1/23/2015

1920s Stromberg-Voisinet 2-Point Flatback Mandolin




While this is labeled "Victoria" in the soundhole, this is clearly a product of the Stromberg-Voisinet (in 1930, Kay) factory and follows the stylings of their 2-point guitars and tenor guitars in mandolin form. I worked on a fancy mahogany model in 2010, and like that one, this one has a sturdy feel in the hands and a good, midrange, cutty old-time sound. It's in good shape and all-original except for a new pickguard (which replaced a similarly-styled "aftermarket" pickguard) and a missing tailpiece cover.

Work included bolting the heel (with countersunk evidence at the back of the heel's bottom), giving it a fret level/dress, compensating the original bridge, and a general going-through, cleaning, and setup. At the same time I reinforced a damaged under-fretboard-extension area on the top with a "strapping brace" (thin and wide like a bridge plate) as there were a few hairline cracks under it and to the side of it.


Like most flatback mandos from the time, the top has a "cant" like Italian-style bowlback mandolins that came before them.


The tuners are interestingly-recessed and installed into the middle of the headstock. 


Unlike the ebony bridge, the fretboard is simply "ebonized" and made from stained maple. The dots are pearl, though.




Because there's no tailpiece cover, I muted the afterlength of the strings right under them at the end, just like the action of the "chenilled" ends like you'd see on period strings.


While the top is solid spruce, the back and sides are solid birch with a sunburst color. Both the top and back are bound in celluloid.


There's an old few-inch hairline crack that was glued-up long ago. I refilled and sealed it, too, just in case.


Because of the recessed tuners, the back of the headstock was free to get this very cool relief work pressed (or carved?) into it.


While the neck set was decent, I don't trust the dovetails on these instruments. Every time I don't bolt them I regret it as the channels tend to be cut too straight. Therefore I've countersunk a bolt with adjustment access in the soundhole into the heel/neck block. You can see the small "disturbed" patch at the back of the heel in this blown-up shot. It's really not noticeable in person.


Did you spy the other addition? I put some side dots on it.




The headstock binding gives it a rich look, too.


Nice cut to these, huh? I've got it strung with 32w-9 strings where are period-gauged but 34w-10 lights would be OK, too. It's got a typical 13" scale length, though the slightly beefier/wider neck vs. other makes from the time mean it feels more like a Larson flatback in the hands.

7 comments:

EdHanrahan said...

Nice job, Jake!

Question: Did you have occasion to access the tuning gears, that is, taking out the black bakelite (?) plugs from the headstock? I have one of these and those black plugs don't look all too solid (some cracks, etc.) so I've avoided playing with them - because they might turn to dust.

Any words of advice?

- Ed H.

Jake Wildwood said...

Nope, I stay the heck away from fussing with this type of tuner because they're a bear to replace bits for. I think the plugs are actually "fiberloid" or vulcanized rubber. They dry up like mad.

Robert O'Hern said...

Interesting comments on the tuners. My wife has a very nice sounding A style Stromberg Voisinet, and one of the tuners has stripped gears inside. Been trying for two years to replace it, if you have any extras, or any ideas, I would be very interested.

King Alexander said...

Can any of you tell me whether these features appear only on Stromberg-Voisinet mandolins: (1) front-mounted tuners with black hard rubber buttons and the wide, black bushings, and (2) the same carved or (I also think probably) stamped floral or sheaf design on the back of a (3) offset, "Gumby" or Venetian-style headstock? The one I have is missing its label and has those features, but it is not a two-point. It is a canted teardrop with beautiful rosewood, zipper inlay, two-part cloud tailpiece. Other than the three features numbered above, it looks (and sounds) uncannily like a Leland Brilliantone, which is what I thought it was until I saw this. Contra-indicating Larson Brothers manufacture, it lacks the rosewood back extending over the mahogany heel within the binding, but I don't know whether they built that way exclusively. Its scale is only 12 1/3" (311 cm). I can oblige with photographs if desired. Thanks.

King Alexander said...

Typo: actually 12 1/4" (311 mm) scale.

Jake Wildwood said...

I'd need to see the photos but it sounds like your instrument is probably a SV. Larson-made instruments usually wrapped the binding around the heel's back edge.

King Alexander said...

On 8/16/2017 I sent you an email with six photo attachments of the mandolin in question. If that's not okay, I can send individual emails with the photos pasted into them. Now having looked at the 1920s SV Venetian-style two-point tenor guitar (posted 1/29/2012) and especially the SV c. 1930 parlor guitar (posted 1/20/2012) which pairs the "Gumby" head featuring pressed-on leaf design on back with a conventional body, I think your preliminary judgment is quite right, that the mandolin pairing that head style with a traditional A-style canted top oval hole body points strongly to Stromberg-Voisinet. Further indicating are the front-loaded machines with black buttons and bushings, which I haven't yet seen on any but SV instruments. My remaining questions are whether it more likely dates it to the 1920s versus 1930-31, and what label it could have sold under. I also wonder why I don't seen any images of Groeschel mandolins anywhere. I appreciate the value of your time, and will donate.