View Full Version : F-hole bowlback at elderly

Sep-09-2006, 1:28pm
Here (http://elderly.com/vintage/items/90U-4571.htm)'s something wierd. An f-hole mando at least 25 years before Loar, and on a bowlback no less. Must have been quite a time to be alive...

jim simpson
Sep-09-2006, 9:44pm
I think that was the bluegrass model!

I actually once saw a bluegrass group with the mandolinist playing a bowlback. Maybe it was a back-up but it sure was odd to see.

Sep-10-2006, 7:29am
That is fascinating. Kind of hideous looking, but you can tell how they tried to integrate the design between the pickguard shape, fretboard end, and f holes. It is easy to see why someone would want to give this design a try.

It looks to be in pretty good shape. The top looks like a nice piece of wood. For $200 it seems like a steal for someone's collection.

What does anyone know about Waldo? How long were they in business? Did they manufacture or just distribute?

You might post this over to the 'bowlbacks of note" thread in the CLASSICAL section of the board. There are some serious wonks there who might have some background information (if not opinions....)



Jim Garber
Sep-10-2006, 11:44am
According to mugwumps site, Waldo was in existence in Saginaw, MI from 1893-1903+. I have one of those and they are an interesting footmote to the std bowlbacks.The faulty design decision seems to be not supporting the area on the top between the f-holes. Most have warpage in that area.

BTW Shutt was another maker that predated Gibson on using f-holes on their flattop mandolins.

Paul Ruppa from Milwaukee is an expert on Waldo, BTW as well as on Vega mandoolins.


Lowell Levinger
Sep-12-2006, 12:45am
All the Shutts I've seen have carved tops.

Jim Garber
Sep-12-2006, 7:26am
Interesting, Lowell. Having never seen on in person, I assumed, from the picsc , that they were canted tops. Now looking at various pics I have I can see that they are slightly carved, nowhere near as arched as Gibsons.


Tom C
Sep-12-2006, 7:57am
So, Lloyd Loar was not the first to use F-holes on a mando.

Rick Turner
Sep-12-2006, 11:16am
We love Lloyd, but he wasn't the first to elevate the fingerboard or use a "snake-style" peghead, either...and he wasn't the first to carefully tune various elements of the instrument. And Gibson wasn't the first company to promote a whole family of mando instruments and associated mandolin ensembles and orchestras... The myths die hard, don't they?

Sep-12-2006, 1:11pm
I have an old photo of the Waldo Quintet of the Ft Worth Mandolin Club from February of 1896. Imagine guys in tuxs holding a matched set of mandolins like the one at Elderly. Along with a matching mandola and mandocello.

Sep-12-2006, 1:16pm
A bit off topic, but Rick Turner's comment got me thinking: do any of you history buffs have evidence of pre-Orville carved-top mandolins or guitars?

Rick Turner
Sep-12-2006, 7:54pm
Sure looks like Shutt was giving Orville a run for his money...and with more "modern" construction with the bent sides and all. Orville was sawing his sides out of big blocks of walnut at that time. And wearing funny clothes... But Saginaw isn't a world away from Kalamazoo, so maybe they went to the same health spa run by Dr. Kellogg. What was that funny and gross movie with Brigitte Fonda and Robert Downey, Jr. "Road to Wellville?" I can just see Orville there wearing one of those electric jock straps...

Rick Turner
Sep-12-2006, 7:57pm
Oops, Matthew Broderick, not Robert Downey, Jr. And Anthony Hopkins...

Sep-12-2006, 11:01pm
Oops, Matthew Broderick, not Robert Downey, Jr. And Anthony Hopkins...

Well at least we got that straightened out http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Lowell Levinger
Sep-13-2006, 11:47am
Shutt was in Topeka around 1910 making mandolins with long necks, carved tops, f-holes, extended elevated fingerboards, raised pickguards, bent sides and black finishes. He also was a band leader, music teacher and composer. He penned the classic "We're Proud Of You Kansas".
He also made carved top mandolas and guitars with much the same specs. I'm waiting for the mandocello to surface.

Check out:

I'll get pictures of the guitar up there 'real soon now'.

Bob DeVellis
Sep-13-2006, 5:02pm
Another Shutt innovation is evident in a couple of those linked photos: Shutt had holes in his pickguards where they extended over the f-holes, so as not to block the sound. It's surprising nobody has copied that over the years (or maybe they have and I just haven't noticed).

This one, Wesley?


Sep-13-2006, 5:55pm
Fantastic stuff, you guys. Thanks for posting!


Sep-13-2006, 10:01pm
Waldo also made a bowl-back, f-hole mandocello. Here's pix of one that Elderly sold a few years ago:

Waldo bowl-back 'cello (http://www.elderly.com/items/90U-3164.htm)

Sep-25-2006, 5:47pm
Waldo and, as alluded, several others (Embergher, Waldo, Howe-Orme, Guttman) made the whole quartet comfortably before Gibson check out Paul Ruppa's thesis (I can dig up a full citation if curious). Also as mentioned, Waldo did it all with f holes even at that early date. I have also handled one very odd Embergher with f holes carrying a label dated 1890, and there is an odd 18th-c. Vinaccia at America's Music Museum, SD, with fanciful f holes.

Jim Garber
Sep-25-2006, 6:26pm
Here's the Vinaccia. 1772, somewhat before Gibson.



Sep-25-2006, 6:54pm
Tres Rococo, Jim. What is happening at the transition from fretboard to table? Are those frets? Bruce Wei might not be as outrageous as I thought.

All fairness to Orville and Lloyd, coming up with the idea of f-holes for a mandolin hardly seems like anyone's claim to fame. That's kind of like falling off a log.

But as the man said: if you know your history, then you know where you're coming from.

Great thread.


Martin Jonas
Sep-25-2006, 7:18pm
Tres Rococo, Jim. What is happening at the transition from fretboard to table? Are those frets?
That's standard on early Neapolitans, and other fretted instruments of the period: they don't have a separate piece of wood as a fretboard but rather the frets are set directly into the neck, which is flush with the soundboard. It's natural then that the higher frets are just inlaid (or onlaid) onto the soundboard itself.


Sep-26-2006, 8:54am
Actually, there ordinarily was a separate fingerboard, but it was glued to the neck lying flush with the table. This was a carry over from earlier instruments like lutes that typically had gut frets tied to the neck. The earliest incarnations of Neapolitan mandolin still had this flush fingerboard arrangement. This didn't start to change on guitars until ca. 1820. Staufer in Vienna is sometimes given credit for the innovation, but I think this attribution probably is more a matter of confusion with his "Legnani" model guitars that carried an early version of elevated fingerboard wholly free of the table. Mandolins of the early 1800s are more rare, but they certainly started sporting the raised, contiguous fingerboard glued onto the table by into the 1830s.

Sep-26-2006, 11:15am
Martin and Eugene:

Did the overall section geometry evolve along with the fretboard?

I would imagine then that the bridge would be shallower with the configurations you describe. With a shallower bridge the string angle from tailpiece to bridge would be lower, and assuming this, the potential string tension on the bridge would be less.

With the thinness of the Italian fretboards, though, I wonder if this would make much difference.

I guess I've answered my own question, but if you have any thoughts on that let me know.


Rick Turner
Sep-27-2006, 2:45am
You can elevate the fingerboard and have any bridge height you want. All you have to do is go to a negative neck angle. Draw a straight line. That's the side view of a string. Draw the fingerboard tapering off below that. Then draw in a bridge side view. Now draw the side view of the top anywhere it fits! You'll be amazed once you convert your view of it all to being established by the string, not the instrument.

Sep-27-2006, 7:27pm

What you are saying makes sense, if I understand correctly. Are you saying the section, in effect, remains in the same relationship? The neck angle, fretboard thickness, bridge height, top cant-to-tail piece angle are all coordinated. As one has 'evolved' in changing designs the others have changed along with it to keep some version of his dynamic in place.

Seeing bowlbacks and archtops in section though (and considering the string profile) I can track this evolving relationshiops. It does make me wonder about the flat, flat, flat-tops with low bridges and low action. An odd design manifestation as I understand it.


Rick Turner
Sep-27-2006, 8:20pm
There are different stress dynamics going on depending on how you treat all the geometry, but just try the excercise of drawing string, then fingerboard, and then establish your desired bridge height. Then just monkey around with where the top goes, how the strings get to a tailpiece or if it's a guitar what happens aft of the saddle, and then you get to decide things about the top, for instance, whether it's domed or flat or whatever. Just remember that any stringed intstrument starts with one or more stretched strings...they are the defining issue.