Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Antique bowl mandolin

My wife found this at an estate sale today for $35


Did you buy it?

Cool! How’s it sound?

Yes I bought it. It sounds pretty good. It is difficult to play though. High action and narrow finger board. I might post a video later so you can hear it.

A proper setup would help a ton. Videos being awaited

I do not see any way to change the setup. The bridge appears to be fixed. Recording just uploaded.

If the nut & saddle are already as low as possible, the neck probably needs straightened, they have a tendency to bend lacking a truss rod. It can be checked with a straight-edge to see how much arch it has.

I did it once with a hair dryer & some weight, but I wouldn’t recommend it…tedious drawn out process and risk of burning the finish or instrument.

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The neck is probably straight (truss is unnecessary), but needs to be reset if the bridge/saddle is already too low. The problem is that altering the lute back neck joint is major surgery. The joint is typically one of two types, a dovetail tenon or flat join held together with glue and a nail (yes, as in an iron wrought nail). Unlike the Martin dovetail tenon where tiny amounts are shaved off the neck heel cheeks for resetting, a lute-back joint is very carefully fitted to the ribs which are 1/16" thick and cut perfectly matched to the neck profile. Altering that geometry either looks bad or requires the neck to be re-profiled slightly. First step is to get accurate measurements then assess alternatives.

Regardless, a really cool piece to hang around the house!


Yes, I would rather keep it original and just use for art rather that try to make it more playable and change the aesthetics