9/01/2013

c.1920 Oscar Schmidt High-Grade Flatback Mandolin


There's no markings on this instrument but it's clearly an Oscar Schmidt build. In form it's almost identical to higher-grade Sovereign-branded OS instruments but it's several steps further in ornamentation. To corroborate this, the engraved tailpiece cover is of a type that I've only known OS to use and the scale length (13 1/4") is peculiar to OS mandolins for the most part.

So, this is a customer's instrument, and the repair included: reglue of all top bracing, hairline crack fill/cleat on rear, fretboard extenson removal/reshaping/regluing, fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup. 

Remarkably, the instrument has all of its original hardware, too!


After work, this thing plays beautifully and sounds gorgeous. I did notice that the bass side of the neck sprung up with just a tiny, tiny hair of relief tuned to pitch, even with the 32w-9 extra light strings. It's so minimal, though, that the action remains a super-cozy 1/16" at the 12th fret.

There are no cracks except for one hairline on the back. The top is solid spruce while the back and sides are flamed solid maple. The neck is maple as well and is two-piece in build.


Nice pearl inlay throughout...! The nut is celluloid and original.


The vine pearl inlay down the board is fantastic and the board is double-bound in celluloid.


The soundhole rosette would have started off with accents of bright green, as would the outside purfling, too.

The fretboard extension on this guy had to be taken off and refit as the treble side of it had warped "up" past the 10th fret which meant that action would never have been able to be dialed in correctly without buzzing. If you look carefully, you'll notice that the treble side of the board becomes a "wedge" shape past the 10th fret join with the body and the binding was cut down to fit.

When neck sets are good and the geometry of the instrument has slightly changed, this is an avenue I pursue quite often as it's less invasive (and just as good, provided bridge height is still good and the neck joint is secure) as a full neck reset, which would mean that the extension would probably be wedged up from underneath, anyway.


Rosewood bridge with celluloid saddle.


Here's that typically-OS engraved "cloud tailpiece" cover.


Isn't that maple nice? Note also how all edges are "multi-bound" with two laminations of binding.



The engraved, recessed tuners are also very pretty.


Classy lines...



I've never seen another OS mandolin that's been this gussied-up and it's fun to see the potential of that brand. I'd put this instrument squarely up in competition with flatback Vegas, nicer Regal-made flatback Washburns, and Martin flatbacks any day.

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