4/20/2015

1900s J.G. Schroeder Bowlback Mandolin




I worked on this mandolin for a customer and that entailed a fret level/dress, new bone bridge, and setup with a set of "bowlback gauge" GHS A240 (32w-9) strings. It plays spot-on and has a tone and build quality that reminds me of very early Vegas (like this one). I don't think it was made by Vega but it has that feel and sound. There are certain differences -- rounded, slightly heavier bracing, for one -- and an interesting "wedged" rosewood underlay beneath the fretboard -- that definitely put off any suggestion it's a Boston make. But -- that's the closest "drop off" point of reference.

It's obviously a pretty instrument, with a spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, topped with an ebony board and plenty of pearl inlay in the pickguard. It's also in great shape: no cracks! Good neck set! Nothing loose!



The recessed tuners are going strong and the bone nut is, too.


The rosette recalls German mandolins from the time while the trim is totally American.


The board is ebony with bar frets and pearl dots.


Nice pickguard, huh?


The bridge location is right on the bend and this has a 13 1/4" scale length. I made a new bone (compensated) bridge which is patterned like the original ebony/bone one. I really like the sound of all-bone bridges and tend to use them as replacements on bowlbacks. I used a replacement as the original bridge had been snapped and glued-up in the past and was sagging in the center of the top. With this new bridge in place the top doesn't really sag much any more as this has more stiffness and sort of acts like a reverse brace because of that.


A fancy tailpiece cover is icing on the cake...



...and how do you like those tuner plates, too? The neck looks like it might be Spanish cedar?






There's the J.G. Schroeder, New York branding on the neck block. How do you like that tortoise edging at the soundhole?

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