Also posted this on Mandolin Hangout...
I just got a banjo mandolin with elaborate inlay on the fretboard. I am assuming the inlay is not original, since the peghead inlay seems simpler. The instrument does not have any maker's marks. It does have what seems to be an Orpheum tone ring. My question is, is the shape of the tailpiece a clue as to the maker?
I'm assuming the instrument is from the teens or 20s...
This is certainly reminiscent of an Orpheum no1, w/ several different features, (the peg head shape, neck, tuners, heel & number of hooks are like a no 1, but the fancy fretboard, neck brace, dowel pole & pot thickness (maybe), & pot cap are different. Your instrument does not seem to have the archtop of an Orpheum. This could be an R&L product, but w/ variations made for some sub contractor
Edited by - tdennis on 07/11/2020 21:05:00
Some really gorgeous birds-eye maple veneer on the inside and outside of the pot, by the way.
The tailpiece is referred to as a cloud tailpiece. They were used a lot on early Gibsons but were not exclusive to that brand.
The fingerboard is probably imported from the Orient- possibly the work of Tony Tsai.
The tailpiece was manufactured by Kluson. As that firm was founded in 1925 and the banjo-mandolin looks a little older, the tailpiece is likely not original.
I agree with Jim Bollman on the provenance of the fretboard.
The original parts of the instrument have a Rettberg & Lange vibe.
The pictures are not clear, but I’m going with Bollman on this one. Pretty much looks like a 1920’s R&L with new fingerboard from Antonio Tsai.
Some of his work from the 90’s was pretty detailed and got close to being what I would call near quality work.
I used to buy his finger boards and turn them into picture frames or give them as random gifts to my banjo playing friends. Always brought a smile.
If the frets are in the correct place for intonation, I’m sure you have a fine player there. Heck, it’s a banjo mandolin, I never in my life heard anyone who could keep one of those in tune.
Thanks everybody! Always liked the sound of banjo-mandos for playing ragtime tunes.
It looks identical to my Orpheus banjo mando, minus the name of course. Lange product for sure
The tone ring is not Orpheum and the tailpiece is pretty ubiquitous. I've seen very similar "cloud" tailpieces on many instruments made before 1925. The early Vega "K" had a cloud tailpiece riveted to the tension hoop, and I've seen one on a Fairbanks bowl-back mandolin from the 1890's.
I don't know how common the cloud tailpiece was on mandolin banjos, but it was very common on mandolins.
It was the standard tailpiece on just about all Martin mandolins through their entire production history, except some of the early bowl back instruments. It was also standard issue on most Vega mandolins, Larson mandolins, and many Chicago made mandolins.
'Share your banjo journey' 22 min
'Johnson Boys' 29 min
'YouTube Page!' 46 min
'Opus 57 in Gm' 2 hrs