View Full Version : ordering a new bowlback from a luthier

May-16-2004, 2:50pm
Hi people,
I am considering ordering a new bowlback from a luthier. The decorative aspect is not important, but I would like a classical intrument that is perfect without need of restoration and built to current-day standards of quality. I am thinking of Daniel Larson. Any other notable luthiers I should consider?

May-16-2004, 2:50pm
that should read NEVER done it before

John Bertotti
May-16-2004, 3:07pm
I love going around this luthiers web site. He has a picture of one of his mandolins next to another vintage instrument. The pic says 1550 euros I believe. I don't know if that is a current price but think 1550 is around 1900 dollars, I think. Here is a link to a download of his mp3s. His instruments next to some classics. I am certain his restyled calace will be my eventual upgrade.oldmandolin.com (http://www.oldmandolin.com/framemand/indexframe.htm) http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif John

Bob A
May-16-2004, 5:13pm
G. Pandini makes an interesting bowlback, as played by Carlo Aonzo (and David Grisman). I believe they run around 2500 US,but I could be mistaken. At least one regular contributor here owns one.

The Calace atelier produces a range of instruments as well. Yet another poster owns a new one.

So far as I am aware, no one hereabouts has a mandolin by the luthier you mention, Carlo Mazzacara, although his site is familiar to most of us. He's mostly known for his sales of older instruments, which he restores and sells, primarily to Japan, it seems.

Daniel Larson's instruments are played professionally by another contributor to this site. He has nothing but praise for them.

That about exhausts my secondhand information on the subject.

Firsthand experience is limited to a new Greek bowlback by Kevorkian. A very fun instrument, although it differs from Italian mandolins a bit.

Current standards of quality is a bit vague. It might be well if you were to elaborate on your plans for the instrument, and perhaps an idea of what you're willing to pay.

May-16-2004, 5:31pm
Hi, by current standards of quality I meant, current standards of quality in terms of mandolins made by independent luthiers (as opposed to souvenier, worthy of being hung on a wall at best, sorts of bowlback mandolins) for classical mandolin specifically.

I was hoping to keep it in the under 2500 range. I see that to order a Larson plain bowlback it would set me back 2700 minimum. The model with binding etc is considerably more. But still less than a top of the line F model mandolin.

As far as plans, I hope to have a sweet sounding mandolin primarily for classical playing and for practicing the likes of the Munier etudes. Just got my hands on a set of those and need a serious mandolin upgrade! I think that mid-summer I will be in a position to make the investment in a high quality mandolin, in the hopes of having it be a keeper that meets my playing needs for the next few decades.

Bob A
May-16-2004, 7:58pm
Are you particularly looking for something new? There exists a number of quality instruments with some age on them; it's not impossible to find something well worth considering within your price range. I got a Vega Pettine Special off ebay for about $1800; it's a wonderful mandolin, with no indication that it's 90+ years old, just by way of example.

Jim Garber
May-16-2004, 8:27pm
I am the owner of the Pandini mentioned by bob A. I bought mine thru Carlo Aonzo last fall. I know that David Grisman also has one and likes the tone, tho he complained that he couldn't figure out how to hold it. Perhaps if you are in California, you could see and try his.

I haven't much experience with other non-American bowlbacks, vinage or new. I like the Pandini but it was 2500 euros which at the time was about $2900. Mine is the actual one pictured on the Eye Candy page and can also be seen on this thread (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=15;t=14185), first page, scroll down nearly to the bottom.

It is a very sweet, clear sounding playable instrument with the capabilities of expression and dynamics. After a few months in the US climate it does need some small adjustment. It is my main playing instrument for the classical repertoire, along with my Lyon & Healy.

I would not say that Sr. Pandini is the ultimate in precision workmanship but his instruments have the right sound and the soul.

Frankly, if I were looking around I would check out some of the European luthiers. I believe that Daniel Larsen may be possibly the only American maker of bowlback mandolins. He does make exqusisite instruments but I would love to know if anyone else in the US is doing so.


May-17-2004, 8:45am
Good morning, all.

As alluded above, I am the happy owner of a rather low-end, 2004-crop Calace. Well, what can I tell you? It is certainly "a classical intrument that is perfect without need of restoration and built to current-day standards of quality".

On the other hand, I cannot obscure the fact that, according to credible allegations, said "current-day" standards may be lower that what they used to be at the Calace atelier several generations ago— certainly when the great Raffaele was at the helm. I wouldn't know; I have never owned, nor do I hope/expect to ever own a pre-war Calace.

On structural/functional grounds, I must say that this instrument works just fine. Again, much as in Jim's experience with the Pandini, my newborn Calace may need some adjustments by about a year from time of arrival. But I would consider that normal and no demerit at all.

You can view this instrument (and read all the relevant discussions) under the "The Stork Is In" thread. All said, bank fees, currency exchange commissions, shipping, customs fees, etc. included, it cost me something shy of $1,000. Naturally, you would and SHOULD expect more if you spend over double that on a higher-end Calace, or a Pandini, or a Larson.

My (perhaps plebeian) bias —and consequent doubt—#is whether another $1,500-2,000 above what I paid gets you another $1,500-2,000 sound-quality worth or simply a fancier instrument, something I fancy but little. No accounting for taste, of course...

My $0.02 worth. Best of luck and keep us informed.


May-18-2004, 11:07am
While old Carlo M. of oldmandolin.com (http://www.oldmandolin.com/) charges obscene rates for classic instruments, desecrated for the modern virtuoso, I have been incredibly curious about his own seemingly reasonably priced work. #Has anybody here ever handled a mandolin he has built?

PS: I see Carlo is no longer arguing that one of his recent acquisitions is by Vinaccia, but is now acknowledging that it was actually built by Manello's shop in NYC. #For a welcome change of pace, it also seems he is striving to restore this piece with attention to the intent of the builder. #Carlo says "I am restoreing the fingerboard because during the shipping was lost some decores, but i have all info and original photo to replace its..." (odd spelling and sentence terminus preserved). #I'm certain this is the result of campaigning by several regulars here. #Good work, all!

May-18-2004, 11:57am
Ah... in labor-relations terminology, the Café is becoming an "instrument of pressure"! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

If nothing else, I think we have in fact lowered the pressure on some instruments by tirelessly advocating the use of lighter strings.