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Thread: An old National brought back to life

  1. #1
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Rocky Hill, CT

    Default An old National brought back to life

    While I needed another mandolin-family instrument like a hole in the head, I am particularly fascinated by pre-War National electric instruments. My dream is to find one of their electric tenor banjos, but this New Yorker mandolin is a gem on its own. Apart from the picture of one on the Emando site, this is the only example I've seen outside a catalog. The latest book on National lists four serials (not including mine), and I would not be surprised if the total number produced was in the low double digits. The serial dates to 1940; it listed for $75 then, rising to $85 the following year.

    A big thank you goes out to the repair department of RetroFret for this one. It needed a neck set, refret, and new wiring harness, but it's now surprisingly playable considering the body and neck were built by Kay. The neck is remarkably thin yet remarkably straight without any metal reinforcement. There's a little top sinkage under the bridge, but it appears stable. The tailpiece is a replica; I have the original, but I'm concerned about its ability to take all the string tension. The pickup has fairly low output by modern standards but it still has a clear sound and good hum rejection. The poles are individually adjustable (they're actually thumb screws, knurled on the edges) so the string balance is better than most early emandos I've played. The original tweed case is ragged but still functional.

    I don't have a perfectly matching amp, but I recorded a sound clip through a 1942 National model 500 - their top-of-the-line amp, with a pricely 16W of output.

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    Here it is reunited with its 6-string sibling:

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ID:	175286 the obscure side of vintage instruments.

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  3. #2
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    Default Re: An old National brought back to life

    Congratulations, Noah! Great find.

    National had three different electric mandolin models in the '30s; none of them are easy to find. I have the other two but haven't managed to snag a New Yorker yet, although I've come close a couple of times. More than you wanted to know about electric mandolins.

    Notorious: My Celtic CD--listen & buy!

    Donaldson Wood Thormahlen Andersen Old Wave Bacorn Yanuziello Fender National Gibson Franke Fuchs Aceto Three Hungry Pit Bulls

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