c.1919 Vega Style K Banjo Mandolin

This banjo-mando is all-original save for a new head, bridge, and one nut from a hook/nut/shoe set. It was made by Vega in Boston and the serial dates it to 1919, though this model was made throughout the 1920s. It features a "hoop style" tonering on top of a maple rim with a mahogany neck, mahogany-veneer on the pot, and ebony fretboard. This was Vega's simplest banjo mandolin and they must have made a ton of them because it's by far the most common model I see pop up (and for good reason: these play and sound awesome once spruced up!).

My work included cleaning, installation of a replacement calfskin head (it looks an awful lot like a period one, though, with the clean white look to it), fret level/dress, a new bridge and a setup.

Original bone nut, nice rosewood veneer on the headstock. While this was a fairly plain model, the craftsmanship on these is excellent and they withstand the "test of time" quite well.

Ebony board, pearl dot markers, and original bar frets.

Note that I've used a mandolin-style rosewood bridge vs. a banjo-style thin maple one. The wider footprint, more massive build, and denser material means that a bridge like this keeps tuning on the instrument more stable (it presses evenly over a wider area) and also tones down the usual harsh zing banjo mandolins get a bad reputation for. This gives the instrument more of a sweet mandolin tone while still getting that banjo cluck and better volume.

With banjo-mandos, good tone has more to do with the setup than on many instruments.

I love to see a new head!

The proportion on these instruments is great -- the 10" rim means it feels more like a mandolin in the lap.

The hardware is in excellent shape.

There's an older heel-crack repair. In addition, the heel portion of the neck was oversprayed with nitro finish at the same time. It's stable and good to go.

You can see the multi-ply construction of the rim from here.

Original Waverly tuners with ivoroid buttons. I've lubed them and they work just like new.

Here's the Vega stamp.

Nice heavy-duty neck brace.

I've always liked the tortoise celluloid binding Vega applied to the foot of these rims. Adds class.

Waverly "cloud" tailpiece is mated directly to the tension hoop. When mounting a new head it's very important to align the tension hoop with the neck's centerline properly!

Oh! And here's the surprise! This case has been decorated with all sorts of (I'm assuming) WWII paraphernalia, including a list of many places in England and France the owner of the mandolin traveled to.

Dang cool!

1 comment:

Joseph Fisher said...

Hi Jake -

For you interest - I think this mandolin was played during WWI probably in a field hospital unit (FH129). I noticed the Somme is listed / biggest battle of WWI