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Thread: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

  1. #1

    Default Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    First post, so excuse me if I get any etiquette wrong. I’m hoping someone might be able to shed some light on the possible origins of a mandolin I won tonight on a local online auction here in Otago New Zealand. Seller said no identifying markings anywhere.

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    I wanted a unit to learn on and hope this might do the job on my current budget until I work out if I can develop any ability to play.

    Thanks in advance to anyone inclined to contribute

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Looks Portugese to me. Almost Romanian or eastern European but these tend to have a zero fret. Quite a wide neck so itís possible it isnít even a mandolin!

    Hang tight and somebody will soon be along to identify it.

    Welcome to the forum.

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    It looks a lot like an APC, but if it is, it should have a nice clear and detailed label inside. I know APC makes some instruments with wide necks; my APC mandocello has a massive 1 3/4 in. nut width.

    If it turns out to be an APC, they are generally good quality budget instruments. I’m satisfied with mine.

  5. #4
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    European most likely. Looks like the back is made of olive wood.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  7. #5
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    To my eye, it looks like a mandolin made by a bandurria maker.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Possibly from Paracho, Mexico?

    Many mandolins from there reflect Portugese / bandurria influence and use local or curiously figured woods.

    Often, too with a slotted, figured headstock, round soundhole and wide soft brass frets.

    Fretboard detail at soundhole is familiar in the Paracho style, too.

    A lot are made there and rebranded or unbranded for distribution.

    FWIW that's my guess.

    Mick
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Quite a wide neck so itís possible it isnít even a mandolin!

    Welcome to the forum.
    Wow, not even a mandolin would be extremely disappointing.

    I hadnít even considered that I might be so ignorant that I ended up with an alternative instrument.

    Thank you for the welcome

  11. #8

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Finlay View Post
    It looks a lot like an APC, but if it is, it should have a nice clear and detailed label inside. I know APC makes some instruments with wide necks; my APC mandocello has a massive 1 3/4 in. nut width.

    If it turns out to be an APC, they are generally good quality budget instruments. I’m satisfied with mine.
    I imagine it’ll be up to a week before it’s in my hands.
    Despite the sellers suggestion of no identification, I’ll be sure to examine it closely to determine whether or not they missed an internal label and update the thread.

    If it turns out to be a “generally good quality budget instrument”, I’m sure I’ll be more than satisfied to have it as a first instrument to determine if I might be able to learn to play mandolin.

    If not, I’ll not have lost too much as an initial investment in the mandolin ownership rabbit hole and can start again

  12. #9

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Thank you for the contributions brunello97, rickbella and Charles E.

    Useful to hear about potential influences in the instruments construction and appearance.

    Likely I should have noted in my initial post that the photos were the auction pics, I assume were taken by the seller silvan4
    Last edited by Rif; Oct-05-2022 at 7:32pm. Reason: Double post

  13. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Like the Paracho hypothesis. Only question: Paracho mandolins I've seen have all had flat backs, not the "dome back" with several ribs that this one has. Otherwise looks very like them.

    Whether it was originally intended to be a mandolin or not, you can surely play it as one.
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  14. #11

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Like the Paracho hypothesis. Only question: Paracho mandolins I've seen have all had flat backs, not the "dome back" with several ribs that this one has. Otherwise looks very like them.

    Whether it was originally intended to be a mandolin or not, you can surely play it as one.
    Hi Allen, thanks for your contribution. The seller was adamant that the instrument is a flat back and even deleted and then relisted the auction after, according to her when questioned, she’d initially incorrectly listed it as a bowl-back.

    My fingers are crossed that it’s definitely flat as that’s the aesthetic that appeals to my eye and what I wanted to learn on. For me as a complete beginner as important as any tone given my doubtless poor ear given my limited exposure to mandolin music.

    I spoke to the seller yesterday and was informed that she’ll be shipping the now packaged unit on Monday so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to update the thread with some additional pics Wednesday or Thursday albeit from my phone so not dslr quality.

    I will be sure to look online for some examples of Paracho instruments.

    My uneducated eye found many similarities to the APC instruments as pointed out by Steve Finlay, in their Bandolim series apc-instruments.com

    I’m happy to hear that mandolin or not, it might be played as such in order to make a start on the mando journey.

    I was going to ask wether such an instrument might share the same strings, tuning etc.

    Charles_E mentioned the backs wood being reminiscent of olive and I wondered if given said trees being somewhat unsubstantial in stature/girth this being a factor in utilising those “ribs” you mentioned in its construction.

    I’ll be sure to try to get some pics of the tuners when it arrives which might further suggest its origins be it Mexico, Portugal or elsewhere
    Last edited by Rif; Oct-07-2022 at 7:45pm.

  15. #12
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    You might try this website which is a forum dealing with luthiers creating instruments in Australian and New Zealand: http://www.anzlf.com/

    I know that it is quite possible that this mandolin was made in Europe or the Americas but I wonder since the wood on the back looks a bit unusual that it might have been made in NZ or near there. You might post on that site and see if anyone has a clue. It is possible that the mandolin may not have travelled too far from there.

    Other that than it does resemble some of the Portuguese style instruments or even mandolins made in Spanish guitar shops which veer off from the more standard American style carved or flattop mandolins.
    Jim

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  16. #13

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    A great suggestion thank you Jim as the seller said she’d not played it in some time so I’m assuming it’ll likely benefit from new strings and a “set-up” as a minimum, so your site suggestion might be able to steer me towards a local’ish luthier able to get the instrument ready for my tutelage given there’s no music store nearbye

  17. #14
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    “I was going to ask wether such an instrument might share the same strings, tuning etc.”

    You can tune any instrument in any way you like so it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to tune it as a mandolin even if it isn’t. Whether you can or not largely depends on the gauge of strings you use and the scale length. When it arrives, measure the distance between the nut and the twelfth fret, double it, and let us know the answer. Somebody will then tell you what to do next.

  18. #15

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    “I was going to ask wether such an instrument might share the same strings, tuning etc.”

    You can tune any instrument in any way you like so it’s quite possible that you’ll be able to tune it as a mandolin even if it isn’t. Whether you can or not largely depends on the gauge of strings you use and the scale length. When it arrives, measure the distance between the nut and the twelfth fret, double it, and let us know the answer. Somebody will then tell you what to do next.
    Hi Ray(T)
    My inclination was to lean towards light strings in the hope of not straining an older instrument of yet to be determined build quality, as well as thinking they might be easier on my untrained fingers, but knowing I know nothing, I’m very open to suggestions.
    I’ll be sure to take your advice and upon its arrival, reporting back in this thread the measurements you’ve recommended for the scale length.
    Thanks for the tips

  19. #16
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    “Light” is a relative term - it depends on the scale length.

  20. #17
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Like the Paracho hypothesis. Only question: Paracho mandolins I've seen have all had flat backs, not the "dome back" with several ribs that this one has. Otherwise looks very like them.

    Whether it was originally intended to be a mandolin or not, you can surely play it as one.
    FWIW Allen, my Paracho mandolin, which I play each morning while talking to Henry Kissinger on the phone, is certainly 'domed' like this one, almost identical in its back construction but of different woods.

    I'm not trying to oversell the Paracho origin of the New Zealand mandolin, just filling in a bit.

    Mick
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  22. #18
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    My first thought was that it looked like an instrument built in Paracho. The location it was found in does muddy things up a bit but there are connections to those builders elsewhere in the world as well.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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  23. #19

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    My Paracho (Lonestar) also is a dome-back, illustrated, and has the same tailpiece, but a normal mandolin-width neck. There seem to be dozens of short-neck, wide-fingerboard models in use through Mexico and South America, but I couldn’t find 8 string versions. I would think that learning on the OP’s purchase might be inhibited by the design and make transition to a more mandolinish version awkward.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  24. #20

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    FWIW Allen, my Paracho mandolin, which I play each morning while talking to Henry Kissinger on the phone, is certainly 'domed' like this one, almost identical in its back construction but of different woods.

    I'm not trying to oversell the Paracho origin of the New Zealand mandolin, just filling in a bit.

    Mick
    Hi
    I’ve just now sent off an email to the seller asking for clarification about the back.
    I’ll update when I’ve received a response

  25. #21

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    My Paracho (Lonestar) also is a dome-back, illustrated, and has the same tailpiece, but a normal mandolin-width neck. There seem to be dozens of short-neck, wide-fingerboard models in use through Mexico and South America, but I couldn’t find 8 string versions. I would think that learning on the OP’s purchase might be inhibited by the design and make transition to a more mandolinish version awkward

    Thanks for adding the pic Richard500, might you have another slightly less zoomed in of your very attractive Lonestar.
    I have poor eyesight and currently only have an iPad mini, so struggling with perspective from the pic

    To be clearer unlike the appearance of the back of your instrument you so kindly went to the trouble of presenting,it’s what “might” be described as the traditional Neapolitan back I was trying to avoid.
    It might be the pic or simply my poor eyesight or perhaps just my lack of familiarity with the variety of backs and their descriptive terms that’s creating my confusion.
    Last edited by Rif; Oct-08-2022 at 1:15pm.

  26. #22

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    FWIW Allen, my Paracho mandolin, which I play each morning while talking to Henry Kissinger on the phone, is certainly 'domed' like this one, almost identical in its back construction but of different woods.

    I'm not trying to oversell the Paracho origin of the New Zealand mandolin, just filling in a bit.

    Mick
    Well spotted with regards the domed back.
    The seller kindly sent me a side profile pic confirming
    Click image for larger version. 

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  27. #23

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    I don't think APC does domed backs. Paracho is looking more likely.

  28. #24

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Finlay View Post
    I don't think APC does domed backs. Paracho is looking more likely.
    Couldnít disagree.

    Not exactly the outcome I was hoping for but some valuable lessons learnt.

    I also learned quite a bit more about mandolins in general than a few days ago.

    Thanks for everyoneís contributions and insights.
    Much appreciated

  29. #25

    Default Re: Hi, first mandolin. Any ideas on identity?

    Don't be disappointed until you try it. The pictures show no obvious signs of poor workmanship. Also, the deep body may give you a rich and resonant sound. It may work out well for you.

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