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Thread: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

  1. #1

    Default Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Hey gang,
    Over Christmas, I went home and stopped at the local music store, the owner pulled some instruments from the back that were in need of repair -- a guitar, a violin, two banjos, and this mandolin. Got 'em cheap, so you can't insult me. Basically a bowlback with a busted top, but otherwise pretty good shape. Normally, I don't get excited about these, but the previous owner left a note in the case, mentioning ...mandolin, old, Egypt...so I thought I would ask the experts here. Besides the top being cracked behind the cant, the tailpiece has a tear starting on one side, the pickguard/inlay has fallen off, but someone has touched it up with white paint, FWIW. I do have some of the original inlay, but not all, the pearl parts seem to also be touched up with white paint, for some reason. There is no label inside or any other markings that I can see. Anyway, I will post some pics and look forward to any info.

    Thanks, JeffClick image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Mar-17-2021 at 7:25pm.

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  3. #2
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    I'm certain some luthiers in Egypt have made mandolins...but I'm not quite so sure that's one of them; but it could be. Anyone have any better ideas?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Don't know enough to have an "expert" opinion, but there are some oddities. Tuners and tailpiece look pretty ordinary/"plain Jane," not much fretboard inlay, nothing on the headstock. On the other hand, many ribs, and I haven't seen the alternate maple/rosewood with the holly strips between them on other lower-range instruments.

    Nothing about the instrument seems to say "Egypt," as opposed to European or American. But then, what feature would ID it as Egyptian?
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    I don’t know. My initial gut reaction says American but not a very educated guess. Doesn’t look Neapolitan. Did you see the note that mentioned Egypt?
    Jim

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  9. #5

    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Did you see the note that mentioned Egypt?
    Jim, the note is pictured -- that is all it said, besides having a phone number, which I chose to cover up with the bridge. The other side of the note was a message to the guy's grandaughter, which has nothing to do with the mandolin. I'm thinking someone told him Egypt, for some reason, and he wrote it down. These instruments came from an oldtimer, who had them for a long time before selling them to the music store -- Weymann banjo, Clarophone banjo, Hopf violin, etc.....

    The only mention I could find in a google search was a Cafe post from 2017 mentioning Joseph Ficarra who made some mandolins in Port Said, Egypt and the mandolins pictured online had labels stating that, which mine does not.

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    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Egypt is associated with US locations in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois, at least - any geographic connection to those places?

    D.H.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    I am thinking the prior owner talked to someone who was reminded of an oud. His other instruments were made in US except for German violin very common also in US.
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Maybe—- In this Connecticut town, the Black community lived in Little Egypt, a remaining place name, which turns out to not be unique as there is a connection between that country’s original name and possibly mild euphemisms from the 19th century. I was intrigued when I moved here, so I looked it up.
    The mandolin is attractive..

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  17. #9

    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    Egypt is associated with US locations in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois, at least - any geographic connection to those places?

    D.H.
    Good point, I had not thought of that. I purchased the mandolin in Ohio, FWIW.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I am thinking the prior owner talked to someone who was reminded of an oud. His other instruments were made in US except for German violin very common also in US.
    The specific colors of the ribs remind me of a few ouds I've seen - mostly from Turkey, though.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    Egypt is associated with US locations in Missouri, Arkansas and Illinois, at least - any geographic connection to those places?
    In my neck of the woods, Egypt is a hamlet between Fairport and Macedon, near the Monroe-Wayne county line. It has a volunteer fire department, and I've played at a church there. Here's all you'd ever want to know about it.

    Point being, US is sprinkled with European, Asian, even African names. Around here, Egypt's right next to Macedon, not far from Palmyra, which is close to Lyons, which in turn is north of Geneva. A fragmentary written reference to one of those names could send you searching Greece (that's on the western side of my county, by the way), Syria, Switzerland, France, etc. for a long-ago mandolin luthier.
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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Then again, he could have gotten it at Jimmy's.

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  24. #13
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Sorry if this seems off-topic-ish...

    I'm guessing that the broken/partial tortoise pickguard was original and has been replaced by the current wooden one, with similar but somewhat less-elegant inlays.

    Okay, WAY off topic: Did tortoise (once upon a time!) need to be processed, dried, cured, or otherwise tempered before it was used as a final product? Besides simple breakage & loss, this one seems to show a fair amount of distortion or shrinkage that (just my guess) may have contributed to the original failure.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Where's Hany? He's our knowledgeable (and talented) Egyptian mandolinist friend here.....

    Mick
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Another small clue. I took the tuners off hoping to find a manufacture stamp, but nothing on the underside. They appear to be commonly seen brass Waverly type tuners. But, I did note on the side edge of the peghead on the bass side a number "4" was stamped into the wood, which I have missed in the previous times I have examined this mandolin.....so, does this stamp ring a bell with any known maker/manufacturer?

    Also, I removed the tailpiece hoping for more clues, but nothing stamped under there or on the tailpiece itself. Not sure who made it, but looks like typical catalog fare, for the day.
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    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    The tailpiece is a bit unusual in that the string attachment is a separate piece, riveted onto the main plate. More often the string attachment points were punched out. Older Italian examples would have four or eight individual posts riveted onto the plate.

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  32. #17

    Default Re: Need Help Identifying Old Bowlback, possibly made in Egypt???

    Giving a gentle bump a month later. Another way to ask, assuming the mention of Egypt is unfounded, does the mandolin look like anything we have seen before? American or ?

    Does the case tell us anything? Here is a better shot of it.Click image for larger version. 

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    Thanks, still curious.

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