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Thread: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    This one is in England although it was retailed new in Calcutta! You can imagine a typical bowlback being less than ideal for a tropical climate, whereas this type might fare a bit better. It's worth remembering that not long before this instrument had been made, that aluminium was a precious metal- Napoleon III had regalia made using this new metal but advances in extracting it from Bauxite made it commonplace but for a while it had a cachet because it had been so expensive. The basic mandolin apart from the bowl reminds me of OS and I assume that the mandolins were constructed by an established maker for Merrill. Apparently, Merrill went out of business as he did not pay whoever made the mandolins!

  2. #2
    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Aug 2015
    United Kingdom

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    Only a few minutes left to bid on this (No bids so far). Free collection in person from Bognor Regis. Too far away for me.
    Edit: ended with no bids.

    Now relisted:
    The Merrill, Vintage Neapolitan, aluminium bowl back Mandolin
    Last edited by Cobalt; Oct-13-2020 at 5:18am.

  3. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    I have a fancier Merrill, also purchased on eBay perhaps 20 years ago or so; think I got it for $150.

    Merrill instruments were manufactured by the Aluminum Musical Instrument Co., which Neil Merrill founded in the 1890's. It was only in business for a short time, due to Merrill's apparently shady business practices. Here's an interesting Mgwumps article by the late Mike Holmes on aluminum instruments.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  4. #4

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    Here is another one for sale in the UK. It looks to be in good order.

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  5. #5

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    Looks excellent. I have the all-aluminum Hutchins, and have wondered how the Merrill soundboard is attached to the aluminum, which I thought might be difficult. Note that the Mugwumps article relates Waldo to the Merrill necks, and a recent thread here concerns the mysteries of Saginaw. Could the unpaid Merrill mass order be the thing that killed off Waldo?
    C’mon, you first-string detectives out there….a clue!

  6. #6
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Dec 2005
    Ann Arbor/Austin

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    I'm noticing some of the dreaded top sinkage north of the soundhole on the UK Merrill in the middle photo Nick posted.

    The action is already pretty high and the bridge looks as if it were moved back, perhaps to compensate.

    I'd shy away from this one, myself.

    That is, if I were in the market for a munimula bowl.

    Ever tried, ever failed? No matter. Try again, fail again. Fail better.--Samuel Beckett

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  7. #7
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    Asheville, NC

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    I've played several Merrill mandolins (& a guitar!), a Hutchins mandolin, and a Springer violin. Additionally, I've owned dozens of ALCOA aluminum double basses and Pfretzschners. I can probably say with confidence that I am likely the most knowledgeable person on the planet for vintage aluminum basses. I have a very detailed book in the works. I gig with my polished 1930 every weekend and also have #22 from the first batch. They are all an interesting piece of history from long ago when aluminum products were as exotic as anything made today from carbon fiber or titanium or such. I'd disagree with the mugwumps article that the Pfretzschner basses are somehow inferior to the ALCOAs. They have a different construction, but the wooden neck and thinner aluminum stock usually makes them sound slightly warmer.

    As for the mandolin top attachment question: If you remove the outside layer of wood- an exterior lining - you will find little rivet / aluminum pins that lock the inside lining to the aluminum rim. That combined with hot hide glue holds everything together. All of the engraved models that I have seen have absolutely beautiful hand crafted engraving work.

    I've always wanted to get a side project going with an aluminum quartet!
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  9. #8

    Default Re: Merrill Aluminium Mandolin

    Amazing engraving on the black paint one. The engravers must have been carried away with such a soft and shiny metal, but to do this to hundreds of copies!
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