2/08/2014

c.1920 DeWick Bandonian Wood-Resonator Mandolin




This intriguing little fella is a customer's instrument that was in for some work. It looks like it's been repaired a little sloppily here and there several times and the top shows evidence of extra finish, but after a bit of tweaking (a very light fret level/dress, neck adjustment, some seam reglues and fills of hairline cracks, new bone nut and bone bridge topper, cleaning, what-have-you...) it's playing just fine and feels a lot more healthy than it was.

These DeWick wooden-top resonator-style mandolins (the branding labels them as "Bandonians") have a curious tone: they're a mix of bowlback classical-mandolin focus and clarity with a resonator mandolin's punch and cut especially on the high end and a carved-top mandolin's thick midrange. It's not surprising that they work especially well for old Italian-sounding tunes and fast chipper fills.




The spruce top is mated to a banjo-style thicker internal rim that has arched feet that are glued to the rosewood back of the instrument. Like a Weymann megaphonic-style banjo rim from the 30s, this lets the sound out from underneath to then be focused forward by the fairly thick walls of the resonator shell. It also makes an attractive, cool-looking instrument that totally removes the player's dampening effects via the arm unless you happen to be a finger-planter (I'm guilty of that).


Note the piece of replaced binding. Bound headstock with rosewood veneer. A few tuner buttons have also been replaced here and there.


Though the frets are pretty low and the neck has a hair of warp, the customer and I decided to level and dress them for now and save a plane and refret (or possible re-board) for later work if necessary. The board was mucked around a bit previously and has the telltale marks of someone trying to use an oversize diamond file to round off the fret tops. Of course it didn't work because -- look at the size of the frets! -- they're tiny by today's standards.


I'm guessing this is an original ebony bridge. The bone topper that came with it was too low and uncompensated, though, so I made this new one to replace it. The scale on this guy is 13 1/4" though with the extra back-angle from the tailpiece end and bridge height it feels more like a stiffer Gibson-style 13 7/8" to the touch.


The old inset pickguard was long gone. I installed this black one in its place. Believe it or not this is my third try to get something to fit well in the recessed area. I always have a bugger of a time doing this! I of course steel-wooled the new pickguard to get it a bit pre-aged and non-glossy.


Nice rosewood back and sides... and two new ebony strap buttons (one replaced a screw that was sunk into the heel for such use).



See the dampness damage to the finish over here? I tried to get rid of the blush but it wouldn't come out for me.





I like the engraved plates with the cute "DeWick's Bandonian" patent medallion. Note also the rosewood back-strapping on this side. Classy!

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