c.1915 Supertone Flatback Mandolin

This nice-looking, simply-appointed flatback mandolin bears the Supertone (Sears) brand which suggests that this may have been a Harmony build. However, the mandolin feels overall to me much more like an Oscar Schmidt (out of New Jersey) build, considering the body shape, heel style, materials thickness (and weight), bracing, and neck shape. The only thing that's different on this from other OS builds is that it lacks the typical square kerfing found under the top edge of OS instruments. Compare: this one, and this one.

Whatever its provenance, it has a great, focused and loud tone. It's not mushy on the bass like some flatbacks can be, but has sort of that bowlback crispness with some of that archtop clarity. I like it!

Like most flatback mandolins from the time, this shares the earlier bowlback-inspired canted top which adds stiffness and strength while minimizing bracing. The pickguard is tortoise-colored celluloid and inlaid and both the top edge and soundhole are bound and have fun rope-y purfling.

Rosewood veneer on the headstock with original bone nut...

This appears to be an ebony fretboard with pearl dots. The original (low, small) frets are nickel-silver and the board itself is lightly radiused which is very peculiar for an American-made mandolin of the time. This gives it a more modern feel, for sure.

The finish is nice and original and shows typical crazing and crackling and pickwear all over. As far as cracks go... there's a tiny stable one near the bass side of the pickguard, I glued and cleated-up the front center seam, and I also stabilized a few hairline cracks on the back. Nothing to write home about!

Original ebony/bone-topped bridge.

Amazingly, the original tailpiece cover survives.

It's a smart-looking instrument.

And the work? Neck reset, fret level/dress, cleaning, full setup, above cleating/crack repair jobs.

Good mahogany used on the back and sides. I almost wonder if it's a somewhat atypical mahogany because it has less straight grain than usual.

This neck had been amateurly-repaired before but the glue job didn't take and so a bolt had been installed through the heel. When I took the neck apart, I found that this was actually a pretty good idea since the actual heel doesn't travel more than halfway down the join (which is a good reason for the neck joint to fail). So, when I put it back together and glued it all up, I simply used the original bolt hole and installed a new one in place, with a strap button to make it useful to some degree. The original bolt can be seen in a photo at the bottom of this post.

Forgot to take a shot of the tuners... but suffice to say they've been lubed and work just fine.

Here's that curious mahogany back.

I added a strap button at the tailpiece to make the one at the heel useful.

This is the original bolt that was in the neck. It's the same diameter but sure a heck of a lot less substantial.


Shan said…
I just purchased an instrument very similar to this one. Instead of Supertone on the label, it says Century Mandolin & Guitar Mfg Co. Chicago Illinois. It truly is one of those instruments that sat in the case in the attic for the better part of 75 years.
Shan said…