5/11/2016

1910s Vega-made Warren Bowlback Mandolin




While this mandolin bears a "Warren" of California label in the soundhole, I'm almost certain it's a teens-era Vega-make from Boston. It's close in spec to one of their "standard-issue" models like this 1912 Vega, and I've worked on enough of them to note the features, build style, and whatnot. It's the reason I bought it as I'm tremendously-fond of Vega-made mandolins of all stripes. It has a particularly good smoking gun -- a bridge placed "past the bend" which I associate almost entirely with Vega and Chicago-made Larson mandolins (which this does not resemble in build).

The other details all match-up enough to seal it as far as I'm concerned -- heel shape, ebony board and bar frets, finish style and grade of rosewood, dot location, the interesting side-dots, and the slim-ish body profile, "book" headstock cut, and bracing style. One can never be certain, but I'm 99.9% there... in the realm of fake percentages.


My only work was to give this a fret level/dress, make a new bone nut and new compensated rosewood bridge, and set it up with 32w-9 bowlback-gauge strings. It sounds... like a Vega... with a full, round, and quite loud "classical" voice. It also plays spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret.


The rosewood headstock veneer is nice.


Pearl dots, ebony board, original side dots (as far as I can tell), and those smallish but deep-cut bar frets fill out the usual neck appointments. The neck is nice and straight.

This has a 13 1/8" scale and the usual 1 1/8" nut width.


I like the "half-herringbone" purfling and cream binding around the top edge. The matching soundhole rosette is nice, too. The pickguard is in great shape (it's celluloid) save one hairline crack near its right edge.


The top has a very faint "sink" to it, though the bracing is all good. This is pretty typical for bowlbacks with a bridge past the bend (where it's unbraced). The "sink" is only about 1/64" overall and the bridge is fitted well.


The tailpiece was missing its cover so I muted the extra string length (to cut down on overtones) with a simple bit of foam padding.



The rosewood bowl is pretty... and the finish is in great health.


Yes, yes, it's Brazlian, of course.


The headstock is, interestingly, stamped with two numbers -- 53 here and 56 on the end of the headstock (its side).

The neck is mahogany.







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