7/19/2013

c.1905 Oscar Schmidt "Flatbowl" Mandolin


I worked on this one for a customer and it got a new bridge, a light fret level/dress, new pickguard, cleaning, and setup.

This is one of those "cases of the bizarre." This is a perfectly functional little mandolin and started life as a bowlback model. At some point (probably c.1920s-30s), someone cut the bowl off of it and tacked and glued on a new flat back. For the player not accustomed to old "concert position" for a bowlback mandolin, this must've made it easier to hold... but... it's so silly! ...yet wonderful.

There's no label or identification but I have no doubt that this is an Oscar Schmidt instrument and probably dates to c.1905-15. It's very typical for OS -- a heavy, rock-solid build and nasal, midrange tonality. It's also got that 13 1/4" OS scale length and after setup with some 32w-9 strings, it plays like butter with fast action.


This has a solid spruce top and rosewood back and sides. The neck is mahogany and the fretboard is some sort of dyed hardwood. The bridge and pickguard are unoriginal but the rest (aside from the chop-shop back) is. The bridge here is from my parts bin and while the tiny winglets aren't fitted to the top well, the load-bearing part of it is (OS bowlbacks tend to have a pretty curved top).


 Original bone nut, rosewood headstock veneer.


Pearl dots.


The edge purfling on the top is a bit fancier than normal.


The original pickguard was missing so I cut this workmanly (I didn't spend a long time fitting it precisely due to the low-budget nature of the instrument) faux-tortoise guard from standard StewMac sticky pickguard material. It looks pretty good, I'd say, especially after some swipes with fine steel wool to give it an aged look.


Here's that chopped-down bowl... pretty fun, huh?




This back was installed in a curious way -- with tacks and clumsy kerfing as well as glue. Some form of carpenter must be to blame!


After some WD-40, the tuners feel a bit better.



Typical period tailpiece...

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