11/08/2013

c.1910 Ditson "Empire" Bowlback Mandolin


This understated but obviously upscale mandolin was more than likely made by the Larson Brothers for Ditson, the giant music retailer. It's related to the various Mayflower style and other Ditson mandolins I've worked on in the past. What this mando has in spades is a professional feel and gorgeous, rich classical voice. It's got such a nice voice (as these usually do) that they make great crossover instruments into other styles (folk, Celtic) than those you typically see these used for (classical, Italian, or Greek folk music).

Work included a light fret level/dress, some cleaning, and a setup. It's in overall great shape with the only crack repair along a rib seam on the bowl (see below). There are no cracks on the top but there's some play and usewear showing here and there. The finish is clean and fairly gleaming, though, and it plays beautifully with super-slick action (a hair under 1/16" at the 12th fret) on 32w-9 (GHS A240 set) bowlback-gauge strings.




Canted spruce top... note that the bridge straddles the "bend" in the top. I see this a lot on these make of bowlback.


Rosewood headstock veneer and nice-quality enclosed tuners. Original bone nut.


Pearl dots in an ebony board with low, thin bar frets (I barely touched these as they were in pretty good shape).


The purfling and rosette is all inlaid wood strips. This has rosewood binding on the top edge.


Faux-tortoise inlaid celluloid pickguard. The bridge is nicely-cut ebony with a wedge of bone inset. To adjust action up (for whatever reason) a player can shim under the bone with veneers of hardwood (or similar). I actually didn't have to touch the bridge height at all -- it setup perfectly after adjusting the nut. This goes to show that the build quality was good enough that the instrument has simply not drifted at all over time in specs!


The cloud tailpiece is still extant (yay).




Nice rosewood bowl with black-finished neck...



Nice, engraved tuner plate spells out "Ditson Empire" with floral motifs. I lubed the tuners, too, and also note the "volute" at the bottom of the headstock -- very typical of Larson-credited mandos (but also Vegas).



This one seam has an old repair. I back-filled any chipped-out edges with some wood dust and sealed them. Good to go!



There's the label!

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