c.1920 Frank Borges Octave Mandolin Conversion

This is the same Portuguese guitar I fixed up and have sold/traded/kept several times since I originally posted it. No one (myself included) seems to have bonded with it for long in its Portuguese guitar format (12 strings in 6 courses) as we've all wanted it to be something it wasn't. So... I converted it! This time it's an octave mandolin (GDAE low to high an octave below mandolin) with 3 strings on each course. I also swapped out the tailpiece for an old mandolin-style one and splurged on a set of new StewMac repro-style 12 string guitar tuners.

The result? Rumble, rumble. This has a huge, rich voice that's quite unlike a modern US-made carved-top octave mandolin and also quite unlike the sometimes icy "Celtic" variety. It loves to be crosspicked (plus runs) as a backing instrument for singing or playing under lead instruments in group work and as an instrument "on its lonesome" it's got a very sweet, sustained, but decently carrying voice. I have it strung with a set and a half of GHS octave mandolin strings and while the gauges are fairly light for this scale length I think they're perfect for it. This is not an instrument you want to bang on thumping chords, anyhow.

Flatsawn spruce or pine over cigar-box style mahogany... so typical for Portuguese guitars to have such odd wood. It sounds great, though, so who cares, really?

The new StewMac tuners were direct drop-ins and they function perfectly. The nut is the original bone one which I've just added some slots to for stringing in this fashion.

I added some clay side dots at the same time. The original brass frets are still in good shape after their initial leveling/dressing in 2012. Note the fairly wide neck (1 5/8" as I recall) and the steep radius: this pushes the neck right into your hand and it feels great when you're doing some closed position chords up the neck especially on the treble side... there's no worrying about getting a clean sound.

The original rosewood/fret saddle bridge modified-up just fine, too.

...and there are the new StewMac tuners. Good stuff -- AND black buttons!

1 comment:

mark Duggan said...

that sounds very cool. I had a 9 string waldzither but never cared for the traditional tuning which I can't recall..some form of open C??