3/05/2014

c.1949 Heberlein Carved-top Mandolin




Well, Heberlein violins are familiar to me -- but certainly not mandolins and definitely not this curious carved-top, Campanella-esque affair from 1949. This is a customer's instrument and now that repairs are all complete, it will be up for sale. The label bears a typical violin-style "Heinrich Th. Heberlein jr. -- Markneukirchen" mark with the TH crest and 1949 scribbled as the build date.

So -- who built it? Probably someone in the workshop, I'd guess. It's a fantastically high-quality instrument and takes all its cues from the violin world: finely-graduated carved spruce top, simple strip kerfing, absurdly-pretty flamed maple for the back, sides, and neck stock and a very small endblock. The top and back has "violin edging" in that the edges overlap the sides and are unbound but do have purfling.

And tone-wise? Killer. This came to me with Thomastik flatwound strings on it and they're ideal for this instrument: creamy mids with a tight low and a sweet but powerful high end are coming out of this. It has that familiar carved-top "punch" but with a decidedly more classical or jazz voice -- this is not a barking bluegrass instrument.



All those good looks aren't spoiled at all by a nicely-applied French polish finish.


The slotted headstock is "very German" in shape.


This has a radiused ebony board with nickel-silver frets, pearl dots, and a "floating" extension like on a violin. The neck is good and straight and the frets leveled and dressed-up nicely. Action is low and quick at 1/16" at the 12th fret (and a hair below on the treble side).


The "baroque" style f-holes are so classy.


Either this bridge was cut-down or there was a different one on it for a time. It's ebony and nicely-fit to the top though I did have to add some shims to get the action up a bit.


This tailpiece is metal but has a violin-style ebony covering. The two hairlines you see to either side of it have been cleated... and while we're on the subject, the other repairs included regluing the whole top seam after cleating those cracks, a fret level/dress, and setup.

I got to check the inside out a little better while I was working on the cracks and it's all ship-shape and expertly-built in there, though an old center-seam repair (under the "extra string length" behind the bridge) let some glue drops onto the back. I tried to remove what I could, though, while at it.


Yeah, it's nice maple.



These tuners look American to me, but I could be wrong.





The purfling is classy.


There are two tiny screw holes in the mando: one on the side and one near the fretboard extension. These were for an after-market raised pickguard that had been installed on the instrument. They're definitely not original as there's a bit of pickwear under where it was installed (probably the reason for its installation) and the pickguard and bracket wasn't up to the same quality as the original build.


An oversize endpin holds the tailpiece nicely.




A soft case and the pickguard and hardware come with the instrument.

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