1930s National Style 1

One feature of resonator systems is that they can be fitted to nearly any stringed instrument. While the original tricone design was originally developed for the Hawaiian guitar, it was adapted to Spanish guitars, tenor guitars, mandolins and ukuleles as soon as the National company began production. When National and Dobro created single-cone resonator systems, these too were employed on a variety of instruments. Single cones with spider and biscuit type bridges actually proved more successful on smaller instruments; the original tricone design, while it was used on a few early mandolins and ukuleles, was very difficult to squeeze into National’s small triangular bodies. Mandolins and ukuleles therefore became the first National instruments to employ a single resonator cone, though biscuit-bridge guitars such as the Duolian and Triolian were not far behind.

Thus, after a few early tricones, the “silver” mandolin models (numbers 1 through 3) were actually different from the equivalent guitars under the cover plate. The bodies remained similar, being constructed of nickel-plated German silver with engraving on the higher-priced models, but the sound was noticeably different. A noticeable difference did begin in 1930, when the mandolin cover plates were given a stamped hole design instead of the screen soundhole covers on tricone guitars; this was probably done to simplify construction, since the Triolian mandolin had already adopted this cover plate design.

One could make a strong argument that the single cone, with its more percussive sound and quick attack, was better suited to the mandolin, but this is purely subjective. All National mandolins have an unusually long 15” scale, which has led some players to use extra-light strings and others to tune their mandolins down to relax some tension from the neck. This particular mandolin has survived in excellent condition with a straight neck. The necks on these instruments are a random mix of maple and mahogany; this maple neck happens to sport some nice flame on the headstock. There are some marks from where replacement tuners were fitted, but the mandolin currently has its original tuners reinstalled. It also has the tailpiece repair that is very common to these instruments, but otherwise the mandolin is in excellent condition.