1960s Carmelo Catania Bowlback Mandolin

For whatever reason, Carmelo Catania (Italian-made) bowlback mandolins from the '60s and '70s seem to pop-up on American shores somewhat frequently. This one, I know, came back with a customer's father from Italy, so that solves this one's origin.

Mostly, these mandolins are rough-and-ready, trade-style, student-type instruments. While this one is a little rough around the edges by way of a chunky neck and gloss-finished rosewood fretboard, it's a few cuts above the average build of the time and features a fancier rosewood bowl with extra trim, double inlaid stripes in the fretboard, and a musician's motif inlaid in the pickguard and supported with some pearl inlay at the rosette.

Sound-wise it's quite classical-voiced -- clean and crisp with good sustain and just enough rosewood mwah to keep it from being "sizzly" or "spidery" in tone. You can hear in the clip, however, that it "does folk" pretty well. Reels and jigs are clean and sweet.

Work included: a cleat and seal to a hairline crack at the treble-side top, a fret level/dress, side dots install, general cleaning, compensation and modification to the original bridge, a restring with GHS A240 (32w-9) strings, and a good setup. It plays bang-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a smooth, quick feel and straight neck.

Specs are: 13 3/8" scale length, 1 3/16" nut width, 1" string spacing at the nut, 1 5/8" spacing at the bridge, 7 7/8" top width, and 5 1/4" overall side depth. The neck has a flat-profile board and deeper, U/C-shaped rear profile.

Materials are: solid spruce top, mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard and bridge, rosewood bowl, and plastic binding. The mystery-wood armrest is a nice touch, too.

Condition notes: it's clean save some light nicks and scratches here and there. There's also the repaired crack on the top (perfectly stable) and the bridge has been lowered a bit and fully-compensated vs. the straight break of the original bridge setup. One tuner ferrule is replaced.

The neck uses a zero fret and spacer nut.