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Thread: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

  1. #101
    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Not wishing to hijack Marijan's thread, but Stephen has kindly given me access to his negatives and prints that were the basis of his research on his book on 18th century mandolins. The intention is that we create a publicly accessible archive of these images, and the information about the instruments and I am very much open to suggestions of how this might be done. I have done quick scans of the negs of around 150 mandolin family instruments that are in various European museums, and will be doing much higher resolution of some of them to be used in my forthcoming (well, eventually) book on mandolins that I have discussed with at least a couple of the regulars here. Currently on chapter 7, in the middle of 19th century Italy, and the Americas still to come, so any serious work on an archive of 18th century instruments has to take a back seat for a while.

    cheers

    graham

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Hi Graham,

    What a worthwhile project! Thanks for sharing the news. Let us know how we can help.

    Best,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  3. #103
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    OK... I seem to have managed to upload a couple images (and there was much rejoicing!!!).

    This is the instrument that I have referred to a couple of times, that I suspect is a late instrument from the Fabricatore atelier. The instrument was once labeled, but the printed portion of the label was intentionally gouged out a very long time ago (judging from the accumulated dirt). This instrument was originally offered to me by an unscrupulous but otherwise widely respected luthier/dealer who will go unnamed. It was offered initially with his attribution that it was "a Vinaccia"... I received a wonderful packet in the mail with a fancy cover letter on letterhead and high-quality photos with labels that said things like "Vinaccia peg"... and so forth. The luthier was offering the instrument fully restored for a 5-figure price! He urged me to rapidly make up my mind as there were other anxious buyers waiting in the wings with their cash... I demured... Some months later I ran onto the very same instrument on a Website for a much lower price and snapped it up... caveat emptor!

    These are not the best photos, but I'll try to call out a number of interesting features of this instrument:
    - It is clearly quite late, given the very deep body. In fact, it seems to push some limits. The fluted ribs are each separated by an ivory/ebony/ivory purfling strip. The back is so deep, and the curve so sharp that some of these strips seemingly couldn't make the turn.
    - It is more ornate than the typical Fabricatore. Yes, that is actually a piece of mirrored glass embedded in the peghead (used for signaling for help when you loose your place? :-)) The peghead itself is an amazing sandwich of TS and pearl/ebony/ivory/TS-over-wood/ivory/ebony/TS and pearl... and of course mirrored glass... and it is quite thin overall
    - The inlay style, soundhole shape, scratchplate shape, and soundhole inlay are all very reminiscent of G.B. Fabricatore's later work... I have found the identical sound-hole inlay element on at least three labeled G.B. Fabricatore instruments (Marijan's, the Vintage Instruments instrument, and a six-course instrument in France). Wait! The one that Graham listed makes that four.... Perhaps more importantly, I have not seen this inlay detail on other maker's instruments.
    - As I think I mentioned earlier, the instrument came with a tiny and well-shaped ebony bridge that has very slight indentations for four single strings. As you can see from the photo, the ivory or bone nut is also configured for four single strings. Clearly this was built as a double-coursed instrument, but the shading on the top makes me believe it has worn the four-string bridge for most of its functional life.

    The endclasp is very ornately carved, and the carving design matches the style of the pearl inlay on the peghead. There are four matching dark hitch pins, and a matching strap button... all doubtless original to the instrument. The instrument came with one boxwood peg and one darker peg. The boxwood peg is very similar to Marijan's peg, and it is the one that I copied for the 1793 Fabricatore rehabilitation described on these pages.

    I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is something a little odd about the peg-head join. The angle is very much straighter than is normal for these instruments. Some of the inlay near just above the nut is also somewhat incongruous... The pearl color doesn't match and and the shapes seem very clumsy. To my eye, the bottom three pieces of pearl don't fit the pattern of the rest of the peghead. There are also some strange lines (I hesitate to call them cracks) on the sides of the peg-head join in the TS veneer that I don't yet understand. All of this makes me wonder if some sort of change or repair has taken place at that location in the far distant past.

    Anyway... I wanted to share this instrument with you all and I'm interested in your comments, thoughts, and input.

    Best,

    Eric

    ps - I did mention that I'm a fool for ornament, didn't I? :-)

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    Last edited by etbarbaric; Jun-10-2011 at 9:59pm.
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  4. #104
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    I wanted to repeat one more detail that I mentioned when we discussed table frets before. This instrument has *both* types. There are four metal staple frets (over the inlay), and then three thin ebony table frets that are glued down to the table wood.

    I mention this only because this was not an either/or choice in this case, unless some were changed later.

    Best,

    Eric
    Last edited by etbarbaric; Jun-10-2011 at 10:21pm.
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  5. #105
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    One more thing. I haven't X-rayed this one or had the top off, but it clearly has a dual-barred arrangement below the sound hole. This is what I would expect to find.

    Best,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  6. #106
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Thanks for sharing this photographs. Fascinating instrument. I can not make a good judgement, because of the lack of the experience on mandolins history, but from a "layman" point of view, I wonder, could this be either earlier work of G.B Fabricatore or a later one but finished by another person, son perhaps. Carving design seems to be slightly less elegant and "flowing" than on other samples we have here. The execution of details on pearl ornamentation is different too. Lower, sound-hole and upper pearl inlay (where the upper frets are) of the plate seems to belong together, but to my eye those three are in some kind of design contradiction with the rest of the pearl inlays (and carving) on the instrument. It feels like instrument was not started and completed by one man (or they weren't anyway I do not know). Plate by G.B. the rest by someone else from their workshop?
    Just a thought, as I sad it may have no sense.

    Is mastic consistent all over the instrument? It seems made with ebony dust on the neck. What about the rosette? Red, black?

    Best,
    Marijan

    P.S.
    No worry about hijacks please, as long as we stay on old mandolins :-).

  7. #107
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Border stripe, ivory, bone, or whatever, seems to be glued on the edge under a slight tension. From the photograph it seems that it "jumped of" from its original, glued position. What was the actual process of preparation here. Was the stripe cut to shape to follow the edge curve. That is what it seems to be the case on my instrument. I guess it was not bent?

  8. #108
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Hi Marijan,

    Thanks for taking a look. You make a plausible conjecture... and many things are possible. Of course G.B.'s nephew Gennaro continued into the 1800s, and there were other Fabricatore luthiers as well. After looking at many of these instruments, I don't personally find the hand that inconsistent. Early Neapolitan mandolins often look better from a slight distance than up close... :-) I have always assumed that it was common for different people to make different parts of these instruments, assembly-line fashion. Fabricatore in particular seems to have been a higher-volume shop during this period.

    I personally don't find the decorative design inconsistent overall as these things go. Over the top? Perhaps... :-) In my experience, it is not at all uncommon for the decorative design themes on these instruments to break somewhat at the join between the table and the fretboard decoration. In fact, I would actually say that this instrument has more of a consistent transition from table to neck than most, in terms of inlay design, though the scale clearly changes. Sometimes the table and neck inlay designs on other instruments have almost nothing to do with each other and the change is often quite abrupt. Your instrument does this to a lesser degree as well, even though it retains that little the pearl design element consistently throughout.

    I'm ever more convinced that the three "sickle-shaped" pieces of pearl above the nut simply do not belong, and they are very disruptive for me visually. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that they have something to do with a repair or a change of some sort. If you look closely at the digital photo, you can see that the tortoise shell in that area is also not consistent with the rest of the peghead veneer in terms of color and pattern, and it ends in the right place to be an easy patch.

    I agree with your comments on the quality of the carving. For instance, it does not match the very fine workmanship on the end clasp of the 1793 instrument. There are even a couple places (symmetrically) on the end clasp of this instrument where the carving is patched as it was put on. It literally looks like someone decided that things were too narrow at one part of the design, and they cleverly spliced on some more wood to fill things out. The design on the sides and end-clasp is definitely more free-form... almost improvised to a degree... That said, all of the Fabricatore instruments seem to be somewhat variable in this area, and I can't say that I "recognize" the carving technique from one instrument to another, though some common design elements are present on many instruments. Some have more "relief" carving than others, for example. This may have been done by multiple people in the shop over time. To my eye, the _design_ of the carving seems to match the peghead inlay in spirit at least. The decorative design itself is interesting to me, as it seems to combine rather traditional curvy and symmetrical vining with those odd squared vine elements... almost like the introduction of a hint of the random and abstract into something more comfortable and traditional. I am interested to hear what Alex has to say given his artist's eye.

    On this instrument, the mastic seems consistent on the table. It is dark reddish in color, allowing for some variation due to what look like repairs near the bottom of the instrument. The fretboard and peghead are pearl in tortoise shell, not mastic. My poor-quality photos probably don't communicate this well. There is some minimal mastic filling in the very small gaps between the pearl and the tortoise shell in places on the neck and peghead, and it too appears reddish in color.

    Best,

    Eric

    ps - I cannot say definitively whether the binding was cut or bent but I would lean toward thinking it was bent in this case as it is continuous and in a single piece. The 1793 instrument was surrounded in pearl, so it was clearly cut and fit. You are right in that the binding is under some small tension in this case, which supports the idea that it was bent. A similar ivory (or bone or baleen-like) material was used as a part of the banded dividers between the fluted ribs. It is this material that has broken in a few places at the sharpest point of the bend of the ribs...
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  9. #109
    Registered User stevenmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    I hope you can restore this beautyful mandolin what a treasure what craftmanship beautyful beautyful
    steven shelton

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Hi Steven,

    Assuming you are referring to my instrument, then yes, I do hope to have it restored some day. Maybe when Marijan finishes rehabilitating his Fabricatore I can send him this one? :-)

    Best,

    Eric
    "The effect is pretty at first... It is disquieting to find that there are nineteen people in England who can play the mandolin; and I sincerely hope the number may not increase."

    - George Bernard Shaw, Times of London, December 12, 1893

  11. #111
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Not sure that you have that kind of patience . Thank god, this is not a customers instrument, but mine.

  12. #112
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    I promised to come back here, once we started the restoration of our Vincentius Vinaccia 1762. So not a Fabricatore, but we talked already a lot in this thread. Here is a serie of photos that we posted at facebook. We started this spring and she is now ready to be played, next week, in a baroque chamber music course.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...3&l=005db3f6cf

    It is wonderful to work on an instrument from so long ago - and to play it . Gives respect and feeling graceful.

  13. #113
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Great work! So... do we get to hear her?

  14. #114
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    So... do we get to hear her?
    Hope, yes ! ! It is all very new and it has to settle down and I must get used to it. Did a lot of experimenting with strings and just a this moment it seems to be fine. My level of playing is not such, that it deserves a public recording, but if you are interested, you can tell me and i will send a private one. ( also after some time )

    a happy Margriet

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    It looks lovely, Margriet. Congratulations! It looks like you have the g course only in g, not in octave g'-g. Have you tried or will you try the octave stringing in the future? Personally, I quite like the octave stringing on the lowest course for the solo music of the late 18th c. Do you have Hartig's wire strings on d' and a'? If so, what do you think? I still love the sound and playability, but still have to tune the d' course with some frequency.

  16. #116
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    It looks like you have the g course only in g, not in octave g'-g. Have you tried or will you try the octave stringing in the future?

    Do you have Hartig's wire strings on d' and a'? If so, what do you think? I still love the sound and playability, but still have to tune the d' course with some frequency.
    Thanks, Eugene and Tavy, it is nice to have these contacts and I will bring the compliments to Beert, who did the most of the work.
    Indeed, I have on the g- course two the same strings. Decided for this, because I am new on this instrument and also in the repertoire and in a few days i will have a baroque chamber music course and for the moment i would like to be able to play and this is more familiar to me. Maybe in future I will try an octave course.
    Yes, I set up with strings from Andrew Hartig, who was very helpful en friendly and who calculated different gauges and tensions. It seems that the d- course keeps in tune. But it is too fast to tell, everything is new and has to settle. For this place it would be too detailled info about all trial and error; for that I will share in private.

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Hi, it`s been a while. I had a spine surgery, wasn`t sure if I woud be able to work again. But I am thankfully back on work at least for 2-3 hours per day.

    It`s an old topic I know, but I decided to post few photos and few words about the progress of the restoration work anyway. Perhaps some will still find it intresting.

    Here is few shots of the progress made on Fabricatore. I made (cut out) missing parts
    of the outer bone lining (it was bone, not ivory as I fist thought ), than I made
    inner, white stripes for purfling, which was made of bone, not wood. I had to thinn it down to 0,4mm. I soaked it in vinegar and bent it. Made black stripes. Dry fitted
    where the purfling was missing. Aplied verry thin glue over the
    purfling. Dried it. Leveld purflings with small gauges and chisel. Strong
    tea for light dying the bone. Not tring to hide new parts, but ease the contrast.
    Filled red mastic (shellac) where missing. Mostly around the sound hole. That is for now.

    Marijan

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  18. #118
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    First steps of getting this mess sorted.

    Before, and after cleaning the paper shims thet where found in place where tortoise was missing.
    Triangle shape on the back of the had will be restored as it was, by overlaping the triangle area with TS and bone stripes that are coming from the neck. So tortoise and bone stripes are doubled on that small triangle.

    It is interesting that under the tortoise (over the bare wood and hide glue), there is some sort of celulose - paper layer which I am not sure yet about what was it`s purpose.
    Looking through the tortoise (on the original parts - there are two redone neck tortoise stripes where golden leafs are clearly detectable) it seems that underground is not made out of gold leafs. It is more uniform structure - like paper impegnated with gold powder or something.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  20. #119
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marijan View Post
    It is interesting that under the tortoise (over the bare wood and hide glue), there is some sort of celulose - paper layer which I am not sure yet about what was it`s purpose.
    Almost certainly something light in color that's there as a background for the tortoiseshell - as you say gold leaf is the usual trick to make it stand out, but actually it looks very nearly as good over almost anything pale in color - maple or white plastic binding being a good examples, but white paper may well work just as well - I guess you could just soak it in hide glue and lay it on?

    Thanks for the update, and best wishes for your recovery from the surgery!

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Thank you John,
    I was under the impression that there was some another material covering the paper layer. But it could be just acumulation of dirt and sweat build up during the years, where tortoiseshel felt of. As it can be seen on photos, there is black surface with some green (oxide like green) patches under it, on the areas, where TS is gone. It is soft and will get much softer when weted.

    Thank you for good wishes.

  22. #121
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marijan View Post
    Thank you John,
    I was under the impression that there was some another material covering the paper layer. But it could be just acumulation of dirt and sweat build up during the years, where tortoiseshel felt of. As it can be seen on photos, there is black surface with some green (oxide like green) patches under it, on the areas, where TS is gone. It is soft and will get much softer when weted.
    Gunky/mouldy hide glue?

    Always hard to tell after all these years since it was made.

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    It took a couple of days to sort out this small area but it is rewarding to look at the comparation between the before and after photographs.
    Working on this kind of instrument realy makes one aprechiate the amount of skill patience and knowledge needed to make such an mandolin.

    Bone stripes where lined first, than tortoise, one strip at the time leaving them thick, above the bone lining. Filed, scraped, finished with water and rotenstone. Aplied a drop of vegetble oil and bufed. Few shots.

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  25. #123
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Although it is time consuming, to clean this, took almost 3 hours, I think that saliva or arteficial saliva is still the safest enzyme cleaner avaliable. Applied with cotton sticks, worked with light circular motions uncovering still quite strong layer of original varnish, wich after light linth cloth burnish still has it`s natural shine.
    Only surface dirt was removed.

    BTW: I measured the thickneses of the bowl. If someone is interested, ribs at the thinest point (valey) is just 1mm thick. Where two ribs are mett it is 1,5mm. Unribed area, between the ribs and the top is 1,8-2mm. And the thickest part of the bowl, (carved part) is 3mm thick.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  26. #124
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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    Thanks for posting these updates, I find them fascinating.
    - Jeremy

    Wot no catchphrase?

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    Default Re: 1796 Giovanni Battista Fabricatore mandolin

    It`s my pleasure Jeremy.

    Didn`t expect varnish on the bowl to be on the thick side, but as it can be seen on the areas where varnish is damged it was quite thickly applied.

    After nine hours, half of the bowl is cleaned. Whiskey helps.

    Click image for larger version. 

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