2/03/2011

c.1925 Martin-made SS Stewart Bowlback Mandolin


Very cool! Here's a c.1920s (probably c.1923-1925) bowlback mandolin, almost undoubtedly made by CF Martin in Nazareth, PA, for B&J (who owned the SS Stewart brand name at the time). It bears no markings (serial numbers, style numbers, etc.) that would guarantee that it's a Martin-made instrument, but Martin's fingerprints are all over it... body style, finish style, build (and build quality), binding and decorative details, diamond-shaped volute on back of headstock... etc.

It's a 23-rib Brazilian rosewood bowl, with mahogany neck, and spruce top. The bracing is Martin-style, lightweight and nicely shaped. It's got rosewood binding with 4-ply wooden purfling, a nice inlaid celluloid (cracked up) tortoise pickguard, and all of its original fittings except for a replacement (1930s) tailpiece.


Pretty mando, and crack-free save some reglued seams on the bowl.


Rosewood headstock veneer.


Rosewood fretboard... and curiously enough this actually has tanged frets, rather than typical (for the time) Martin-style bar frets, which is slightly unconvincing to me for a Martin ID, though everything else seems to fit (it even has side dots). I suppose it's possible they could have been replaced?



Bone-topped ebony bridge.



I've got 28w, 22w, 12, 09 strings on this... two sets of GHS tenor banjo phos. bronze strings. These are excellent gauges for old bowlbacks.




Classy binding/purfling.



Nice bowl!





Good-quality inset tuners.


Martin-style volute.







There's the Stewart label... but it's in name only.

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