View Full Version : Washburn M3-SWSB
I've come across a used Washburn M3-SWSB and was wondering if anybody here has any experience with that model. The only model I can find on the net is the M3-SW. I assume that the M3-SWSB is a variant thereof, but does anybody know how they differ, if at all? If I understand right, they are factory made Pacific Rim with carved solid top and back, similar to the Kentucky KM675 or the Michael Kelly F-styles, although the Washburn seems to list a bit higher than those. How do the Washburns in that model range compare to the Kentuckys and the MKs?
The Washburns I've seen and played in stores seemed well made and sounded pretty good. All round good value. But, I have not seen one in a long time. We hear very little about Washburn mandolins on the Cafe.
Are you looking at the one at Elderly?
I have one, and although it is a heavy mandolin, it plays nice. The top, back and tone bars are all thick and solid, which IMHO hurts the sound. It does not have the woody sound and volume compared to my Weber(made in USA!), which weighs a considerable amount less (top and tone bar thickness I presume). But, for the price (I stole it for $350), that Washburn was a great buy. It's not the "SB", so I don't know what that means, its just a M3-SW. It's solid, never goes out of tune and like all mandolins, is fun to play.
Are you looking at the one at Elderly?
No, it's not the one from Elderly. I saw that one too; in fact it's the only mention I could find of that model at all on the net. The Elderly one is used, as is the one I'm looking at, so I assume that the M3-SWSB is not one of the current models.
Well, I have now bought the Washburn at Ebay.co.uk (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3702101183&category=621&sspagename=STRK%3AMEBWN%3AIT&rd=1) and it arrived today. I wouldn't have bought it blind, but I had the chance to inspect and play it before I bought it. The seller bought it in 1990 and I think that's also when it was built (there's a batch sticker with that date on the case). It has been virtually unplayed ever since. Indeed, it looks basically untouched: not only no fretwear, but also no stringmarks on the frets.
It was listed as a M3SWSB, but I think now that it's a straightforward M3-SW. The label inside says M3SWSB8903026 without any spaces and I think the "SB" is part of the serial number, not the model number. I assume the same is true of the one that
Elderly (http://www.elderly.com/vintage/items/90U-3707.htm) list, which sounds virtually identical to mine, except that that one has some wear and is slightly cheaper with the exchange rate as it is.
As Harrmob says, this is a heavy mandolin: thick top and thick tone bars, and as a result it's not very loud. It has, however, a very nice full sound and is very playable, nice big frets, low action, seems very well made for a PacRim. Flame maple at sides, but not back. Finish is quite thick though.
One peculiar feature (and that's visible on the ebay photos) is that all the binding is yellow, not white as I've seen on other photos. It looks like the entire body, binding and all, was covered in a yellow topcoat at the end of the line.
I've read on co-mando that the 1980s Washburns were made in Japan and were pretty well-regarded, but I'm not sure whether the 1990 model I have still comes into that bracket. The current ones are made in Korea, I think, but I have no idea where mine was made.
I'll look at the setup over the weekend and put new strings on and than I'll see how the tone develops. If it has never been played to any extent, I guess it still has some opening up to do, despite the fourteen years maturing in the case. I have some reservation about the bridge, and will probably take it to a luthier for a setup: on the treble side, the foot doesn't contact the top very well and the notches on the G and the D string are of unequal depth with one string of each pair sitting more proud of the bridge than the other.
martin - I had a Washburn F from the late 80's, early 90's and when I needed info, I called Washburn and after some asking got all the information I needed. Mine had the same yellow binding, I think it was to make it look more vintage. Well made, especially the Japanese ones. Give them a call, you might get lucky. Frank
I have an M-3SW/TS
Inside mine the label has a space for the model (M-3SW/TS) and serial number - which is stamped in a different color ink and is seven digits, the first two being 92
I'm going to hazzard a guess that the first two are the year? Yours being built in 89 and mine in 92
I bought mine used from a guy who was upgrading.
Mine also has yellow binding which does look like finish. My nut however is not yellow. The yellow was removed when they buzzed the fretboard, as that top edge is white (and unfinished).
Mine has a Fishman bridge on it with the wire running down to the tailpiece and then inside to a strap button jack.
I'd be curious what color yours is? Mine is a very nice, brown burst: center is natural wood (under the aged yellow over spray) which goes to a solid dark brown. The brown is also shot on the sides at the tail end, curve of the scroll and into the scroll, around the neck heel to the point on the treble side. The headstock is also burst on the back and yellow in the center.
I'm wondering if the second two characters in the model designate the finish?
I posted pictures of my old Vega in the Pictures area, but the bottom picture shows the Washburn (and my Peterson Celtic 'zouk)
I just got an e-mail from Washburn (I'd asked them about the serial number):
"This mandolin was made in Korea in March of 1989. The model number M3SW and
M3SWSB are interchangeable. The SB stands for Sunburst."
So, it seems you're right about the first two digits of the serial number being the year, presumably the next two are the month ("03" on mine), and mine is the 26th they made that month. #Mine is indeed sunburst, sounds much like what you described, despite the different code for the finish on yours ("TS"). #Maybe I'm just misunderstanding your description [Update: I've just looked at the photo you've posted in the picture forum and it looks just like mine]. #Whatever, I think mine looks pretty nice, although I'm more interested in tone and playability.
The mandolin is currently improving dramatically in sound from day to day, presumably a reflection of never having been played much before. #I've sanded the bridge profile to something closer to the arch (it was a very poor fit before) and have put new T-I mediums on (spares bought for my vintage flattop a while ago). #I'll do some experimenting with J74s on the weekend before I decide which strings to stick with.
I just looked at an M-3 on eBay that is a three color sunburst (yellow/red/black) which has a black veneer on the head.
Mine is a two color: yellow to brown, or more correctly a single color spray of brown with a yellow-tinted clear-coat.
Mine also has a wood-grained head veneer, although the inlay is the same as the eBay mando.
Cosmetically, the inlay on the head is quite ugly in my opinion (but I don't much care for the Gibson "fern" either). I like the "flower pot" as well as the modified "fern" on the Doyle Lawson sig. I also like the inlay on the Collings "F"
I'm going to guess (further) that the "SW" stands for "solid wood" and the the "SB" as you were told is "sunburst" while the "TS" stands for "traditional sunburst" (maybe the difference between a two color or three color burst?)