1910s Larson-made Leland Brilliantone Flatback Mandolin

Here's what I like best about Larson Brothers-made mandolins -- after 100 or so years, all this needed was a fret level/dress, a cleat to a single crack, and a good setup to get it going. I've worked on other Leland-branded Larson products in the past so I knew what I was getting into when doing-this-up for a customer -- and it delivered the goods.

These have a "robust" sound to them with a mix of bowlback-style balance and clarity but a lot more warmth and "velvet" in the lows and mids. The sustain is, of course, excellent. Larson flatback mandolins are also interesting in that no matter how hard you pound them, they never get that icky, compressed "fwop" sound on the low-end that you sometimes get from other flatbacks made in the same period. They're, as-intended, professional instruments.

The Leland line was a sales pitch by Lyon & Healy to push a mandolin line for sale to mandolin orchestras that was on the same level as Gibson or Vega instruments. Clearly they made the right choice to have Larson build them for them (these even have typical Larson stamped numbers on their braces).

Like the other Leland-branded Larsons, this one has a solid spruce top, mahogany neck, ebony fretboard, and Brazilian rosewood back, sides, and headstock veneer. The trim is simple and tasteful but definitely has that "Chicago" look in the purfling -- of which both types (soundhole and top edge) can also be found on Harmony and Regal products of the same period).

Larson mandolins tend to have a slightly wider nut width and string spacing than other, period makes. I'm using 32w-20w-13-9 strings on this at the moment (they're closer to period gauges) but it can probably handle 34w-10., no problem.

The stained-maple/bone bridge is a 1930s replacement, but I did compensate it during setup and it sounds good.

Gorgeous stuff, isn't it?

Most Larson-built flatback mandolins feature a heel that's covered by the back and binding that wraps around it. It's a nice touch!


Unknown said…
I'm a total sucker for a nice cant-top mando. She's a beaut.