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Thread: Looking at Japanese bowl back

  1. #1
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Looking at Japanese bowl back

    Made the mistake of looking at the local Craigslist today and saw a bowl back. The seller says it was a gift, doesn't play, knows nothing much about it.

    I am 95% sure it is a Suzuki M215. Rosewood bowl, narrow staves, looks like it is in good shape from the two photos he posted. The price is equitable. I'm meeting him in the morning to have a look.

    Reading old posts, these seem to be reasonable if not stellar instruments--- true? Other than looking for cracks and a messed up neck, what should I look for?

    Thanks for any advice. This seems to be where the bowl fiends are at the moment!

  2. #2
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    Hard to really say much without playing the instrument or at least seeing images of it.

    I've had a couple MOR Japanese bowlbacks but moved them along pretty quickly. Both sold in a NY minute to buyers in Europe where they apparently are more appreciated. Which I don't really understand, but was happy to discover.

    Both of mine (Suzukis) had necks like a Louisville Slugger baseball bat and a sound that made me think I had cotton in my ears. A finish layer tougher than what is on my auto.

    Not meaning to come off as a smart aleck. I just wasn't very impressed, which I think you'll find is the general opinion here. Soundly made, but not much sound.

    Just the same....any given instrument might be just the right thing for any one individual.

    If you're looking to get a bowlback right off, maybe it's a good move. My hunch is that you'll likely want to trade up quickly though, too.

    Mick
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  3. #3
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    ". . . neck like a Louisville Slugger" huh? Not what I would have expected! These are screen shots of the images he had in the ad.


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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    ". . . neck like a Louisville Slugger" huh? Not what I would have expected! These are screen shots of the images he had in the ad.


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    I recently cleaned up and restrung my friend's Suzuki Model 100 and it was a thin neck profile, flat fretboard, and if I remember correctly it might have even been a violin scale mando. I don't know much about mandolins but I didn't think it was that bad at all. I think most of these old Suzukis are from the 70's. I say if you have a bowlback itch and price is right it's always nice to try different mandos and you shouldn't be out too much money if it doesn't tickle your fancy.

    Rob

    I realized I had some pics, pre-cleanup and re-string:

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  5. #5
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    Thanks, Rob. That one looks quite similar to the one I'm looking at. Trim is a little different, but the basic construction looks similar.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    Not impressed with Suzuki bowlbacks. The main issue is sonics; in my experience, they sound as though they were stuffed with socks.

    Unless it's remarkably cheap, you can do better. Try a few before you buy.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    My second mandolin was a Japanese-made bowlback - but it had a thin coat of finish and a loud rich tone, unlike many other similar instruments.

    Not all of those Japanese mandolins are overbuilt and overfinished.

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    Eugene 

  10. #8
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    I just got back from looking at it. It seems to be in good shape and had a sweet tone despite being way out of tune, but there are a couple of cracks on the top. Most likely a deal-breaker. I have a message in to my luthier, but I can't imagine it would be worth what he would charge to fix it.

  11. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    I think some of these later Suzuki mandolins are decent but the ones from the 1970s, at least the ones sold here in the US, were not very inspiring instruments. If it were crackless maybe worth $150 but I think you are better off buying simply adorned American vintage bowlback from the early part of the last century and made by on of the more prominent companies.
    Jim

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  12. #10

    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    I agree with all that's expressed above. There are different tiers of Suzuki. None are super valuable. The mass-production pieces spanning the late '60s'80s that are generally available in the U.S. (like those pictured above) are really nicely assembled of decent materials, but tend to be overbuilt, over-finished, and have necks of unfortunately feeble stained mystery wood that is especially prone to warp. If the action is high because of high-tension string damage, I'd move along. If comfortable, even in excellent condition, they tend to take comfortably less than US$200.

    I had a 1968 some years ago. I think I both bought and sold it for around $150. I still have a much older one ("Nippon" label, likely '20s) that's really cool, but still too trebley and twangy in the voice department.

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  14. #11

    Default Re: Looking at Japanese bowl back

    PS: The nicer Suzuki pieces tend to feature much less decoration, have oval holes, and were obviously influenced by Calace.

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