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Thread: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

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    Default Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I get the impresssion there are a number of Strad-O-Lin enthusiasts here. I also picked up that these came in a whole variety of qualities, from plain finish with laminated woods to rather nice Master models. Sounds like they're also reputed to often be good value for a vintage instrument. Is that still the case, when and what is good, and what do you reckon on them generally?

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    There are some very good mandolins from the less storied makers and they can be found at sensible prices. Of course, getting one in good order that does not require expensive work is important. It is generally reckoned that the higher end Strad-O-Lin mandolins offer great value for money although they now have a following so will cost real money. Likewise, many were sold under third party brands. There was a Gretsch branded Strad-O-Lin on eBay- a lower end model that went recently for a mere $61 or so. Its real attraction was that someone had put on circa 1920 Waverly tuners suitable for a Gibson A model, so that was a real bargain. I was thrilled to get a really wonderful mandolin for $95 recently that needed no work and is a real gem, so good inexpensive mandolins are out there and some are Strad-O-Lins.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    You could check out the Strad-O-Lin social group; lotsa expertise and enthusiasm there. "Strad-O-Lin" was a trademark for a line of instruments that, as you say, ranged from basic laminated "student" models to some quite fancy mandolins. Who made them, is a matter of some mystery; some say Favilla, a company that made other branded string instruments; others ID the Homenick brothers, who also manufactured -- and perhaps contracted for -- stringed instruments. There are other contenders as well; check out this recent thread. In later years, the trademark was acquired by Multivox, a distributor who sold musical instruments generally; I've seen a Strad-O-Lin trombone advertised.

    One thing that most agree on: Strad-O-Lins, which are generally journeyman-level in terms of finish, ornamentation, tailpiece/tuner quality etc., can sound a lot better than they look. I was told about this perhaps 40 years ago, by an instrument dealer for whom I worked a bit part-time. I've owned two, the first of which cost me $50 plus about $150 in repairs. I traded it in on the $275 one I own now. For quite a while Strad-O-Lins were sorta "insider information"; those of us who owned one would chuckle to think that we'd acquired such decent instruments "on the cheap." In the last few years, the word's gotten out, and prices have risen significantly. In fact, some of the less desirable low-end models have unrealistic asking prices, IMHO.

    If you search Cafe threads for Strad-O-Lin, you'll find plenty of discussion. The "mystery" of who actually made them, has added to their attraction, IMHO, but they stand on their own as solid mid-range instruments. I've performed with mine, recorded with it, and am not embarrassed to take it to a jam with Gibsons and Webers. It's probably had more playing time over the years than any other one I own. You have to know your stuff -- or get advice from someone who does -- if you're considering buying one; solid wood, decent usable tuners with non-crumbled buttons, general overall condition. There are quite a few of them out there; hardly a week goes by that a Strad-O-Lin thread doesn't turn up here. Good luck, and get a good'un!
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    In the Strad-O-Lin social group there is a picture that will help you identify a real Strad-O-Lin as opposed to the imported later mandolin shaped objects labeled Strad-O-Lin.

    Once you understand that difference you need to understand that not every Strad-O-Lin is labeled Strad-O-Lin. I refer to these as Strad-O-Lin genre mandolins. Those are mandolins that were obviously built by the same company or companies that built the branded mandolins but were branded with other names such as Weymann or Orpheum to name two. Once you recognize the things that identify them then there is a bigger world available to you.

    Look through the images in the social group. I believe that to be the single largest concentration of Strad-O-Lin stuff available in one place.

    I should also note that the later US built models were labeled US Strad and in some cases those aren't solid wood mandolins. Most Strad-O-Lins are.

    Good luck.

    By the way, I got mine for $50.00 including the shipping about 10-15 years ago.
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Have been lucky enough to own two labeled SOL instruments an one that was probably made by the same builder. One thing that stands out to me on all of them is the neck. They are on the big side and round. Definitely not a svelte feeling. Some folks don't like them, others enjoy it. For some reason, I get along better with these than the big sharp V that Gibson used during the 1930's.

    FWIW, my current one is all solid woods, but does not sound appreciably better than the prior one I had that was laminate back (and maybe sides). It's also the instrument that sits out in winter and that I take to various jams when I don't want an oval hole sound.
    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I think the best ones are from the thirties with the brownish sunburst and the comma f-holes. I am talking about this kind: https://entertainment.ha.com/itm/mus...181109-80182.s Unfortunately being out of tune and the way you play can minimize the idea of how nice these instruments are. But you'll get the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNaJkXAthrw or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyOr9dB97gs

    There's always some comment on "the" sound. Listen to this poor thing with all the setbacks it has had. It still retains the Strad-O-Lin magic.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    That one is an earlier version and maybe a different builder than some of the other comma hole instruments. Notice the bridge is near the center of the F holes. Along with the centered bridge, this one also has inlay purfling on the back and headstock.

    Mine, which does have comma f-holes, doesn't have those features and was possibly made later. Although it is still all solid woods.

    For reference - here's mine -

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    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Came up just the other day on Western Mass. CL for only $275

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    Looks alot like Eric's

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Came up just the other day on Western Mass. CL for only $275

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    Looks alot like Eric's
    Good eye! That's very similar to mine (except for the bridge and pickguard). Even looks to be the same wood for the fingerboard.

    Believe that one could be an Artist Professional. Definitely worth the money being asked. Paid more for mine and still think it was a good deal.
    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Good eye! That's very similar to mine (except for the bridge and pickguard). Even looks to be the same wood for the fingerboard.

    Believe that one could be an Artist Professional. Definitely worth the money being asked. Paid more for mine and still think it was a good deal.
    For that price I would buy it sight unseen if f the seller would guarantee a straight neck and no cracks/seam separations. Those are the ones I would trust to sound great. My son prefers my Strad-O-Lin over my expensive newer mandolin because of its vintage sound.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Here's a video I happened to come across yesterday. A Stradolin on stage with Robert Plant, being played by Justin Adams.


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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Good eye! That's very similar to mine (except for the bridge and pickguard). Even looks to be the same wood for the fingerboard.

    Believe that one could be an Artist Professional. Definitely worth the money being asked. Paid more for mine and still think it was a good deal.
    I believe you are right. It also appears that either the buttons or the tuners have been replaced.
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    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I believe you are right. It also appears that either the buttons or the tuners have been replaced.
    Pretty sure the tuners were replaced. Looks to be Gotoh or similar. Replaced mine as the A would continually slip and it was the tuner, not nut, saddle or string. Mine were Waverly on brass plates. The holes on mine were slightly undersized and slightly off center. A light ream did not fix the problem.

    (Edit - also, the posts are really short on these Waverly tuners. Very difficult to get a couple of windings on the strings and the post holes are barely above the headstock.)
    Last edited by Eric Platt; Feb-27-2022 at 8:20am. Reason: Added more info
    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hicks View Post
    Here's a video I happened to come across yesterday. A Stradolin on stage with Robert Plant, being played by Justin Adams.
    Sounds pretty good considering this would be considered the Stradolin (Junior) not to own.
    The SOL in the video is a laminated 1950's Bottom-of-the-Line Strad-O-Lin Jr. The electric pick-up helps.

    The Stradolin's to own are the solid SOL's from the 1930 through 1941 with the Segmented f-holes with comma-shaped end segments.
    Almost as good would be any solid SOL's from the 1930 through 1941 with the Segmented f-holes with bullet holes shaped end segments.
    World War II ended the Golden Age of Stradolins. I've owned more than 20 SOL's and none of the post-WWII SOL's I have owned were as good. That said, the laminated SOL's hold up well and sound surprisingly good.
    Last edited by your_diamond; Mar-13-2022 at 5:11pm.

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by your_diamond View Post
    Sounds pretty good considering this would be considered the Stradolin (Junior) not to own.
    The SOL in the video is a laminated 1950's Bottom-of-the-Line Strad-O-Lin Jr. The electric pick-up helps.

    The Stradolin's to own are the solid SOL's from the 1930 through 1941 with the Segmented f-holes with comma-shaped end segments.
    Almost as good would be any solid SOL's from the 1930 through 1941 with the Segmented f-holes with bullet holes shaped end segments.
    World War II ended the Golden Age of Stradolins. I've owned more than 20 SOL's and none of the post-WWII SOL's I have owned were as good. That said, the laminated SOL's hold up well and sound surprisingly good.
    My 1941 in natural finish was laminated back (and probably sides). And am not sure the sound was any less than the one I have now with the comma shaped segments and solid back (and maybe sides)

    But there are 2 versions we know of with comma-shaped end segments. Those with the bridge in the center of the f-hole and those with them near the bottom, like mine.
    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    So where is the Strad-O-Lin likely to be in the picking order (sorry) for sound please? It's FS in UK - reckoned to be 1930s made in Chicago, plain brown laminated back and sides and solid top, the mando/banjo/vintage guitar specialist that lists it likes the sound. I don't want to cross the advertising guidelines here (I've no connection), so I won't say where it's listed, and I'm not in the market for it myself at the moment. Thanks, Max

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    My 1941 in natural finish was laminated back (and probably sides). And am not sure the sound was any less than the one I have now with the comma shaped segments and solid back (and maybe sides)
    If you look at the attachment of the various 1941 Stradolin models that Mike Edgerton shared with us (above), the "new model" called the Special model H-2011 is more than likely the first laminated model Stradolin. Every Stradolin that I have owned with that headstock embellishment of the three parallel lines (I've owned four of them) has been laminated. If you read the description, there is no mention of Spruce Top or solid woods. The H-2011 model at $13.50 does boast, "Never before has a genuine Stradolin mandolin sold at this price. These were (and are) great beginner instruments and all the H-2011 models had elevated fretboards (try one, spoil yourself, enuf said). You realize these were depression prices when for $0.50 more you can own the all solid wood H-2012 model, priced at $14.00!!!


    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    But there are 2 versions we know of with comma-shaped end segments. Those with the bridge in the center of the f-hole and those with them near the bottom, like mine.
    I've owned two SOL's with comma F holes (both were lovely), but it was long ago, before this "bridge location" discussion came up. I would love someone to do a thread comparing the two side by side for sound, feel and how the bracing differs.

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    So where is the Strad-O-Lin likely to be in the picking order (sorry) for sound please? It's FS in UK - reckoned to be 1930s made in Chicago, plain brown laminated back and sides and solid top, the mando/banjo/vintage guitar specialist that lists it likes the sound. I don't want to cross the advertising guidelines here (I've no connection), so I won't say where it's listed, and I'm not in the market for it myself at the moment. Thanks, Max

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    I love my ca 1941 SOL. It sounds great and plays great. If it weren't for the old trope "variety is the spice of life", I could be happy with my SOL and my F2. Jake Wildwood concurs

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by maxr View Post
    ...reckoned to be 1930s made in Chicago, plain brown laminated back and sides and solid top,...
    Not heard that Strad-O-Lins were Chicago-made; most of the contenders for "mystery manufacturer" are US East Coast, New Jersey or environs...
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Not heard that Strad-O-Lins were Chicago-made; most of the contenders for "mystery manufacturer" are US East Coast, New Jersey or environs...
    I have heard Kay in Chicago, Favilla, Homenick, a bunch of Orthodox Jews in downtown New York City, a large instrument manufacturer in New Jersey and D'Angelico. I'm sure there are more possibilities but no one knows for sure.

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    My 1941 in natural finish was laminated back (and probably sides). And am not sure the sound was any less than the one I have now with the comma shaped segments and solid back (and maybe sides)

    But there are 2 versions we know of with comma-shaped end segments. Those with the bridge in the center of the f-hole and those with them near the bottom, like mine.
    Yes, but that version (H-2011) is described as mahogany finish and mine was natural. My guess is at the time natural and laminate backs were acceptable. It also only had the logo on the headstock, no treble cleff or any other screened items. (There are a couple of poor photos in the SOL group). It also had inlaid top purfling, like my present one, which close, but not quite the same as the Artist model, model H-2013.
    Brentrup Model 23, Boeh A5 #37, Gibson A Jr., Big Muddy M-11, Coombe Classical flattop, Strad-O-Lin
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Yes, but that version (H-2011) is described as mahogany finish and mine was natural. My guess is at the time natural and laminate backs were acceptable. It also only had the logo on the headstock, no treble cleff or any other screened items. (There are a couple of poor photos in the SOL group). It also had inlaid top purfling, like my present one, which close, but not quite the same as the Artist model, model H-2013.
    My guess is there were other models in other music catalogues. I don't believe Pimco was the only music catalogue available in 1941. Plus they might have done custom orders, so if you wanted a natural finish H-2011 and were willing to pay $0.25 more and $0.50 more for top purfling, bingo. Too bad there isn't anybody around who worked there as a teenager... then we wouldn't have to guess.

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    I think your guess is right. For example, there is no model with a stairstep fretboard extension in the catalog.

    Isn't the mystery part of the allure?

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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    For a complete collection; on offer right now at SGW, not only from the exotic East, but with the logo repunctuated in an Irish modality, and complete with a hardly-used little dowel -
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    Default Re: Strad-O-Lin mandolins - which, when, how good?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I think your guess is right. For example, there is no model with a stairstep fretboard extension in the catalog.
    Sue,
    I Love that 'Stairway to Heaven' fretboard extension and the more expensive, three piece neck with the rosewood center strip.
    Asymmetrical (and pointed) fretboard extensions are usually a sign of a better quality Stradolin. That said, I used to own an Artist model (H-2014) that had a very plain Brazilian rosewood fretboard and extension but the neck was flamed maple with a rosewood center strip. My Artist had bullet hole F holes

    I'm still looking for a Deluxe Artist (H-2015) with its bound rosewood fretboard... preferably with Comma F holes. My 1941 Artist model (H-2014) had bullet hole F holes, so I wonder if it was a different model or could you choose which style of F holes you wanted??? It seems from about 1936 to 1941 Stradolins were made with both styles of F holes. Does anyone have a SOL with Comma F holes made before 1936 or after 1941??? Please let us know if you do.
    Mike

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