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Thread: Bowlbacks of Note

  1. #76
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Is this a for-real Embergher. Label and appointments seem very plain. Is it a budget model? Hard to tell but it doesn't seem to have the radiused fretboard either.

    JIm



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  2. #77

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    Quote Originally Posted by (jgarber @ May 17 2004, 08:24)
    Peter:
    Don't be afraid to mention it to us. One of the nice things is that we keep the beloved instruments in the "family." It always gave me great joy to sell or give my instruments to friends and visit with them in later years.

    If your Martin is anything like Eugene's which I tried in NY last fall, it is a honey and certainly reasonably priced.

    Jim
    I did list it in the Cafe classifieds. Scott doesn't like "stuff for sale" posts on the message board. I knew someone would spot it and mention it 'round these parts anyway.

    It sold, by the way, leaving me mando-less for now. But I still have the troll guitar and cello banjo which are tuned in fifths. I seem to get along better with larger instruments anyway, as sweet as the Martin sounds. It's probably the finest instrument I've ever owned.
    Peter Klima (not the hockey player)

  3. #78
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Peter:
    We must get you a new small one. You can't be without.... can you? You say you want an Italian: Embergher (or clone thereof), perhaps?

    Jim
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  4. #79
    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    Hello Jim,

    Indeed, this instrument has nothing to do with an Embergher mandolin. Why it is there as such I donīt know; itīs most likely that what happens when a īnameī gets known...


    Best,

    Alex




  5. #80

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    Quote Originally Posted by (jgarber @ May 17 2004, 15:08)
    Peter:
    We must get you a new small one. You can't be without.... can you? You say you want an Italian: Embergher (or clone thereof), perhaps?

    Jim
    I'm definitely in the market for a European bowlback but I can live without a mando for a while. I play bass 90% of the time anyway... the only times anyone ever asks me to play anything else is when there are no other instrumentalists. So I can wait for the right instrument/deal and practice smooth tremolo on cello banjo... now there's a hopeless cause.
    Peter Klima (not the hockey player)

  6. #81

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    Congratulations to Martin on the Ceccherini; on the flip side, I regret that I was not, ehm... —how should I put this?— "in the money" when Peter's Martin went on sale, in quest as I am (subconsciously at least) for that American Dream of a bowlback.

    Now, as to Martin (the mandolinIST, not the mandolin ) If the action is as high as you mention, I am afraid you cannot solve the problem entirely by lowering the brass saddle; this may take some more extensive work.

    Of course, I agree with your observation that raising such a wafer-thin fingerboard is precarious, if not downright impossible— if, that is, you care to remove it intact, i.e not in splinters. I would recommend a graduated approach (for which an able and h-o-n-e-s-t repairperson will be needed):

    See first what can be done by way of lowering the saddle, as you suggest. I would NOT rush to file down the original, but first experiment with alternative, thinner brass bars. If the results are satisfactory, well, stop right there and start picking to your heart's delight.

    If not, and as you report that the frets are worn out, see if some adjustment can be made from that end: Obviously, if you raise the frets (that is to say: replace the worn-out, i.e. lowered by wear frets) with new ones of the appropriate height, you will be ipso facto lowering the action, i.e. the distance the strings need to travel, as pressed by the fingers, in order to touch the frets. See what that does.

    Finally, if none of those possibilities will yield adequate and sufficient results, you may consider a whole new fingerboard, or The Apocalyptic Raising discussed above. I know too little about neck re-sets to speak with any experience. Perhaps others can...

    We all wish you the best of luck with this lovely, new/old instrument. Please keep us informed.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  7. #82
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (martinjonas @ May 17 2004, 07:31)
    My Ceccherini has just arrived and my first impressions, about an hour after opening the box, are:
    ...
    6) No visible cracks, no sign of top sinking (in fact it's slight arched upwards), no rattles or loose braces.
    Just to follow up on my previous post on this aspect: When I got the Ceccherini home, I took off the bridge to have a closer look as to how I can lower the action. What struck me is that the top is really arched pretty strongly and the arch is clearly part of the design, not just a flat top developing bulges with age. This is apparent from the shape of the bridge, which is carved to follow the arch of the top (and it has an original luthier's mark underneath the base, saying "IIV", whatever that means, so it wasn't sanded to fit later). Standing the bridge on its ends on a flat surface, there's about 3mm to 4mm clearance in the middle. That's not much less than on my F5 clone.

    Is such an arch a common feature on old Neapolitan mandolins? Would it have been created by carving, or by steam pressing (the latter, presumably, same as the staves).

    Otherwise, lowering the action looks fairly straightforward. The brass saddle is made of a piece of round brass wire, about 3mm diameter, with about the lower third planed off. I should be able to lower the action by putting a smaller diameter brass wire as a saddle, plus shaving about a mm off the saddle support on the top of the bridge. Together, that should give me the 1.5 to 2 mm off the action that I need to make it comfortable and I wouldn't have to touch the base of the bridge with its perfect fit to the top. Does that sound like the right method to those more experienced with such matters?

    Martin

  8. #83
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Thanks for your advice, Victor. I think our latest messages crossed over in cyberspace. It does look to me as if working on the bridge alone should be enough. I put a straightedge on the fretboard at home, and it has only a waferthin sliver of relief in the centre (about as thick as a sheet of paper) and the continuation of the line of the fingerboard meet the bridge about halfway up. Add two to three mm of string height at the bridge and it's within the height of the saddle. Replacing the brass saddle is really straightforward and I think I can do it myself -- I'll just need to look for a suitable piece of brass. Shaving off some of the wood on top the bridge is a bit trickier, not because it's difficult, but because it's irreversible. Luthiers around here are strictly guitar makers, though, and I'm not too sure there's much point in getting the work on the bridge farmed out to them, so I think I'll take it one step at a time but do the work on the bridge myself.

    I wouldn't do any fretboard or neck repairs myself, though. I may have given the wrong impression about the condition of the frets: in fact they are virtually untouched, apart from the slightest bit of wear on the first five frets, treble strings only. Either this has never been played much or it has been refretted at some stage. So, refretting wouldn't do much to the action.

    Martin

  9. #84

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    Yes, Martin, the arching of the top is intentional and original, as is (of course) the corresponding shape of the "foot" of the bridge.

    If all you describe is so, your method of correction should give you all you need. The mystery (to my troubled, little brain at least) is why the action would have been so high to begin with. What could the previous owner have been thinking?

    As always, best of luck.
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  10. #85
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Victor, my guess is that the mandolin hasn't been played for many years and that the neck angle has gradually moved since it had last been played. According to the seller, he got the mandolin in a house clearance this year. The (heavy) strings that were on it when I got it were put on only a few weeks ago by the seller, so they give no indication on what strings were on for the past few decades. However, the seller also sent me some old and still sealed packs of string with the mandolin. These are "Cathedral" brand and from the yellowed paper packs, they date from sometime between the 1940s and 1960s, certainly not more recent. Most likely, these were the same make of strings that were on the mandolin when it passed to my seller. No gauge information at all on the packs of string, but I've opened some. They're not as heavy as the new strings that were put on, but they're still not particularly light gauge. So, I think the action was ok when it was last played, but it may have been stored under excessive tension since then. It would be really annoying if the action had been fine until the recent restringing, but there's no way to find out, I guess.

    I got myself some brass rods of varying diameter to make a new saddle this afternoon, so I'll see how far I get with that.

    Thanks for the information on arching. How widespread is it? I'm pretty sure that my mother's Miroglio has a flat top (apart from the cant, obviously) and a flat-base bridge.

    Martin

  11. #86

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    Well, both questions are hard to answer.

    I would not know how common that degree of arching would be; I DO know, however, that at least some arching of the top is very, very common indeed among vintage Neapolitans. It only adds to the graceful, total shape of the instrument —not to mention how greatly it adds to its structural resilience and longevity!

    To my knowledge, heavy stringing will do damage over some considerable time. Combined especially with a damp, moist environment, improper extraneous pressures (as when the instrument is leaned or hung inappropriately), moisture that may have weakened the glue-joints... I would not suppose that the neck of your instrument shifted overnight. But, as you say, there is really no way to find out.

    Another negative effect is the natural tendency of the strings to go sharp (and thereby exert more pressure on the instrument) as the weather gets colder. Factor in the additional fragility of wood in low temperatures, the usual dryness caused by the cold (as atmospheric humidity freezes), etc., etc. and you see how neglect acts like a nutcracker on the poor mandorla. #



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  12. #87
    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    Hello all,

    Here is another American beauty; a superb looking C.F. Martin stlye 5 mandolin!

    Click here to view the USA eBay webpage where it just came up for auction.


    Greetings,

    Alex

  13. #88
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    That style 5 "ukulele" is on its second go-around since no one bid the rather high price.

    There is also another one available for considerably less ($1650) at Marc Silber Music, but he does say that it has an old peghead repair (not sure what that means).

    Jim
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  14. #89
    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    Yes Jim, I can understand that many think that this is a lot of money. But is it too much??? Compared by this flat back Martin (same seller) at the USA eBay web page it looks like a joke. This starts off with $4000,-.

    And of course it is a matter of taste, but I donīt think that these can be compared with the bowlbacks made by Martin. Not in sound and not in craftmanship.

    Some days ago another Martin style 5 went for $1,645.00.


    As someone who looks at this from the sideline I wonder why does it looks like bowlbacks are so neglected in the US?

    These (like the Vegas etc.) are great instruments in my eyes and ears!


    Best,

    Alex




  15. #90
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Alex, this is the link for that other style 5 Martin. I contacted the winner. He has two of these but mostly plays his Gilchrist.

    Gibson did a very good job years ago selling their style of mandolin. After the smoke cleared and the mandolin craze was over, there was mostly Blugrass players who would not be seen with a bowlback.

    It is a matter of taste and the popularity of styles of music. Even in Europe and Japan Bluegrassers play F5s. Classical mandolin in the US is a serious minority.

    BTW that Style E is the equivalent of a Martin D-45 which go for $100,000 or more in the US. Still that Hawaiian eBay seller is high priced. For that price I think I would prefer a simple Embergher over the Martin.

    Jim
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  16. #91

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Alex @ May 18 2004, 14:03)
    And of course it is a matter of taste, but I donīt think that these can be compared with the bowlbacks made by Martin. Not in sound and not in craftmanship.

    Some days ago another Martin style 5 went for $1,645.00.

    As someone who looks at this from the sideline I wonder why does it looks like bowlbacks are so neglected in the US?

    These (like the Vegas etc.) are great instruments in my eyes and ears!
    I think you are preaching to the choir here, Alex. Of course I will agree wholeheartedly. I think it's especially silly when considering that fine Brazilian rosewood bowlback mandolins of the lower models still claim maybe one quarter of how much even the lowest mahogany ukulele model by Martin will take at auction. Still, the prices of nicer mandolins (even of baser mandolins) have appreciated considerably since I started following such things. I think a resurgence in popularity of the classic mandolin may be just around the bend...maybe...I hope...

  17. #92
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    I am enjoying my plain Martin. I still need to get comfortable in holding it. The tone is unique and I think its more trebly than the high end ones. I had to make an effort to have an open mind, since my mandolin experience is the Gibson type and the tone associated with it. Once getting beyond my bias, the bowlback is a woonderful instrument. I'm sure a diehard flatback player won't agree with me. I do own a Nugget F, a '14 Gibson F-2 and I feel they are honored to have the Martin with them. Its a matter of taste and don't be afraid to try it.
    Hubert

  18. #93

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    You should consider adding some images and chatter to the Post a picture thread, Hubert.

  19. #94
    Registered User Alex Timmerman's Avatar
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    Hello Eugene, Jim and all,

    First I must say that I like very much what Hubert mentions about what he is experiencing with his bowlback mandolin. I think this has a lot to do with the appreciation of sound.

    Of course I know that you and most of us here, are thinking the same way.

    That both mandolins types and music styles were so separated from eachother and - as Jim points out - that "Bluegrass players would not be seen with a bowlback" is perhaps understandable (seen in the light of time and the enormous popularity of that music genre), but when this situation #lasts - as it apperently does - up to today, I think itīs a real pity.

    I hope you do understand that I donīt want to say that if Bluegrass Country Music Father Bill Monroe had played a bowlback of some sort his music would have sounded better. Not at all! I even do have the conviction that Monroeīs music is best heard on his 1923 Gibson F-5 Master model.

    But the other way around, if today Country Music flat/cilinder/carved back mandolinists play Bach or other īseriousī music, I simply canīt help not being able to free my ears from the īKentucky soundī.

    Of course I hear the outstanding virtuosity of the performers, but with that in mind I am flabberthegasted by the thought that they donīt play - when they are so able to do this - īseriousī music on a bowlback with a plectrum that gets the most out of the instrument.

    Donīt they know these mandolin variants... # ? #If they do know them, do they not compare sound and listen to what sound they produce?
    You see, many questions pop up, like: why are Classical musicians so concerned with sound, how to frase, what kind of trills one should make, what tempo (changings in one piece...) etc. strings, plectra, etc. etc.


    Or is it a gap between super talents in the amateur (mandolin) world versus the trained musician in the (mandolin) concert field.
    Both of course being active as professional mandolinists.


    Well, only thoughts of course.

    (Maybe some other thread some day...)


    Best,

    Alex




  20. #95
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    "Or is it a gap between super talents in the amateur (mandolin) world
    versus the trained musician in the (mandolin) concert field."


    I wonder if these amateurs, or the carved top players, just haven't become accustomed to the sounds of their F and A style mandolins. Perhaps, from their point of view, the classical pieces they play sound great. It comes down to the tone and flavors they have grown to love. Just a thought. John
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    As John says, it is the sound you imprinted on that they've grown to love. There's no question that the bowlback sound is a different animal than the F5 sound. Not better, not worse, but different. Of course the playing characteristics are different too, with lighter stringing, smaller frets and a shorter scale.

    Still, insofar as the mandolin encompasses such a broad spectrum of design and sound, it's a shame to be too insular about it. I love my F4; I love my bowlbacks. I would, at this point, not care to choose between them.

  22. #97
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    Re: flatback/carved back versus roundback. I play classical mandolin on both (a Collings A model versus various bowlbacks). The sound is very different, but I enjoy both. Personally, I think the "formal training" bit (as per Alex's comment) is a red herring (or 95 percent thereof). Certainly in the guitar world, there are any number of classical guitarists with "formal training" who have few relevant musical skills (such as the ability to play in time in an ensemble and follow a conductor or, my pet peeve, being able to sight read accurately even single lines, much less more complex material). I haven't heard Gertrud Troester play on a flatback or carved back mandolin, but I suspect she would sound more or less just like herself. Ditto Marilyn Mair (whom I have heard up close, always a carved back, and sounds just fine). Julian Bream once remarked that he could give a concert on a cheap Yamaha and no one (except maybe him) would know the difference. It is easy, in other words, to make too much of the instrument as opposed to the performer. However, I also suspect many flat or carved back players in the US would enjoy playing a bowlback if, in fact, it were as easy to buy a really good one as, say, your average Collings or Gibson (which is most definitely not the case). We in this group enjoy the chase (i.e. Ebay) but most professional musicians I know are too busy.
    Robert A. Margo

  23. #98

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    Well, if A. it stays this low, B. the reserve is, oh... $50, AND (most important) C. you know of a decent and affordable luthier:

    http://cgi.netscape.ebay.com/ws....63&rd=1
    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  24. #99

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    OK, friends: Sold at $86, hopefully to some denizen of the Café. OK... who is it, now? #



    It is not man who lives, but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  25. #100
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    I was bidding and was half-intending to win this, but I realized at the last moment that I have a pile of stuff to be fixed either by me or those more-qualified so I let it go.

    I have a Waldo coming and a cylinder back Vega. Is enough enough? Nah!

    Jim
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