1/24/2012

c.1900 Oscar Schmidt Bowlback Mandolin


This bowlback mandolin, though unmarked, was almost certainly made by Oscar Schmidt in New Jersey around c.1890-1900 or so -- and I'd say leaning on the earlier side. It's 100% original and has old-fashioned "hollow tube" brass-plate European (German?) made tuners.

The neck is mahogany while the nut, bridge, and fretboard are ebony. It also has a Brazilian rosewood bowl and spruce top, all of good quality. My work on the instrument included brace re-glues, hairline (center join) glue to the top, a fret dress, cleaning, and setup.

For an old Oscar Schmidt, this mandolin is in fantastic shape, missing only a few pieces of pearl from its bindings but otherwise unharmed. The top had sunk a little before I reglued the braces but it's settled back to an almost ideal shape (and plenty stable).


Tone is sweet and sustained with that great classical clarity one expects from a nicer bowlback. Bass is not thin on this and the overall sound is balanced. It's a slightly narrower-width body than most other American makes, so it feels pretty comfortable in the lap and less topsy-turvy.

Did I mention the pearl stars and butterfly inlay in the pickguard? Nice!


Rosewood-veneered headstock. Note the hollow-tube brass shafts on the tuners as well as the bone buttons!


MOP dots on the board, too. Action is just about perfect -- 1/16" at the 12th fret -- despite a very tiny hair of relief to the neck.




Cute tailpiece.



Isn't that pretty?




Nice old tuners.




Overall, a great old American bowlback. Maybe not as wide-spectrum and full as a Vega but certainly as nice as an old American Conservatory or high end Washburn as far as tone goes.

1 comment:

luvsawdust said...

Hey Jake,
I was recently gifted a similar vintage OS bowlback, in pretty rough shape however. The top has caved in pretty significantly and has a decent size crack on the bass side of the top. Did you reglue the braces after removing the top, or could you get to them with it in place? Also need a new fingerboard. Its only got the first six frets left and the slots for the rest are actually gone. Maybe they were trying to counteract the falling action caused by the top sinking. This thing was loved and played hard by someone.

Thanks
Jason