3/14/2013

c.1910 Weymann High-end Bowlback Mandolin




With a low serial number of 11175, this Weymann bowlback mandolin is "off the charts" as far as I know concerning serial numbers and placement in time. Based on its general style, though, I would guess that it was made between 1910 and 1915. Not surprisingly (though it surprised me), it sounds an awful lot like Weymann's later "Mandolute" instruments in tonality: sort of a darker, husky, woodier tone compared to most bowlbacks which tend to be on the brighter side.

Weymanns tend to be high-quality instruments and were made in Philadelphia, PA. Blog followers know I'm a big fan of these guys and I am for the same reason that they were popular in the time they were made: good, rugged designs with good, all-around tone and extremely nice looks. They're right up there with the build quality of Martins and Vegas.

The scale on this instrument is 13 1/4" which is 1/4" longer than most bowlbacks. The neck is also more substantial and wider at the nut, giving it a feel that players with bigger fingers and folks who make complex chords will like. This is also one of the fanciest Weymann bowlbacks I've come across with plenty of pearl inlay to spare and profuse use of binding throughout to give a rich effect.


Work included regluing the top to the endblock (the purfling had been squished up under the tailpiece from failed glue), a fret level/dress, hairline crack cleating and repair to the top, gluing a slight hairline crack near the low G tuner at the headstock, general cleaning, and of course a full setup with the proper gauge GHS A240 string set (32w to 09).

It plays beautifully and has the sort of tone I described above. I'd say it's suited to folk and old time music but would have a nice application for some classical work, too. The treble, like most Weymanns, is nicely sculpted so there's no harshness inherent in the mandolin.


This has recessed, engraved tuner plates with nickel-silver plating (tarnished, of course). The headstock veneer is a dark-stained maple, I believe, and check out the pretty pearl in the headstock inlay! All equipment on the instrument is 100% original, including that bone nut.


The fretboard is dyed pearwood/maple and check out that gorgeous Saturn inlay on the third fret! The binding here is all a creamy-yellow ivoroid. Note that the only pearl loss is in that first fret, where the "wings" of that first fret design have been lost and backfilled with powdered (ebony?) dark wood.


The pickguard and soundhole rosette backing is all one piece of very thin ebony. All that inlay in it is, yes, pearl, and looks wonderful. Also take note of the amazing purfling at the edge of the top -- that's some seriously pretty stuff! It was probably brightly-colored to begin with but is faded to a series of muted browns and looks very elegant.

In this picture you can also see some of the repaired hairlines: one at the center seam "lower bout" area, one to the side of the pickguard, and one below the treble wing of the bridge extending to the tailpiece area... all are cleated where needed and some were backfilled a while back, some backfilled a bit by me, and sealed.


The tailpiece is engraved, too, of course!



Isn't that a thing of beauty? This has a stunning Brazilian rosewood bowl?

There were a few hairline cracks (really tight) here and there in the wood that I sealed up as well as a few (tight) seam separations that were either glued back or (if caused by just shrinking at the surface) filled a little. It's really hard to see any of this in person... they're so slight.


Here you can see the nice recessed tuner plates.



The finish is used but not abused and still holds a nice gleam.



Nice heel join and check out the detail of that multi-ply edge binding for the "strapping" at the sides.


Yeah, she's a beaut!



Here you can see the bit of red foam I stuffed under the tailpiece cover to mute the extra string length.


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