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Thread: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin


    I just joined the forum after spending some months repairing this handmade F5 style mandolin I bought online some months ago. It had a bunch of issues and turned into quite a big project.

    I have setup, modified, repaired and built guitars for years, but resetting a neck and rebuilding the neck joint extension on a mandolin like this was another level of complexity. Without this forum and the Big Red Books of American Lutherie I would not have had been able to resurrect it, so I want to thank you all for this resource that the forum is.

    I am writing here hoping that someone might know who the builder of this mandolin is. It is a bit rough around the edges, but it really does sound very good and seems to be very well built with good wood selection and care for a lot of details - but for the life of me I cannot make out what name is on the headstock...I am sure it is some decades old at least.

    Does someone here recognize the name on the headstock?

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  2. #2
    That guy playing mandolin
    Join Date
    Mar 2020
    Provo, Utah

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    While you wait for the expert mandolidentifiers to come out, I suggest you upload a couple of pictures of the body of the mandolin so they can see more of its construction, as that can help them identify another builder working under a new name or things like that.
    The Loar LM 310f
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    I enjoy walking barefoot and playing my mandolin, and if I can do both at once, you'd be hard pressed to find a happier soul.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    It appears to say "De Fina" on the headstock, to my eyes.

  5. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Howell, NJ

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    Pictures of the body front and back would be helpful. My first impression would be a one off or a kit but there are folks here that have known the builder.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    Thank you so much for the responses! Here are some more photos. The dovetail joint extender is new (the old one was 2 pieces that was floating loosely underneath the fretboard - this one is fitted tightly), and so are the point protectors as the original ones were missing. I still need to match the color of the joint extender and fix a top crack that was previously super glued without aligning the two sides.

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    I think it might say De Fina on the headstock, but it is a bit hard to make out...hmm...

  7. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    Looks pretty amateurish workmanship to my eyes. Could be a one shot deal. Do you recall where the seller was you bought it from? Sometimes these things don't travel too far, especially if this person might have made it for his own playing. In this person, Frank De Fima's obit, it mentions "Frank’s love of guitars, mandolins, banjos and all types of music in general were also high priorities that added a unique contrast to his corporate persona." Of course, that is a long shot. I have a feeling that the name is not too uncommon.

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Looking for information on older F5 style mandolin

    Interesting! It sure could be a one off build made by someone who played it him or herself. It is a long shot, but it might be so!

    The binding isn't all that well carried out, but it has shrunk quite a bit so it probably looked a bit better when it was just made. It sounds a lot better than it should as rough as some of the details are. Full, round and very responsive. Who ever built it knew how to make it resonate just right. The top seems a bit thin so again it could point towards someone not that used to building mandolins.

    I found this homepage which might not be completely accurate: According to that there are 600 people whose surname is De Fima in the U.S.

    I have a feeling it must have been in disrepair for some years before I bought it. The seller was in New Jersey, so maybe the Frank De Fima in the obituary lived there before working for that last company in California.

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