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Location: Oosterhout, Noord Brabant, Netherlands

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Anonymous Mandolins

This mandolin lost its label but
possibly it never was there.
17 ribs on the back besides the two
bigger endribs.
On both sides of the endcap it has
two holes in order to enlarge its
sonical response. Regarding the
endcaps' lay out this had to be done by
 the luthier himself.

Dave Hynds helped me a lot in solving
the mystery and finding the origin
of this instrument. Several things are
pointing in the direction of Carlo Loveri
who was quite a respected luthier
and known for his violins as well.
This endcap lay out as well as the two holes
on both sides is a Carlo Loveri invention.

Again a crackfree soundboard though most
cracks are repairable and do not influence the
sound of the instrument
in a negative way. This one has a nice
woody sound! The soundboard inlay and the
edge just underneath it indeed has a lot
in common with the Loveri mandolins.
Furthermore the bracing of the soundboard
is typical as is the neck inlay to its' body.
The headshape differs from most Loveri
mandolins but this was a common one
at the turn of the century (1900) being the
Vinaccia lay-out.

The Carlo Loveri & Figlio Label as it should be:
Signed in red pencil. I recently was able to investigate
the strutting of the soundboard. Loveri uses braces of
remarkable width as can be concluded from
the colouring of the wood of the table. See picture below.

With many thanks to Dave Hynds for providing these pics.
the same remarkable width of the braces in my mandolin.
I presume it was Dave's choice to replace the original
ones with a tinier construction for sound purposes.

Anonymous Instrument

This anonymous instrument has a real nice tone
and probably the headstock and scratchplate
shape can tell a bit more regarding its' builder.

Beautiful choice of woods as the brazilian rosewood
colours this back in a surprising way.

This mandolin also bears no label but I was able to
compare it with a Giuseppe Vinaccia put up for
sale on an auction in London. The scratchplate
design as well as the edges of that instrument were
similar. From the headshape you can't tell that
much as a lot of mandolins had this headshape.
The sound is very distinctive and punchy however.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mirecourt Mandolins (France)

Though quality of these french mandolins wasn't bad at all
it should be said that some bigger trade firms as e.g. Laberte
had italian style bowlback mandolins made in Mirecourt.
Though most of them bear italian sounding labels these
instruments were produced at the beginning of the 20th
century because demand was big in this golden era for
the mandolin. It isn't even impossible that parts used on
these mandolins were directly ordered from Italian
companies. See for some interesting catalogue information on

The back of this Mirecourt mandolin that had the brandname Ozelli.
13 ribs that were alternate maple or rosewood. The documentation
on the site luthiers-mirecourt show some more elaborate models.
This is a plain one but still with a nice sound and restored to
it's original condition though I've added an ebony fingerboard.

Brands that were used by the several Mirecourt based companies
were: Bocari, Carmencita, Collin-Mezin, Genre Dorigo, Giacomelli,
Phébé, Santorino, Stridello and Fratelli Umberto among others.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vincenzo Adamo / Luigi Borelli


After having purchased the second mandolin
presented here I was very curious about another
instrument of this Naples based builder.
This instrument is in fact the second Adamo.

The back has 15 ribs but no caps glued
on it's sides which is quite remarkable.
The sound of this instrument is very loud,
maybe because of this feature.
I've added a new ebony fingerboard and a compensated
bridge on this instrument. Apart from the usual
loose ribs on the back, it's soundboard and the
neck alignement proved to be absolutely perfect.
A good instrument but it lacks a bit the warmth of
the following instrument represented here
though it's balance is very good.

This Naples situated builder used a fairly wide grained top
on this simple instrument. However the sound was very surprising!
A very musical and warm sound with lots of volume and sustain.

The satin finished back of this furthermore quite plain mandolin.
Comparing these two instruments was quite remarkable as
these instrument seemed to be built by different luthiers to me.
In order to keep up with the demand for the then very
popular mandolins it was not uncommon to have
more instruments produced under license.

As can be clearly seen this label has the Paul Beuscher
addition. In a 1900 catalogue of this firm is proudly stated
they directly import the instruments of Vincente Adamo
and Guiseppe Venzana. On top of the label the year and
number of manufacturing should be visible but alas
the writing has fainted.


Though sometimes one must keep in mind that instruments
only branded on the soundboard tend to be just dealers,
not luthiers, I found a Luigi Borelli on E-bay that had a label 
inside as well. So it could have been the other way round:
Someone else built this instrument for Borelli.
In those times it was not uncommon luthiers
supplied each other with parts and even instruments.

Anyway, a nicely decorated  instrument with a very loud voice
and apart from that simply a good sound as well.

I think the cristal clear tones from this instrument can
be contributed partly to the use of a brass bridgesaddle.

I've added a new fingerboard (and frets of course)
in order to get a comfortable playability and a
possibility for the higher notes (2 octave neck.)
As the new fingerboard has been held thicker, the
mandolin has a better resistance against string
pressure and there is more space for picking as the
strings are a bit higher from the soundboard.

Cremona 545' by masterbuilder Bräuer / Castagnieri / Mario Casella / La Corona

Handcarved mandolin 

It took some effort to learn more about this typical mandolin.
It was already obvious that the manufacturer would be European.
The string holder e.g. has been used by Framus and Hoffner a.o.
Thanks to some people who reacted on my question and now
it is clear. A Cremona model "545' by master builder Bräuer
from Schonbach. This particular model resembles the model
457 from Hoffner. What exactly happened between Hoffner
and Cremona (Bräuer) is not yet clear. High end models of
bigger companies were often made by luthiers and by hand.

From the information I've got from the readers of the
mandolin cafe materials for the soundbox were all
laminated and pressed in this form with the help of steam.

I do my best of course to make beautiful pictures but
the honor in photographing this instrument must go to:
Simply great pictures of a remarkable instrument.

The strange form of the "F" holes are sometimes called "cats' eyes"
and indeed, I can agree to that.

Meticulous woodwork can be seen by observing the bridge.
The bottom being ebony and the top out of rosewood.

The string holder that can also be seen on the Framus andHoffner mandolins.

Riveted worm wheel holders that are present on most better
quality tuners.

Special attention to detail! It can be seen here in the binding.


A plain mandolin that proves that basic instruments
doesn't have to be of poor quality. In the contrary:
This instrument has a loud, fresh tone and very even
sound among the stringpairs. The way it sounds
reminds me a lot of the Nicolas Spoto mandolin
further in this blog.

The back that has been unaltered because it still was
in great shape. 15 ribs made out of brasilian rosewood.
A nice straight neck that received a newly added
ebony fingerboard (19 frets)
It stays in tune well and the octavepitch is
OK. Original tuners that work well.

I think most of these mandolins come from other manufacturers
as the brand can be added later on by its seller.
This is a neapolitain mandolin from around 1900.

The knobs have been cleaned and the tuners
oiled a bit. Still working great!


This mandolin clearly shows other decorations as opposed to the
Napels based builders of that time. The soundhole has a straight side
on the right which is thought to be a Calace invention.
The back of the Casella mandoline shows 19 ribs.

The handsigned label of this mandoline from Catania.

And another Mario Casella that shows some features of
the famous Embergher mandolins e.g. de non symmetrical
scratchplate and the headform (a bit), More Sicilian builders
did this, Puglisi Reale e Figli for instance.

A nice Brasilian rosewood back in pristine condition.

What allways is of importance is the neck angle as more
than often the soundboard deforms under the string pressure.

The seam of the two halves of this soundboard loosened
and to make things stable again I made an insert from
the bottom all the way up to the scratch plate.
Though the Catania based builders do not have the 
same status as the ones from Naples and Rome this is a 
decent built instrument with a nice sound quality.
Casella allways branded his instruments as can
be studied here. It says: Mario Casella - Catania.
The label has been hand signed as on most of
his instruments.

La Corona

This instrument has been restored to its' original condition.
It is a finely made instrument with the original fingerboard
and frets. Nicely decorated edges and soundhole.

Beautifully shaped back as well and closed tuners that
are tastefully engraved and still work well.

A close shot of the sound hole decoration but also the
fine grained top can be studied here!

I made an effort to make a picture of its' label which says:
Strumenti a Corda (Stringed instruments)
La Corona
Marca di Fabrica  (Factory brand)
Materiali Scelti (Selected materials)
Lavorazione accuratissima (accurate work)
Voce Brilliante e Robusta (brilliant and strong voice)

The tuners that a securely engraved.

The head form that is pointing towards the Napolitian
mandolin builders as the Vinaccia family. This brand 
can be found also on the site of Dave Hynds.

Luigi Dorigo "DeMeglio" model 1899 / Embergher Luigi Orchestra Mandolin II - I and Mandola

Luigi Dorigo "DeMeglio" model mandolin in
pristine condition. No cracks or reparations of
any kind. The little piece of wood to press the 
strings downwards behind the bridge has gone. 
Easy to make but I would not recommend it.

The back has been relacquered probably. 
It exists of 15 ribs and two closing ribs.

Closed machineheads as was common on the
more expensive models. They do resemble 
the DeMeglio tuners a lot.

A nice and straight neck, veneered as was 
done by most mandolin manufacturers.

The endcap that still has its' original finish.

The snakewood linings. And the typical holes
on each side of this instrument.

The tuners and you are able to study a kind 
of "double fret" topnut mounted here.

Besides a nicely ornamented scratchplate the
position markers are strange in a way that they
have drilled holes in the center. Same on the head.

A very well preserved soundboard and scratchplate.
This instrument hasn't been played a lot but the reason 
for that simply is not the sound which is even better 
than the DeMeglio mandolins I had.

The holes in the center of the position markers
can be studied here. Just click on the picture.

This is the DeMeglio Headform or was it the other
way round? DeMeglio copied Luigi Dorigo?

At the bottom the two holes in the soundboard still
can be seen. A mandolin with a nice playing action

No damages on the soundboard itself which is 
remarkable for a 123 year old instrument.


A very well preserved mandolin type Orchestra II.
Somewhat later built but still with the same care!
Year of production: 1947.

This mandolin type Orchestra II has 28 ribs out
of maple. It is in a near new condition apart 
from some strange scratches between bridge 
and stringguard.

Beautiful figured woods used for the ribs.

The asymmetrical scratichplate is there as is the
inlay in the headstock. Stamped on the back.

The tuners ofen differed from each other within

Still gracefullly with a small damage on the headstock
high left but I will cure that before the selling.

Tuners that still work well.

Though these pictures can be misleading as for the 
camera doesn't keep longer lines straight this neck
is in good shape.

Extended fingerboard as is present on all Orchestra models.

The original bridge and endcap. Some scratches
on this furthermore like new instrument.

Luigi Embergher Orchestra I model.

A bit of an odd looking Luigi Emberger as on most models
that typical asymmetrical scratchplate can be found.
This model definately is an orchestra model as Embergher
only started to produce student instruments on request
after a while. This instrument can be dated 1902.

The back still is in a gorgeous condition but that has
everything to do with the way he veneered the inside
of his backs so chances are small that ribs will open.

Information can be found on various sites that claimed Embergher
started in the Via delle Carrozze 19 in 1903. That explains this
fairly plain label though it is widely known that Embergher
used a variety of labels. This instrument is dated on
this label 1902!

By clicking on this picture you are able to determine
that in the lower middle of this label the year has been
handwritten. The veneering of his mandolins can
be studied here as well.

The nice headshape with its new tuners and still
the broken nut that I've replaced with an ivory one.

Curious of course is that this engraving has been done without the h
but original anyway. Check Willam Petits' site regarding this
particular model. The engraving on the back of that headstock
appears to be exactly the same.

Though not clearly visible this instrument has a nice playing action
the Embergher mandolins are known for.

A shot of the stringholder and the endcap. It has to be
said once again: Soundwise these instruments are hardly beatable
not only volumewise but they also have a great tone
and nice basses as well. The odd key under the stringhooks
has a purpose as well: To keep the metal stringguard in
place. However that has disappeared regretfully.


Presented here is a mandola out of the Orchestra Series 1.
This particular instrument was made in 1925 and has all original
parts though it needs some restaurationwork as the harmonic
bars came off and as a result the soundboard deformed.

In fact a bit strange as some ribs loosened while
Embergher mandolins are known for their solid
bowl construction. But in nearly 100 years a lot
can happen to an instrument.

The head form from the Orchestra modells differs from
that of the student models although even these instruments
are of a high quality. Original tuners with ebony knobs.

The head has been stamped on the front and you can study
it quite close by clicking on this picture.

Somebody tried to reglue some ribs but this
can be done better once the soundboard has been removed.

The tuners that only needed to be oiled to work properly again.
These tuners also stand for quality as do the woods choosed.

The Mandola with its' fingerboard removed. The first thing
to do was to make this removal as only then the soundboard
can be removed. This can be done with fairly simple tools
as a sharp and thin cutting knife and a Hair dryer.
I start at the top (first fret) and while masking of the wood 
of the head, I''ll heat the fingerboard only on the first 2 or 
3 frets.That's enough to work in a razor blade knife (The 
ones in the older shaving equipments) Than follows the 
slightly thicker blade so I can work in some water with 
an injection needle. After some time (hours!)repeat the last
procedure and try to work the knife towards the soundbox
carefully checking both sides of the fingerboard to keep
things straight. The other end of the fretboard should be kept
wet by winding a wet towel around it. Leave it there for
at least 8 hours. When you have worked your way towards the 
soundbox the extended fingerboard allready should be loose.

The soundboard removed without any damage and that
is something you allways hope for. At first I tried it with 
in water drenched cottonwool and place it on the glued
parts to be removed. The rest sometimes with a heated 
knife, a hair dryer and even a flatiron for the part nearest
to the inner heel. No cracks anywhere!

A nice shot of the label then is possible.

The inner bracing loosened and most likely after that the 
soundboard deformed as a result of string tension.
A possible solution could be to remove the braces and
bow the soundboard back as too much pressure is needed
to glue them back in place now.


This family is claimed to be one of the more important families
that built mandolines at the turn of the century.
This instrument has a good balance and even response of all stringpairs.
A nice full and brilliant tone comes out of this mandoline.
The back of the Esposito mandoline shows clearly that
maple ribs have been used for this bowlback.

The label of the Fratelli Esposito mandolin
stating they are pupils of the Vinaccia family.
It also dates this instrument on 1897.