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Thread: Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

    My grandfather died in 1947. His bowlback mandolin, in the possession of extended family, has recently been given to me. It's a pretty great piece of family history, but I have no idea what kind of lineage the mandolin itself has. Hoping some of the experts here can help me out.

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    The neck looks like mahogany and the ribs (38!) look like they're either walnut or rosewood.

    It's in pretty good shape - the only structural issue I've noticed so far is some slight separation between ribs along the deepest part of the bowl - and that only visible looking through the sound hole as light comes in the cracks.

    Appreciate any light you can shed on the origin - thanks!
    JP

  2. #2

    Default Re: Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

    Looks American to me, probably Chicago-made. I am not a big expert in American bowlbacks. Hope more experienced folks will chime in soon.

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

    Most likely Chicago made, very possibly by Harmony. If not them probably Lyon and Healy. There's more here though. At some point in time somebody converted this to a four stringed instrument and was probably playing it like a Ukulele. That bridge isn't original. It looks like the nut has still got eight slots. I'm assuming the tuners and the tailpiece were not changed. It also concerns me how high that bridge actually is. The original would have been half that high or less. It may be as simple as the bridge belongs on the other side of the cant (the bend in the top). If you're looking to play it as a mandolin it's going to need a bridge at the least and somebody will have to measure where it should be placed for the correct intonation.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

    I suspect the bridge position is in correct for intonation, and the reason for the extra-high bridge is a sinking top. Can't tell from this photo angle. Bridge is way too heavy; if it was mine I'd shave the bridge to half its width, and cut four more slots.

  5. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need help in identifying an old bolwback mandolin

    Or you could simply get a proper bridge for the instrument, place it correctly and avoid any other problems.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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