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Thread: Identify unmarked piccolo?

  1. #1
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Identify unmarked piccolo?

    So, all the talk about piccolo mandos of late has gotten me curious enough to spring for this sale item from Bernunzio's:

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    Here is the write-up on Bernunzio's site:

    Truly one-of-a-kind, this is a small or "piccolo" sized bowlback mandolin, likely European-made, in its original hard case. The body and ribs are made from alternating pieces of mahogany and cypress with a bound spruce top; inlaid ebony pickguard; 5-3/4" lower bout. The neck was made from cypress, and has a 10" scale length fingerboard, grafted mahogany peghead w/ 7/8" nut width; equipped with lovely and original geared tuners (buttons made from period material). Included in sale is original hard case.


    Any clues as to the who or when of this?

    Thanks for taking a look.

    Oh, yes, and when it arrives, should I expect to install the lightest possible strings?

    Joe

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Just a hunch... looks pretty newish, not anywhere near 100 years old. The neck made from cypress might be a clue—not so sure that that wood was used my italian makers. I know that flamenco guitars used cypress for back and sides. For some reason it almost looks Mexican to me though I don't know that they made bowlbacls recently there.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    But it's gone now ... I wonder who got it?

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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    The tuners with that style of button and tailpiece looked old to me but could have been recycled.

  7. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Quote Originally Posted by RustyPickup View Post
    But it's gone now ... I wonder who got it?
    I think Joe Barti started this thread because he says, "So, all the talk about piccolo mandos of late has gotten me curious enough to spring for this sale item from Bernunzio's"

    So I hope we will be hearing a report with the piccolo in hand.

    It looks to be in good shape but I am guessing European made (as the shop description noted) from maybe 1950s or even later.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; May-08-2021 at 10:02am.
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  9. #6
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    For those who may be curious, a report with the instrument in hand:

    Though I’ve never had a bad experience with Bernunzio’s, I am always hesitant, regardless of the return policy, to buy something unseen, untried. But, as in the past, my nerves were laid aside as soon as the instrument arrived. This unmarked piccolo easily surpassed my expectations for sound quality, tone, and, to an extent, playability. Of course, never having held a piccolo before, I could not make a comparison to others.

    As usual with a new purchase, this went straight to my luthier. He could not determine definite age, but because of the bar frets said it was certainly made before 1920. The tuners with their bone buttons also dated this to the early part of that century. The tag from Bernunzio’s stated “ca. 1900”; based on my luthier’s comments and on the original hard case with its dated appointments, it would seem that Bernunzio’s is a fair estimate. As to whether it is European or American in origin seems to be anybody’s guess.

    The only negative involved the tuners: as soon as the strings neared pitch, they became, in part because they are so close to each other, almost impossible to turn. My luthier clean and oiled and, surprise!, made a small mahogany string winder that simplifies everything.

    Regardless of provenance, need it be said, the purpose of the instrument is to make music. As with the other mandolins in my stable, while I’ll never do it justice, this piccolo, loud, resonant, and complex as a bowlback should be, will furnish years of pleasure.

    For size comparison: Click image for larger version. 

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    A closer look at the tuners: Click image for larger version. 

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    The original hard shell case: Click image for larger version. 

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    The handy-dandy string winder: Click image for larger version. 

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Amazing that you have a bowlback piccolo case! Try to find one of those anywhere.
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    I bought that mandolin from Albert Wolle in Germany decades ago. I was impressed by the quality of construction and materials, and the fact that it had a case obviously made expressly for the particular instrument was surprising.

    I have no idea about its age, but I doubt it's later than mid-20th century, and probably older than that. I recall the tuner problem; the maker must have been challenged to size everything proportionally. I hope it brings you years of joy, and I hope you have small fingers!

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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Thanks, Bob A. How cool to hear from a former owner! And to learn a little bit of its history! As for playing it, I can keep my fingernails pared to a fare-thee-well, but it will still take some getting used to. I'm more than willing. Thanks, again.

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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Major correction: The person from whom I Purchased the Piccolo mandolin was Alfred Woll, a German luthier and dealer in instruments. Apparently I confabulated his name with another gentleman with whom I was acquainted, many years ago.

    Here's a link to Herr Woll's website:
    https://woll-mandolinen.de/

    I no longer have access to any correspondence with him on the subject. You might want to send him a few pictures of the instrument, and see if his memory is better than mine.

    Now that I have the correct name, here's a link to a thread about the purchase:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...highlight=Woll

    Remarkably, he still retains a picture of the instrument on his site:
    https://woll-mandolinen.de/piccolo_1920/

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  17. #11
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Bob A., what a fount of information you have become! I visited Woll's website and the images in the historical section. Very, very nice. Also nice were his current offerings which, not being a wealthy man, can only serve as eye candy to me. Likewise, I enjoyed the Nov. 2004 Cafe exchange and your enthusiasm for your new piccolo.

    I sent Woll an email to which he responded very quickly to say that he was happy the piccolo had found a new owner. He couldn't recall from whom he obtained it: "All I can say is, that it has many features that indicate its German origin, as for the tuners, bowl fabrication, neck-headstock joint, and the case." Coming from the author of the forthcoming The Art of Mandolin Making : Historical Development and Construction of the Mandolin, this would seem a sound attribution. He provides a 1920 date for the piccolo on his website, but, where was it?, I also saw a 1915 date offered.

    Thanks, again, for your invaluable help. (I will PM you with a couple of unrelated questions.)

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    I look forward to Herr Woll's book, Joe. If it is truly a history of the construction of mandolins, that would fill a welcome niche.

    Mick
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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Identify unmarked piccolo?

    Mick, I also look forward to this book. Having mentioned my pre-order to Herr Woll, he wrote: "There appeared some technical problems with the printing of the cover. So the delivery will be delayed. I expect to get the book in 2-3 weeks, and then shipping to US is slow these days. So it will take 2-3 month before you will get the book." I responded that anticipation, fortunately, is its own kind of pleasure.

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