A very cool old mandolin landed on my bench, but I cannot find one bit of information about the "A J Bush, Manufacturer of Stringed Musical Instruments, Pomona CA" company that made it. Does anyone know about them, or about this mandolin?  It is thought to have been made in the early 1900's as the owner has a photo of his grandmother playing it when pretty young. I'm a little suspect about the age (from some of the materials), but maybe someone here knows more about it.

In any case, the instrument was allowed to get hot, so the bracing came unglued, the top cracked etc., and the owner wants it fully restored. Right now, the most dicey part of this is replicating a new pickguard, which is inlaid into the top. The owner wants the instrument restored completely, including the pickguard and the floral design inlaid into it, with the flowers appearing to have been a liquid of some kind that was poured into the cutout.

Has anyone here dealt with something like this before?  What material should I replace the pickguard with, and what sort of liquid could have been used to make the flowers?  I'm going to lay some adhesive acrylic sheet over the pickguard, and a little light steaming should allow me to pick it right up to use as a pattern for a new one.  It may be something I should sub out to someone who does pickguards like this, but I don't know who that would be. Any suggestions?

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The pickguard looks like it is disintegrating. I'll guarantee that if you try to lift it you will end up with more pieces and powder than the bottom of a Shake' n Bake bag..

My suggestion would be to repair the mandolin with all the parts intact. That will be plenty of work as you need to remove either the top or back, repair the damage and get everything back together.

In the end, you want Grandma to be able to recognize it.

But that's just what I think.

Lol! Oh yeah, but the pickguard had been already coming off in warped little chunks before I got it, so there's no saving it at this point.  The best I can hope is to lay the clear adhesive acrylic down and pick it all up "intact" enough to use as a pattern for cutting a new one.

If the pick guard is nitrocellulose you might want to be careful about heating it too much.

I'm wondering if this is the product of an amature builder. It looks like a decently made instrument but it's also such an odd design. 

Yeah, I'll be steaming it off.  It's got an arched top and back too.  It's got a nice sticker in it, but I've come up with exactly zero information about the builders.  AJ Bush of Pomona, CA.  How long has nitrocellulose been in use anyway? My first experience with it was it's use as a keyboard covering (for the white keys) on old organs, going back probably to the 1920's.  But this mandolin is supposed to be older than that.


Well that definitely looks like a "going concern" sort of label. I did some looking online and didn't find a thing either. If you contact one of the repair/shops in Pomona, they may have seen some of his work before. 

Nitrocellulose is older than the '20s. I think it was first made into film in the 1890's or there about and it's base, gun cotton, has been around a lot longer than that. I'm not exactly sure how to identify a plastic as nitrocellulose or not. A lot of times it smells of camphor but I've come across some pickguards that appear to be breaking down like Nitro but don't smell like it. I suppose trying to burn it would make a positive ID but....


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