11/18/2011

c.1900 Oscar Schmidt-made? Pearl-fretboard Bowlback Mandolin





I'm pretty sure this mandolin was made by Oscar Schmidt in New Jersey around c.1900-1910. It sports a fancy Brazilian rosewood bowl, spruce top, mahogany neck, wild trim, and of course an over-the-top pearl-topped fretboard with Saturn inlay on the third fret. Sweet.

The sound is typical for Oscar Schmidt bowlbacks from the time -- a little boxy, great on the treble, but with a focused, not-very-warm bass. To complicate matters, the neck is just slightly warped which means the action isn't slick but it's still quite playable, especially after my fret dress, yadda yadda. I think this would make a fine alternate tuning mandolin, maybe for an open or cross-tuned fiddle style tuning, where "slack key" tension would help up the higher frets.

My work included a bunch of cleaning, some fret reseating, a fret dress, setup, and one seam separation repair on the back of the bowl. The instrument is in pretty decent shape, though lacks a number of pieces of pearl inlay from around the edge of the top (ie, the "rope" binding). All the parts seem to be original (I lubed the tuners so they work well, now) though the original bridge looks like it was cut down some time ago.



Rosewood veneer on the headstock. too.


These inlays are slightly off-center but look waaaaay cool. I love the Saturn motif.


Bling! I'm using 32w-09 strings (Ernie Ball steel-wound ones) to give a little more bass response but still light tension.



The butterfly pickguard had to be reglued in a few corners, but looks darn nice.



The rosewood bowl is spectacularly pretty.



Had to replace some of the stripped older mounting screws with some vintage parts-box ones.



Simple tailpiece. I've "foamed it up" underneath to cut down on overtones.

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