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Thread: My new Larson Brothers flat back

  1. #1
    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Maybe I shouldn't use the word "new" in the title, since it's probably old enough to have sailed on the Lusitania. I just bought this great old bent-top, flat-back mandolin complete with the original case in very good condition. There's no label or brand marking aside from the serial number; based on this book, the serial probably dates to 1915-1916. The tailpiece cover is MIA, but the rest appears to be all original.

    It has a clear, rounded tone with excellent balance across the strings. It has a bit less bass than other rosewood flat-backs I've played, but a warm, mellow treble on the E and A strings. A great sound for classical or folk picking.





    There are a few areas of greyish clouding in the finish on the back and sides. Anyone know what causes this and if it affects the value? I paid a pretty reasonable price, so I don't really care, but I'm curious to know what it's actually worth. The clouding doesn't show up too well in photos, but here's the best I could do:

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Nice a real beauty. Looks to be in great shape (I can't see the cloudiness).

    Jamie
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Awesome!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Could certainly be a Larson product. Check the neckblock. I bought a bowlback a few months ago because it seemed to have Larson features. It was labelled Rohfling/Milwaukee. Then I discovered that it was branded Maurer on the neckblock. Bob Hartmann (author of the linked book above) confirmed that he thought it was a Larson mandolin.
    Jim

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    What a beauty. It has a lot of LarBro vibe. Compare it to the many Regal, etc. made mandolins with the same basic features. No rip on them, I had one--rosewood back and all, and it was a great little mandolin. This is something altogether more special though. I love the bound headstock.......

    Where is the serial number located on this mandolin? How are you tracking the SN into Bob Hartmann's book? I have a copy of the book (along with a couple mandolins I am suspicious of being Larson product) and I think it is a great resource, but it is a little confusing to sort through in my humble opinion.

    Mick
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    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    That really is one nice instrument, love the styling, and everything about it!

    I can't see the cloudyness in the images either, but could they be wear marks where the instrument rubs against the player?

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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Let me clarify: there's no doubt in my mind that it's a Larson instrument. I've matched a number of features to known Larson mandolins (body shape, headstock inlay, fingerboard inlay and extension shape, visible strip of ebony between fingerboard binding and neck). I haven't been able to find a picture of a truly identical mandolin, but it seems that very few surviving Larson mandos share all the same decorative features.

    There's no mark on the neck block, but there is a serial (12547) stamped onto the rib forward of the soundhole. In the 2007 edition of the Larson book, there is a list of several hundred serials with approximate dates on pages 78-79; mine falls in between instruments dated to c. 1915 and c. 1916.

    The cloudiness was really hard to photograph, and when I did get it to show up it looks a lot like glare. In the last photo above, it's visible as grey-green patches on the back. If it helps, the only glare or reflection in that photo is on the back of the mahogany neck.
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    Registered User John Hill's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Beauty, looks to be in perfect shape from here. Congrats.
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    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    That is a fine looking flat back and in wonderful condition. About the cloudiness--I hate to suggest it, but any chance it was re-varnished? Doesn't look like it needed it.

    Enjoy playing--and looking at it!
    Cary Fagan

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    Registered User nmiller's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Quote Originally Posted by Cary Fagan View Post
    About the cloudiness--I hate to suggest it, but any chance it was re-varnished? Doesn't look like it needed it.
    That thought had crossed my mind as well, but the clear coat over the binding has not been disturbed (the yellowing is very uniform). The checking pattern is consistent over the whole back and sides, and the cloudiness isn't in the first places where I would expect a touchup to be necessary.

    Also, does anyone know of a source for replacement tailpiece covers? I believe it originally had a shell-shaped one.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    This is a very interesting mandolin as so many different variations of this basic typology seem to have been made. Obviously it was very popular with builders as well as players. The exact mix of features seems to vary a lot, e.g. the neck/headstock joint on nmiller's flatback (dare I say volute?) was a common feature on Vega instruments, though it seems the Larsons used a wider range of joint details. I have seen this detail on a number Larson-attributed bowlbacks (Mayflower label-which in many cases bear a close resemblance to Vega bowlbacks of the era as well.) To be clear, nothing about this suggests Vega to me.....The small extra point in the fretboard extension is not an uncommon detail in non-Larson instruments as well. I looked through my files and found a couple interesting mandolins that share some features here-neck volute, fretboard point, ebony reveal on neck binding, general high quality of craft and detail (but by no means all at once.) One is a Eugene Howard, the other a Rex. There are numerous others.

    Curiously, the three mandolins I have under suspicion of Larson make (two Lelands and a Ditson) all share the serial number location that nmiller IDed on his (a place where neither Vega nor L+H typically located SNs.) nmiller's flatback share a lot of the details of the Lelands in Bob's book but not the body profile. Makes one wonder if the Larsons built more than a few instruments that were exactly the same. It is all very curious and interesting to me. And a lot of fun to explore and discuss.

    Mick
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    The cloudiness in the finish could be some moisture, sort of similar to someone putting a wet glass on a nicely finished wooden table and leaving a whitish ring. I had that happen to my F4 years ago and took it too my luthier who judiciously applied a heat lamp and extremely carefully evaporated the moisture. However, mine was very obvious. I would leave it alone if it is subtle.
    Jim

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: My new Larson Brothers flat back

    Jim, that is what I was thinking too, moisture has gotten in the varnish. We see this quite often with violins that are spirit varnished.

    Charley
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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