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Thread: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    I picked up a vintage mandolin in an antique shop in Belgium recently. The fella that owned the shop said it was 150 years old. It has tortoise shell on the top with mother of pearl around the edges and the opening. The pegs are wood and the label inside the mandolin says Piroli Cavalli casa di Vendita in Liegi. Fabbriea in Sevilla. Italia

    I havenít been able to find any info on the maker and was wondering if anyone knows anything about the maker and this mandolin.

    Thank you!
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin


  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    It's not a 150 years old.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Thank you!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Was my thought as well, but being a novice wasnít really sure. Thanks

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Tuner buttons look like bone.

    The 4-peg string holders are generally indicative of an older mandolin. While it is not 150 years old, might be turn of the (last) century.

    The usual caveat applies: extra light strings - which should be easy to come by in Belgium. In the US, heavier strings are much more common, as the Gibson-style instruments require them, thanks to their much heavier build.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    You've got an unplayable run-of-the-mill Sicilian mandolin likely to be made in 1910s or thereabouts. There were 1000's of them made back then under various trade names. Hope you haven't paid too much for it. Given it's neck is bent it is only good for a wall-hanger presently. While it is possible to fix it, it is not viable, as the repair will cost more than the instrument is worth after repair. Sorry for the bad news.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Not sure where the o/p is but I'd agree with vic-victor. In the UK they seem to make a reasonable amount on the "antique" market and it seems that the price is usually set by how much someone is prepared to pay to hang one on the wall.

  9. #9
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    You've got an unplayable run-of-the-mill Sicilian mandolin likely to be made in 1910s or thereabouts. There were 1000's of them made back then under various trade names. Hope you haven't paid too much for it. Given it's neck is bent it is only good for a wall-hanger presently. While it is possible to fix it, it is not viable, as the repair will cost more than the instrument is worth after repair. Sorry for the bad news.
    May I ask how you know the neck is bent?
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  10. #10

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Looking at the side picture. Low type bridge and the action way too high. Looks like the angle of the fretboard changes at the 11th fret and it happens either when the neck is bent or if there is a movement at the neck joint. Either way means problem. If it was an instrument with a truss rod it could have been adjusted to a degree. But with a bowlback the repair is far more complicated.

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  12. #11
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Definitely has some neck curve, it looks to be in the neck and not the joint so not as bad a repair.
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  13. #12
    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    As I thought, I was looking at the wrong thing. Thanks for pointing that out.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    From what I can see, my guess is that it is neither the neck or the neck joint that has failed but that the top to the "north" of the soundhole has sunken in a bit which has caused the neck geometry to rotate up making for unplayable action. This is visible in the OP's photo #4 as Victor has noted.

    This is unfortunately not uncommon on ROTM bowlbacks from this era and likely why both CF Martin and LEmbergher reinforced this area on their mandolins. It's something I add to all my bowlbacks as a precautionary adjustment.

    The reports of the death of this mandolin are greatly exaggerated. I've repaired many a bowlback in this condition by reinforcing the top, adjusting the bridge and frankly replacing the fretboard with a new tapered piece to adjust for the change in neck angle. I've also planed the neck geometry on some with less radical rotation. I don't imagine that is an option here.

    I'm always a bit amused by those who will cast these aside saying "it's not worth it.....". In some respects, that is correct, the money spent repairing it might go to a intact instrument. However, the beautiful music made from these old Italian bowlbacks, even the ROTM ones is sublime. They have a "shimmering sound" as our friend, Martin, put it so poetically, that can't be matched.

    A couple dinners out forgone. A couple tanks of gasoline. Buying your wine at Trader Joe's. Skipping your cable TV for a season. A lovely if humble mandolin is yours.....to play the theme from Amarcord upon.

    Mick
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Skipping your cable TV for a season.
    My wife would not be happy with missing the new Game of Thrones season......

    .....or the ability to watch the reruns of the old seasons "On Demand"

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help: bought a vintage mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    My wife would not be happy with missing the new Game of Thrones season......

    .....or the ability to watch the reruns of the old seasons "On Demand"
    For our anniversary a few years back I gave my wife a Lanfranco mandolin that I "restored" to playability. It was likely made in Sicily, too.
    It makes me happy when she plays it, though she doesn't play often enough for me. She will play her fisarmonica on demand, though.

    Mick
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