8/16/2016

1910s Oscar Schmidt-made Stella Bowlback Mandolin



A customer surprised me on Sunday morning with this little gem. She's a classical mandolin player and has many students, so she bought it from a friend who was offering it in the hopes of getting a good instrument on-the-cheap for one of her students. She scored!

I did the work while she waited, which only included a fret level/dress, tuner lube, bridge compensation, strings, setup, and cleaning. It was in otherwise excellent condition, though it's now playing to spec and has a good feel.


The first thing you notice about Schmidt-made bowlbacks is that they feel a bit "stiff" in construction off the bat. Well... all their instruments feel that way. The surprising thing is that they dish out an awful lot of volume and a good dose of "tone" despite that. Their guitars are surprisingly vibrant despite their heavier build.


The rosewood headstock veneer looks pretty impressive on that long headstock shape.


While all the rest of the instrument is gussied-up -- a mahogany neck, Brazilian rosewood bowl, and spruce top -- the fretboard is the usual stained-maple OS fare.



The owner originally though the pickguard was painted-on, but it's actually an inlaid celluloid one with pearl and wood inlays.


Shockingly, the Waverly "cloud" cover is still with it.




The tuners were painfully "stuck" when this came in. I replaced a number of the mounting screws and then lubed them and prayed they'd un-freeze. They're now working pretty well, though I sure hope that if this receives a ton of play, StewMac repro-style tuners get installed.



As the owner noted to me, the OS bowlbacks do have longer and deeper bodies than other contemporary American makes.




There's the classic Stella label.

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