Style 35 Harp Mandolin, c.1914
A gorgeous Dyer harp mandolin!
This is a Style 35, the second fanciest of the four types. The Style 50 has a mini tree-of-life fingerboard, and if you ever see one for sale, that's gonna cost you. I managed to get a 35 for myself, or I’d keep this one. Especially so because it belongs to my friend Stephen Bennett.
That’s right – the personal instrument of the harp guitar king. He’s relocating to Connecticut, and has to trim a bit.
It’s in very good shape, and all there. Very fancy with abalone binding and both soundhole rings of abalone; headstock inlay and fancy fret markers of mother-of-pearl, and even an engraved tailpiece cover with a pattern I've never seen before. It even has an abalone nut and saddle (!?). There are a few repaired cracks and wear on the headstock and elsewhere as the photos show. The photos also show its only real flaw – and this is present on every Dyer harp mandolin I've inspected - a deformation of the top above the soundhole (the same thing that happens to most Dyer harp guitars). Thus the neck is pitched forward, as one can see from the low break angle of the strings across the bridge, and the displaced arm-connecting bracket. Still, action is decent, and Stephen played this as is (it appears on at least one of his recordings). Tone and volume are typical of a Dyer harp mando - not as spectacular as their guitars, but sweet and balanced.
Luckily, the Larson harp mandolins copied Knutsen’s butt joint heel design - so one could reset the neck fairly easily (and/or steam and straighten the top) to get it set up perfectly. That’ll be up to the buyer.
The Larsons' Dyer harp mandolins show even more variation than their harp guitars. Comparing this to # 105 (almost certainly the 5th one built), I see that this one is narrower by almost half and inch, but a full half an inch deeper. The top and back of the harp mandos almost seem to be built with the same "under-tension" radius of the harp guitars - the bulge of both sides is quite pronounced.
If you’re keeping count, there are only 21 total Dyer harp mandolins known with serial numbers. There are also a few more with missing labels not in our registry (I haven’t tracked them). So “rare” and “collectable” goes without saying. I recommend these not only to all mandolin collectors but also to anyone with a Dyer harp guitar. When displayed together they are an irresistible combination!
Not only blessed, but I’m taking no commission on this sale.
- Gregg Miner, the "harp guitar pope"
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