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Thread: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Hello -
    I am wondering if this is not an original bridge on this Embergher orchestra 2 model? If not what are the difficulties associated with getting/recreating an original bridge? Also, do those who play Emberghers ever use rounded frets? I presume all originals use flat frets and it would be sacrileges to change them (this could possibly be an upsetting question, so please bear with my ignorance and apologies in advance). Were the orchestra models, for all but virtuosos, just as good sounding and playing instruments as the 5ibs? Thank you.
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    2014 Phoenix Neoclassical Euro III
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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Hello -
    I am wondering if this is not an original bridge on this Embergher orchestra 2 model? If not what are the difficulties associated with getting/recreating an original bridge? Also, do those who play Emberghers ever use rounded frets? I presume all originals use flat frets and it would be sacrileges to change them (this could possibly be an upsetting question, so please bear with my ignorance and apologies in advance). Were the orchestra models, for all but virtuosos, just as good sounding and playing instruments as the 5ibs? Thank you.
    Hi Tim,

    That bridge looks pretty original to me -- any reason why you would think otherwise? The lower grades had all-ebony bridges whereas the higher ones had bone inserts, for cost reasons I believe rather than tonal reasons. The ebony bridges also had a butterfly cut in the base to give them some flexibility. That saved time in fitting as the bridge will adapt to the top, . Not sure where the Type 2 sits on that range, but bone insert seems plausible to me. Making a replacement bridge would require a luthier who knows what they're doing as you need to get the right slant and radius on the saddle to match the fretboard. My modest Type A student model had an all-ebony bridge which snapped, and I had luthier Jon Springall make me a very nice replacement with a bone saddle. Works great.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "rounded frets" and "flat frets". If you mean bar frets vs modern tanged frets, changing this would involve a new fretboard which on an Embergher is a major job, because the fretboard is slanted and radiussed. Don't do it unless you have to.

    I haven't done a side-by-side of a Type 2 and a 5bis, but from descriptions I've seen it's as much a question of voicing as of quality: the orchestral models are designed to blend and the soloist models are designed to stand out.

    Martin

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Hi Martin -
    Thank you so much! As you can guess, I am new to the bowl back world and exploring/ learning. My question on the bridge was due to the fact that in Alex Timmermon’s site you fo not see bone on the orchestra models, nor in Graham McDonald’s book. My question about the frets was based on my Lyon & Healy Model A (my most cherished possession). I found the original bar frets not to my liking and asked Bruce Weber to replace them with small diameter tanged Evo frets. The result is an absolutely exquisite mandolin which is pure joy to play. I digress. So, I wonder if I can adapt to the bar frets easily. As far as I can tell, only from on-line videos, the Emberghers have a bit of a unique sound which I like. This particular model is bring offered for $2700 and appears in good shape with no need for additional work. I see very few for sale and have no experience to judge the reasonableness of this price. Could you perhaps offer an opinion? Thank you so much.
    2014 Phoenix Neoclassical Euro III
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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Also, to help with my bowl back ignorance: what would most players use for strings? I use Thomastik mittels on my current mandolins but am clueless about the Embergher. Thank you in advance.
    Here is a picture of the fretboard on this instrument. Does it appear to need new frets?
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    Last edited by Tim Logan; Dec-03-2019 at 10:56am.
    2014 Phoenix Neoclassical Euro III
    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A #1674
    1897 Calace

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Tim: My guess is that the bridge on this Embergher is a repro. The Roman style bridge was intonated early on and with the bass side higher than the treble due to the angle of the neck. However, in general, the student (A and B) and orchestra models (1, 2, and 3) were outfitted with ebony bridges while the soloist models with bone-capped ebony.

    Do you know when this mandolin was made? It looks a bit fancy for a No.2 especially with that top/side binding. Also, I don't know if I ever saw an Embergher with original inlaid dots on the side of the fretboard. Also (and I may be mistaken here—might help if you posted more photos) that end of the fretboard looks rather thick. I wonder if this has a replaced fretboard with the original bar frets re-installed. It looks like it might be thicker to one end to compensate for some top sinkage. I could be wrong but it would help to determine this with more photos or ideally an in-hand inspection.

    Bowlbacks are an acquired taste and very different from more-standard carved top instruments. And to top that comment off: Emberghers and other Roman style mandolins are even more unique in design than the more common Neapolitan mandolins (Calace, Vinaccia and the like). All Emberghers have bar frets even those made into the later period 1940s+. They have triangular profile necks, later ones all have zero frets, radiused fretboards and narrow necks, The intent was to duplicate to some extent the feel of a violin.

    As for as strings, if you like the tone of the ones you heard I would definitely not use Thomastiks. I am not a big fan of them except on Lyon & Healy mandolins. And if you want to replace the fretboard and frets with modern tanged ones, well, why spend this money for an Embergher? I think Optima or Fisoma Consort strings would be good for these. I have some custom strings on my No. 3 and it sings very nicely.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that in the US there are very few luthiers, no matter how competent, who have a clue on how to deal with quality bowlback mandolins, let alone to set an Embergher up correctly. I was extremely lucky to have mine set up by a world class musician in Europe.

    I have three Emberghers: a student A (thanks to Martin Jonas), a No. 1 (both maple bowl) and an early rosewood No. 3—my absolute favorite. Super light and responsive. They are amazing instrument but I would not buy one sight unseen. If you can, play it first or buy it with approval privileges.

    BTW the best book on Emberghers is sadly out of print. It is The Embergher Mandolin by Ralf Leenen and Barry Pratt.

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    Jim

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Hello Jim -
    I’m quite grateful for such an informative post. Thank you! In retrospect, I believe I should have just initially attached this link and simply asked if this offering appeared sensible. I suspect it is overpriced as it has been on line 6 months(?). This is the only one I have seen for sale and the seller is not an expert as far as I can tell. However, the seller does communicate in English and indicates, from his perspective, that it has no cracks, repairs or problems. Emberghers seem to be very difficult to locate but very desirable if you are interested in a bowl back. On line listening suggests to me that they have there own unique sound. From what I am learning here, I would certainly not change frets and would use the strings recommended by those in the know. Your book recommendation is a great find and I will seek one out - regardless of whether I ever purchase an Embergher or not. I love reading about the history of mandolins. Thank you again!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    I never understand why people list instruments without full photos. And there should be pics from side view. It is still hard to tell but I do believe that this one was restored and the luthier added some “features” like the marquetry border and the pearl side dots. I also think it might have been refinished. These are all guesses and I admit I could be wrong. Price is on the high side. There was a point where Emberghers were going for lots but I think there is less of a market out there even in Europe.
    Jim

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Thank you Jim. I don’t seem to be able to get much more info from the seller so will likely have to abandon this one. You’ve been really helpful, thank you. The Barry Pratt book appears to be totally unavailable by the way ��
    2014 Phoenix Neoclassical Euro III
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  9. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Embergher - original bridge and questions?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Thank you Jim. I donít seem to be able to get much more info from the seller so will likely have to abandon this one. Youíve been really helpful, thank you. The Barry Pratt book appears to be totally unavailable by the way ��
    IIRC Elderly had the last batch of these books and they were all sold out a few years ago. At one point Ralf was going to publish a revised and expanded edition but I don't know if that will happen.
    Jim

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    Playing lately:
    1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

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