Vintage Instruments: All Other Vintage (not guitars)

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1922 Lyon and Healy Style A Mandocello

Serial # 1. Equal parts beauty, tone, and rarity, the Lyon and Healy Style A Mandocello is truly among the most awe-inspiring instruments ever to have come through our front doors here at Folkway. Any style A instrument -- be it branded Washburn or Lyon and Healy -- is an incredible thing to behold with its scrolled headstock, Bakelite pickguard, double-point body, and exceptionally fine workmanship. But at 16.5" wide and with a 26" scale neck, the Style A Mandocello is both a beauty and a beast. That analogy applies to its tone as well: the instrument is as capable of the richest and sweetest melody, soaked in layers of harmonic overtones, as it is sheer power and bass.

A nearly impossible instrument to find, very few of these are actually known to exist. The serial number of this example is #1. Yes, #1. We can't say definitively if it's the very first Style A Mandocello built, but it sure seems likely. A Google search turns up photos of two others and discussion of a few more, but that's all. Needless to say, it's a rare, rare thing.

Brought to Folkway by the family of its long-time owner, this Mandocello proves again that there really still are amazing vintage instruments out there! The 'Cello had been very well cared for and needed little time on our repair bench prior to photos. A single top crack was glued, the bridge fit, frets dressed, and the instrument set-up. We somehow managed to source an original vintage tailpiece for the instrument. You'd not know it was a replacement.

The instrument's only other flaws are a partial crack at the back of the headstock and minor damage to the scroll. There is no movement in the crack, and it's not open. Either it's been glued, or is so small that it's posing no threat to the instrument. Either way, it's not terribly concerning.

Original tuners, bridge, and frets. Original finish throughout. No top sinkage or deflection at all. Excellent neck angle, action of 6-7 64ths at the 12th fret, and no playability concerns to speak of. The neck is large, with a deep U shape and a nut width of 1-5/8".

The Lyon and Healy Mandocello is very unlike the Gibson K-2's that we've played. It has a much larger body than a K-2 or a K-4, and there's a whole lot more air volume inside the instrument than those made by Gibson. It has a massive bass-end response, huge volume, and the ability to handle a very hard right hand pick attack without loosing its focus. It has piano like sustain, reverb, and overtones, and beautiful harmonics coming from the strings behind the bridge, if you don't dampen them away. The instrument is balanced perfectly right up the neck, and notes played up into the body are full, round, and big.

There is no rosewood used in the construction of this mandocello. Shipping into the USA or anywhere outside of Canada is as simple as it gets.

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