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Thread: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about it?

  1. #1

    Default Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about it?

    As the title says. I saw this on eBay and was so intrigued that I bought it. It plays well, the tuners are smooth and it will have a nice tone, when I replace the ancient strings! I have an idea it may be french, but no idea why, and it was sold as being from the 1920's, but on what basis I again have no idea!
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  2. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Quote Originally Posted by Fireweaver View Post
    I have an idea it may be french, but no idea why,
    Does it also have a second lining inside the side f holes?

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Hi, no it doesn't, I can see all around the inside through the holes. Does that help?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    I think Dave K was wondering if it were made by Gelas, one of the more prominent French builders, who often made instruments with a double soundboard.

    Never seen anything like yours. The celluloid pickguard and the apparently faux mother-of-pearl or ivory inlays do make the 1920's date plausible. I'm no tuner expert, can't derive any clues from their appearance -- though that shot from the back of the headstock does make me wonder if there are enlarged holes for the tuner posts.

    Hope more knowledgeable Cafe-ers will have seen something like it.
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    It looks pretty unique and probably a one-off experiment, so hard to identify the origin. If I had to guess, going by the shape, the woods, the tuners and that you bought it in the UK, I would suggest a London maker, early 1900s, possibly linked to the JEDallas workshop.

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Here's a picture of the writing on the end of the tailpiece. I'm not sure it's useful. Thanks for the comments so far!
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    I'm sure I've seen a cheap banjolele or banjolin made by dallas, but never a mandolin!

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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Given the poor fit of the tuners and the generally decent workmanship otherwise, I think the tuners are replacements.

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    Registered User bennyb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    The sides look very thick; I'm wondering if they're carved out of one piece of wood ala Orville Gibson's original construction. Is there a distinct joint between the neck and the sides?

  13. #10

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Quote Originally Posted by bennyb View Post
    The sides look very thick; I'm wondering if they're carved out of one piece of wood ala Orville Gibson's original construction. Is there a distinct joint between the neck and the sides?
    No, it's not distinct at all, and definitely not joined at the tailpiece end. I'll take a picture in daylight in the morning.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    I can see how JE Dallas would make sense but I have not seen any Dallas-labelled mandolins that look like that.

    It does have a few features that resemble those of DeMeglioand Ceccherini mandolins including a close-fit zero fret, a tensioner between the bridge and tailpiece and a bevelled decoration around the top.

    Hardware can never be the ultimate tool for ID-ing instruments. It is too easily replaced and often makers will buy from suppliers including ones from other countries.

    That tailpiece appears in a page in my 1901 Tonk Brothers catalog. That doesn't mean that the tailpiece was made in the US.

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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Quote Originally Posted by Fireweaver View Post
    Hi, no it doesn't, I can see all around the inside through the holes. Does that help?
    Yes, it means it is not built like my Vietnamese "French" style mandolin seen in my avatar pic.

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  18. #13

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Here's some photos of the neck, the tuners (which may be replacements, as somebody mentioned, and the inlay. The inlay has a lot of colour, but it doesn't really show very well.Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    The "sound ports" on the sides of the instrument are also reminiscent of the De Meglio style instruments. It would tempt me toward an Italian origin, but I'd never go so far as to actually say so.

    I've never seen an instrument quite like it either. The construction seems well done, as is the ornamentation. In my previous incarnation and a mandolin-Hoover, I'd have certainly been pleased to add it to the collection. Nice catch!

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  22. #15

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    I would be surprised if the tuners were replacements because they are unusual and fit the headstock which has an unusual shape. It is possible the units under the plates are not original but the plates surely are original.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    I'm intrigued - can you see any details of the bracing through the side ports?

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  26. #17

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Yes I can. It's evening again so I'll have a good look, see if I can get a camera in and update tomorrow. Thank you so much to everyone who is taking an interest!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    IIRC my ex-DeMeglio had lovely stained bone tuner buttons like those which really doesn't tell you anything. But the tuners could have come from a similar mandolin—pictures of my ex-DeMeglio below, also a picture of the tensioner.

    The side ports of much fancier than the DeMeglio. Just to be clear—I am not saying that this was built by DeMeglio but there are a few similar features.

    I don't think it was carved out of one piece for the sides and back. Just looks like the builder bent a thicker piece of wood than we are used to.

    I wonder if you can get a look inside toward the neck block. That neck joint is interesting. It might be constructed like a Spanish heel on a classical guitar.
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  29. #19

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    The mandolin in question reminds me E.Secchi patented mandolin. Not exactly the same, but probably sort of inspired by it.

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  31. #20
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Quote Originally Posted by vic-victor View Post
    The mandolin in question reminds me E.Secchi patented mandolin. Not exactly the same, but probably sort of inspired by it.
    Mentioned and pictured on this thread.

    Also one on this site but a very small photo:
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    D. 11. Folk mandolin with flat back, Eliseo Secchi system, first decade of 20th century, North Italy; back in 2 pieces and maple ribs, sound board of fir without sound hole, two characters painted in the centre and the writing “Falstaff / brevetto E.S.”, the instrument presents two F-holes on the left rib, the fingerboard has 17 metal frets.
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    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    ...That tailpiece appears in a page in my 1901 Tonk Brothers catalog. That doesn't mean that the tailpiece was made in the US.
    Is that "PAT'D OCT 26" stamped on it? Would argue for US manufacture, I guess.
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  35. #22

    Default Re: Old, quite unique flatback. Does anyone know anything about

    It could well do. I was wracking my brains trying to decipher it. Surely that could also mean it was made in England? Not that I'm suggesting it was, just that I think it might be possible? Again, that would only apply definitively to the tailpiece though, no?
    I couldn't get a picture of the inside, but there's a solid block of wood at the neck end, a thin lathe down the centre of the top, which I can now see is two piece, then there are two brace bars under the top. One is parallel to the tension bar and the other is angled from almost the top of the top soundhole to about an inch in front of the one under the tension bar. And now I've just noticed a third, running parallel to the one under the tension bar, but just a few inches from the neck join, so like a Z. There's one more on the back, running across it, about an inch in front of the back. Phew, I hope I've explained that properly, I wish I could get pictures!
    Last edited by Fireweaver; Nov-17-2020 at 6:47pm.

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