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Thread: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London piano

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    Default A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London piano

    Can anyone tell us about this wonderful instrument! It might be the only one of its kind. It was made from an old English piano that was made in 1660! It has four sets of three strings. The back of it bows out but is flat instead of round. It says it was made by A.F. Anderson in Junction City, Kansas using old piano parts. It is beautiful!

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    It's always best to post some pictures, in this case the full front and the back.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Sounds interesting, looking forward to seeing pictures.

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

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ID:	177109. Here are two pictures. Thanks for your comments! My friend has the mandolin - wish I'd taken a picture of the twelve tuners! that is pretty cool. Thanks for any comments. The instrument is a mystery to us.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Quote Originally Posted by Maureen123 View Post
    Can anyone tell us about this wonderful instrument! It might be the only one of its kind. It was made from an old English piano that was made in 1660! It has four sets of three strings. The back of it bows out but is flat instead of round. It says it was made by A.F. Anderson in Junction City, Kansas using old piano parts. It is beautiful!
    I, too, look forward to seeing this mandolin. These are often called mandriolas, especially in Europe. Some suspicious information here, though. Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua was the inventor of the piano. I am pretty sure he did not yet invent the piano in 1660. And I am unsure that there even were pianos in London at that time.

    I can find no mandolin maker in Kansas with that name but that doesn't mean much. There always were lots of folks making instruments in small shops and kitchen tables.

    Ah, now I see the photos. That is what I call a "boatback" mandolin and you usually find that style in the northern provinces of Italy. Luigi Mozzani of Bologna made many mandolins in that configuration.

    Possibly your friend's mandolin was originally an 8-string and someone (maybe A. F. Anderson) added the tuners down the middle of the headstock. Does the tailpiece have 12 posts or hooks? Where is that information about the maker and the piano? Can you get a photo of the label?
    Last edited by Jim Garber; May-30-2019 at 8:08pm.
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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    A few more questions: what is the string length, nut to bridge (or nut to 12th fret, times 2)? It's hard to get a sense of scale in the photo, but it looks like this might be longer than a normal mandolin. Is it in playable condition? If so, how does the owner have it tuned?

    And yes, it looks like an older instrument with the centre-mounted tuners a later addition.

  7. #7

    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    That's interesting about the piano! Inside the mandolin, there is an old label that says the maker's name and city and also says it was made from a London piano, this is followed by the number 1660 but maybe that is meant to be more of a serial number than a year. My friend has the mandolin and he won't be back for a week but then I can post more pictures. The case was handmade by a friend's father and it is a huge case! The mandolin looks like an average sized mandolin to me. It is not really playable now because there are fine cracks on both sides of the neck, but after they are repaired it should sound interesting. Each set of three strings included a low string. There are four tuners going right down the middle of the headstock! I wonder if they were added later? I'm sorry I can't answer all of your excellent questions -- I will try to find out all of the answers when my friend gets back. I don't think it is a valuable instrument in terms of money, but it is very interesting and cool!

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Regarding string length, it looks like standard length and conventional mandolin strings. The end of the fingerboard has little scallop shapes cut out below each trio of strings - is that unusual? I hadn't seen that before. Wish I'd taken more pictures! I will later.

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Orville Gibson (and I'm sure others) looked for old furniture to make his instruments out of in the beginning. It was aged wood. The piano wouldn't really be much different. People salvaged old ivory piano keys for different things after the product was banned. That probably isn't a date and this looks like an instrument built by a competent luthier.

    Michael Holmes lists the following luthiers with the surname Anderson and a first name that starts with A on the Mugwumps list:

    Anderson, Albert M. Seattle WA 1924
    Anderson, Alfred Chelsea MA 1893

    That doesn't mean that either of these were the person that built the instrument.

    If you can post a picture of the tuners on the back of the headstock we might be able to better date it. Also, can you post a picture of the label.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Orville Gibson (and I'm sure others) looked for old furniture to make his instruments out of in the beginning. It was aged wood. The piano wouldn't really be much different.
    I hadn't heard this, but I do recall a rumour from the seventies or so that a well-known British guitar builder was going around to country auctions buying old rosewood pianos (19th century Broadwoods, etc.) , and using the wood to build fine classical guitars. I'm not sure this really happened, but it would make sense as a way of getting a supply of very fine aged wood. Probably earned the resentment of a few pianists though.

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    For many many decades, maybe a century people have been throwing out pianos. If they hadn't the piano builders would have gone out of business. 40 years ago I bought an antique British piano that had been imported in a sea container of British antiques. It wasn't playable but I thought it was cool. Most of it ended up as firewood when I had to sell my house. It happens. The Orville story has been described here for years and makes perfect sense.

    By the way, if there aren't at least 5 or 6 pianos available free on Cragslist in any major market at one time I'd be shocked.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Bruce Clausen's Avatar
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Yeah, lots of free pianos around, though probably not many built from 200-year-old Brazilian rosewood.

    Beautiful old Hammond organs are also now worth next to nothing!

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Steve Wishnevsky is known to use wood from the Piano tree on occasion.

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Thanks everyone for taking an interest in this mandolin. My friend came back and just sent me a few more pictures of the mandolin, including the extra four tuners and the label inside the instrument! Hope this is helpful. It sure looks like a year on the label, but maybe it isn't because that would be so long ago.Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Well, "wood from an old piano made in London (about?) 1662" may have been a selling point for the instrument. We can speculate how 240-year-old wood showed up in Junction City KS around the turn of the last century, but it's a handsome creation whatever the source of the rosewood was.
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    I think the handwriting says, "Material from an old Piano made in London (Engl.) 1662".

    See my comments above regarding 1660 piano. My guess is that someone gave the maker the wood and told him it was from an old English piano. I would love to be there when A. F. got this wood. Some snake-oil salesman came to town and had it in his wagon? The wood could have been old and even possibly from a piano but not one from 1662. Maybe a harpsichord or clavichord?

    Those four tuners look like banjo friction tuners though they might be a bit later than 1900 when the label says Anderson made this mandolin. If your friend can send some photos of the tuners from the side, maybe our resident tuner expert, Mike E. can give us a bit more info on that. My guess is that those tuners are a later addition. Perhaps the owner of this instrument decided it was not loud enough (he played with a brass band?) and needed to beef up his/her volume.

    If this were originally a twelve-string mandolin it would be more likely that the luthier would source out a set of 12 string mandolin tuners. Then again, maybe he didn't want to bother or could not find it on the 1900 equivalent of Amazon.

    Photos are a bit fuzzy but the one of the back of the headstock shows the very top of the joint of the neck joint which resembles an Italian method—or at least European method—of neck design.
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    Default Re: A.F. Anderson 12-string Mandolin made from old, 1660 London p

    Yeah, this is a cool instrument but either "piano" or "1662" is a work of fiction. No such thing existed, in London or elsewhere.

    Kirkman, the first English firm to make pianos, was established in 1725, but they started off making harpsichords. Not clear when the first Kirkman piano was actually produced.

    According to this, the piano wasn't all that popular in England until after 1760: https://www.piano-tuners.org/history/history_1.html

    Are those Planet tuners on the back of the headstock? When were those invented?
    Last edited by mrmando; Jun-12-2019 at 11:25pm.
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