c.1920 Sammo Flatback Mandolin

UPDATE: I'm now pretty sure this was built by Harmony, judging by the materials and construction.

Sammo (for Samuel Osborne Manufacturing Co) was a brand used on a bunch of different instruments in the teens and 20s -- almost all of them of obvious Chicago manufacture. I've seen other flatback mandos with the brand, similar to this one, but with more of the Leland Brilliantone line (Lyon & Healy-sold, supposedly Larson-made) features, but this one is pretty confusing. It has Harmony-looking mahogany and marquetry around the top edge, Regal-looking feel and weight, and bracing on the back that doesn't match either... plus a slightly deeper body than I'm used to seeing on either of those makes.

Add to that a simple "straight cut" fretboard end and generally nicer-than-normal build for an obvious Chicago make, and you've got a head-scratcher in terms of provenance.

Still -- my "end guess" is Regal.

Both the tailpiece cover (20s one from my parts bin) and rosewood bridge are unoriginal, but the rest is. The bridge is only rough-cut, not polished up, as I've been playing it ever since finishing it off. The tone is warm, very loud, bright and rich. I'm entirely surprised at how much this thing cuts for a canted-top/flatback instrument.

Cool Vega-ish headstock with enclosed-back tuners. Bone nut. Ebony board. MOP dots in board and I added side-dots to the neck. Rosewood headstock veneer and sweet little triangular celluloid inlay.

Frets got a dressing, too. These dots are actually abalone... and I installed some abalone side dots to match.

The inlaid pickguard is pretty nice looking faux-tortoise celluloid.

Fun marquetry purfling.

Here's my rosewood bridge... when I get around to string changing I'll fine-sand it and polish it up.

Nice old "arm rest" style tailpiece cover from my parts bin.

Decent mahogany on the back and sides, too. There's one old-repair hairline crack to the bass side and one newly-repaired tiny hairline on the treble side, but otherwise the mando is crack-free.

Curiously, the scale length is only 12 7/8" which makes it even shorter than an average mandolin from the time. The 34w-10 strings feel really slinky on this mando but easily pack tons of punch due to the lightweight, thin-topped build.

Tuners work amazingly well. I haven't had to tune it since setting it up.

Good heel set and plain but attractive 'hog.

I'm using one of the original screw mounting holes for the backplates to hold this strap-keeper in place. This gives me nice clearance for the hand when this is over the shoulder.

And there's the Sammo label.

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charlie said...
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