10/15/2011

c.1890 Carlo Albertini Milanese or Lombardic Mandolin


Well, these certainly are not seen around these parts very often... nor in such good shape! This was probably built around c.1880-1890 or so, and bears the label of Carlo Albertini out of Milan. Eh, so what is it?

Lombardic or Milanese mandolins are relations to the earliest types of mandolin-family instruments -- essentially diminutive lutes. They're single-strung, 6 course instruments (though one finds older double-strung instruments with 12 strings), and are strung with gut/nylon/nylgut, what-have-you strings.

They're essentially the same size as a bowlback mandolin but tend to be a little wider and shallower front to back, with a neck join more towards the nut. Standard tuning was GBEADG (or at a modern pitch, FADGCF) though... many (if not most) modern folks tune these an octave up from classical guitar at EADGBE (these are all "low to high"). I've done the latter, using Aquila Nylgut strings... and the tone is... fabulous!

This takes fingerpicking or plectrum playing (as originally intended) equally well and has a voice that easily cuts in a crowd. I was playing it a bit in a group jam today and it held up quite nicely in a throng of guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles.


This mando is also in fantastic shape: the only crack is a small, tight, and now-glued-up hairline below the bridge (and above it) on the bass side. It's good and stable now and hardly noticeable at all.

The finish is all original (though I've polished it just a hair to remove surface grit) and the top has that flat, just-barely-finished soundboard typical of Italian-made instruments from the time.


The pegs are new violin pegs (4 originals will come with this instrument) that I had on hand. Everything else is original.


Note the scalloped board and bar frets. I had to do a fret dress and setup at the nut on this as well as glue up and fill a fretboard hairline.


The inlaid pickguard is pretty fun, as is the "moutache" bridge. I tied knots behind the bridge to string up rather than tying it off in classical guitar fashion. The scale length is just a tiny bit shy of 12" so the fingers really have to get used to this wide board. Chordal players used to guitar scale length will have to relearn positions for some chords, but as this instrument would typically be playing a lead part, this is not such a huge deal. This is much the same sort of "squeeze" as one would associate with a bandurria.


Oh right, the woods! Beautiful maple ribs on the back with a good spruce top.




This is one of the lightest-weight instruments of this size I've ever handled. It feels like you're holding absolutely nothing.






An elegant headstock!


...and a cute label to top it all off. Note the individual strips of canvas rather than an entirely canvas reinforcement.

No comments: