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Thread: Flatbacks of note

  1. #1

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    there must be millions of these instruments out there - mostly from germany and points east, i would guess - and i haven't a clue about any of them.

    they're usually described on german ebay as "flachbauch" and feature either a slated back with alternating stripes of light and dark wood or a geometric, kaleidoscopic design. "hopf" is a name i've seen mentioned and "framus" ... but most of them appear to be non-descript and nameless - some of them have the dubious distinction of being made in the german democratic republic.

    my first mandolin was one of these - i wrote a haiku about it:

    nameless old german
    bought for nothing on ebay
    patiently teaching

    ... i subsequently gave it away but it tided me over while i waited to fly back to the states for a visit and pick up a brand-new mid-missouri.

    anyone interested in them? - or is "flatback of note" in this instance, a bit of an oxymoron?




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    Well, Bill, my first mando was a Czechoslovakian bowlback bought new from a pawnshop in 1965. Played it for about a year, until the soft brass nut wore through. It wasn't worth repairing, in fact it probably wasn't worth the $39 I paid for it, but I was glad I had it, back then. Had I known then what I know now, life would certainly have been better all around.

    But enough of the thread hijacking. I've seen lots of photos on ebay of the mandolins you mention, and personally that's where I intend to leave them.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Bill,

    I have mulled over this starting this very thread for awhile but wasn't sure where to situate it within the MC forums. For most of us there are a lot of interesting 'flatbacks' including the various Chicago and Martin models, the odds and end Italian and French experiments, bandolims, as well as the myriad of Tonblasen that i tedeschi have produced.

    It may be a more 'refined' taste than what often is typically discussed in the 'b.o.n.' thread but I am glad you have taken the plunge. And that perhaps the myriad of discussions spread about could be centralized. I'm happen to weigh in from time to time.

    Mick
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Maybe, Bill, here is one to start with-a nice Martin Style B, 1923 w Rosewood back and the carved headstock.


    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws....US:1123

    $750 still might seem a nice price for these given their relative scarcity. Any other thoughts on price/value on these Martins, given current trends?

    Mick
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Or this elegant Gaudet-Gelas fb which ought serve as a corollary to the interesting discussion of French luthiery begun elsewhere. Perhaps helping to keep illuminated an interesting body of work not always in the scope of our conversations.

    Mick
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    Boetzke's has a pair of Gelas mandolins that I've been eyeballing for a year or more. Back when the euro was worth a dollar, and I had many fewer instruments, I was seriously interested in the older of the two.

    FWIW, Bernunzio had a Gelas guitar on the rack when I visited in December. Didn't try it, though.

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    Bob,

    I checked the Boetzkes site on your lead. There is a Patenotte-(Gelas system?) double top Mandola at what appears a reasonable price. Since we've been getting in touch with our Francophilia here of late, I wonder if anyone has some experience viz the Patenotte instruments?

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Here is a Euterpe built or sold by the JTL org. I have one very similar but without the original HSC.



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    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by (brunello97 @ Jan. 16 2008, 21:00)
    Or this elegant Gaudet-Gelas fb which ought serve as a corollary to the interesting discussion of French luthiery begun elsewhere. Perhaps helping to keep illuminated an interesting body of work not always in the scope of our conversations.

    Mick
    Are my eyes deceiving me or does this mando have a really large body and short neck?
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by (zoukboy @ Jan. 17 2008, 09:57)
    Quote Originally Posted by (brunello97 @ Jan. 16 2008, 21:00)
    Or this elegant Gaudet-Gelas fb which ought serve as a corollary to the interesting discussion of French luthiery begun elsewhere. #Perhaps helping to keep illuminated an interesting body of work not always in the scope of our conversations.

    Mick
    Are my eyes deceiving me or does this mando have a really large body and short neck?
    It may have a bit of a large body, it is hard to tell but I think most of it is the angle at which the photo was taken.
    Bill Snyder

  11. #11

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    made by bolivian luthier clarken orosco and seen here:

    http://www.boliviamall.com/catalog/default.php

    not because it's particularly elegant or even desirable - more for its interesting shape and odd string placement. (sorry about the size - if you're interested, access the boliviamall site; put "mandolin" in the search engine and scan down the list.)



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    I have owned 2 Seiffert flatbacks; one mandolin and one tenor mandola.

    I sold both and did not take photos.

    I would be interested in acquiring another Seiffert Flatback Mandolin. #Excellent instrument.

    I note that Mari Fe Pavon plays one. Maple backs and sides

    Very Guitarlike...
    round soundhole with guitar like rosette
    slotted peghead
    deep body




  13. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (billkilpatrick @ Jan. 17 2008, 12:06)
    made by bolivian luthier clarken orosco and seen here:
    Big enough??

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  14. #14

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    ... argh! - it's alive - it's alive!!

    (how did you do that?)

  15. #15

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    Bill you saved yours to your harddrive and uploaded it. Jim cliked the Enlarge Image button at the sales website and then linked directly to the enlarged image.
    Bill Snyder

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    Roger,
    Sorry, that picture is a little deceiving. It does show off the (help me with this) maple back nicely. Below is a side view of the Gaudet-Gelas that shows the proportions a bit better.

    Mick
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    Quote Originally Posted by (brunello97 @ Jan. 17 2008, 23:04)
    Roger,
    Sorry, that picture is a little deceiving. It does show off the (help me with this) maple back nicely. Below is a side view of the Gaudet-Gelas that shows the proportions a bit better.

    Mick
    Thanks. Well, the neck joins the body at the 10th fret, so that looks pretty long to me. Is it a two piece top?
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  18. #18

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    this flatback from mid-missouri (m-4) should have been placed at the beginning of the thread - a benchmark imho for pure simplicity in design, quality of craftsmanship and excellent sound reproduction:

    ... first amongst equals in flat fellowship.



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  19. #19

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    gleaned off italian ebay - an "octofone" from regal:

    http://cgi.ebay.it/RARITA-....3144242

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Curious place for a Regal to wind up, Bill. I like the shape of these octophones. It appears to be in pretty good shape. I've seen a number of these cross by but don't recall hearing any testimony as to how the sound or how folks might be employing them.

    BTW I doubt that the body of this is mahogany as the seller claims. It looks like birch to me. Maybe a 'mahogany' stain.

    Mick
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    ... strange are the ways of international mandolin to-ing and fro-ing.

    i went back to the auction thinking i might place a bid but the question arose ... do i really-really-really want another instrument - an antique at that?

    i also wonder if the lower octave is where i really-really-really want to be?

  22. #22
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (zoukboy @ Jan. 18 2008, 01:09)
    Thanks. Well, the neck joins the body at the 10th fret, so that looks pretty long to me. Is it a two piece top?
    It's a Gelas mandolin, which is unlike any other style of construction. See here and here for more details and lots of photos of these oddballs.

    Speaking of flatbacks, and in particular the German ones described by Bill in the post that started this thread, I should mention that my very first mandolin was a family heirloom, previously played by my grandfather and my mother, and was a Majestic German flatback, probably 1920s, with the characteristic 7-stave arched back. Quite a modest instrument, but with a fairly strong honest tone. Remarkably suitable to American old-time fiddle tunes. I posted photos a long time ago here and here. It has a crack in the soundboard now, so I haven't been playing it for a while.

    Martin

  23. #23

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    lovely collection - complimenti. i've seen them before, in other models - but what's the purpose of the two little holes in face of the majestic?

    would i be right in guessing that most of these german made mandolins (in the style of your grandfather's "majestic") lack a reinforcement of some sort in the neck?




  24. #24
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Nobody knows what the thinking behind these holes was. Calace put them between bridge and soundhole, many German instruments of the 1920s and 1930s had them on the bass side of the soundboard, like on the Majestic. I've seen them referred to as the "Edelklang" ("noble tone") system, but that only tells us that it was meant to improve the tone rather than, say, provide a receptacle for some attachment. It certainly is not a place for a pickup cable or other electronics -- too early, and too awkwardly placed. You're right that these have no truss rod or such.

    How the Majestic brand name came to be attached to a German-made instrument like mine is actually an interesting story: as far as I can tell, the brand name belonged to an American luthier, Gaetano Puntolillo, who started a smallish instrument factory in Hoboken, NJ, in 1900. With that name, it doesn't take much to guess that he was an immigrant from Italy, and unsurprisingly he started out making bowlback mandolins under his own (suitably Italian) name. He then branched out to make exquisitly decorated tenor banjos. "Puntolillo" not being a very approppriate name for such a quintessentially American instrument, he chose the name "Majestic" instead for his banjos, and eventually his archtop guitars. It seems that the brand then suddenly appeared in Germany in the 1920s, on banjos and archtop guitars. The banjos, at least, are clearly derived from the ones made in Hoboken: the lavish decorations are very distinctive. Difficult to say whether these were exported instruments or made in Germany under license. The guitars were sold alongside the banjos and had a triangular logo absent from the American guitars. My guess is that they have nothing whatsoever to do with any Puntolillo designs, but were sold by the German distributor under the Majestic name as a brand extension from the banjos. All of the above is pieced together from bits and pieces posted on the website of Gaetano's grandson, who restarted Majestic Guitars in Hoboken a few years ago, here.

    My mandolin, then, is connected to all of the above by the presence of that same triangular logo that appears on the German guitars, which were sold alongside the German banjos, which had the distinctive design of the Hoboken banjos, which were made in the same shop as the Puntolillo bowlbacks... but despite the brand name being owned by an Italian-American luthier, mine clearly could not be more German if it wore Lederhosen and ordered Sauerkraut with Bratwurst.

    Martin

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    This <a href="http://cgi.ebay.com/Rare-double-Top-Gelas-Mandola-1961-number-871_W0QQitemZ130191187421QQihZ003QQcategoryZ1017
    9QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem" target="_blank">Gelas Mandola</a> has appeared again. Price seems over the top.

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