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Thread: oval hole bracing

  1. #1
    Registered User Les Corley's Avatar
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    Default oval hole bracing

    What is the best bracing for ovals & is it a no no to use tone bar type bracing

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    For I prefer what they used on the old Gibson ovals... transverse bracing, but that is just me and the tone I prefer. So many modern builders build more of a hybrid oval with the longer F-5 neck and x-bracing or tonebars. That is a different sound IMHO.

    The ovals that have what I look for (or at least builders who build this way to my knowledge):

    Lloyd LaPlant
    Hans Brentrup (I have an oval hole A4 snakehead)
    Peter Sawchyn
    Mike Black
    Stephen Gilchrist
    Will Kimble
    Peter Coombe

    There may be a few others I am leaving out.
    Jim

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    Ca. 1923 Washburn (L&H) Pro A -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- 1904 Embergher Type 3 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo

  3. #3

    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Gail Hester.

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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Les, we haven't met, but I've heard your name a lot, and we live in the same town! I've used X-braces on all my oval holes instruments so far, and it's worked out well, but as Jim said it's definitely a unique sound. If you're going for that authentic Gibson oval-hole sound a transverse brace behind the sound hole is probably the best bet. I think part of the problem with tone bars is that they don't increase the cross-grain stiffness much, and that is already compromised by the sound hole (plus the sound hole is in the way of the normal tone bar configuration).

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Same here, I've X-braced all of the admittedly few oval hole mando family instruments I've made. The sound is a little more 'focused' and more 'modern' than the old Gibson sound, but I think the structural aspect of an X is much better, and since I like the sound of an X better in general, that's how I've done it. I see no good reason to put "tone bars" (longitudinal braces) on a top with a hole in it's center line. As Andrew said, they don't help much structurally, and I believe Dave Cohen gave it a try in one of his "test mule" mandolins and found that the sound was mostly the sound of an oval hole, by and large, and not an F/oval hybrid.

  6. #6
    Registered User oldwave maker's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Years ago I made matched pairs of ovalholes, 1 with transverse brace, 1 with x bracing. I liked the sound of the x with my lightweight engelmann spruce topwood, have run with it for a lot of ovals. Might have to revisit transverse with the pile of heavy old red spruce, paired with vermont sugar maple. That combo in Comptons Gil F4 made for my favorite mandolin on this planet. Never played an oval with tonebars.

  7. #7
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    I started off using a cross brace behind the soundhole, and tried a V behind the cross brace, then an X. After the first X I never went back to the cross brace. As John says, there are structural advantages to the X, and I prefer the sound of the X over a cross brace. I do occasionally get one of my old cross braced oval hole mandolins back for refretting, and I still have my old Gibson that gets pulled out occasionally. All that does is to confirm I definately made the right decision. So far around 100 X braced ovals have my name on them.

    Bill, I played that Gil F4 when Compton was in Australia. Thought it sounded just like one of mine, so there are many ways to skin a cat.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

  8. #8
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Peter: not having played your instruments but having talked to people who have and liked them, I didn't realize that most were x-braced. Thanks for the clarification.

    Bill: I would love to hear one of your ovals with a transverse bracing.
    Jim

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    Ca. 1923 Washburn (L&H) Pro A -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- 1904 Embergher Type 3 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo

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    In The Van Ben Milne's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Are any of the instruments being discussed flat tops (or can't top, induced arch etc), and would the brace design change or would the options remain similar?
    Hereby & forthwith, any instrument with an odd number of strings shall be considered broken. With regard to mix levels, usually the best approach is treating the mandolin the same as a cowbell.

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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    I'm also a fan of x-bracing oval hole mandolins. I think in general, you can make the top a bit lighter weight than one can with a simple transverse brace AND better adjust your bracing so the top moves the way you want it to.

  11. #11
    Registered User Les Corley's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Thanks for all the expert feedback. I will be using X bracing on this build. It's going to be a knock off of the Lyon & Healy type 1. Again thanks for the input

  12. #12
    Registered User oldwave maker's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Just took in a '23 blackface snakehead and '96 oldwave C# oval with transverse brace(!), will get comparison video up as soon as they both get the frets and setup,

  13. #13
    Registered User Les Corley's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    Anxious to see them

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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    I'm a big fan of oval holes. Of course they don't usually have the percussive rythm chop preferred by most traditional bluegrass pickers, but for a lot of other styles, the open chords sound sweeter. One of the best sounding, old or new, oval hole mandolins I've played was an early Ellis that Doc Hamilton had 20 or so years ago. It had only one bar that was like half of the X brace. Tom said he made a couple like that and tried the brace leaning one way on the first one, and the other way on the next, and they sounded pretty much the same. I don't know if Tom has used this style of bracing on any of his newer mandolins or not, but that one sure sounded good. It was a very punchy mandolin for an oval hole, and had a very versatile sound. Maybe Tom will chime in and tell us more about it.
    bobby burns

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    My Brentrup A4 is an excellent sounding one. It has the character of the old Gibsons with a nice blend of modernity. Also prob one of the loudest mandolins I have ever played. Sweet in tone up the neck as well.

    Hans braced close to std Gibson transverse bracing AFAIK.
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    Jim

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    Playing lately:
    Ca. 1923 Washburn (L&H) Pro A -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- 1904 Embergher Type 3 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo

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    Default Re: oval hole bracing

    I always liked the sound of Ira Louvins F-4 and I was talking to his brother Charlie one year in Florida and he said that Ira did a lot of work on mandolins and that he believed that his F-4 had tone bars installed in it by Ira...I would love to play that mandolin at some time and maybe look at it to see if it has tone bars or not....It did have a little different sound than most F-4`s...

    Maybe some of the posters on here have looked at that mandolin....

    Willie

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