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Thread: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

  1. #1

    Smile Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Hello everyone,

    I am posting some photographs of my old bowl-back mandolin, purchased in Copenhagen, Denmark. It has no identifying labels, stamps or marks, but it appears well made and it has a distinctive greenish peacock inlay, which leads me to believe that the luthier was quite skilled. It sounds very bright and loud; the intonation is fine, but the action is horrible. How might I fix this? Any information about possible origin, maker, value would be very welcome. Thank you very much.
    Gerard
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    My guess would be a Catania maker judging by the headstock shape and the bridge. The tuners are German but probably bought in by the maker. Here is one with a Catania maker's label:

    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthoped...ncesco-catania

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  4. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    As to the high action, the bridge seems quite a bit too high for a standard bowl-back; most bowl-back bridges are quite low. You might investigate replacing it. The other possibility is that the neck has pulled forward, which is often the result of stringing with too-heavy strings. If you take a "side" picture of the mandolin the neck-body angle can be evaluated.

    I was going to guess German manufacture due to the marquetry pick guard, but I defer to those with more specialized knowledge. As to value, it has a striking appearance and seems in good condition, but if the action's unplayable, the value would be minimal. In good condition, perhaps as much as $200-250. There are many older bowl-backs on the market, and demand's limited.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    If the maker had used abalone on the tail that would have been dazzling!
    I kinda see Marge Simpson...?
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Everyone look carefully. That bridge is in the wrong position. Most mandolins with canted tops have the bridge properly situated on the soundhole side of the cant. Are you absolutely sure that the intonation is fine? The harmonic at the 12th fret should be the same as the fretted note and the nut-to-12th fret distance should be equal to the 12th to the the proper bridge placement. If that action is terrible now, place the bridge on the soundhole side of the cant(fold in the top) and it will be even worse.

    Your mandolin needs a serious neck set in order to play properly. If that is the proper bridge placement then all you can do is to lower that bridge height. if this needs serious work, I highly doubt spending lots of money on this mandolin would be worth it.

    Gerard: post a picture of the mandolin from the side showing how high the action is.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Jan-29-2021 at 6:31pm.
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  10. #6
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    You're right, Jim, as usual. Not only is the bridge supposed to be on the other side of the cant, a rough estimate of the string lengths on either side of the 12th fret puts the correct location for the bridge just beyond the black part of the pickguard that contains the bird's feet. That means it will be resting partly on the tail. Not optimal. But if the instrument is meant to be funcrional and not merely decorative, the standard practices of functionality must be applied.

    Speaking of functionality, the current location of the bridge would certainly lower the string height, making the action horrible, indeed. I'm mystified at the OP's observation that the intonation is fine. I don't see how it could be. The bridge seems to be 2cm too far from the nut.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Oh, one other thing. No, I've never seen a mandolin with a peacock on it. But I see a mandolin all the time and peacocks almost every day. They gather on the railings of my deck before I awake, and sift for food on the grounds during the course of the day.

    This was the view from my kitchen window the other morning. This is Big Papi, whose tailfeathers are nearing maturity. The second pic was on New Year's Day. You can see how much his feathers have grown since then.

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    Most of the time there are several of them, just hanging out. The record is seven. They are rather large, and there is only so much room on the railing. As you can see, the flamingos are overwhelmed.

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    They're too skittish to stick around and listen to music. If I ever manage it, you'll see the results. Others here have reported success with inter-species musical interaction. I've posted elsewhere some videos of Key deer intrigued by the mandolin. Peacocks may need sitar music.
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  13. #8

    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Here is another mandolin with a peacock on its top. Now, this one is definitely German made.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Nice-old-ma...EAAOSwkJNbfEC2

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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Well, now! This builder put a lot more work into the decoration. I especially like the use of abalone - hints at the iridescence of the feathers. And he put some work into those eyes in the tail. Wonder what that is in the soundhole? Bridge is still too far back. Back looks all right.

    So was there some sort of peacock craze in Germany at the time?

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  16. #10
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerard View Post
    ... but the action is horrible. How might I fix this? ...
    Since it's Gerard's first post, let me summarize what most of us are probably assuming. I know of four primary reasons why a bowlback may have too-high action, some noted above:

    1 - The bridge is either too high or in the wrong position.
    a) Note that the bridge is held in place by string tension only - do not glue!
    b) Most bad positioning of the bridge will tend to lower the action rather than raise it, as hinted above.
    c) To me, the fairly bulky bridge seems like an "afterthought artwork" item, rather than original to the instrument. On the good side, it's wide enough to allow for some intonation adjustment (maybe wishful thinking?).

    2 - A loose internal brace is allowing the top to sink, lowering the action. Top in the photos looks pretty good.

    3 - The neck has developed forward curvature due to excessive string pressure. There are fixes but they require a degree of skill & experience. Press strings at the first and 12th-or-so frets to gauge the amount of bend. A slight amount of curvature (clearance above the 7th fret), known as "relief", is normal and good, but should be barely detectable on most mandolins. Bowlbacks should use only the lightest-gauge strings available.

    4 - The body has distorted at the base of the neck. Unlike other instruments, bowlbacks have no separate "neck block" that the heel of the neck fits into, and that can be (with much effort) disassembled and the angle corrected. On bowlbacks, the neck block IS the base of the neck, around which the body is built. Correcting the angle is rarely attempted as it means building the instrument anew but with old and easily-damaged parts.

    Hope this helps put it in perspective and, yeah, I probably missed something!

    If, like many of us, you really need to be a masochist, Frets.com should be a big help.
    Last edited by EdHanrahan; Jan-30-2021 at 2:18pm.
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  18. #11

    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Apart from those structural issues I would also guess the origin as Catania rather than Germany and probably post war. Carmelo Catania comes to mind. He and other Catanese makers often used colored scratch plates at that time.

  19. #12
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    [QUOTE=journeybear;1807054]

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    I guess peacocks don't tolerate flamingos in their territory!
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    From my observations, birds are very territorial. Both these are invasive species - not sure what the native species are - but the flamingos, being wading birds, are way out of their natural habitat. And I don't know if you can see, but they have these very spindly legs, which won't do them much good in a fight. They've pretty much given up. The peacocks, on the other hand, are hale and hearty, and a bit pugnacious. Not as much as chickens, which I am very grateful haven't ventured up this way, preferring to stay closer to the main road, which they can cross as much as they like. Now and then a peacock will challenge a Key deer for food, though usually they acquiesce to the larger (to them) animal. But being quicker, and having better eyesight, they will reach in, snag a morsel, and retreat to safety before consuming.

    They seem quite oblivious to music, though it's hard to "read" their behavior. The deer are more amenable, though I believe their interest is more motivated by the possibility of being fed than entertained. One photobombed this year's Christmas medley, for a little while, but after determining food was not forthcoming, ambled off. And in order to encourage their participation in a music video that we entered in last year's Tiny Desk Contest, we spread carrot chunks around us. We went through two or three pounds of carrots before we were through.

    I'm posting links rather than videos. This tangent is veering far enough off-topic without going into the Deer Zone.
    Last edited by journeybear; Feb-05-2021 at 10:35am. Reason: those confounded missing links!
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  22. #14
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    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Well, perhaps it's that time of year. I don't know for sure, though I expect such things are on some sort of schedule. But it seems that Big Papi is feeling his oats, just in time for Valentine's Day. This has been going on for a few days. It could keep going for a while; I sure hope so. It's been fun. For me, anyway. Big Papi looks like he's having a bit of difficulty with his wooing. It's like, "What does a guy have to do to get some attention here?" I feel ya, brother. It's like that with me playing my mandolin at gigs, contending with indifference from the ladies. Should have gone with electric guitar. What was I thinking? Maybe if I had a peacock mandolin ...


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    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  23. #15

    Default Re: Anyone here ever seen a peacock mandolin like this?

    Haha. Marge Simpson, Now I can't UNsee it! Thanks

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