Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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  Mandriola pictured 1903 Oscar Schmidt Advertisement in The American Federationist Image Source: [1] History The Mandriola is a 3 course ma...

Oscar Schmidt Mandriola - The 12 String Bowlback Mandolin


Mandriola pictured
1903 Oscar Schmidt Advertisement in The American Federationist
Image Source: [1]


The Mandriola is a 3 course mandolin which has twelve strings instead of the typical eight. Where you would expect two strings per note on a mandolin, the mandriola has three [2]. It can be tuned in the normal mandolin fashion, with the each additional D, A, and E string tuned an octave down, or in any octave configuration one might try. I've seen a few people on the internet reference different ways of tuning the Mandriola. Not to be confused with the Tricordia which is a Mexican folk instrument strung in a similar fashion.

The Mandriola was not built in the same numbers as its 8 string relative and most of the examples I find on the internet appear to be German or European in origin. Oscar Schmidt appears to be the most pervasive American builder of 12 string mandolins and they only produced them in the bowlback style. Vintage mandriolas do not appear to command a higher premium than their mandolin contemporaries but there is a small market for them and they are worth preserving. 

Jim Garber of the Mandolin Cafe website compiled a list of American mandriola manufacturers that is definitely worth mentioning [3]

12 string Mandolin Makers
Stewart & Bauer Philadelphia
Gibson Kalamazoo
D’Angelico New York
Garozza - Catania
Grimaldi Catania, Italy
Harwood St. Louis/New York
Hozapfel Germany
Pagani New York
Ricordi Napoli
Stridente Napoli
William Wicht - Cleveland
Oscar Schmidt - New Jersey
Bruno - New York
Levin- Sweden
Lyon & Healy - Chicago
Hawes, CC - Portland ME
Menzenhauer - Germany
Otwin - Germany
F. Schwarzer - St Louis

Oscar Schmidt

Based in New Jersey, the Oscar Schmidt company began producing bowl-back mandriolas around the turn of the century and continued for an unknown amount of time. Oscar Schmidt folded in 1939 and the bowl back mandolin market was dealt a fatal blow by Gibson's introduction of the flat back mandolin so its likely few mandriolas were made in New Jersey after the 1920s.

The Oscar Schmidt mandriola has a Spanish cedar neck with a Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard and a large, rosewood veneered headstock with square plate tuners and aluminum buttons which would've been quite the novelty for the time. 

The body has a solid spruce top with a tortoise and ivoroid celluloid inlaid pickguard, one should observe an 'O' and 'S' overlaid on eachother in the center of the pickguard which is the dead giveaway of an Oscar Schmidt product. The top is bound in wood herringbone and a white-black-white stripe made of ebonized hardwood and celluloid. The back has ___ ribs of Brazilian Rosewood.



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