1/29/2016

1890s Lyon & Healy "American Conservatory" Bowlback Mandolin





Update: Since posting I've done a bit more work for the customer including replacing the missing pearl trim pieces and making a second, ebony, bridge. The above and directly below pictures show the current state of the instrument.




 


Now back to the original post...

This is a customer's bowlback that came in for a major overhaul. It's a Lyon & Healy product with the "American Conservatory" branding inside (supposedly lower-grade than L&H Washburns, though this has more bling than the entry level Washburns). I still thing these may have been made for L&H by Regal before their move to Chicago, though I have no proof of it other than that these instruments are very, very similar to late-1800s Regal-branded instruments as well.


Anyhow, this one arrived in brutal shape: ribs separating from the neckblock, a loose neck, cracks un-cleated on the top, ribs separating on the bowl, and plenty of grime. The pearl trim around the top edge was missing, beforehand, as well (and still is). Thus, work included some tricky regluing of the ribs to the neckblock, a tricky neck reset (these are frustratingly-hard to clamp for gluing with all the curvy joints), fretboard extension "wedging," a fret level/dress, new bone (compensated) bridge, and crack repairs as well as "popsicle" reinforcement under the fretboard extension. It's a shopping list, for sure!

Below are the original pictures...



Surgery turned-out well and it now sports a nice tall bridge, spot-on 1/16" action at the 12th fret, and easy playability. The strings are 32w-9 GHS A240s and it has a proud, fairly loud voice for a mid-grade bowlback.


Ebony is used for the fretboard and alternating edging. The frets are bar frets and the dots are pearl.


The rosette was probably colorful (bright reds and yellows) when made but has aged-in to this muted look.


My new bone bridge is compensated and also brings out "a bit more tone" on these old guys.



The cover is simply held on by friction -- and has that "wrist rest" shape that some of these old ones do. I've muted under the cover to dampen string-afterlength overtones.



The top is spruce, the neck is mahogany, and the bowl is... Brazilian rosewood. Note all the wear and tear and missing bits in-between some of the ribs. These have been all glued back-up and filled where needed.





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