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Thread: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

  1. #1

    Default Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    I bought this baby in poor condition as a way of testing whether I could revive an old instrument and make it playable. As the neck was straight and untwisted, I levelled the frets, re-crowned them and carefully scraped the goo and detritus from the fingerboard and removed the fingernail pits before oiling with walnut oil. I polished the frets with plain old copier paper to get a fine polished finish and then cleaned and oiled the rest of the woodwork (appears to be spruce and mahogany) and brass-brushed and oiled the tuners. Cleaned up and sanded the bridge (top and bottom to better fit to the body and reduce the height/action). New light strings (D'addie J74s) and Voila, plays like a dream and sounds good too with a balanced bass and treble, especially good for Italian-style trem songs and the like. The tuners are still a little tight, but I'm looking into this. Kudos to Jerry Rosa for his renovation tips.

    What I would like to know, is the make, model and year of this beast, so far I have been told the tuners are probably European, pre-WWII vintage. They appear to be originals. Can anyone help further? The butterfly inlay is distinctive so I hope this may assist. Pix are:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    That looks nice. Good save. No idea on the ID but the staves look more like rosewood than mahogany in the pics.

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    I agree with Nevin that the bowl looks like rosewood. Most bowlbacks were either maple or rosewood, rarely except in lowest level did they ever use mahogany.

    D'Addario J-74s are medium-gauge strings and are too heavy for vintage bowlbacks. In a pinch you could use J-62s which are somewhat lighter or Martin lights. Preferred, though, on a budget get GHS A240 which are ultra-light. Or if you want the best sounding IMHO get a set of Dogal Calace RW92b dolce strings. It looks like, for the moment, Bernunzio is out of stock of those. He usually keeps them in stock and it might just be a week or so.

    I also would recommend buying or making a better bridge. That one doesn't look like any period original bridge to me. You can see what good bridges look like or even order one from Dave Hynds in France. This one at Elderly might work but you may need to thin it and cut to down to fit properly.
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  5. #4
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Hmm...only four posts on the tailpiece to anchor strings. Does that shed any light on the instrument's origin?

    I haven't seen many US-made bowl-backs that didn't have individual posts or hooks for eight strings -- but my experience's limited. Any thoughts from the real bowl-back experts?
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  6. #5

    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Those are German made tuners- probably pre-1930. I think it is European and the Italians- especially Sicilians loved butterflies. This is a Carmelo Catania- it appears to have similar tuners. Of course, the firm may have had plenty of tuners as I think this is newer than 1930.


    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #6

    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Here are those tuners- nicely nailed in!Attachment 181782

  8. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Here are those tuners- nicely nailed in!Attachment 181782
    Can't see your attachment, NickR.
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  9. #8

    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Jim, that is odd as it was displayed for a while. If you click on this, you should see the photo- enlarged.

    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C...1Fko2vTBiL-B_M

  10. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Jim, that is odd as it was displayed for a while. If you click on this, you should see the photo- enlarged.

    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C...1Fko2vTBiL-B_M
    Nick: you link to a general Google search for "carmelo catania butterfly mandolin" with loads of photos. I looked for the image and I think this is it:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Jim

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  12. #10

    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    Jim, that's it- when I follow that link it opens up automatically with that photo but I suppose that's because I had copied it earlier. The mails are unusual- I know United used them on cheap guitars and mandolins but I wonder if the screws on this were loose and someone decided to replace them with nails!

  13. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Mystery Bowlback (to test your patience)

    I read your mind, Nick. Google works in strange ways.
    Jim

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    2018 Campanella A-5 -- 2007 Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- 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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