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Thread: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

  1. #1

    Default More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Hello everyone - It is great to meet you all! I am very new to the mandolin community and this forum, so I hope you might forgive my lack of knowledge when it comes to mandolins!

    However, after stumbling across this forum, I was eager to engage in the community and trust that you all might be able to help me. I have recently inherited a mandolin from my mother, and my grandfather before her, who was a merchant sailor in the British navy. It is a traditional Guiseppe Valapiglia bowlback mandolin but apart from that, I know little about it!

    Any information or advice on this manufacturer/instrument would be much appreciated. I am eager to learn more about it, as I have not been able to find much related information on the internet. I am also looking to find a luthier in South England familiar with these instruments, who might be able to spruce it up a little bit, as despite its good condition, it does need a little love and attention. Any advice would be appreciated!

    Many thanks in advance for your help.

    Chryssa

  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Post some pics of your mandolin. How much work does it need? Does it play at present? Does it have any cracks? John Maddock who posts here as Tavy is in the UK and has done some very nice restorations on bowlbacks.
    Jim

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  3. #3
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Not heard of that maker - pictures please!

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    John, Giuseppe V was a Neapolitan seller or perhaps maker....the examples I have in my files include a few in the DeMeglio style and also in a more familiar Vinaccian-Neapolitan style.

    I look forward to seeing Chryssa's mandolin.

    Mick
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  5. #5

    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Post some pics of your mandolin. How much work does it need? Does it play at present? Does it have any cracks? John Maddock who posts here as Tavy is in the UK and has done some very nice restorations on bowlbacks.
    Jim - Many thanks for your reply!

    I have just taken some photos and will post them below. Regarding play, I am hoping it will do with a new set of strings and regarding work, I do not think it needs too much... Just re-stringing, tuning, polishing, etc. It does not have any cracks, as far as I am aware. However, I will let you be the judge of that!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Tavy View Post
    Not heard of that maker - pictures please!
    Great to meet you, John and pictures are on their way!

  6. #6

    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    John, Giuseppe V was a Neapolitan seller or perhaps maker....the examples I have in my files include a few in the DeMeglio style and also in a more familiar Vinaccian-Neapolitan style.

    I look forward to seeing Chryssa's mandolin.

    Mick
    Great to hear from you and meet you, Mick! Photographs are on their way.

    Any information you can tell me about it would be really great. I am eager to learn any and all I can about the mandolin as it does have quite a history in my family - my grandfather used to take it all over the world on merchant ships!

  7. #7

    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    As promised:
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    It looks to be in very good condition. You should string these using very light strings. I am not sure what is available where you are but GHS A 240 set is good to start this I prefer Dogal Calace RW92b dolce strings. It looks like the Vinaccia style Mick mentioned above.
    Jim

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  9. #9

    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    It looks to be in very good condition. You should string these using very light strings. I am not sure what is available where you are but GHS A 240 set is good to start this I prefer Dogal Calace RW92b dolce strings. It looks like the Vinaccia style Mick mentioned above.
    Thank you very much! So glad that you feel it looks to be in good condition. I really appreciate your advice about re-stringing too. I have researched both varieties and whichever I choose, it will require importing! Think that it is probably worth going for the Dogal Calace RW92b dolce strings though. Could I just ask you why you prefer them, please?

  10. #10
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Looks like a lovely instrument -- any chance you can take pictures of the back?
    --------------------------------
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  11. #11

    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    Looks like a lovely instrument -- any chance you can take pictures of the back?
    Yes, of course! Here you go:
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  12. #12
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    Looks to be in good condition, action looks way too high though: at a pinch you may be able to improve that by removing the bridge saddle and having the strings down on the wood - you need to be careful that the strings are still making good clean contact with the bridge though which will probably require deepening the slots in the rear section - a rotary tool with a cutoff disk is the best tool for that as it puts little stress on a rather fragile part, using razor saws and such usually break the rear section. Ideally though you would replace the saddle with something razor thin - either bone or thin brass strip.

    With regard to strings, another option is the Martin 10-34 set (these are about as heavy as a bowlback can take, but do sound good IMO) or to get a custom light Newtone set from Eagle music.

  13. #13
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    At the risk of "piling on" I do want to second John's concern about the "action" or the height of the strings above the fretboard.

    This is visible in the middle photo in the right column of the first batch of photos you posted, Chryssa. It is not really playable in such a state and needs some attention from a careful (ideally, experienced) hand. Such as our friend, John Maddock....

    The mandolin is nice enough to begin with , and Jim and others have noted, the instrument is in good overall shape otherwise to warrant that careful work. Even moreso for the legacy that the instrument holds for you and your family.

    The back story on the mandolin and your seafaring grandfather is a fascinating story that many of us would enjoy hearing more of, if you care to share. With as many details as possible Trust us, you are among some serious mandolin wonks. We love this kind of stuff.

    Mick
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    Default Re: More information about a Bowlback Mandolin, please?

    I LOVE bowlbacks, that is really attractive! I am truly enjoying the pictures - thanks! IMHO, they are SO nice to play- enjoy!

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