11/01/2012

c.1920 Unmarked "Butterfly" Flatback Mandolin




This is a great-sounding flatback mandolin, probably made by Harmony in Chicago, around 1920. It borrows trim from that maker's fancier guitar designs and a bowlback-style pickguard with butterfly inlay. I'm not sure that it's a Harmony make (it may be a Regal, considering the heel shape), but I'm pretty sure this was made by Harmony. 

The tone on this fella is wonderful: open, crisp but warm, and very loud, even with the ultra-light 32w-9 strings I put on these old guys


The original finish is still extant on this instrument but the whole mandolin was topcoated at some point which gives it nice gloss and a bit of extra protection. The finish must have been in decent shape to begin with, though, since there's not much wear & tear visible underneath the new coat.

Work included a fret level/dress, bridge reshaping, brace regluing, replacement of the treble-side fretboard binding, cleaning, and setup. It plays nice and quick with 1/16" action at the 12th fret on a 13" short scale (typical of period mandos).


Pearl dots, original nickel-silver frets (low and small, per period preferences), and binding on the board. The board itself is dyed maple I believe.


The bowlback-style pickguard is inlaid. The rosette, pickguard, and top binding/purfling is all celluloid stuff, not true pearl, but it looks totally period-cool and really pops out in natural light. 

Did I mention there are no cracks anywhere on this instrument?


Original tailpiece and cover are in good shape.



Yup -- solid spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides.


The rosewood veneer on the headstock is very pretty stuff. Original bone nut.


Tuners are recessed and have a coverplate "sealing" them.



That oversprayed top coat really pulls the grain and coloring out of the mahogany.


When I opened these tuners up to lube them I found (as usual) that aside from being popped in the back of the recessed chamber for them, they weren't secured in any fashion. I installed some very tiny screws to keep them stable which definitely helps for tuning stability.




Yup, a very clean-looking instrument with a nice, warm, clean-sounding tone! It'll cut quite well for a flat-back as well.

2 comments:

Chuck Cheesman said...

I bought this mandolin for my eight year old daughter. The set-up with the light strings and low action is perfect for her. She has been taking Suzuki violin, and now she is transferring the tunes to her mandolin. I can hear her in her bedroom making up songs with it. This instrument has found a loving home. I even sneak in to her room and play it a bit. Very nice old mandolin. Thanks!

Antebellum Instruments said...

Chuck: Thanks for the review! I really appreciate hearing about what happens to these instruments once they're out of my care. Knowing that it's getting loved makes me especially happy to be doing this work! :)