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Thread: Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback (Sistema de Meglio)

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback (Sistema de Meglio)

    Picked up a Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback today (someone donated it to the mandolin orchestra). It is in decent shape and it shouldn't take much to make it playable.

    One thing that's unusual about it is the soundboard profile. There is a cant, but it's not as pronounced as those on many bowlbacks—and the top is also arched! The bridge has an arch carved into it as well, so it's not as though the top get wet and warped.

    Anyone seen something like that before? It's hard to describe; may have to post photos.

    Also, has anyone got dates for a Giuseppe Gandolfi in Napoli? Evidently there was a violinmaker by that name in Cremona working from 1920 to 1948, but my working theory is that they're not the same person.
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  3. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback (Sistema de Meglio)

    The pictures of Gandolphi mandolins I have in my files seem to have info dating to 1890s and early 1900s.

    I would think that many flattop and bowlback mandolins would have slight induced arches even with the cants. In other words the braces would be arched to arch the top.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback (Sistema de Meglio)

    That time period seems to fit with what I was told about the instrument by the folks who donated it.

    It has a John Grey kidney bean tailpiece, so it probably had some repair work in London before being brought to the U.S.
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    Default Re: Giuseppe Gandolfi bowlback (Sistema de Meglio)

    I think you cannot make a bowlback with a cant, without having some arching to the top. When the belly wood is bent to form the cant, the section below the cant - toward the tailpiece - has a wedge-shaped piece of wood removed along the centerline, and the two edges thus formed are brought together. This actually strengthens the belly, and allows it to resist the increased string pressure on the bridge.

    Think of the bowl and belly as an egg; the arching makes for a much stronger structure. Without reshaping the belly, the only way you could produce a cant would be by making the bowl rim follow the line of the cant.

    There exists bowlbacks with flat bellies; I have one from Greece. I've never seen this style in an Italian mandolin.

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