8/16/2014

c.1900 Bay State Bowlback Mandolin




Bay State instruments were made by Haynes in Boston and this one probably dates from around 1890-1900. This one is all original save a new bone nut. It's got a sweet bowlback sound that's not as dense and low-end resonant as something like a Vega or Larson product but it actually sounds surprisingly alike to the last Martin bowlback I had in the shop: rich and focused in the midrange.

Work included an endblock reglue, seam repairs and a hairline crack reglue on the top, a fret level/dress, headstock repair reinforcement, new nut, cleaning, and setup. I also glued up a bit of the crackling celluloid pickguard to keep it intact for the time being. I have this strung with 32w-9 (GHS A240 set) strings which are much closer to gauges and tension of period sets compared with "regular lights" at 34w-10 or the usual "bluegrass" gauges you might find at most guitar shops running 38w-11 or so.



The top and soundhole are bound and both have some cute purfling around them. Bracing is simple ladder style which is typical for bowlbacks of all stripes.

Wood here is Brazilian rosewood for the bowl, fretboard, and bridge... mahogany for the neck... and spruce for the top.


The headstock was long-ago broken and then repaired right inboard of the bass-side tuners. I added 5 dowels to reinforce this old repair so it should be good to go for a long, long time. New bone nut.


Rosewood isn't too common on old bowlbacks and it's a little frustrating to me: rosewood is a perfect complement to a bowlback's tone as it imparts a bit more warmth and sweetness vs. dyed maple (which is typical on most old bowls) or ebony (which is typical on nicer-grade bowls). Those are pearl dots.



Action height and feel is perfect at a hair below 1/16" at the 12th fret. I compensated the original rosewood bridge and also jacked it up just a little bit with a thin "foot."


The simple tailpiece... works! ...and I've stuffed some foam (as usual) under the cover section to mute the extra string length.



The rosewood bowl had several open seams and small hairline cracks which have all been glued up.


After a lube the original (Waverly) tuners are working great.


The neck set is perfectly good to go after all these years.




Here you can see the dowels I added and also the imprint of someone's clamping from long ago! Couldn't they have bothered with just a bit of wood spacer? Sheesh!



There's the Bay State label in the soundhole. Like most other bowlbacks from the time the bowl itself is lined with paper to support the ribs.

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