The Washburn Guitars Forum

Washburn Bluegrass Instruments => Post your thoughts on Banjos & Mandolins => Topic started by: mga62 on February 20, 2005, 01:17:31 PM

Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: mga62 on February 20, 2005, 01:17:31 PM
Sorry is this is a rehash for a lot of people, but I am trying to get and idea on the age, model # and value of an old Washburn mandolin which my wife has had since the late 1960's.

The mandolin has a spruce top, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, and rosewood back. The back consists of 40 strips with maple or holly edging between the strips. The neck, top, and wide parts on the back are bound with real ivory. Tuning pegs are ivory. The fretboard marks are both dots and some sort of bird design of mother of pearl. There is a mother of pearl star in the headstock. The pickguard is dark brown(abalone?) with ivory flowering vines inlaid. The purfling around the top and soundhole is a complex wooden composite. The metal parts are nickel.

The interesting thing about this mandolin is that it looks almost new. It is marked inside as Washburn mandolin rebuilt by Homer Ledford 10/66. As many may know, Homer Ledford is an instrument maker from Berea KY and is, or was, arguably the country's most famous dulcimer maker. My father in law purchased this mandolin from a music store nearby in Lexington KY shortly after this date. It has been in storage since then.

Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: keef on February 20, 2005, 04:11:04 PM
There were only two Washburns with 40 or more ribs - Styles 1125 and 275, made between the mid 1890s and 1915. Both had a solid pearl engraved fingerboard. Looks like your mandolin has a replaced fingerboard - ivory bindings were never used on Washburn catalog models. Send me a picture and I can tell you more..[:)]

Is there a number inside the bowl on the piece of wood where the neck attaches to?
Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: mga62 on February 20, 2005, 10:20:32 PM
There is no number inside on the neck mounting block. The entire inside was repapered when the mandolin was rebuilt.

Here are some pictures. Hope these are enlightening.

Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: keef on February 21, 2005, 09:12:32 AM
Thanks. The headstock is not pictured, but the other features clearly indicate that this is not a Washburn, but an American Conservatory, which was a more affordable alternative to the Washburns, and also made by Lyon & Healy.

I have pictures of various AC mandolins (dating back to the 1890s-late 1910s) with the same neck inlay as yours. These all have unbound fingerboards. On the pictures the neck binding of your mandolin looks to be made of celluloid, which is the binding material used by L&H for its mandolins. The 'shell' tailpiece on your mandolin was never featured on Washburns, but on many AC mandolins.

Are you sure that the paper lining was replaced? That would possibly indicate that the top was removed.

The value of these AC's is not very high (these usually go for a few hundred $ at most), and originality is an important factor in determining prices.

Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: mga62 on February 21, 2005, 12:01:32 PM
Thanks for the info. I am sure the mandolin was repapered, just from the look of it. While I have no experience with either building or playing mandolins, I actually built and sold quite a few dulcimers years ago when my sister and future wife were involved in traditional mountain music. That's why I was familiar with Mr. Ledford's work. He is an extremely competent instrument builder and completely disassembling a mandolin and refurbishing would be an everyday task for him. After your information and some other facts I have been able to dig up, I have my own theory as to the history of the mandolin.

As I mentioned, this mandolin was rebuilt in the mid 60's, and old instruments certainly didn't have the value they do today. Particularly in this area, they were viewed more from their tonal qualities and serviceability than from their collectors standpoint. At the same time, I doubt that an instrument maker of Ledford's ability and experience would not know the origins of a traditional folk instrument. I really suspect that the instrument may have been in serious disrepair and he possibly rebuilt it with parts from several mandolins. I don't remember there being a serious collectors market at the time, and it was likely done to produce the most useful instrument possible. This scenario I think is supported by the fact that he sold it on consignment through a conventional music store. Keep in mind that at this time particularly, he was probably the best known dulcimer builder in the US, often associated with the work of Jean Ritchie. This was during the period when traditional folk and mountain music was growing, and work on other types of instruments would have been a sideline.

Sorry to ramble, but I believe the facts lie somewhere near here. Thanks for the help. We have no intention of selling the mandolin, just trying to gather information since its been in the family so many years now.
Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: mga62 on February 21, 2005, 12:09:11 PM
I re-read my post and maybe didn't exactly get my thought across.

My theory as to the origin of the mandolin is that it may have been a Washburn body with parts from a lower quality mandolin added to put it in playing condition. It would, of course, have little value as such, but it would be an interesting history. I believe Mr Ledford would have known the difference between a Washburn and another brand, given his experience, and wouldn't have gone out of his way to mis-mark it, since the sales price was very moderate at the time. This is supported by the fact, not immedialty evident in the pictures, that the quality of the body, both materials and construction, appears to be much higher than that of the neck, fingerboard, fittings etc. The fitting of the forty strips in the back is exceptional, as is the quality of the rosewood used. An instrument builder of Mr. Ledfords ability could easily have married the parts from two or more mandolins to produce a useful piece.
Title: Washburn Mandolin Identification
Post by: keef on February 22, 2005, 03:10:39 AM
You may be right....just wanted to add that the AC's are sometimes referred to as 'Washburns'. Many of the more expensive AC's had multiple ribs -even more than the Washburns- and nicely inlaid pickguards.