Nguyễn Văn Bích 3 point Mandolin at Ukulele Corner

My Dodgy Vietnamese Mandolin

vietnam tourist decorative mandolin
Hanoi inlaid back pannel archtop mandolin
vietnam saigon decorated inlaid mandolin
It has steel strings and is tuned GG~DD~AA~EE



Nguyễn Văn Bích 3 point Mandolin

There are a lot of very pretty and decorative Chordophones being made in Vietnam and I have always shied away from them and recommended to any who'll listen that they should be treated with a very great deal of caution, if not avoided altogether, so what am I doing with one at Ukulele Corner? Well it was part of a job lot at an auction, in with a Harmony made Pennant Banjolele. it was missing a couple of string but the Pennant was in perfect shape and I bid on, and won the lot for the Pennant, (at a more than reasonable price for a 1930's Harmony Banjolele), so ostensibly this was given to me free.

Now it lives at Ukulele Corner I do feel I can better justify my prejudices for this type of instrument but also moderate them a bit because it does have its good points too (3 of them boom boom). You can see a number of issues with the finish on it particularly on the headstock and the treble side of the fretboard, some kind of staining or lack of, (I have no idea what has caused it but the best I can describe it as is some kind of watermark?) Having put new strings on I can also say that the tuners are pretty naff too, but on the other hand it seems pretty solid, (at the moment thankfully), with no splits or cracks, the inlay is all fairly well done with no bits missing, (there are a couple of dodgy bits but they are very small so you only see them if you look very closely), and it's all protected under a very heavy gloss varnish, (not sure if that is a good thing or not but it did make a lot of reflections when I was trying to photograph it). Apart from the varnish it doesn't seem to be over braced and does look very competently put together, the bridge is nice, the neck is straight and what really has surprised me about it is the tone. Eve with all that varnish it has a very good tone and makes for a very playable Mandolin. All of the decoration on the back though, is a bit superfluous for a working instrument and possibly a bit twee for some tastes, (Miss Moo was not taken with it; I like it but then it's very sparkly and I like sparkly), and do you display the front, with the inlaid fretboard and the greenburst ƒ holes or the back with the sparkly birds? (Are those Dodos at the bottom?)

All in all then what I have learned is that Nguyễn Văn Bích is a competent luthier who knows his, (I guessing the gender here), way around inlay and that if you get the chance to get a good look at it first, these Vietnam made instruments can be good, (or at least reasonable). I still wouldn't buy one over the internet though and I wouldn't buy one the next time I am in Hanoi and bring back to much colder and not quite as humid Ukulele Corner.