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Thread: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

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    Registered User Dave Harbst's Avatar
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    Default Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    I'm interested in the 1936 Dobro mandolin currently listed in the classifieds(http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/62346). I've tried finding information on line, but am sort of confused by the variety of images I've found. I see different cover plates and sound hole designs and am wondering if the one listed in the classifieds is at all common among those built in the 1930's. I see some with f-holes and some with the small, round sound holes which are covered by a screen. Also, cover plate doesn't look like any of the images I've found on line, most of which had the stars and half-moon design. Any input or comments, including opinions about the selling price of $850, would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Lots of variation in Dobro mandolins. Mine has round holes in the upper bout, with screens fitted into them. This one has f-holes. Mine has the "moons and stars" cover-plate perforations; others have constellations of small round holes (like this one). I've never seen perforations like the ones shown in the classifieds, but I don't find that suspicious; there were a lot of different designs kicked around among Dobro, Regal (who built wood bodies for both Dobro and National), and National.

    As for the price, well, I paid less than $300 for mine, but that was 15 years ago or more. The listed classifieds price doesn't strike me as unreasonable, though it's not a "stone bargain." McKenzie River Music is asking $1K for the one I linked to.
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    Registered User Dave Harbst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Thanks, Allen. Just thought I'd mention that I already own a resonator mandolin, a National RM-1, which is really great. I am interested in the Dobro, primarily because I have $1400+ invested in the National and was thinking I could replace it with the Dobro and save a few bucks. The description provided by the seller of the Dobro sounds good to me, especially "The action is low and it plays well all the way up the neck with good intonation.
    Loud and kind of mellow at the same time. Good sustain." If the Dobro would satisfy me as much as the National and I can lower my investment, I feel I would be happy.
    I'm hoping that anyone reading this could offer some comment on the comparison between the Dobro and the National. If I don't get much comment via this post, maybe I'll start a new topic.Will wait and see.
    Thanks again for you input.

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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Dave, they have rather different sounds. The Dobros are spider-bridge type, rather than biscuit bridge, very chimey and mellower. Not as loud as a National, to be sure. I have a Dobro mandolin and love it, but I would not consider it a substitute for a National, just different.

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    Registered User Dave Harbst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Schlegel,
    Thanks for the information. As it turns out, I do not plan to buy the Dobro that's listed, mainly because the nut width, as per the seller, is between 1-1/8" and 1-3/16" and I really much prefer at least 1-3/16". My National is a solid 1-1/4" and is perfect for me. I love the big volume of my National and I mellowed out the sound a lot by stringing it up with Thomastik-Infield strings. Seems like a lot of people who own a National have done the same thing.
    Thanks again.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    I've owned a vintage Dobro mandolin and a couple of the RM-1s ... the National has it all over the Dobro for playability if you ask me.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Different instruments, with different sounds (and thus different uses); only real similarity is that they both have resonators, although of different design. The "biscuit" bridge attached directly to the vibrating cone is louder, more "barky"; the spider bridge, with the vibrations transmitted to the cone by the spider's "arms," softer, more "chimey."

    Plus the RM-1 is by all accounts a very well-made instrument, while Dobro mandolins are a bit more hit-or-miss. The wooden bodies, often made by Regal, are not of top-quality wood -- since, of course, the sound of the instrument comes from the resonator cone, not the wood's vibrations. My Dobro needed a neck reset, and the guy who did it remarked on the softness of the wood in the neck block, which contributed to the need for the repair.

    I am, however, a bit surprised that a neck width differential of 1/16" to 1/8" would be a "deal killer." But I play so many different mandolin-family instruments that I'm constantly adjusting to different neck widths, scale lengths, and string spacing. Not everyone does that, of course.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Registered User Dave Harbst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Thanks to all for the input. Think I'll just stick to my National for now(probably forever, or at least until MAS hits me again).
    Have a great 2013!!

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    Registered User Bob DeVellis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    I have a Regal equivalent of the one in the classifieds. The fact that the action and intonation are good is a big plus. Those are often problems on these things. I remember a salesman at Gruhn's saying something to the effect that vintage resophonics never intonate correctly. Without proper attention, that may be close to the truth. Fortunately, mine has had that attention.

    The big surprise to me was that these things sound very sweet. They're loud but not brash (at least mine is). I've played the new Nationals and, as others have said, they're very nice but also completely different. If you're loving your National, this won't be an equivalent replacement (although you might find that you like it quite a lot).

    I remember encountering a vintage National triangular-shape mandolin with the shiny plated brass body. It was absolutely stunning, but the sound wasn't to my liking at all. These resonator instruments are really members of an extended family and each of them has a unique tone.
    Bob DeVellis

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    Registered User Dave Harbst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone familiar with 1930's Dobro mandolins?

    Bob,
    Thanks for your input. As you may have read above, I have decided against buying the Dobro. I have actually had my hands on a few over the years and was never really happy with the action & intonation. I guess the fact the the seller of the one now listed on the Cafe stated that the action was low and that it played well up the neck caught my fancy. In addition to the neck width being a little narrower than I would like it, close up photos sent to me by the seller revealed that it wasn't as cosmetically satisfying as I was hoping for. I just didn't want to take a chance on sinking $850 into something that I would not be happy with(I've done that before and try to avoid that anymore).

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