c.1900 Spanish Bandurria

This is a turn-of-the-century bandurria, probably made either by an immigrant craftsman in the US or overseas. The binding is much more typical of American products but the rest of the hardware is more European.

At any rate, bandurrias have a long history and are especially popular in Spain and the Philippines, where they perform the role of a mandolin in ensembles. They tend to have a short scale length (10.5" on this one vs a mandolin's 13-14" scale) but that allows their range to get up to a high A on an open string vs a mandolin's high E note. The other difference is that the modern bandurria (of which this falls under) is tuned in straight fourths in 6 courses while the mandolin is tuned in straight fifths in 4 courses. So, tuning-wise, this looks like G#, C#, F#, B, E, A from the lowest string to the highest. For simplicity's sake, I tuned the instrument to a minor third above guitar tuning to make best use of it right off the bat: G, C, F, Bb, D, G.

If you review the last two posts -- this one and this one -- you can get an idea of the work done on it. Suffice to say: numerous seam and hairline crack repairs, level & dress of the frets, cleaning, and of course a full setup were in order. This plays spectacularly well with action slightly lower than 1/16" at the 12th fret (there are only 12 frets, but why would you need more on such a high-pitched instrument?) and sounds wonderful -- very much as you'd expect: mandolin-y but with more of that aggressive bell-y tone you hear in Latin instruments.

Solid spruce top, bound in white celluloid with herringbone purfling and a fancy 3-ring rosette of the same.

I have to admit that going from a detuned state, the 12 friction tuners are a serious chore to use. Once the instrument is in tune, however, they hold quite well and only need minor tweaking. For someone who'd be using this instrument in concert regularly, I'd say it'd be very much worth it to either upgrade to a hybrid set of 8 guitar-style tuners and 4 banjo-style planetary tuners or all geared banjo pegs. It'd save a lot of headache on-the-fly.

Again, I love zero frets.

The inlaid rosette and purfling is easy on the eyes...

Here you can see the original bridge to which I've added a small "foot" to raise it up slightly.

The back and side wood (I'm not sure what kind of wood it is -- cypress? a relation to mahogany?) is flamed throughout.

The mahogany neck has nice curl to it as well. Note that there is a small old repair to a headstock hairline crack at its top as well.

Nice Spanish heel.

I love the intense curl/flame on the back! Note that the side seam on the treble-side back (where your leg covers it) has a slight "slip." No worries, as I reglued that whole area.

The tailpiece was mounted with nails previously. I installed these screws instead -- much safer.


spelman said...

Nice looking instrument, is there time for a soundclip?

Antebellum Instruments said...

Clip is up.