5/24/2018

1920s Favilla Flatback Mandolin




I see '20s and '30s Favilla (New York) mandos pop-up now and then on eBay, but considering my one and only (bad) experience with a same-period Favilla bowlback, I've never sprung for one. That was clearly folly, however. This instrument is amazing. It sounds like a blend of a Larson flatback, Martin flatback, and Weymann "mandolute" model. The body is a little deeper than any of those, however, which gives the sound more girth. It's also hecka-loud for its design style.

That said, it arrived via its owner in "fair" condition. Cracks were nowhere to be seen, but both back braces were mostly-detached, both the ladder braces below and above the soundhole were semi-detached, and the main brace just before the cant in the top was simply missing. I solved all of that mess (and recut an old guitar brace from my parts-bins to replace the missing one), gave it a fret level/dress, side dots, and a good setup. It plays perfectly, has a straight neck, and sounds the biz. Without taking the back off, I couldn't get the back braces perfectly flush with the back at their farthest edges, but the job is "good enough for government work."

Specs are: 13 1/2" scale, 1 3/16" nut width, 1 1/16" string spacing at the nut, 1 9/16" spacing at the bridge, 1/16" action at the 12th fret, 8 7/8" body width, 2 3/8" side depth at the endblock, and 3" side depth at the cant in the top. The neck is straight and has a medium-depth, C-shaped rear profile.

The top is solid spruce, the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany, the fretboard is ebony, and the original bridge is ebonised maple with a bone saddle insert. I added a mahogany shim-foot for it as it'd been trimmed-down in the past and then shimmed-up shabbily and not quite enough.



Please excuse the bone dust in the pictures of the rosewood-veneered headstock -- I'd forgotten to brush it off after setup work.

This instrument has all of its original hardware and finish, by the way.


The frets are brass and the dots are pearl. How about that purfling behind the binding? It's a classy look.


The set-in celluloid pickguard is gorgeous and surprisingly crack-free.



Here you can see the 1/8" mahogany foot I added to the original bridge. I also added a bunch of compensation as it didn't have any to begin-with.









The label is incredibly hip, too.

6 comments:

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

I have a very similar- almost identical mandolin-an Oscar Schmidt Sovereign- same wood in all aspects of construction. The only difference is the shape of the pickguard and the heel which is narrower and a slightly different bridge and tuners. It also sounds amazing- I assume it is 1920s or 30s.

Jake Wildwood said...

The Oscars look similar but the Fav is a lot different inside and deeper still. It's also built a lot lighter.

The flatback Oscars you're talking about are same time -- late teens through mid-20s -- and are definitely good value, though.

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

After I made my comment I did measure the depth and the Favilla is slightly deeper as you mention. If the Favilla is lighter, it must be a real featherweight! I know you don't get a "bark" from these mandolins but they sure do sing!

Brad Smith said...

great work on this mandolin Jake. just unboxed it today and it sounds great. an eBay purchase based on a bit of research and the look and beautiful exterior of the mandolin. and that label!

Jake Wildwood said...

Nick: For sure! :D

Brad: Thanks! Yeah, the labels on the early Favs are superb!

Keith Rowell said...

Excellent restoration! Well done. I do some of that and I recognise good work. I'm proposing restoring one just like this for a friend. It's in a bit worse shape than yours was and has suffered a few cracks. Also Similar that some of the braces inside are loose. Can you share what the value of this mandolin is? I have to determine how much to spend on it's repair. One wouldn't want to spend more than it's worth. I have seen a couple online (not many around!) for $30 and for $300 (not like gibsons that go for $1000+). I can imagine they're not famous or extremely fine. Just searching for some consensus on value. Thanks for your time and for the fine post about restoring this instrument. Well done!