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Thread: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

  1. #1

    Default My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Just got from an online auction an interesting and actually decent sounding mando, but the general style is new to me. My suspicion is Mexican.
    Pear shaped, flat top and back, solid wood, looks like rosewood on the sides, but lots of woods look like that. 14” scale, no marker dots, oval hole,plain bridge, zero fret,crappy tuners open slot head. No maker’s name or evidence of one. Strings look fairly old. Actually came with colored ribbons tied to the head! The distinctive feature is that it’s 3 1/4” thick! Means anything to you folks?
    Just got the thing and put light gauge strings on. Loud as a banjo, with ridiculous sustain, almost needs a damper pedal like a piano.
    So what is it, and why is it so powerful? I have never played a “quality” mando, so can’t compare.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    We love pictures here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Nobody’s seems interested, but I’m now sure it is Mexican, probably bought as a tourist object, from the little town that makes everything with strings there. The details, a mix of careful construction and good woods is only masked by the low-end tuners. I’ve got about 10 hours in on it so far, and really like the sound, which is very much different than either my A-type Stratolin I’ve had since childhood, or either my 8 or 12 string bowlbacks. The twelve is amazingly nice in the lower register, but ‘warm’ toned. The new machine is loud and ‘twangy’. I guess to hold it’s own in a mariachi band!

  5. #4

    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    To repeat, this site is more fun with pictures.........

    Yep, could be from Paracho, Mexico -- a town where they have been making guitars, etc. for generations. Most are cheap trinkets for the tourist trade, but they also make mid-grade and even a few pro-level instruments have been commissioned by importers/shops such as Marc Silber.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    It's not that nobody is interested but without pictures people are guessing at what you have. Just post some pictures and the members will surely have something to say.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Photos.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #7

    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    It is probably from central Europe- Czechoslovakia, East Germany or possibly Roumania or Italy but my money would be on the first two.If you post a photo of the tuner units that may help to fix the date as these items changed over the decades. Showing the back including the heel would also help pinpoint the region where it was made.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    It's very possibly Mexican. Take a look at this one and this one. The OP's does appear to be a little more refined.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    ... If you post a photo of the tuner units that may help ...
    That usually means showing the back of the headstock but, since this is a slot-head, it means showing the sides of the headstock.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  14. #10

    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    FWIW, thickness usually refers to the top thickness, let's say 1/8 inch or so......

    What you are describing is the body depth being 3 1/4 inch deep vs body width and body length -- not to be confused with scale length, nut width or overall length......

    But, yes, 3 1/4 inch body depth is somewhat unusual compared to what is generally seen.......

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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    My first impression was Mexican, only because I've had a Mexican Spanish-style guitar with similar deep body. They seem to like boomy soundboxes - like requinto guitars.

  16. #12

    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Looking at those two Mexican mandolins that Mike Edgerton highlighted, I can see that going for a Mexican origin is reasonable. The tailpiece on this mandolin is typical of the sort made in Germany for decades and used across Europe by many makers which makes me think central Europe but it may be Mexico. I think German made tuners- or later versions would clinch it but until we can see them, it's open for debate.

  17. #13
    Registered User tonydxn's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    I'm not sure why, but a lot of South American (and maybe also Central American) makers use German hardware, and have done for a long time. Here is a photo of a 1930-ish Brazilian mandolin by Tranquillo Giannini which has an obviously German tailpiece and very German-looking tuners too. German hardware does not necessarily mean a European instrument.
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    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
    German flatback by unknown maker converted from a descant Waldzither

  18. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by tonydxn View Post
    I'm not sure why, but a lot of South American (and maybe also Central American) makers use German hardware, and have done for a long time.
    I could explain that to you if you'd like to know but it should be pretty obvious. There has been a close connection between Germany and that area for a long long time. It only got stronger after WWII.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Aug-26-2019 at 7:32pm.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    BTW, some such central-European instruments look a lot like yours, being deeper, but also have contrasting-color, multi-peice "starburst" (my term) backs, often with a mild dome, that can look quite spectacular. At least one of them (played in the Bloomfield Mandolin Orchestra) sounds very good, but they're so rare that I hesitate to generalize on sound.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  21. #16

    Default Re: My new very thick unknown mandolin -what is it?

    German metalware was also used on American made instruments- I have seen a huge catalogue of one German manufacturer from the 1920s which showed tailpieces and tuners. Many big American instrument makers were German in origin and the hardware makers in Germany were happy to export their parts- inlays also being a big export business for them as well. The Harmony Company was using German made tailpieces on some of their electric guitars in the 50s and 60s.

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