3/22/2017

1917 Vega Regent Bowlback Mandolin





I bought this mandolin almost a year ago and that goes to show how crazily backed-up I've been if I can't even bring something that lures me with my own profit back to life in a timely manner! Fortunately, I've been juggling my schedule around lately and have been figuring out how to squeeze more actual repair time in successfully.

That aside... this is a great old Vega! These days, the only bowlback mandolins I buy are Vegas, Larsons, or Martins because I know they will turn out well. It's pretty hard to knock the voice of a Vega and I've worked on a ton of them in the past because of that. This one came to me in more-or-less healthy shape (it has no cracks), though I did need to reglue one seam on the back (another had been glued before) and give it a board plane, refret, and good setup. It's actually the first bowlback mandolin I've had the chance to refret (as I recall) and it was pretty exciting to try this one out with a brand new "set of tires," so to speak.

Materials-wise, this is classic good-quality, pro-grade Vega -- it has Brazilian rosewood in the bowl, a mahogany neck, rosewood headstock veneer, and an ebony fretboard and bridge. All of the original hardware is extant and the board itself is even bound and features some lightly-engraved pearl inlay. After work and setup with "bowlback" 32w-9 strings, it has a focused, rich, classical, and nicely-loud voice. It was clearly meant for ensemble work as the tone would be what I'd consider "precise."


Right -- and the top is spruce, of course, and has an inlaid, celluloid pickguard.


Bone nut, too...


During the board level, the bottom engraved inlay lost a bit of its engraving, but the effect is still rich.

This instrument has a 13" scale and should be strung with something like the GHS A240 set. Bowlbacks of the period used gauges between an "extra extra light" 28w-8 and "extra light" 30w-9 or so. It was only a bit later that mandolins became stressed-out with 34w-10-and-up gauges.


The top and soundhole are bound in cream celluloid and both have nice, multi-layered purfling.


The original ebony bridge is still full-height, though I've compensated the strings as best as I could despite its thinness. Note that Vega located its bridges mostly below the cant in the top -- and thus engaged the less-braced portion of the soundboard. I think this is partially why they have such great tone.

Action is spot-on at hair-below 1/16" at the 12th fret on the treble side and 1/16" on the bass side.


The original Waverly "cloud" cover for the tailpiece is extant.



There's some use-wear evident on the back of the bowl but it still looks nice. Two seams were glued up -- one by me and one by someone else.


The recessed tuners work just fine.









The original canvas bag is in good health, too!

FYI, I dated this via the 33286 serial stamped at the headstock.

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