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Thread: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

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    Default Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    My father inherited it from his father, who played a lot, by ear, in 1960. I inherited it in 1994 and it had probably been played a 20 times max in the intervening years. It has not been played ever in the last 25 years and we moved to Arizona 16 years ago, where it is DRY. Never had a clue about dehydration. Only for people and animals! After having visited the Musical Instruments Museum a few weeks ago, I got very interested in the mandolin. Have been lurking around you guys for several days and reading tons on the Internet in an attempt to figure out how old (done) and learn something about Mandolins in general (not done). Said mandolin is now at a shop, in the humidifier, and then will undergo some restoration. The luthiers were impressed with the physical condition itís in, but at this point, thatís all we know.

    Meantime, Iíve decided to take some lessons on a newer something that does not hold such extreme sentimental value for me. I am pretty sure Iím going to go with an Eastman MD304AóO.

    Just attempted to add pictures of the Washburn, but that appears to be beyond my capabilities at the moment.

    Thoughts?

    Jan
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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    If the label is inside, it will mention a style number which will relate to its build- how expensive it is- this will also figure in the ornamentation exhibited. The more staves that make up the back, the better- from 11 going into the 40s (44?) for the highest costing example.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Unfortunately there is no style number, just the serial number. One of the pictures I wanted to post was of the label. It appears (I’m counting from a picture that doesn’t show all) that it might have 19 staves. Frankly I’m surprised my grandfather could afford one at all in 1905. He came from Sweden to San Francisco in 1899 at 19 years. I have no real idea how I posted the one picture. Still trying to figure out how to do it again. Thanks for responding. Maybe when I can post the label someone else will see a style number.
    Last edited by Screenclassics; Apr-02-2019 at 9:50am. Reason: Add oictures

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Frankly I’m surprised my grandfather could afford one at all in 1905
    Do you know that he bought it in 1905? Move forward a few decades or so and the price would have gone down.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    The serial number is about right for 1905 or 1906. The style 130 has 19 staves.The fingerboard was extended to 20 frets in 1901. The drawing does look just like your mandolin- all the details and inlays etc although it is a bit small.Sold for $30 which was quite expensive at that time. The books shows that label with the number 211939 and gives the date as 1905-6 so I think that is pretty definitive.
    Last edited by NickR; Apr-02-2019 at 12:06pm. Reason: More info

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    He had the mandolin my dad's (and siblings) entire life so he had to have gotten it new. It's not like they were dirt poor, but I was surprised he had the money for that. He MAY have had a Russian one before and sold it for a little bit of money. We've never been clear on the Russian thing, but he was in the Merchant Marine (or whatever they called that sort of thing then) from about age 16 to 19 and Russia is one of the places to which he traveled. He didn't really like to talk about his life prior to the US -- it wasn't all that happy, so my Dad was never even clear on it. We have always been under the impression he had some sort of instrument at that time, and he did all playing by ear.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Nick, however did you find that information? That's amazing!!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    I don't think I'm doing this reply thing correctly. Am I supposed to be quoting what I'm replying to? Somehow I sort of thought it did that automatically.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    If you want to know more about the company that built it and to see catalog pages you'd simply buy Cafe member Hubert Pleijsier's book Washburn Pre-War Instrument Styles. That's pretty much the definitive reference book on these.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by Screenclassics View Post
    I don't think I'm doing this reply thing correctly. Am I supposed to be quoting what I'm replying to? Somehow I sort of thought it did that automatically.
    You have to select Reply with quote if you want to tie it to a specific message. It doesn't happen automatically.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905


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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    If you want to know more about the company that built it and to see catalog pages you'd simply buy Cafe member Hubert Pleijsier's book Washburn Pre-War Instrument Styles. That's pretty much the definitive reference book on these.
    Thanks! I will certainly do so. Buy it direct or just search online?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Terrific. Thanks for that link. Just ordered it!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    It's a huge work- I bought it as I was interested in getting an old Washburn/Lyon & Healy guitar. I did buy a guitar advertised as a Washburn- which may be a Lyon & Healy made instrument for a third party. It is sometimes hard to work out who made what when it comes to this company- someone else has told me he is convinced it was made by Lyon & Healy- he restored one and it is on YouTube. However, having bought the book, I now have access to a wealth of information on guitars, mandolins, ukes, banjos etc. There are illustrations from catalogues and your mandolin does appear as a line drawing in some detail if a bit small.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by Screenclassics View Post
    Thanks! I will certainly do so. Buy it direct or just search online?

    - - - Updated - - -



    Terrific. Thanks for that link. Just ordered it!
    The bold text in the original answer was a link to the Amazon page for it. It's excellent.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Question Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    I received Hubert's book (I happened to have an Amazon gift card, so the timing worked well.) Anyway, its fascinating! I really appreciate the help you have given me.

    My new question is does anyone on here restore old Washburns (and not just for themselves, but for others)? If so, what kind of charges. Obviously there would be a charge for parts, but I'm wondering how labor is figured. I'm not completely certain I trust the place where I've taken it. I hope it turns out to be playable, just so I can say that it is, but my main goal at this point is to have it on display in my home. Feel free to private message me if you don't want to post such information on here. I am eager to know, however, because I would need to collect it from where it currently is. Thanks!!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    There are luthiers out there that will restore anything given the right amount of money. If all it needs is a setup (new strings, etc.) that isn't going to cost a whole lot of money. If you want it to look new then someone will probably do that but it's going to be beyond the value of the instrument in a monetary nature. If it's a shot from the heart and you don't care what it costs the sky is the limit. To be honest it doesn't look all that bad cosmetically but that doesn't mean it won't have issues. Similar instruments are for sale weekly and they don't bring a great amount of money.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    I see that you're in Arizona. I don't know exactly where but you might want to talk to the folks at

    The Mandolin Store
    12301 West Bell Rd Suite A104
    Surprise, Arizona 85378

    www.themandolinstore.com

    They might know a local luthier that you could take it to.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    If it’s going to be a decorative piece, just go get it and don’t worry too much. If you have any interest in restoration, that opens an entirely different conversation. Given the family history, I’d get it, and talk to someone, as Mike suggests. My father was a very broadly talented musician who was a little more than pleased when I took up the Mandolin. At one point, we were snooping for an old Washburn like that for my first Mandolin!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I see that you're in Arizona. I don't know exactly where but you might want to talk to the folks at

    The Mandolin Store
    12301 West Bell Rd Suite A104
    Surprise, Arizona 85378

    www.themandolinstore.com

    They might know a local luthier that you could take it to.
    The weirdest thing!! When I got this message, my son and I were AT The Mandolin Store (I live about an hour away and my son is on vacation so volunteered to go with me) waiting for my new Eastman 304 to be set up!!! Dennis totally laughed when I read him the message. He was not familiar with the place where I have taken the bowlback, but his assistant was and said that with what looked like needed doing and from what I said, the guy would be more than fine. They did suggest I sit down with the guy before he actually does any work on it and make sure we're all on the same page, which I was kind of thinking of anyway. The Eastman sounded great when Dennis played it, a gig bag came with it, got the humidifier for the bag, picks, etc. Now just have to learn to play!!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    If it’s going to be a decorative piece, just go get it and don’t worry too much. If you have any interest in restoration, that opens an entirely different conversation. Given the family history, I’d get it, and talk to someone, as Mike suggests. My father was a very broadly talented musician who was a little more than pleased when I took up the Mandolin. At one point, we were snooping for an old Washburn like that for my first Mandolin!
    I am anything but broadly talented, so we're going to hope they really can teach an old dog at least a few new tricks!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Very nice, good luck with the Eastman.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    The serial number is about right for 1905 or 1906. The style 130 has 19 staves.The fingerboard was extended to 20 frets in 1901. The drawing does look just like your mandolin- all the details and inlays etc although it is a bit small.Sold for $30 which was quite expensive at that time. The books shows that label with the number 211939 and gives the date as 1905-6 so I think that is pretty definitive.
    So, they've taken the bowlback out of the humidifier and I went by the store today to count the staves -- it actually has 23 and is a model 140, so cost $40 back in the day. Aside from not being certain on the number of staves before today, there was one wrong thing in the description in the book -- that at first I thought was just a fluke, but then later I saw a model 130 (that fit correctly with what I thought was a fluke) on either eBay or Reverb, so that is why I was kind of OCD about checking. I talked with the owner today because the manager that I've talked to before was off -- he also thinks it is in remarkable condition and sees no reason why it won't be playable. I already ordered the strings that someone recommended (GHS 240???) but they did know it needed ultra light strings. As I suspected, the ones they took off of it were not ultra light, but rather heavy. It hasn't been stringed in at least 35 years, so maybe it wasn't possible to get ultra light back then -- or at least a lot of work. Don't know. Signed up today for my lessons (weekly for a while) on the Eastman. Looking forward to it and nervous at the same time!

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    Got the vintage Washburn back last night. $140 to humidify it for six days, clean it up, blow dust out of it (I guess that’s how they did it), glue the border for the fretboard (was coming loose in places) and glue a piece at the very end of the fretboard that was loose, restring (with the ultra light strings I provided, per your recommendations). Can’t beat that. Not sure the bridge is adjusted properly — strings seem too high down at that end, but it plays very nicely. Never know it’s almost 115 years old.

    And after I got it back, clean, I can now see the style # stamped inside. Hunted and hunted for it before. Not 130 as first thought. Not 140 as second thought, but 225. After carefully checking everything and double checking (it seems I’m not great at counting ribs), it does more closely match the 1905 Style 225 than the other models mentioned. I am thrilled beyond all reason at how it turned out. No replaced parts. Lots of mild marks gone. Fretboard is clean as can be. Nickel plate and tailpiece are clean (Easy Off Oven Cleaner, as recommended by Google). It may have a better sound than my new Eastman!! Will post a couple pictures tomorrow. Have to be at computer to do that. Sure appreciate everyone’s help. Love Hubert Pleijsier’s book. Terrific reference. Special thanks to Mike and Nick for recommending the book and to whomever recommended the particular strings.

    Jan

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    Default Re: Inherited a Washburn Cremonatone Bowlback from about 1905

    I am pleased it is all working out for you and it was interesting to know it was a slightly better model than expected. I did not recommend the GHS 240 strings but I do use them a lot. In fact as I like to bend the strings and they are my preferred strings- especially on the longer scale mandolins. I buy mine mail order from Strings & Beyond and this company is now my preferred string source- a shameless plug there but it has been earned! I hope you enjoy the lessons and make good progress!

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