1920 Vega Style 202 Cylinder-Back Mandolin

I don't get a lot of cylinder-back Vegas for sale in the shop up here but when I do, mandolin players are attracted to them immediately. I think most of it is the elegant 2-point design popping-out from across the room, but once they pick them up and give them a whirl, the love-beams are targeted directly on the sound -- a rich, creamy, sweet, but carrying tone with a lot of definition.

These have the best traits of quality bowlback mandolins (clarity and sweetness) mixed with a bit of the lower-end oomph and depth of flatbacks and much of the projection of carved-top/back instruments. They're just good. And silky? Not much else sounds like them.

This one arrived here in pretty good spec, though its bar frets were a bit out-of-whack and needed some fussing with their heights to allow me to level and dress them to get the action spot-on. It also needed some minor crack and seam repairs to the bass-side top below the bridge.

I'm happy to say that now it's buttoned-up, it plays effortlessly and sounds as good as my reminiscing about it above suggests. I think it's equally suited to folk/old time/Celtic styles and the more refined realm of classical or mandolin orchestra pursuits.

Repairs included: reseating frets, a fret level/dress, compensation and adjustment of the old (replacement) bridge, hairline crack repair (cleats/seal) and seam repair to the bass-top below the bridge, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: action is spot-on at a hair-under 1/16" at the 12th fret (low and fast), the neck is straight, and it's strung with gauges 32w-9 (the GHS A240 set). You could go one step heavier on the gauges but it doesn't need it to sound good. The build is light and so I think the A240 set is perfect for it.

Scale length: 13 3/4"
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String spacing at nut: 15/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 5/8"
Body length: 12 1/2"
Lower bout width: 10"
Side depth at deepest: 2 3/4"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany
Neck wood: mahogany
Fretboard: ebony
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: slim-med C-shape, flat board, small-med bar frets

Condition notes: replacement bridge, average finish weather-checking throughout, various minor scratches throughout, one repaired hairline crack and seam repair to the top. The top itself, like on many of these old cylinder-backs, has sunken just a bit in the center, but it's totally stable. All the bracing is pat and in good order. It has a non-original (but old) strap button at the tailpiece.

It comes with: its original chip case in a pretty tatty state, though it serves for light use and storage.


Bob said…
After playing a 10 year old Eastman F style for the past year, I have fallen back in love with the short scale Stromberg Voisinet I bought from you, and the Martin A-style that was my first mandolin, especially liking the 13-inch short scale. I was hoping this Vega was that measurement too!o

Unknown said…
Hi, Jake,

I have a Vega 202 just like the one you´re playing in the video. It was given to me by a friend whose mother played it in the Pizzicoli (sp?) mandolin orchestra in Northampton, MA in the 1940s and 50s. My Vega doesn´t sound as true up the neck as yours, however. When I brought it to Madrid, where I live, the very dry climate here wreaked havoc on the wood and I had to have some repairs done, including a new bridge. A luthier here did a great job of making an bridge exactly like the original.

I Iove the tone of the Vega and would like to bring it to you someday, when the new reality allows us to resume air travel. Meanwhile, if you have any care instructions, would be glad to hear them. I keep the Vega in a new case (the old one didn´t retain any moisture) with three sacks of D'Addario humidifying gel.
Edward Holland
Madrid, Spain