baby's future...

But, more important that all this: Plamen! I wish you the very, very best for your baby and your family. I must say I have always thought of you (fondly, of course) as a young(er) man, clean-cut, collegiate... I must now re-visualize you as a new father, haggard as the rest of us. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

All the best, my friend!

Jim Garber
Apr-01-2004, 8:37am
One more curious observation regarding my baby: The strings, although Dogal-like carbonsteels, are of really, really odd gauge (this without a micrometer): The D-strings seem thinner than those of the Dogal dolce set; the G-strings, on the other hand, much, MUCH thicker than the respective ones of Dogal. Hmm... Could it be a mix-and-match kind of arrangement, with the G's being of a Dogal medium ? That would truly be odd.
Any possibility of contacting Calace and asking what they have on the instrument and why? At least that way you have a starting point.

I am getting to the point of changing my Pandini's strings. I got a set of Dogal mediums which match the wrapping color.

BTW is there any source of lenzner's in the US yet?


Apr-01-2004, 8:45am
[QUOTE]"Any possibility of contacting Calace and asking what they have on the instrument and why?"

Oh, Jim... Yes, I thought of asking Raffaele Jr. but, after the (*#$*#&(@_(&&*@$& ETERNITY I had to wait for in order to order the actual instrument, I just didn't have it in me to go down that path again. I am worn, my friend, badly worn...

Your Pandini (which I have not played but speak of by analogy to Carlo's, which I have played), is decidedly braced for far more tension than vintage bowlbacks would ever withstand; hence the medium-gauge Dogals. I suspect the same applies to my Calace; there is something, err... staunch, hefty, brawny to the overall structure. Somehow, however (and I am only speaking of my Calace, not of your Pandini), I find it curious that the instrument is so mute— it might just be my own ineptitude with heavier strings. I suspect, that is, that the instrument would resonate MORE, not less, with lighter, more "live" strings than medium-gauge carbonsteels. Then again, my bias is for featherweight stringing and spiky, Pettine-type picks. Different strokes for different folks.

Bob A
Apr-01-2004, 12:15pm
Don't despair, Victor. Your babe will speak eventually. I'd been thinking the Pecoraro was a dud since its volume was pretty meagre; last nite it started to shout. Just a matter of playing it loose, I expect. Yours will have a longer wake-up period, I imagine, due to the rather more recent construction.

I wouldn't presume to advise, certainly, but I've found that a heavy pick and a heavy hand has some effect in loosening up an instrument, after which, of course, it's back to more conventional tools.

On strings: Still have the originals on the Kevorkian - they're holding up well, and of course there are some Daniel Mari sets waiting in the wings. Might try Lenzners eventually, but I rather like the ones in place.

On Lenzners: Marc at Belmando was giving serious thought to stocking them at one point. If someone wants to contact him, I'd probably be in for 3-4 sets, if that's any sort of encouragement.

Apr-01-2004, 1:25pm
You are absolutely right, Bob— and on all counts.

Today, the baby's 2nd day with me, and the gaga-googoo is getting appreciably more, ehm... perceptible. Let us, then, play on.

On heavy hands: I am habitually very light-handed with all my mandolins, not just this one; my fault, perhaps, in delaying the wake-up call. But you can imagine: If you drive an 18-wheeler for a living, while toying with a MiniCooper on weekends, you probably steer the latter with feather-light fingertips. Reflexes, habits, ingrained over-compensation, fear of crushing the baby with my embrace...

Yes, super-light silverwounds are probably the best type of strings for a modern Greek like your Kevorkian; Marí, in due time, will be just swell. I am glad the original silverwounds are still holding up. You must be (contrary to your advice to me #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #not terribly heavy-handed with them or otherwise the winding would have come loose a long time ago. You must also keep the instrument in its case when not using it, which in turn must have prevented corrosion, Nemesis #2 of silverwounds.

Speaking of cases (and not to disparage the Calace shop TOO much), the case this new baby came in is remarkably crude, quasi-incomplete, in that the exterior vinyl is coming loose at various seams, the fit is only approximate... If, on a scale of 1 to 10, I were to give the hard case of your Kevorkian a candid 6 (for being generic but carefully crafted), I would give the Calace case a 4.

I am, however, reluctant to restring the Calace with anything overly light, as the instrument was clearly built with considerable tension in mind. So, perhaps Lenzner Consort some day... I think I may be echoing RSW in his criticism of the Calace shop for sloppiness but, to be truthful, even the actual stringing of the instrument looks like it was done by an amateur under dire pressure of time: winding coming loose at the post, careless knicking of the strings, etc. I guess that, like bratsche, I am a bit too "meticulous" to settle for sloppy.

Bob A
Apr-01-2004, 9:09pm
Yeah, I tend to be pretty easygoing on a mandolin, since I'm usually the bulk of the audience. Don't need to push the Kevorkian - you know what a raging beast it can become. And of course the main advantage of having too many mandolins is you seldom have to change strings, as one's playing is spread over a large population. Also, everything lives in its case. My hands, too, are notoriously free from acid exudate - they've been washed a dozen times an hour at work for decades; perhaps that has had an effect.

You know, it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that the Calace shop just strung it up with a broken set. (You did mention the d string seemed almost too thin?). Perhaps they've been resting on their laurels too long, now have spices stuck to their trousers? (Hey Raffaele! Come sit in the tomato sauce a while!)

Apr-02-2004, 8:38am
Indeed, Bob. While such minor faults are, well... minor, they sour the overall impression given by a very, very nice instrument: What would more careful stringing cost? Why the imbalance between the cabletow-like G's and the undersized D's? Why should the exterior vinyl of the case NOT be tucked in a bit more neatly?

Worse yet, I suspect that these are signs of a systemic negligence, that is to say that I doubt one would get a more carefully crafted case with a higher-end mandolin. I don't see this as a price-point issue (as per my rhetorical questions above) but as one of carelessness.

But (grumbling apart) the mandolin is quite lovely. Let me, then, get my paws off the keyboard and onto the FINGERboard! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jim Garber
Apr-02-2004, 5:15pm
I suppose it is like any other business: you start out with all good intentions and pay heed to all details, building up a reputation over years. Then after achieving a high level of confidence, rest on the laurels of former quality. Instrument companies have their ups and downs: look at Gibson an even Martin.

However, I imagine that there is not the demand for even Calace mandolins that there once was. Still one would hope that the quality would go in before the name goes on.


Apr-03-2004, 4:31pm
True. I must say, however, that I am not in any way dissatisfied with the instrument itself; it's just the details (e.g. stringing, lining of the case, etc.) that spell "sloppy".

So, here come some images:

Apr-03-2004, 4:33pm
And back:

Apr-03-2004, 4:35pm
Sans foliage, front:

Apr-03-2004, 4:42pm
And, finally the image below. A lovely, lovely instrument. I must also say that, contrary to the earlier talk of chubbiness, this instrument is (true to Calace form) more long and elegant than round: several inches longer from butt to headstock than ANY mandolin I have ever played, graceful in its extraordinary length, wonderful to handle. But, again, size is comparative: If slender means Vega, then yes, this is a whale of a mandolin; if round means "German round", this is but a grain of wheat in comparison. Final analysis: It feels wonderfully comfortable in my arms, plays like a tank charging into battle... As for the (to my taste) off-balance strings, the fix is easy enough; as for the case, well, there IS Crazy Glue, no? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jim Garber
Apr-03-2004, 5:18pm
Nice to make the visual acquaintance of your baby. I have to say I certainly like the looks of it, esp the sweep of the pickguard echoed by the armrest. I am looking fwd to someday meeting her in person and hearing her voice.

I think the Italian varieties are larger and heftier than the vintage Americans. They definitely do not fit in the std cases meant for Vegas, Martins and the like.


Alex Timmerman
Apr-03-2004, 6:31pm
It looks wondeful Victor, thanks for posting the images!


Apr-03-2004, 7:07pm
Thank you both. Indeed, this instrument is a beauty, if also an understated one. Quite frankly, and considering that I considered this acquisition for something like three years or so, I must say that I like the appearance of model No. 26 more than that of any other of the Calace catalogue: I am in no position to question the (presumptively) superior sonority of the higher-end models; still, the ornamentation on said models borders on the gawdy, IMHO. So, stepping past the "basic" model No. 24 with its non-floral pickguard, the next best choice, to my taste at least, was this one. And Jim, ever sensitive to the graceful line, picked up on the sweep that so enchanted me.

The floral design on the pickguard, albeit simple, has that wonderful quality of turning its "neutral" silver tone into rosy/azure hues catching the sunlight from different angles. And the pickguard does balance the sleeveguard beautifully. I don't really care for those, supposedly "high-end" pickguards that take up half the available real estate on the soundboard; let's be modest, now! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

The real issue with the Dogal-esque carbonsteels is that transitions from the G-course to the D-course are a bit, ehm... shocking, due to the wide (and WILD) discrepancy of gauge. But, as (at least I hope) I have always done on the Café, I try to give the Calace shop the benefit of the doubt: If this is "what the master had in mind", well, he might know best; if, on the other hand, a month passes and the stringing is STILL off-balance, "off with their heads!" (said the Queen of Hearts).

Let me, then, pick and listen, listen and pick.

Jim Garber
Apr-03-2004, 7:25pm
I would get on the phone with Classic Bow and get yourself a good set of Dogal Calace strings in the appropriate gauge.

I am sure that lenzner are good as well, tho I have not had the pleasure of trying them. Someday....


Bob A
Apr-04-2004, 3:02pm
A pretty baby, Victor, and a pleasant level of ornament. Glad you're pleased with its preogress as well.

For those who might like a bit more flounce per ounce, my pal John Bernunzio has posted a few pics of his personal Ceccherini on the opening page of his website, www.bernunzio.com. (I suspect it's more ornate than your Ceccherini, Victor, knowing your taste in mandornament).

Apples and oranges, of course. Still, I wonder how closely the Calace of today might approximate the Calace of yesterday. I suspect it's too early to make subjective guesses about tonality at this stage.

Apr-04-2004, 5:39pm
Jim, I do in fact have a set or two of Dogal dolce, so I may go that way, as you suggest. My point about giving the Calace shop the benefit of the doubt was just a matter of waiting and seeing (well, actually, hearing) whether this odd stringing has some method to its madness. Lenzners have a whole different tonal "profile" and one I like, considering that bronze is my winding of choice. And the medium-gauge Lenzner Consort strings may have just e-x-a-c-t-l-y the equivalent degree of tension as this oddball carbonsteel set the instrument came with. Let us see.

And, as a reminder, here is my understated —but still very, very beautiful—#Ceccherini. As Bob says about my tastes, hey, these things have far more ornament than any of my basses ever did http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jim Garber
Apr-04-2004, 7:38pm
Speaking of Lenzners...

Has there been any talk of late of a US distributor? I have emails out to SW strings (a lenxner dealer) and Classic Bows to see who wants our order.

BTW I asked Norman levine but he says Thomastiks are enough trouble for him.

Maybe we have to do another bulk order (which i missed last time) from across the pond...


Apr-05-2004, 8:35am
Perhaps those of us who cross the pond habitually should assume an "open purchase order", as it were, and get a dozen-or-so sets when possible, then distribute at cost to the rest of the Café's denizens. A slip-shod solution, of course, compared to proper dealership, but...

Back to "talking size": Ceccherini, from top to bottom, 59 cm.; de Meglio, 60; Calace, a whopping 65! A long, looooooooooong baby http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Apr-05-2004, 9:58am
Oh, by the way, Bob: I just got to look at the Ceccherini at Bernunzio; yes, a gorgeous instrument, perhaps a special order, considering the fanciful embroidery on the back of the neck. And I was delighted to read that it is fully restored.

But, back to cost-benefit analysis: Mine was impeccably restored in the 1970's by an unknown to me but evidently skillful English luthier: new (bar) frets, English-type, curly fingerboard markers —who knows what the original had, or rather was missing when said luthier undertook the restoration?— otherwise structural restoration to 100% perfect playing condition with the least possible intervention in / alteration of the original instrument. All this for $285 plus shipping...

Jim Garber
Apr-05-2004, 10:12am
Here is the only other Ceccherini jpeg I have in my files. Prob from eBay, tho I am not sure. It looks pretty much like yours, Victor with maybe the exception of the headstock inlay and (I think) different fretboard inlays.


Apr-05-2004, 10:19am
Hmm... very, VERY much like mine, Jim. Evidently a later or higher-end instrument, with (somewhat) extended fingerboard; mine has only 17, which, quite frankly, is all a folkie mandolinist like yours truly will ever need.

What struck me as a revelation, thanks to your posting, Jim, is the fact that the curly, "lying down S-shape" inlays I have on my Ceccherini's fingerboard are i-d-e-n-t-i-c-a-l to the ones on the instrument you posted. Could it be that they are original? OR, could it be that both instruments were restored in England some time in the latter half of the 20th century? Hmm...

Bob A
Apr-05-2004, 10:59am
The Ceccherini at the Sinier De Ridder site has a double soundboard, with the secondary board hidden away inside the mandolin. I don't know if this is standard, but I don't recall Victor mentioning such a feature. Anyone have info on this?

(I don't know about the Bernunzio instrument, but I'll be seeing it in person soon, so I'll fill you in after).

There's a strong De Meglio component to these instruments, with the raised pickguard, string holders and radiused edges and all. Or is there some common source?

Imagonna email Marc at Belmando about Lenzners. Mayhap he's looked into the matter as previously discussed.

Apr-05-2004, 1:22pm
Yes, Bob, my Ceccherini also has that double soundboard. I could post an image, if you wish, but there is little room for imagination.

Might that, though, add to the richness and the complexity of the tone? I cannot say...

Jim Garber
Apr-05-2004, 2:13pm
I emailed a music dealer in PA who carried Lenzner violin strings. he is checking to see if he can get the Consorts. What gauges are we looking for?

He says he may have to order by the doezen, but I can't imagine that that would be a problem, if we assure him we will take them. I will let you know.

Classic Bow does not deal with Lenzner.

Back to the subject: interesting, do all Ceccherinis have that double soundboard? How is it constructed? Is there some connective wood between the two?

I had a violin with two soundboards from the 1880s. I don't know if it affected the sound. of course, the most prominent double boarded mandolins are the Gelas and the Gibsons with Virzi "tone producers." Some swear by them and some swear at them.


Apr-05-2004, 6:09pm
There are the Lenzner "lights" and the "Consort" set, which have the wound A's. I do not recall the packaging listing the exact gauges.

The light set is just the p-e-r-f-e-c-t stringing for my de Meglio, both tonality-wise and with regards to the slight warp of the neck, which causes the action to be infinitesimally higher than ideal— a winner!

I would surmise that the relatively heavier Consort set, although it is proclaimed to be "for historical instruments", would yield optimal results on the baby Calace. After all, it screams "tension!" by its very structural disposition: a high (thick) fingerboard causing a rather acute angle at the bridge, quite strong bracing of the top, massive machinery... And the Lenzners, ANY Lenzners, would certainly not have the absurd difference of gauge from G- to D-course that the "factory" stringing has.

Apr-07-2004, 8:06am
Well, the ill-matched carbonsteels are off, Lenzner Consort strings are on. Let us see; too soon to speak before the strings are broken-in. First impression is that, for once, the instrument is ringing along with the strings, not the strings alone. Let us see...

Alex Timmerman
Apr-07-2004, 4:34pm
Hello Victor, Bob and Jim,

A very nice Ceccherini you have, Victor! From what I have seen of the instruments of this maker, the mother of pearl fingerboard inlay on both the Ceccherini´s shown here looks original.
Most (but not all) of the Checcerini´s I found have a double soundboards. The mostly very good to excellent wood finish and the place and fixing to the side of the bowl and outer top show that the idea of the Checcerini inner soundboard has been a well thought-out one. Not only he tried to improve the mandolin with his double top design, he also made mandolins onwhich the 1st and 2nd strings were strung triple instead of double. #

For anyone at this board who is interested in the better Neapolitan mandolins, an Umberto Ceccherini mandolin has just come up for auction. #Click here to view it at eBay England (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3716237708&category=10179).

I am very interested in what the Lenzner Consort strings do on your new Calace. Yes, please keep us informed!



PS. If it doesn´t work to get Lenzner mandolin strings imported in the normal way, I´d be happy to send a package - on a non profit basis of course - to one of you (Eugene, Jim, Victor) who can than distribute them among the interested people here at this board. Just say which Lenzners and how many you want.

Jim Garber
Apr-07-2004, 5:16pm
PS. If it doesn´t work to get Lenzner mandolin strings imported in the normal way, I´d be happy to send a package - on a non profit basis of course - to one of you (Eugene, Jim, Victor) who can than distribute them among the interested people here at this board. Just say which Lenzners and how many you want.
Thank you, Alex for your offer...

Right now, I am waiting to hear from a US store to see whether he can get them. Evidentally the distributors of the violin strings do not import the mandolin ones.

If the store cannot get them directly here, I would be interested in at least 3 sets each (maybe more) of the consort (I assume that these would be the ones to go on my Pandini) and the lights (for the vintage ones).

BTW do you folks have a marked preference for these strings over, say, the Dogal Calaces?


Alex Timmerman
Apr-07-2004, 6:15pm
Hello Jim,

I found the Checcerini you show in a musical instruments shop in Amsterdam. It is a very interesting ´double top´ mandolin with an excellent sound and a great playability. At the moment it is in the hands and played by a dear colleague of mine who teaches the guitar and lute at the very same Music School as I do. Fun!

An interesting aspect of this particular Checcerini is that it has an aluminium frame surrounding it´s wooden bowl that prevents the bowl from being be toughed (hindered in vibrating) when it is placed against leg and stomach. An idea that is also seen in for instance guitar constructions (double backs etc.).

I have seen other mandolins with a similar aluminium frame surroundigs, but I can´t say (although this one is done with great skill) that this one was originally placed by the Umberto Checcerini workshop.

About Dogal: this is of course first a matter of personal taste. But, since you ask me so directly, I will tell you that I and the other members of The CONSORT, after trying these strings on several mandolin types, decided against them. We tried them on Neapolitan, Roman, etc. (either ´vintage´ or new made) and found that the tone produced by these strings was simply to thin and harsh for our taste. Especially the carbon steel ones.

So we stay ´old fashioned´ in choosing for the ´warm´ and ´open´ sound of Bronze and round-wound strings and are very happy that there is the Lenzner company making several types of Bronze mandolin strings and also that they were and still are willing to make them according to our wishes.
That´s the story behind the Lenzner Consort mandolin strings.



Apr-08-2004, 7:34am
You have enlightened us once again, Alex! Yes, the Ceccherini on eBay.UK is virtually identical to mine. The (fortunate for me) difference is that mine was restored to impeccable condition in the 1970's. And now I know that the squiggly fingerboard markers on mine are probably original! When I get a chance later, I will post an image of the fingerboard and one of the double soundboard.

As I was playing bass all day yesterday, I have not yet had a chance to play my Lenzner-strung Calace very much, not more than touching it once in the morning, once in the evening, gradually bringing the new strings up to tension. The bronze-wound strings are, of course, much more flexible than the carbonsteels; they also have that wonderful "tinkle" that I consider inherent in the sound of THE mandolin. So, I am looking forward to the next few days.

First impressions are the uncommonly "civilized" tone of the wound A's; the "usual", solid steel A's are, well... always a bit twangy. The wound A's, on the other hand, are wonderfully round in tone, smooth, velvety... I have not come to terms with that degree of refinement yet.

A larger issue is the HUGE compensation of the bridge by way of height: The G-side is Mt. Everest! As a result, even the finest of fine strings will never intonate perfectly in the higher positions; pressing the string down alters string-length in an (unfortunately) Pythagorean manner. Compare this with my uncompensated, vintage babies, and their even intonation on ALL strings.

Not to misrepresent the facts, though: The Calace has impeccable intonation, as one ought to expect from a brand-new, quality instrument. The only odd deviation is the disproportionate height of the G's. This, like the unhappy, heavy carbonsteels the instrument came with may become another "benefit of the doubt" issue, to be addressed correctively at some later date by Maestro Tom Crandall. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Apr-08-2004, 2:04pm
Well, since the thread took us to double soundboards:

Jim Garber
Apr-08-2004, 2:36pm
It looks like your action was taken way down and that the saddle is cut down considerably. Was that to compensate for some neck angle settling?

Also, I noticed (I think) on the ebay one that it has a zero fret. Does your have one?

The other interesting thing is the small staples that space the strings behind the bridge. There is a stamp that reads "sistema brevettato" and I don't know if that refers to those string spacers. (Photo is from Sinier)

Is there a reason except for misreading that this is referred to as a Geccherini by both the ebay seller and Sinier?


Apr-08-2004, 6:32pm
[QUOTE]"It looks like your action was taken way down and that the saddle is cut down considerably. Was that to compensate for some neck angle settling?"

Well, Jim, the saddle is original and made of solid brass, as is the very elaborate zero fret. So no, the saddle was not cut down at all to my knowledge; besides, its layout is identical to the one on my de Meglio and a myriad other, similar instruments.

Also, no, the neck was never reset, to my knowledge and Tom C.'s impression. Why would it be? The fingerboard HAS in fact been refretted with more "modern" (i.e. non-brass) bar frets. Still, it is hard to imagine that the fingerboard itself would have been planed down, and consequently supporting your Low Saddle Theory http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif These fingerboards are wafer-thin to begin with. What is there to shave off?

Of course, your point does have logical foundation: If one shaved down the fingerboard, one would also have to shave down some of the ebony on the bridge, right beneath the solid brass saddle. But, why would one have bothered with all this when the neck is ramrod-straight? No warp to compensate for.

And yes, my instrument also has those odd little "anchors" holding the strings down; it is my unsubstantiated impression that the screws go all the way in, connecting as it were the strings to the inner soundboard, acoustically speaking. This, of course, only by way of a guess...

As for misspellings... I once did a recording for a Chinese-music CD, on which I was proudly listed as performing on the Bubble Bass. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Bob A
Apr-11-2004, 10:09am
Stopped in for a visit with J Bernunzio yesterday, and got a brief hands-on with the above mentioned Ceccherini.

First off, the thing is in about perfect condition. Not a scratch, no age spots or lumps and bumps. Second, it is gorgeous. Photos don't show how pretty this thing is. Lovely engraved pearl, tortoise (!) binging, rosewood scalloped ribs with ivory separators. The bowl is lined with something gilded. Don't know if it's gold leaf or just a gilt paper, but it speaks volumes about what the maker thought of his instrument. Third,the thing can sing! Didn't strike me as extremely loud, but certainly articulate, and a sweet pleasant voice. No disappointment at all, except perhaps the owner's desire to keep it.

It had the double soundboard; the inner board is thinner than I'd have guessed from the photos I've seen of these instruments. The bridge is the De Meglio style, wuth brass saddle. The nut is scalloped, and silver. The top is very lightly finished. I suggested that it might be French polish; John said he thought it might just be beeswax, which apparently was not uncammon. Made sense to me, though I was unable to decide on just what technique had been used to finish. Anyone with knowledge of this wax finish is encouraged to chime in and declaim about it. The De Meglios I've seen all have a similar very light finish to the top, and I'd like to know more about what to do to return them to close to original state.

Seems as though this particular presentation-level instrument was made to be played, as well as to be admired. Sr. Ceccherini certainly outdid himself.

While the visit was social rather than instrument-related, I did play the Vega amdolin noted on his site; it is shaped like a cylinder-back, but the back is carved more like a Gibson, and does not have the hump. The finish is crackled from environmental changes, and is peeling from the neck a bit, and cosmetically it is not all that wonderful, but dang, that thing is loud. LOUD. Just another example of the odd duck that quacks like Caruso.

So ends the Easter report from Rochester.

Apr-11-2004, 10:58am
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... The newly Lenzner-strung baby Calace has been transformed from a voiceless frog (as it was under the undue tension of the carbonsteel cabletows) to a chirping canary. The transformation is truly miraculous! Not only is it more, ehm... sonorous, resonant (as it was mute before) but it is so amazingly "live" in its response to the pick. Marvellous!

I am still something less than 100% convinced by the compensated bridge, specifically the excessive (to my taste) elevation of the G-side. I see no compelling reason for it. Yes, the G strings ought to be somewhat, somewhat higher than the E strings but, why so much? Hmmm... The negative repercussions on intonation I have already discussed above. So, then: Perhaps I will respect what "the master had in mind" for a few months, see what I can make of it and, if STILL not convinced by then, I will have our dear Tom C. take the angle of the bridge down, i.e. down to something less... Alpine. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

In sum total, however, I am delighted with the instrument. If it keeps on maturing at this rate, it will be a splendid companion.

The initial, shocking impression of the Lenzners is that the A strings, being wound, are mellower, more velvety than the D strings! Curious... In other words, and contrary to the usual order of "subconscious adjustment", one is confronted with brighter D's than A's. Quite the shock, compared to the usual, bright, almost TOO bright resonance of the solid steel A's. But all that is smoothing out by now, a week or so after I put on these strings: The D's are mellowing, the A's are "waking up"... Also, the wound A's are truly remarkable in staying in tune forEVER! In addition, this kind of stringing makes the abundant use of open strings (something of an everyday habit with a folkie like me) quite pleasant-sounding: No sudden twang, no breaks in the melodic line... fine, excellent strings, and well-matched with this baby. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Alex Timmerman
Apr-11-2004, 3:28pm
Hello Victor,

Thanks for the great and informative reply on the Lenzner Consort strings. The outcome sofar and that what you are experiencing with the D and A strings, is precisely that what I noticed. Also adding flat-wound A strings to Bronce round wound D and G strings was something I was at first very sceptical about. The more because the flat-wound a strings I knew were to heavy in tension and to dull in sound.
It´s therefore wonderful that the Lenzner compagny made lighter flat-wound a strings that matched the other strings in the Consort set.

Give it one more week I think, and the sound produced by these strings will even be more´normalized´ on your new Calace.

A new ´update´ about how the balance between the D and A is developing would than also be interesting. I´m also curious hear if you are pleased with the balance between the A and E strings.

Thanks in advance and

Many greetings,


Apr-12-2004, 8:04am
Yes, Alex, an update will indeed be coming in the following days. More so because of my, ehm... other musical circumstances: With the spring season running full-speed at the opera as we speak (Madama Butterfly in all THREE versions of the score!), my bass is sequestered at the theater. So, I am forced #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif #to play mandolin at home; the only instrument available, you know... (ha, ha)

Even the E-strings of the Consort set are rather smooth and velvety. You know, of course, the damnation of every cheap set of (mandolin OR violin) strings: Horrible, tinny, wirey E's that sound like tin-cans scraped with sandpaper. Not these!

You are certainly right on target regarding the core of the issue: The A's are flatwound #and as such materially different than the roundwound D's and G's. But, on that subject: I understand that mandolinists, especially Germans, have gravitated towards flatwound strings because of their "allergy" to shift-noises. And, indeed, with rough strings (such as Dogal carbonsteels), there is a lot of squeak-squawk every time you shift from one position to another. Lagenwechsellärme...

If, however, one uses very, very finely wound bronzewound strings, such as the Lenzners, such noises hardly exist! So, I think that the price one pays for flatwound strings, i.e. the tension and dullness you speak of, is too high; fine, smooth bronzewounds are close enough to perfect.

Jim Garber
Apr-12-2004, 8:14am
Well, Jim, the saddle is original and made of solid brass, as is the very elaborate zero fret. So no, the saddle was not cut down at all to my knowledge; besides, its layout is identical to the one on my de Meglio and a myriad other, similar instruments.
Having only played bowlbacks with bone, ebony or rosewood saddles and nuts, I would say that this breed requires different treatment as far as strings etc. Which of the other major makers use that configuration? Does the zero fret affect anything besides intonation?


Apr-12-2004, 8:22am
"Zero fret" is a bit of a misnomer, Jim; sorry. What the Ceccherini has is in fact a scalloped, solid-brass nut; the de Meglio has also a solid brass nut resembling two, adjacent brass frets, one thicker and higher, one thinner and lower. The intention seems to be durability (the longevity of both in nearly perfect condition attests to that) and, in my non-expert opinion, a certain "tinkle" to the sound, as the strings are in contact with brass nut, brass frets, and brass saddle (sorry, no brass knuckles http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jim Garber
Apr-12-2004, 8:30am
Here is what I see on the UK Ceccherini. I think I see a scalloped nut with a zero fret.

Apr-12-2004, 8:51am
Ah... a picture, as always, worth 1,000 words. My Ceccherini is identical to the one you posted. It seems to me that, with this durable contraption, the builder wanted to have the final word in perpetuity as to the exact height, distance, and location of the strings. My take, at least. It works!

Jim Garber
Apr-12-2004, 8:54am
So, Victor, does yours also have what appears to me to be a fret right after the scalloped nut?


Apr-12-2004, 8:59am
It does, Jim. My explanation is speculative, at best. It does have that Thus Saith the Luthier quality to it... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jim Garber
Apr-12-2004, 9:56am
In fact, the zero fret concept mirrors the "sofa-style" bridge, dividing the functions into two distinct parts: that which separates the strings and that which determines the height. Makes sense.

My question has to do with the sound quality of the brass. I wonder if it calls fro a different, gentler style of string than the organic variety.


Apr-12-2004, 11:38am
I still like the sound of the carbon steel, but it does take a week or so for them to sound good...and I feel they continue to improve in tone for the span of half a year or so. However, I use carbon steel on antique American bowlbacks that were largely built considering that steel strings by Black Diamond would be used and were fit with ivory, bone, or ebony nut and saddle. My one experience with the wound-a Lenzners was similar to that described above. The tone was smooth and pleasing. They are much longer lived than the lower grades of bronze-wound strings (like GHS). I found the wound a to be a little shorter lived than Dogal's carbon steel. Still, I would go for a few more sets of Lenzner (perhaps even the "Special" sets with plain a strings, which I am more prone to trust on delicate antiques) if they were easier to obtain.

The Ceccherini at Bernunzio's (http://bernunzio.com/cgi-bin/bernunzio/showimg2000?img=Ceccherine) is absolutely delicious, Bob. Is it soon to be yours? Golden-era virtuoso Leopoldo Francia endorsed Ceccherini. Have you considered taking up a solo or two by Francia, Victor?

Alex Timmerman
Apr-12-2004, 2:45pm
Hello all,

It´s always a good thing to do: string your instruments with the strings as close as possible to the original ones used for the instruments at the time they were build.

However, I think that only the ´zero-fret´ to the nut was an improvement and that the original strings - in Europe this was mainly Bronce - stayed the same.

The applying of a ´zero-fret´ to improve the sound was just one new idea developed in the last decade of the 19th century.
Like with the frets on the fingerboard and bridge, two different metals were used: for the average mandolin models Bronze was customary while for the more ornate and higher end models silver-nickel was applied.

One of the two reasons that Jim mentions is certainly worth to be repeated here (quote): "that which determines the height". This being the ´zero-fret´ because it caries each string-pair and gives them the right string-height to the fingerboard.

But the most important aspect of this new idea in my opinion, was that it could be tuned better and with more ease. Here are some thoughts why this was such a succes at the time.

Because of the ´zero-fret´ each string had it´s own and very clear departure point avoiding partial tensions before (on the headstock) and in the ivory or bone (ebony) nut, just there where each string leaves it´s departure point.
Softer materials mute the sound of the metal strings, also because the strings rub or shafe along the inner side of their grooves in the nut.

Especially this last situation gave (and gives) two different tensions in one string - before and after the nut - creating problems in tuning the mandolin properly. Difficulties caused by tension in a string of which the winding can be turned up easily at the nut-angle by tuning the string causing it eventually to be ´strangled´ by the narrow nut-groove.

With the adding of a smoothly rounded metal ´zero-fret´ these problems could be easily solved.
Another plus-point if an adjustment in string height is desired, is that a new ´zero-fret´ is very easy to make and placed.

There are several nut-´zero-fret´ possibilities seen; like on the De Meglio and the Checcerini mandolins with the metal nut and seperate ´zero-fret´ placed against eachother, the ones that have the seperate ´zero-fret´ placed in the fingerboard about 1mm (or more) away from the nut and the ones on which the seperate metal ´zero-fret´ is placed against an ivory, bone etc. nut.

(Although the general idea is to have them separated, I also have encountered some instruments with a ´nut/zero-fret´ soldered together)

An additional aspect that also explains the succes of the ´zero-fret´ and why most of the well-known makers of the past in Italy adopted this idea (soon to be followed by other makers abroad; as seen for instance in the Pettine Special Concert Mandolins), was that the instrument stayed in tune much longer.
This is caused by the very fact that each string pair could be ´layed down´ in it´s wide enough grove in the nut (be it bone, ivory, metal, wood etc.) without having some kind of an obtuse angle point or/and without the nut-grove being to narrow so that it and/or it´s winding was damaged. With all the impurities of sound of the particular string.

To illustrate what we are talking about, here some images of the nut and ´zero-fret´ of a De Meglio mandolin.

All the best,

Alex ©

Bob A
Apr-12-2004, 5:15pm
Zero frets are a wonderful concept, and I don't kno why they have not been universally adopted. My first (Czech) bowlback, back in 1965, had a zero fret, and it was without doubt the cheapest instrument I've ever owned, so cost can't be a factor. (The frets were so soft that they wore thru in about 8 months; the mandolin was not worth the price of a refret).

Yep, the Ceccherini is a sweetie. John seems to want to hang onto it: I made it clear to him that I was to get first refusal if he chose to sell. Maybe next year? Maybe never. He's a businessman, and has the strength of character to understand that everything has its price. Of course, not all of us have the money. We'll see how it plays out.

Apr-13-2004, 10:53am
A question for the better informed:

As a result of the relatively high (i.e. thick) fingerboard of the Calace (typical of most modern instruments, as opposed to the wafer-thin fingerboards of many old Neapolitans), the original strings were at a very, VERY acute angle over the nut, as they angled from the fingerboard to the tuning-posts.

Now, I know what that means for bowed string instruments, at least: t-e-n-s-i-o-n. Also, when I decided to restring the Calace, I noticed that the original strings were coiled (and coiled, and coiled...) all the way to the bottom of the tuning-posts, thereby exacerbating the acuity of the angle on the nut. Hmmm... why?

So, when restringing, I simply looped the strings into the post in my usual way (no need for excessive, serpentine coils) and therefore kept the strings relatively high on the posts. The obvious result: The post-to-nut/nut-to-bridge angle of the strings is much more oblique now. The not-so-obvious, possible result: Can this be another reason why the tension on the instrument has been so dramatically decreased?

Alex Timmerman
Apr-13-2004, 3:15pm
Hello Victor,

You did exactly the right thing!

And to answer your first question (quote): "thereby exacerbating the acuity of the angle on the nut. Hmmm... why?", I think - also because of your previous posts here concerning #the your new mandolin - either someone new in the atelier or the boy next door, strung the instrument... At least it was done without thinking how one has to string a mandolin!

To your second question (quote): "the strings relatively high on the posts", I would say that this can certainly be one of the reasons why the tension (of the whole string to the instrument) is so much better spread now. A very good idea of you to do!

But it is likely only one reason; the other being the relative high tension of the tight carbon steel strings that were original put on the mandolin.

Best greetings,


Alex Timmerman
Apr-13-2004, 6:16pm
Hi Bob A and others,

As you say (quote): "Zero frets are a wonderful concept"!

The reason(s) why this and other interesting inovations on the mandolin are not "universally" adopted is mainly a simple one: most of todays players and - more important - luthiers just don´t know. And simply take and make (read: copy) things as they are.
They have no questions (like: why? and: how? etc.) and do not use their ears.
At worst they don´t even bother because the idea that these "little" improvements can create such great improvements doesn´t even occur to them. That is the reason why we still see all these simplistic bridges and nuts etc.
(And, but that´s perhaps something for another Topic someday, also a reason why people - mostly players - are against something like for instance a narrow fingerboard or the V-shaped neck, the long two-pointed plectrum etc. Simply because they don´t know why a fingerboard was made radius and/or narrow and also not how to play the strings on such a narrow fret-board. Or how and where to place your thumb on a V-shaped neck.
The same counts for the use of the plectrum: behind every aspect there is a story with a reason.

The thing is that we are stuck with the fact of an absolutely dead silent period of the mandolin that lasted from about 1940 up to the nineteeths of the previous century. And than you´ll probably understand, I mean the mandolin played on the highest level.
Of course, there are exceptions known; but those #performers either were not able to halt the decline in the interest for their/our instrument or - when they were able to popularize it - their students invented and established "new" approaches to the mandolin in all it´s aspects, by themselves without any Cultural or Traditional insight.

Real instrument research or close examination of mandolin methods that leads to knowledge in mandolin making and mandolin playing has just not been done or is not been available for a larger public by lack of interest by publishing houses.

Poor Roman- and Neapolitan mandolin... ... . .

Therefore it will probably take another 10 years or so to build a bridge between then (1940) and today. Only through studying the methods of that time and the best instruments it will be possible to give back the Mandolin it´s importance.

This also will show that today we have NOT reached the high level known to have existed before World War II of either the performances by the Italian mandolin virtuosi nor the superb standard shown by the Italian mandolin makers in their instruments.

With this in mind it is good to see that some of todays performers - like for instance Richard who recorded his ´Mandolin Treasures from the Golden Era´ CD with a 1908 Vega Pettine Special mandolin, are aware of this situation and are trying to fill this gap. And not only with giving concerts, but also with working together with interesting and fine luthiers.

That brings me back to our subject: luthiers... They should, in my opinion, not only picture, measure and examine one (or two) original instrument on which they could lay their hands on, but do real research and study as many instruments by a certain maker as possible in order to capture the ideas of the best mandolin makers of the past. Otherwise such a mandolin is only a look-alike, not very much more... #

Luckily there are a few exceptions, and those we should encourage by working together and by placing orders etc.!

But still there is a lot of work to, especially if we want to raise the standard of the Mandolin in the World of Music!

Oeps! I got carried away...



Apr-13-2004, 6:39pm
Oeps! I got carried away...
Not at all. This is very intriguing chat. Specifically on the zero fret, I think it is largely (and, I might add, ignorantly) shunned in the US for a couple reasons:

1) many people in the US only have encountered the zero fret in very cheap "toy" instruments; thus, they wrongly assume a zero fret is an indicator of baser breeding and

2) the functionality of a zero frets take less fine tuning and tweaking than a nut that both spaces and stops the vibration of the open string. I think it is often (again) wrongly assumed that the extraneous effort of making a nut functional in defining string height in low/open positions without buzzing, spacing the strings, and stopping the vibrating length is some kind of indicator of superior craftsmanship. This is a classic neglect of the KISS principle.

Bob A
Apr-13-2004, 11:15pm
Zero frets and slotted bridges with removable (and thus variable) saddles are not only excellent concepts, they would seem (to this non-luthier) to make setups a lot easier and more foolproof.

Zero frets would seem also to contribute to a consistent tone, making an open string sound considerably more like a fretted note.

I've had occasion to mention my bizarre guitar, that has thick bone frets, thus making every note sound not unlike an open string. The zero fret takes the contrapositive viewpoint; both are elegant solutions to problems that we don't recognise as having, since the problems are integral to the milieu.

I for one would really like to see a reasonably scholarly treatment of the bowlback mandolin, with examples of the many makers and types, with diagrams and measurements, and perhaps some hard technical data on the sound spectras and vibratory patterns they individually produce. Also included ought to be some mouth-watering color photos. Lots of mouth-watering color photos.

If we truly wish to bring the mandolin along, the instruments of the masters need to be examined, and the data made available. This would be a wonderful resource for the current and next generation of luthiers, and would help perpetuate and perhps improve the breed.

One of us should be looking for grant money to do this. Five years and a moderate bunch of money is all that's needed - I dare say a variety of instruments would be made available for loan for such a project. So figure half a mill tops - that would support our researcher for the period, and provide funds for travel, engaging the services of experts (Dr Cohen comes to mind; also xray or CAT scans would be invaluable), and amassing the materials for printing. I daresay an edition of 500-1000 copies would sell out in a couple years. I'm willing to pay a couple hundred bucks for a copy. (The big Tsumura banjo book sold out at a price of $500, and is now fetching over a thousand when one comes up on ebay.)

So let's make it happen. If we don't, who will?

Maybe a combined Japanese/English text would be helpful. That ought to cover the bulk of the interest, and certainly help with sales. (I don't mean to be linguistically chauvenistic - I do realise that much bowlback interest is European, but a text in English would be more universally useful than one in any single European language, I imagine).

Any interest out there?

Bob A
Apr-13-2004, 11:16pm
By the way, anyone have info regarding a possible beeswax finish to the tops of Italian mandolins, especially De Meglio and Ceccherini?

Apr-16-2004, 12:17pm
... and consequently, would one ever consider using beeswax as a way of touching up the slight discolorations and marks of wear that have occurred since the instrument's birth? A most interesting possibility...

Tony R.
Apr-16-2004, 12:42pm
I tried something like that when I got my first instrument (an old Galliano) It was a rather grand sounding stuff with beeswax and turpentine that claimed restorative wonders so I gave it a whirl. It did nothing whatsoever for the assorted dings but at least didn't seem to do any harm either (but for the fact that the darn thing has had a funny smell about it ever since! (thank god I only tried a small area.)
What about those pure but coloured beeswax sticks that restorers use on scratched antiques - is that what you mean Victor?

Apr-16-2004, 12:56pm
Quite frankly, Tony, I would be very, veeeeeeeeery reluctant to put anything on a precious, vintage instrument— and have never done so in the past. I was just following the logical thread (well, at least logical to me http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif ) that a beeswax-finished surface could theoretically be cured with the same matter that was applied to it to begin with.

Biased as I am for new instruments, however, I do not see any reason to "turn apples into oranges": If an old instrument sounds and plays well, while naturally showing its age visually, well, let it be.

Tony R.
Apr-16-2004, 1:10pm
I agree with you really Victor, I did have some misgivings at the time. It really was a v.small area! The stuff I suppose reminded me of Hills violin cleaner from way back when, so it was bit of a case of do on impulse - think later, (and we've all done that.)

Apr-16-2004, 1:36pm
[QUOTE]"...we've all done that."

Oh, haven't we... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Indeed. In fact, my reluctance has kept me from touching up a few spots on the bowl of my Ceccherini where the varnish has oxidized into unseemly white streaks. But I have at least thought about doing something to cover them up.

So, off I go to a hardware store and get "the best scratch-cover money can buy". http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif #Naturally, you can get this stuff in rosewood-tone, maple-tone, ebony-tone, whatever... But, upon reading the small print (ah, how all the nasty stuff lurks there! ), I find out that the stench this substance leaves behind may be indelible, not to mention that inhalation thereof is carcinogenic, not to mention...

To make a long story short, the top-of-the-line scratch-cover remains in the bottom drawer of my toolbox.

Not to mention a rather endearing anecdote pertaining to this instrument: As it came via England, it must have been submerged in Darjeeling tea for the last century or so! I have never come across a more, ehm... aromatic instrument. Who would want to spoil THAT? #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Apr-29-2004, 6:41am
A few weeks have passed— sadly, with precious little mandolin playing, as I was sequestered (imprisoned?) in the pit for most of that time, in a production of ALL THREE versions of Madama Butterfly. Phew!

Now, then: The strings have evened out; no more twang on the D's, no sluggishness to the roundwound A's; all is well.

In summary: Fine strings, lovely, lovely instrument.

The only thing that I have not fully come to terms with is the height-compensation of the bridge, the excessive (to me) elevation of the G-side. I am, of course, reluctant to mutilate a bridge that clearly reflects the Calace atelier's best intentions.

Perhaps at some time in the future I will have an alternative bridge constructed: one possibly with compensation by indentation (on the G and A courses) but of even, level height. As it stands, I fail to see the benefit of such height. The instrument has that lovely, much-praised, velvety Calace intonation, no rough edges, no excessive tempering (in either direction)... truly wonderful. The only flaw becomes perceptible on the G-string, from the 7th fret up. Clearly, the culprit is the height of the bridge on that side and all those inevitable, Pythagorian corollaries. Wouldn't that be helped by an indented bridge? I think so.

Also, the instrument has the equivalent of what pianists call "Steinway Power": It is strung for battle. (I recall playing Carlo Aonzo's Pandini, how it felt, like a cross-bow ready to shoot, tight, muscular, triggered to a hair's touch...) I suppose that I am having a hard time wrapping my feeble cerebellum around the concept of a "concert mandolin"... OK, it's just me... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Alex Timmerman
Apr-29-2004, 3:09pm
Hello Victor,

Good to hear that the strings work fine on your Calace.

As for the height of the bridge and more in particular that under the lowest string pair, I would suggest to adjust it to the height most convenient to you together with the needed bridge compensation under both strings.
That is what performers do (or ask their luthier to fix for them).

Many greetings,


Apr-30-2004, 10:46am
Thank you, Alex.

To be most precise, the problem is not one of the player's convenience or comfort but strictly one of the instrument's intonation: I have no difficulty any more in pressing down the G-strings, as the Lenzner G's are not half as stiff as the horribly thick carbonsteels the instrument came with. So, the comfort-issue has effectively been resolved.

The continuing problem is that, with the angle of the G-strings (due to the height of the bridge) and the quite significant distance they need to descend in order to touch the frets, the pitch naturally is higher than it should be, past the 7th fret. I may be describing this phenomenon inadequately but I am sure you all understand it better than I am describing it.

Hence my intention to have another bridge carved for this instrument some day: Perhaps even a flat, even, uncompensated bridge would be just fine; or, to be somewhat more ambitious, one with the scooped out indentations that give the G- and A-courses slightly more string-length than the D- and E-courses. Let us see...

Apr-30-2004, 11:25am
for what it's worth...

i am told that wax will eventually start to attack the glue holding the instrument together. this hasn't stopped me, however, from rubbing a stick of pure bee's wax all over my body of my charango (made from one piece of wood) - being careful to avoid those areas which are joined. the sound isn't altered by this and it feels so much better to hold than when it was covered in shellac.

the oud is different. it's constructed from many pieces of wood (more or less) like a mandolin and the advise in this case is to have a good solid coating of varnish on the back - to seal all the joins - and leave the face absolutely bare.

bee's wax should give the instrument a fresh sweet smell. don't know where the bad odour that was mentioned earlier could have come from.

- bill

Sep-22-2005, 9:42am
Hi there Victor. I've finally taken delivery of my Calace model 24. (It took less than 2 years from first enquiry to delivery and a small part of that was due to my own inactivity!)
I have just re-read this thread and my initial impressions of the instrument are very similar to yours so I was delighted to hear of the improvements you obtained by changing the strings. I was wondering if you still feel Lenzner Consorts are the best to use on your instrument. Also, are you happy with your new bridge?


Sep-22-2005, 10:09am
Congratulations, Jacky. You and your baby have my best wishes! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Yes, Lenzner Consorts are THE strings for me. I am going through my second set on my own, year-old Calace. Of course, I must warn you of my maverick opinion— as usual: others might argue, quite cogently, that the "factory recommended" carbonsteels (e.g. Dogal) are inherently better suited, ipso facto. Upon the arrival of my Calace, it had VERY heavy carbonsteels on; hideously heavy and stiff. I lost them immediately; some might argue that I should have first tried Dogal DOLCE, i.e. softer, lighter, before changing to an altogether different type of strings, i.e. bronzewound Lenzners.

I did not need to have the bridge changed but merely filed down, on the G-course side, and repositioned for better intonation. It was outrageously slanted, coming out of the Calace shop, and poorly adjusted. Naturally, any time you change brand of strings (e.g. Dogal to Lenzner), you obviously need to change, if ever so minutely, the bridge placement. I also had the "foot" of the bridge filed for better fitting to the soundboard; again, the slight (but annoying) sloppiness of the Calace firm is evidenced in these small, yet striking deficiencies. Even the actual STRINGING of my Calace had obviously been done by someone who knew precious little about proper angles, correct coiling of the strings on the posts... (!)

The tone and intonation of my toddler Calace is superb, #by modern instrument standards; again, I cannot compare with Larsons, as I have not played one. Pandinis are swell but, strung with Dogal mediums, they give me that odd, truck-driving experience behind the wheel. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Please bear in mind that Lenzners, for as much as I love them, sound HORRIFICALLY unbalanced at first; please allow them a couple of weeks to mellow out. The oddity of the wound A's has worn off; at this point in my mando-life, I find it harder than ever to transition from the D's to UNwound A's without a break in tone-color. Again, a maverick in my tastes...

Also, take joy in the future: you have much to look forward to! The tone of my own Calace has improved and enriched its complexity ENORMOUSLY since I got it. Regardless of personal preferences, it is undeniable that the tone of an instrument played day in, day out, "matures", growing both quantitatively (i.e. stronger, louder, more projecting) and qualitatively (i.e. rounder, fuller, warmer, sweeter).

May you enjoy your new baby in good health and cheer for a lifetime!




Sep-22-2005, 5:07pm
Victor, Thank you for your best wishes and advice. The stringing of my instrument was exactly as you describe so I have effectively re-strung it with the original strings but wound them at the post so that the angle is reduced. I'm trying to decide between the Consorts and Dogal Calaces, neither of which are particularly easy to obtain. However, I see I can get the Consorts on Dutch E-bay so shall probably try those first. The bridge is also as you describe but doesn't bother me at present. I'm greatly looking forward to the baby learning to talk and shall report on it's progress. It's certainly very easy to play which is one of my most important requirements.

Jim Garber
Sep-22-2005, 10:48pm
Where are you located? If you are in the US:

The source in the US for Dogal mandolin strings is:
Classic Bows, Inc., PO Box 81655, San Diego, CA 92138
Phone: 1-888-402-5277
email: classicbows@nethere.com
Talk to Greg Gohde who specializes in mandolins

RW92B Soft Tension (dolce)
RW92 Regular Tension (medio)

The source for Lenzner mandolin strinmgs in the US is:

Steve Miklas (steve@acousticmusicworks.com)
Acoustic Music Works, LLC
2142 Murray Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

I believe that he may still have a few sets left from his last order. He was a Lenzner violin string dealer and went the extra mile for us here to make these available for us.

I use Dogal mediums on my Pandini -- still doesn;t feel like driving a truck to me, but I am used to carved top instruments as well with heavier strings. I strung my Demeglio with Lenzners and the sound it wonderful.

Do you have pictures of your new arrival that you could post? I don;t see any mention of model 24 on the Calace site (just 26). I just got a model 24 made in the 1920s and am curious what the modern version looks like.


Sep-23-2005, 7:29am
I owe Jim an apology: I did not mean to malign his own Pandini. I was speaking more of Carlo's Pandini, which I found very heavily strung when I got a chance to play it; the fact that the top of this instrument was once caving in under the pressure or the strings, and that Carlo had to take it back to Mr. Pandini for reinforcement, goes some way in corroborating my impression. Still, of course, Carlo plays it with unhampered aplomb, and presumably appreciates the very stiffness I find so, ehm, 18-wheeler-like.

Jim, (present-day) Model Nº 24 is identical to my Nº 26, other than the absence of the floral design on the pickguard. Looking at the specs, I would assume that that is the only difference. Having said that, I would still love to see Jacky's newborn... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Cheers, (and, again, apologies to Jim)


Jim Garber
Sep-23-2005, 8:09am
No apologies needed. However, if you want to make it up to me, let's meet and play some duets, eh?

Even if you hated my Pandini, that is fine also. Ironically, I decided to bite the proverbial MAS bullet buying that one after first playing Carlo's. His VTW was made in the mid-nineties and I think the later ones Sr. Pandini realized that the heavier strings needed a more robust top.

You and I, Victor, come from different camps. I am a relative newbie (only a few years) to the bowlback and am used to carved top instruments and other heavy-duty steel strings instruments. You have a long history with the bowlback.

I was thinking of trying Lenzner mediums on it since it is prob due for a string change. I like the Calace strings, however. I have played one with Thomastiks and those strings IMHO are incompatible with the Italian sound. I believe that one of the ones that Carlo brought last year has Pyramids on it and that sounded pretty nice.

Jim "Big Trucker" Garber

Sep-23-2005, 11:22am
Victor is absolutely right about model 24. My baby is a younger sibling to his. The string guard is very similar but has a slightly different shape and pattern, while the pick guard is smaller and completely undecorated. It's the absolute bottom or the range - no frills model. However, there is beauty in simplicity as well as cheapness! It certainly represents good value for money. I don't have any pictures at present but if you look at Victor's you will get the idea. Thanks for the advise on purchasing strings but I'm in the UK so will pursue other outlets when I have the time. Regards,

Sep-23-2005, 2:17pm
Oh, I certainly do not hate your Pandini, Jim. My impression was from when I once laid down my bronze-strung Ceccherini and tried Carlo's carbonsteel-strung boomer. And, of course, THAT one was a lovely instrument too! I am only speaking of my own, comparative, tactile impressions.

All the same: I gladly accept my "punishment" and will seek any and every opportunity to jam with you, o mando-brother James. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Jacky, even in the UK, you can easily get Lenzners from Hendrik's eBay-store; why, he's the proverbial "stone's throw away" from you, right across the water.