View Full Version : Vega Pettine Special Mandolin - Bowlback - year 1900

Apr-07-2011, 9:38pm
So I happened upon a mandolin and it turned out to be a Year 1900 Vega Pettine Special with an inlay pattern that is similar to a Martin D100 Deluxe. I have a friend who is a world-class Mandolin luthier (Randy Wood) and he said he will restore it for me. Question is, who would be the best person to give this mandolin to for restoration? There is one separation between the ribs but that is all. There are no cracks in the wood. The wood is Brazilian Rosewood and there are 45 Ribs. Very, very beautiful piece. Anyone?

Apr-07-2011, 9:58pm
Paging Jim... Jim Garber, please pick up the courtesy phone...


Ed Goist
Apr-07-2011, 10:12pm
Didn't you just say that Randy Wood would work on this mandolin for you?
Why would you consider taking it to anyone else, particularly if he is a friend of yours?
I say that if he's comfortable doing the work, go for it!
It's always a benefit to have a luthier you know and trust, especially if they have a reputation like Randy Wood!

Apr-07-2011, 10:30pm
Look no further. If I can glue a rib separation, there can be no doubt Randy Wood can do it.

Apr-07-2011, 11:29pm
Thanks. I trust Randy Wood very, very much. He is a master of his craft for sure. I just wanted to be sure there was not an bowl back expert that I should be using. Thanks for the advise. I was not positive that this was his bailiwick or if he would even be interested in working on it. He said he would but I wanted to make sure I was not taking advantage of our friendship. Thanks again!

Ed Goist
Apr-07-2011, 11:36pm
Shawnpate, in fairness, several bowlback experts here on the Cafe have said that the skills needed for working on bowlbacks are somewhat specialized, and that not every luthier is inclined to work on them.

That said, I just had mandolin builder Max Girouard refurbish a Brandt bowlback that I recently purchased (you can see pictures of it by clicking the link in my signature), and he did a great job.

I'd say you are definitely good to go if Randy Wood is comfortable doing the work.

Jim Garber
Apr-08-2011, 7:13am
The biggest problem in having North American luthiers work on bowlbacks is not necessarily the skills but the inclination and willingness to take on the task. The other sticking point is usually that many bowkbacks are just not worth price ofthe labor it takes to fix them and owners of these may not want to spend that money. having said all that, Randy Wood is up there and if he is willing to work on it , go for it.

Can you post some photos of your Vega? You should know that Vega Pettine models are at the top of desirability for American made vintage bowlbacks. I recently acquired one and a high end luthier agreed to take the work on. I hoe he doesn't renege on this or forgot that he agreed.

BTW I don't know why you would call the Pettine inlay pattern similar to a Martin D100. That Martin IMHO is way over the top. The pettine is actually pretty subdued for its era.

Apr-08-2011, 8:01am
Here are some poor pictures I have with me that I took with my phone, but it will give you and idea of why I said it resembeled the D100. My intention is to give this to a friend of mine who is a master mandolin player after it is refurbished. I know he would love this in his collection. I don't play mandolin well enough to have this on my doorstep. I will take better pictures this weekend and post them on here.

Jim Garber
Apr-08-2011, 8:08am
Does that say Pettine on it anywhere? It looks like a style 5 Vega to me. Actually fancier than a Pettine, according to the catalog. I do see what you mean by the D100 reference. Thanks for the pics. What is the back like? Fluted ribs?

Apr-08-2011, 8:15am
Sorry, post with pictures below.

Apr-08-2011, 8:20am
Here are a couple pictures of the back. Sorry about the bad photo's, like I said, I will take better ones to post this weekend. It does not say Pettine on it anywhere, but from my research (it may be wrong) all of the 45 rib vega mandolins were called Pettine mandolines.

Jim Garber
Apr-08-2011, 8:39am
No, Pettine was Giuseppe Pettine a great player and teacher in Rhode Island and the Pettine model (mine pictured above) was a specific artist model. There were two (maybe three) other models that were made under artists names: Abt, Scalzo and Lansing (based on a style 3). Yours is the more ornate than the artist ones and I think is a style 5. I have to check my catalogs at home.

Jim Garber
Apr-08-2011, 7:22pm
Well, for a change, I think I was actually right. :)

This is a style 5 with its rather uniquely-shaped pickguard and lots of inlay. Here is the catalog page that is closest to Shawn's mandolin. Unfortunately, Vega was not too fond of dating their catalogs but it was prob around 1910 or so. I also have a scan from another catalog which might be a little later -- it also shows cylinder backs which makes it later teens. In addition to the style 5, this one also has an even fancier model called the Deluxe that has fluted ribs and some carving on the apron.

Apr-08-2011, 10:57pm
Yikes. Kind of ghastly to look at (more is not always more,) but I'll bet it will sound great. Bring in Mr. Wood. Let's get it on. I can't wait to hear more about it.


Apr-08-2011, 11:23pm
Yet another extended fingerboard sadly cut off...

Apr-11-2011, 8:09pm
Got some more pics for you all. Thanks for looking that up Jim!

I'm going to get a fiberglass case for it and send it to Randy for refurbishment unless someone else thinks of a better idea. Let me know what you guys think of the pictures.

Nov-08-2011, 12:49pm
I just got my Mandolin back from Randy Wood this past weekend. Let me know what you all think.










Jim Garber
Nov-08-2011, 2:01pm
Very nice, Shawn. What did Randy do for you? How does it sound? What strings did you put on it?

Nov-08-2011, 7:20pm
Same as above.
Looks nice.

Nov-08-2011, 7:33pm
Jealous. Still want to play one of these, as I have much fondness for Vega mandolins.

Nov-09-2011, 6:48pm

Here is a list of things he did to get the mandolin in working shape for me. I am not sure what strings he put on it, but I will email to ask.

Added extension including one fret and binding

Replaced missing binding on finger board

Repaired bridge

Repaired separation in back

Repaired nut

Cleaned and oil tuners

Replaced missing inlay

Bob DeVellis
Nov-09-2011, 8:26pm
A beautiful restoration of a beautiful instrument. Congratulations!

Nov-10-2011, 9:19am
Lovely instrument.

Nov-11-2011, 12:06pm

Randy said he used "Ernie Ball Earth Wood Mandolin Light" Strings.

Dec-11-2011, 9:56pm
Now that this is restored... does anybody here have any idea what this would be worth. I know what Randy Wood said but wanted some other input. My friend that I had this refurbed for is actually and F5 Player. :(

Bruce Clausen
Dec-11-2011, 10:17pm
Oh, I get it, your friend the owner might want to sell it... and you want to buy it, right? Remind him that nobody wants old bowlbacks anymore, and offer him a little more than Randy charged him for the work. ;)

Jim Garber
Dec-11-2011, 11:41pm
I am not as sure as Bruce is if you are saying that. Very difficult to determine what the market value is for ultra-ornate vintage American bowlbacks. Most dealers in the US have at one or two but they usually hang around for a long time. of course, if someone is looking for just that one...

What did Randy say he thought? Your friend can certainly ask whatever he wants and see what the market will bring but finding a buyer is the harder part. Then again, this is the place, if any.

Bruce Clausen
Dec-12-2011, 1:25pm
Sorry to be confusing, Jim. I may be wrong, but I assume Shawn is looking for a high figure, not a low one. Another interesting thread seems to be turning in a commercial direction. Too bad.

Jim Garber
Dec-13-2011, 6:43am
I find that many of these things turn out to be OBOs. You know... the seller puts out a number and people interested will either contact with what they are willing to pay, generally saying that they don't want to insult them with a low offer but that it is only worth such and such to them etc. Sop that way we never really know what anything really sells for.

Feb-29-2012, 10:30pm
Actually Bruce it was just out of curiosity. I have decided to keep it. I have a few Martin Guitars and I am mostly a collector (I have never sold an instrument for profit) and I find this instrument to be most intriguing. I was mearly looking for someone that would love this more than I. Money is not a motivating factor for me. Like I said before, I simply purchased it in order to give it away after I had it refurbed. My friends said he would take it but he is more of an F5 player and that if I liked it, to keep it in my own collection. $ was never the motivation but Randy did offer me much more money than I think any of you would guess... and I turned it down. Jim, thanks for sticking to the subject matter and not bashing me for asking a question. You have been most helpful on my search for knowledge. Like I said in the beginning, I'm a noob when it comes to this stuff but I view these instruments as art and I have a deep respect for the craft itself.