2000s Ecuadorian Bandolin

While unmarked, this is clearly a fairly-recent Ecuadorian bandolin. These are roughly the same size as an "American tiple" and have a scale length around 17" or so -- this one is 17 1/4" -- which means that they're around the same scale as your average mandola.

Like many South American and Latin American fretted instruments, the string overload is crazy -- this has 5 courses with 3 strings each. The traditional tuning is EADF#B low to high, like a guitar with a capo at fret 7 and lacking its low E string. I suppose it'd be pretty easy to retune it to DGCEA so that ukulele players could adapt to it on the quick, though.

A customer of mine (who's totally into oddball instruments) sent this in for work. It needed a refret (someone had gouged the frets brutally, though the neck was nice and straight), new nut, and a new (compensated) saddle. The original saddle was still there, but per tradition with Spanish-influenced instruments, it was absolutely not compensated and not quite in the right place anyhow, which meant it played painfully-sharp up the neck.

It got all that work, plus some side dots, and now it plays boutique-style. It's slick and easy on the fingers and has a light, fast touch despite the fact that you're often pressing-down 9 or 12 strings at a time to form chords. Action is 1/16" at the 12th fret and the neck is straight.

I used string gauges: 15/28w/15, 11/20w/11, 16/16/16, 12/12/12, 9/9/9 low to high and that seems just about right tension-wise and neck-happiness-wise.

It has a cedar top and mystery-wood back and sides. Everything is solid, though, and the bridge and fretboard are rosewood.

My "new" bone nut is an old parts-bin one I recut so it'd fit with the worn-in look of the instrument a little better.

I used jumbo frets during the refret which gives this a good feel and, I'm sure, helps with sustain and the roundness of the notes.

Originally the bridge had a thin drop-in saddle. I modified the slot so it'd be larger and easier to shim-up if action changes are necessary. The new saddle is bone, wide, and compensated individually for each string.


Ivan said…
Bravo!!!! Great rescue and such a sweet instrument!!