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Thread: Vintage Bowlback ID

  1. #1

    Default Vintage Bowlback ID

    Hi I picked up this beautiful old Mandolin recently,it has no maker or brand markings.Wondering if anyone has any idea what it is.
    Cheers in advance.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

    There are a number of issues to be addressed before this instrument could be made playable; cracks repaired, nut and bridge constructed, general cleanup.
    The question arises whether it would be worth the cost and effort involved. I can't answer that, nor can I tell whether the instrument would require work on the neck/body joint to withstand the force of stringing and tuning to pitch.

    It started life at the low end of construction quality and price; once made playable, the juice would probably not be worth the squeeze.

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I agree with my esteemed colleague, Bob A. It looks to me that there was probably a celluloid scratchplate on the top and that someone inlaid that wood in its place.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I agree with my esteemed colleague, Bob A. It looks to me that there was probably a celluloid scratchplate on the top and that someone inlaid that wood in its place.
    That would explain it having the soundboard stripped and sanded. Still, for a modest instrument in terms of the back strips, the soundboard looks like a good piece of wood.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    Impossible for me to guess the provenance of this but some of its characteristics seem distinctly hybrid.

    The bowl and headstock look American, but the ultra thin fretboard seems in the Italian style as does the tailpiece.

    Do we see that kind of amorphous scratchplate shape from US builders?

    German-O-Eur-O-Czech?

    Mick
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  8. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I thought Eastern European.
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  9. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    1. You need a bridge.
    2. You need a nut.
    3. You don't necessarily need, but probably would like to have, a tailpiece cover.

    Looks like the tailpiece has four rather than eight pins, so two strings per pin. Can't tell from the pics what the angle of the neck is meeting the body, so what the action (string height) might be like, you'll have to string it up -- with extra-light strings -- and see. Might be OK, might be too high. There's not much adjustment possible with the average bowl-back (no truss rod, non-adjustable bridge), so you're pretty much stuck with what you find, unless you're prepared to spend more than the instrument's worth getting it recalibrated.

    It was an entry-level mandolin when it was made, probably 100-125 years ago; the lack of ornamentation (binding, inlay) and the relatively few maple ribs in the bowl show that. It's been through the wars since -- its top sanded, a non-original pickguard probably installed. The four-pin tailpiece and the general silhouette do hint at non-Italian European manufacture, but we'll likely never know. If you're lucky and the action's playable, after you find and install the missing parts, you could have a decent instrument, but there's a significant distance between that and what you've got now.
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  11. #8

    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I cannot see the tuners properly but they look German which would concur with the view that this mandolin is most likely European in origin.

  12. #9
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    in the last picture -- does the instrument also lack frets, at least up near the head? because if so, those need replaced, too, i'd think.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I might hazard a guess that those frets were pulled because they were hitting the strings and the neck is most likely bowed.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  14. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I see frets up near the nut. Maybe I am imagining things?
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  16. #12
    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage Bowlback ID

    I think all of the frets are there. It seems there may be some shadows cast from the lighting in the first picture that make it look like the frets are missing. Hard to say for sure, but that’s what I see.

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