8/03/2012

c.1925 Harmony-made Fancy Rosewood Flatback Mandolin




Another unmarked flatback mandolin from the teens/20s... what's new?

This one was made by Harmony (more than likely) around 1920-25 and sports Brazilian rosewood back and sides, with a mahogany neck and spruce top. It's also (amazingly) crack free despite showing many years of heavy play and use.

Oh, and yes, the trim is all "blinged up," too!


Work included a fret level/dress, neck reset, new bone bridge, replacement (1920s) tailpiece, tuner lube, cleaning, setup... and whatever else. The neck pocket had seen a bungled repair before so I didn't take chances on this neck reset (since the dovetail was a bit worn) and so when I reset this neck I also bolted it through the heel and into the neck block.


Cute pearl inlay in the headstock veneer. Original bone nut.


Bound mystery-hardwood fretboard with pearl dots. The board itself is also slightly radiused which gives a modern feel and threw me for a loop for a minute until I got used to it. After I did, well -- I liked it! Much more comfortable on this slim (standard) 1 1/8" nut. The frets are also quite low which reminds me of old Italian bowlbacks.


There's herringbone purfling around the soundhole and top edges as well as celluloid "checker" binding. Pretty intense, but also very cool and "bluesy." The tortoise celluloid pickguard is inlaid per the usual for this time.


I used some old natural-looking bone from my parts bin to make a new bridge. This way it matches the nut in color so it's not too odd-looking. I tend to think bone bridges enhance response and volume on these old mandos, as well as clear up tone quite a bit. Ebony or rosewood, on the other hand, can help darken-up a brighter instrument.


Not the best replacement tailpiece, but it works! These "Bell Brand" ones are nice and easy to load, though, and keep a good seven string path.






Pretty rosewood, no doubt about it. The finish has "weather checked" along the more open grain of the rosewood here and there.


Recessed tuners.


Isn't that rosewood lovely? Tone on this is big and wide open and loud with excellent sustain. It has a very pretty, but forward sort of sound.



After lubing the tuners and seating them properly (for whatever insane reason, the plates on these tuners tend not to be screwed down into the headstock, even if they have mounting holes) these work just fine.


The strap button hides a bolt-through neck reinforcement with hex-nut tightening on the inside. It's also been reset properly, but this adds insurance considering the slightly less-than-ideal pocket. It also makes a nice strap hanger, go figure!


Nice "backstrip," too.



The rosewood is killer...!



Good lined backstrip reinforcement.

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