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Thread: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User RayMan7's Avatar
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    Default Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Hey everyone, Im always looking for old bowlbacks and surprisingly in my town I found someone who has an old Waldo mandolin. Im trying to get it and its about $160, think its a fair price? There really isn't much info on them, but from pictures Ive seen this one is a somewhat more fancy model, but not all out either. Has nice but simple binding/inlay on the fretboard and inlaid Waldo pickguard. The tuners are inlaid into the headstock but I cant remember if it says Waldo on the head or not. Its in nice condition and wouldn't take much to get it playable, and I don't think theres much top warpage between the f-holes.

    What are your thoughts about it? Value when its playable? Im looking for a nice unique bowlback and this seems like it, but Im not sure if its just an average American bowlback with cool f-holes?
    No pics yet but will get some as soon as I can!

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    I don't know -- the one I have is not really playable. Mine does have some warpage between the f-holes. I would say that was a fair price if this one is warpless. Paul Ruppa in Milwaukee is the expert on these. I don't recall any of the ones I have seen as having Waldo on the headstock but most have the logo on the pickguard.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    FYI, lots of info on Waldo mandolins in the latest GAL issue. There are some interesting ideas in there, for sure. Several different bracing schemes, but only one of the instruments documented was playable.

  4. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    "Word" on the CafeŽis that Waldo tops very often cave in; top bracing didn't hold up well with the f-hole construction. String 'er lightly, if you get 'er.
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  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    FYI, lots of info on Waldo mandolins in the latest GAL issue. There are some interesting ideas in there, for sure. Several different bracing schemes, but only one of the instruments documented was playable.
    Marty: who wrote that article? I should get that issue soon -- I just renewed my subscription. Interesting that only one is playable. Mine certainly isn't.
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  6. #6
    Registered User RayMan7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Thanks for the opinions fellas. Since so few are playable, does anyone know how they sound? Do the f-holes make a difference in sound at all, or do they sound like normal bowlbacks? I think it did have some warpage, but just a little, and it could be tuned without falling apart. If it was in good condition and playable what would its value be? If it isnt much Ill see how low I can get it for. Sorry for all the questions but Im curious about it

  7. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    The top area is super thin and, in addition, it has that inlaid pickguard which has to put some stress on the top. I would think that there is a way to rebrace it so it plays but it would take a bit of work.

    I checked the GAL site. The author of the article is Paul Ruppa who is associated with the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra and an expert on a number of brands notably the other one with top warpage caused by an inlay pickguard, Vega cylinderback. Paul does post here occasionally. Here's the blurb about the article:

    Finding Waldo: The First Family of American ƒ-Hole Mandolins, Mandolas, and Mandocellos by Paul Ruppa
    Who was the first manufacturer to produce an ƒ-hole mandolin? Nope, not that company from Kalamazoo. It was the Waldo Company of Saginaw, Michigan. But they were ƒ-hole potato bugs, not archtops. Get the inside and outside story in this issue.
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    Jim

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  8. #8

    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    "Hey everyone, I'm always looking for old bowlbacks and surprisingly in my town I found someone who has an old Waldo mandolin. I'm trying to get it and its about $160, think its a fair price? . . . What are your thoughts about it? Value when its playable?"

    Although I have not seen a copy yet, I believe that "American Lutherie" magazine did just publish my article on Waldo. The article should be a good reference work if anyone wants to know more about Waldo mandolins. For other sources, Graham McDonald has written about them and there are some wonderful references to Waldos on www.harpguitar.net

    "is $160 a fair price?" If you consider the investment buying a piece of American mandolin history, yes. If you need a great sounding bowlback mandolin - this is not a great way to spend your money. From what I've seen in my intact Waldo, it has a sweet sound, but it is weak in terms of volume (projection). Playable or salvageable Waldos are very uncommon, if you can get one of those at a price under $300 in today's market, go for it OR tell me how I can get it.

  9. #9
    Registered User RayMan7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Thanks Ruppa! I've read your name many times while searching for Waldo information and feel honoured to have your opinion. I don't see any reason to not get it now and really like how unique it is. I'll put some pics up soon as I get it. Thanks everyone!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    I'm humbled by your being honoured. Really. Thank you for the kind words.

    I am interested in seeing pictures of the Waldo that you're going after. I don't think that I've seen one with engraved tuning keys. Jim Garber will agree that almost none of the Waldos we've seen look exactly alike. The company claimed to have 15 different models ranging in price from $12 to $150. I tried to attach a pic of my playable Waldo mandolin, model 638. A Waldo that sold at $90 new. If there's no picture with this post, I'd appreciate a clue on how to do it.

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/at...&thumb=1&stc=1
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  11. #11
    Registered User MANDOLINMYSTER's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Heres a pic of my WaldoClick image for larger version. 

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    Michael Lettieri

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    anotherClick image for larger version. 

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    Michael Lettieri

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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    one moreClick image for larger version. 

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    Michael Lettieri

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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    This ones coolClick image for larger version. 

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    Michael Lettieri

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    All right... here are some pics of mine.
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    Jim

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  16. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Just for fun... a mandocello that Elderly had for sale.
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  17. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Called Elderly about that mandocello, wanted to dicker, but I think it was a consignment piece -- anyway, they wouldn't. Still kicking myself, and still looking for an antique bowl-back mandocello.
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  18. #18
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    I honestly wonder how playable it was. Maybe they did brace the mandocelli differently. Interesting that I don't thinkl I have ever seen a mandola.
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    Registered User RayMan7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Those are some nice mandolins! Seems we might need a Waldo specific thread Its been a while since Ive seen the one Im getting, so I don't know how fancy it is, but I hope its nice like the ones here. Will know in a few days and will put the pictures here.

  20. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I honestly wonder how playable it was. Maybe they did brace the mandocelli differently...
    Elderly said the neck needed to be de-bowed, and recommended heat-pressing. I don't believe in that, so I would have gone for fret-pulling and fingerboard-replaning, and with that in mind, I suggested a lower sale price.

    However, someone else bought it; dunno if they paid the asking price or not, but I assume so.
    Allen Hopkins
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  21. #21
    Registered User RayMan7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Well here it is! $150 tuned and playable. Needed only a little work like fill in a tiny crack and make the bridge a little higher. The action is low and the neck is perfectly straight, super easy to play and sounds way better then I was expecting. The top has only a little warp but its solid and Im not too worried about it. 25 ribs on the back and I love the alternating maple and rosewood strips. Im only the third owner and its in pretty good condition with some players wear over the years.
    My new favorite mandolin I have
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  22. #22
    Registered User MANDOLINMYSTER's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    My new favorite mandolin I have [/QUOTE]

    Very, very nice. I love how every Waldo is a little different. Enjoy!
    Michael Lettieri

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  24. #23

    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing the photos.

    We have a match. Your first Waldo is the same model as the first Waldo that I bought on eBay. Mine is in rough condition.

    They have the same pickguard discoloration. I wonder if the logo inlay is copper and that the foggy greenish tint to the pickguard is a result of copper oxidation.

    The bridge on mine is original and the 3-lobe tail-piece cover on mine is what I've seen on other Waldo mandolins. Your Waldo is lovely and I am very glad to hear that it is playable. It looks terrific.

    I attached a composite picture of my instrument with some details that I use in comparisons to other Waldos. The top-bracing on Waldos varies. Do you know if the bracing on yours is similar to mine.

    Great price!

    Paul Ruppa
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  25. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    My American Luthierie Issue #117 finally arrived yesterday. Paul's article is an in-depth study of this relatively obscure brand. I skimmed it once but need to get into it deeply.

    I wonder if there is any way to fix these warped tops. I imagine the top would have to come off since it would be near impossible to get a clamp into the interior with those thin f-holes and i suppose it would have to have some bracing added. I wonder why there are so few that survived and why they varied the bracing so much. Perhaps they were trying to figure out how to get a system to work.

    Paul: is the bracing on your playable one different from all the others or was it just stored without string tension?

    RayMan7: what strings did you put on yours? I would use the lightest you can find, like GHS A240 or Dogal Calace Dolce (RW92b).
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  26. #25

    Default Re: Thoughts on Waldo Bowlback Mandolin

    Answering Jim's questions:

    Jim is absolutely correct. The Waldo company is relatively obscure. Just the same, I wouldn't have been interested in Waldo to the extent that I have been if I didn't think that the company is historically important.

    In the relative isolation of Saginaw, Michigan, they were the first American luthiers to press the idea of the mandolin's relation to the violin with f-holes. Among their other innovations were the invention of the tenor mandola and the mando-cello. Inevitably someone else would have come up with those instrument ideas, but my feeling is that it was Waldo of Saginaw who opened the door to mando-quartet voicing in the American mandolin orchestra era.

    After talking to luthier David Cohen, I have the impression that the bracing used, the thin and flat surface of the Waldo sounding-board, the f-hole pattern and the nature of wood moving as it ages all contributed to the cracking.

    I don't know if the luthiers at Waldo braced instruments differently to speed up production, to improve the durability of the tops, to enhance the tone of the instruments or because one builder thought he had a better plan. Of the instruments I've seen, none follow the patented bracing pattern.

    Some luthiers that I've talked to do not like to take tops off bowlbacks - the idea is that with a sounding-board removed, the shell (bowl) can lose it's shape. Please correct me if I'm wrong about that.

    I don't know what bracing is used in most of the the intact Waldo mandolins. The Waldo of mine that is playable is braced differently than the one that RayMan7 just got up and running.

    I have Thomastik medium flat wound strings on my Waldo (and all my other mandolins). I like the way those strings sound on lightly-built instruments. (some people hate Thomastiks)

    Paul Ruppa

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