9/09/2011

1890s Elias Howe Bowlback Mandolin




Update 2016: This has been traded-in towards another instrument and is back for sale. I've updated the pictures and -- best of all -- it's come back with a nice case as well.
 
While this bears a bright red "Elias Howe" label in the soundhole and a stamp on the back of the headstock, this mandolin was quite definitively made by Lyon & Healy in Chicago. It's almost a clone of models out of their "American Conservatory" mandolin line from the same time (1890s. No matter the name, though, as this is a nice mandolin!

It sports a Brazilian rosewood bowl, spruce top, mahogany neck, rosewood headstock veneer, and ebony board. It's got bar frets and is 100% original save for the new bone bridge. Tone is clear, precise, sweet and rich, with good volume and sustain. It has strings gauged 32w-9 (the GHS A240 set) which is very close to period wire. The action is spot-on at 1/16" at the 12th fret.



Work included a neck set, fret level/dress dress, setup, and the replacement bridge. An amateur neck set had been done in the past which meant that this was a bit of a pain to fix up, though "surgery" went well.

Pearl dots in a nice ebony board.



Ebony nut, pretty rosewood headstock veneer, and bone buttons on those tuners.



Nice red-highlight rosette and "rope" purfling...


The pickguard is pretty, too. It's celluloid rather than actual tortoise, mind you. The replacement bridge is bone and compensated.




It has a nice "armrest" tailpiece with hinged cover.





It's hard to see in the pics but there's a bit of moisture discoloration to the finish in a couple spots on the sides -- nothing serious.








Nice rosewood, huh?



A bit of WD-40 and these tuners were back in action.




Here's the label.



Check out the nice violin-style lightweight hard/foam case!

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