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Thread: Vega with a carved top

  1. #1
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Vega with a carved top

    I'm a big Vega fan - mandolins, banjos, guitars... you name it - but this one caught me by surprise. It's not in any of the catalogs I have, and I've never seen another. The tailpiece and bridge are replacements and there are two top cracks running from the treble-side f-hole, but I knew this before I bought it and the price was still right. It strongly reminds me of Vega's lower-priced acoustic archtop guitars, both in the positioning of the f-holes and how the carve rises to meet the fingerboard extension. The back is laminated, arched mahogany. The neck is fairly straight and very playable. It's not the loudest or bassiest mandolin, but it has a sweet, refined sound when played with a heavy pick - which is exactly the way I describe Vega's archtop guitars.

    If anyone has information on this model, I'm all ears. The serial may put it in the late 1930s; it's higher than my ca. 1936 Vega guitar, but I'm assuming the mandos and guitars used the same sequence.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    That's one I haven't seen before. It certainly looks authentic. I agree with the 1930's. I have seen similar tuners on Gibson and Martin mandolins from that period, and the checking pattern would tend to indicate a nitro finish.

  4. #3
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    I happened to find the perfect old tailpiece, complete with cloud-shaped cover, so I'll have it looking up to par pretty soon. I also plan to replace the bridge; the rosewood doesn't match the ebony fretboard, and the saddle is so thin that it's bowing under the pressure of the strings. A Gibson-style bridge would be too tall, so I'm thinking of using a single-piece bridge. It might bring out more volume and bass as well.
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    You might consider taking some wood off the bridge so the saddle can be deeper. Most can loose some height without a problem.
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  6. #5
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    It would need to lose at least 1/4". At that point, I think it would bow just like this one.
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    Very nice. I didn't know they made anything besides banjo's but there's nice youtube demos e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrpR5IbAUlk

    I have to say that pickguard bracket pressing on the top isn't helping the top crack situation
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  8. #7
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    Vega was bought by Martin in 1970, and by the end of that decade the name had been sold again and was put on some fairly generic imports from east Asia; that's where the mandolin in that video was made. The shop I bought mine from did actually make a video, but the sound isn't great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DCI-UCdpcY

    The pickguard bracket isn't pressing into the top at all.
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    Vega was making mandolins before they bought Fairbanks and started making banjos. Prewar Vega mandolins tend to be well made, good sounding instruments.

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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    The Vega with a carved top reminded me of a Martin 2-15 mandolin. The headstock on the "carved-top Vega" looks like a vintage Vega, but that's about it at first glance. I would like to know if this Vega compares favorably to your other Vegas. The Martin 2-15 that I've played lacks tone and volume. Paul Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #10
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vega with a carved top

    That same comparison crossed my mind - it does look a lot like a 2-15, and the sound is not far off, either (but a little less shrill). They're both nice instruments, but not in the mold of a classic blugrass mando. This Vega is a very different kind of mandolin than the cylinder-backs, so it's sort of an apples-to-oranges comparison; it has shorter sustain and much less bass, but it would definitely cut through a mix of instruments better.
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