c.1928 National Style 1 Resonator Mandolin

I've been having some very cool stuff through the shop. How does one follow up after a 1918 Gibson harp guitar and a 1930 Martin style 15 mando? ...with a vintage National, of course!

This one is very early production and has serial #212. This seems to date it to 1928, which makes sense, as it has the "original style" single cone with the unembossed (no ridges) profile. It's got the lovely German silver body in really good shape. I cleaned it up but did not polish it up -- I'll leave the mirror finish option to the eventual owner of this instrument. That said, it's quite clean and a sure beaut to look at.

This one has the cool "screen" coverplate that went out of fashion the same year this was built. I love the way these look -- almost aircraft-style. Note the missing section of holes -- an attempt to keep the pickwear from gouging the screen out.

Dark-stained headstock veneer, bone nut, nice National logo, and also check out the "strap hole" drilled through the headstock. This is really the only bit "wrong" with the instrument... and, to be fair, was the fashion for the times.

Bound ebony fretboard with pearl dots. My work on this instrument was mostly setup -- shim up the nut & file the slots, fret level/dress, and cleaning.


This is a replacement tailpiece, but looks like old National production to me. The original, which has a cracked bit, is in the case.

With a 15" scale (normal mando scale = 13 to 13 7/8") and resonator cone, this instrument has huge volume and power, but amazingly has a beautiful sound -- somewhere between a bluegrass instrument's chop and cut and a flattop mandolin's sweet sustain and warm bottom end.

Normally, I wouldn't suggest tuning to standard pitch with standard light (34w-10) or medium mandolin strings (I suggest tuning to E for either of those), but I have some GHS A240 "ultra lights" (32w-9) on here and they seem to be just about the right tension for standard tuning on this scale.

Original biscuit with bone saddle.

No dents or dings to be found. A few tiny scratches and discoloration in spots, but really very good condition.

See the 3-ply veneer for the headstock face? Cool! ...also, this is a nice 2-piece with center strip hard maple neck which means it can be fast and comfortable but also sturdy.

 Nice heel!

 I lubed the tuners and they hold and work great.

Serial 212. The coverplate is also scratched with "#212" on its interior side.

Original tailpiece...

...and an original hard case! Wow!

Here are some "during resto" shots to show the interior bits...

Pat Pend coverplate. Amazingly, all the hardware is stock.

Here's the nice unembossed original cone!

By the way, compared to weight of later Nationals and especially Triolian-style mandos, this one is super lightweight and comfortable. It feels about the same as a standard carved mandolin.

The "vents" in the cone seating area are tooooo cooooool!

Rather than maple, the dowel is mahogany.

I tried to look up about James J Igoe and got a number of confusing obituary and census reports.

These are the decrepit original "gaskets" that fit in the cone seating area and around the lip where the coverplate sits, to reduce noise. They also reduce ring and sustain, so I removed them since they were crumbling anyhow. If the resonator had buzzed during final setup, I may have masked the edges of the cone seat, but there was no need. The metal-on-metal contact (to my way of thinking) is much preferred to a buffer of some other material damping tone.


Anonymous said…
Umm nom, nom, nom, num, num, num. drool.
Instrument porn at it's finest. Ooooo! Oh my GAS. Drool.
This thing is LOUD, by the way. EXTREMELY LOUD. Like having a 30 watt tube amp half-way up.
Charlie said…
You are getting some classy instruments though your shop/site...drool droop is right!
Anonymous said…
I don't hate the extra hole in the headstock. At least the person who drilled it kept it north of the logo. These instruments are meant to be played, right? That's probably a comfy strap location. Still a flat out cool mando machine

Ben: I like it, too. Reminds one that it was used. It's like the 1950s Martins that now pop up all the time with the strap button in the heel that folks go "ugh!" to, but I think: man, that's a lot nicer than at the headstock! :)
Rick VK said…
I acquired an identical National to this one six or seven years ago, serial number so close it could have left the shop the same day! I’m on the west coast of Canada and it came into a repair shop I worked in, and the owner was excited about my enthusiasm over it and wanted me to have it, so we ended up making a deal for what I thought was a bargain price of a grand Canadian and my promise that I would carry on with calling the instrument “Charlie”, because that’s how she’d known it all her life. Charlie it is, and it’s really got the feel of a piece of quality work from a more prosperous and optimistic time than the post 1929 depression economy. The first thing that knocked me out was that little detail that you can’t even see in the fancy cutout in the wall of the well around the cone, something beautiful that you can’t even see unless you’re the person taking it apart, and the blank spot on the cover plate is simple genius! I have a thirties steel one and a 2007 RM-1, both of which have a pattern of holes that my right hand little finger catches in while playing, and I’ve heard many others complain about this, and ever since Charlie came here I can’t think why they got it right at the very beginning with a finger rest area and then took it away. I’d love to know how many of these exist, because I’ve only seen a couple, and they’re pretty special. Thanks for sharing all these great photos of this one.