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Thread: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

  1. #1

    Default Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    Some weeks ago I happened to snag a 1929 Martin Style 20 which had been floating around GCs in the NYC area for some time. After the price had been greatly reduced, I decided to bite and take a chance on it. When I picked it, I was shocked at how clean and little used it seemed, but even more at how short and tiny the bar frets were. It was almost a "fretless" mandolin. Good for an old time banjo, but not for a mandolin. Reason enough it had been neglected for 90+ years. It had great tone, but it hurt my hand to play it.

    Several weeks ago, I listened to a Norman Blake interview who mentioned that Bob Chuckrow of Chattanooga was the man who knew bar frets. It wasn't long until I was in contact with Bob, and he told me he a technique for replacing bar frets with T frets.

    Long story short, my mandolin has new frets and it is a winner. Best sounding all around mandolin I have touched (except maybe for bluegrass). Just a magical, sweet, bright, projecting sound. As Bob Chuckrow says, it combines the qualities of a good A model Gibson with a Lyon and Healy.

  2. The Following 8 Users Say Thank You to George Henry For This Useful Post:

  3. #2
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Alvarado/Mansfield, Texas

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    Congratulations, sounds like a sweet find.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN

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  4. #3
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Southeast Tennessee

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    Thank you so much for the kind words, George. I wish you many years of happy picking with it.
    I like that mandolin a lot.

    If any of you builders want to try something different, you might want to take a look at one of the oval hole style 20's. Although the shape resembles that of a Lyon & Healy style B, the approach to carving and bracing are quite different from anything else I've seen.

  5. #4
    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Dec 2017
    Chesterfield, VA

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    That is a great story, and you got an instrument you will enjoy. Thanks for sharing.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

    Eastman MD615SB
    Martin D35
    Gibson SG

  6. #5
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    New Hampshire

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    I think it was waiting for you to find it and bring it home

  7. #6
    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Southern Illinois

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I think it was waiting for you to find it

    I'd never heard of Scotty Stoneman until I found his mandolin hanging on the wall at the old Gruhns, downtown.

    The pathway of fate can be a tangled mess of a map.
    1933 Gibson A-00 (was Scotty Stoneman's)
    2003 Gibson J-45RW (ebony)
    2017 Gibson J-15

    The Murph Channel

  8. #7

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    I remember visiting Ensley Pawn and Music in Blairsville GA way back around 2001 or so. The owner had a Martin 2-20, similar to my Style 20 but with f holes. I marveled at the artistry of the design and workmanship. The arching and recurves were especially attractive to me. But Bob Ensley was not interested in selling, and neither was his son after Bob had died. I didn't see another until I saw one in the Martin museum along with a sister Style 20. But Martin wasn't interested in selling either.

    And then mine fell into my life.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    That is a wonderful conclusion to a long journey, George. I'm glad you got it and that it is everything you hoped for!

    On a similar note, I have a friend I played music with who wanted a vintage Stratocaster since he was a kid and they were new in the 60's. He wanted a certain color, year, etc. -- sure, they were available on the vintage market, but he would have to spend $25K or so to get one and that was out of the question. Still, he mentioned it at every practice for years and years. Well, one day he shows up with it and none of us could believe it! Turns out a guy we know who books bands saw one at a church sale and remembered he wanted one and it was the right color, etc. and it was affordable, so he picks it up for him for $300. It was as if he wanted it so badly that he "willed" it to happen.

  10. #9
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Default Re: Once in a Lifetime Mandolin Find

    Maybe everyone else knew who rcc56 is. I almost always read his posts and find them to be among the many very informative and most useful posts here. And now an endorsement from Norman Blake! Congratulations, Mr Chuckrow, rcc56! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with us!

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