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Thread: Lyon and Healy mandolins

  1. #1
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Lyon and Healy mandolins

    I have a couple of questions about L&H mandolins. Firstly, does anyone have any idea what species of Spruce they used in those days. I have a symmetric model A made around 1918. The back is obviously Rock Maple, but I have no idea what the top is. Unlikely to be Sitka or Engelmann, so that leaves Red and European. Impossible to tell even without varnish, but I would guess European since these instruments do not have a big dynamic range. But then again I could be wrong.

    Second question is how is the pickguard attached in the later assymmetric models. Mine screws into the point, but I can't see any screw in pictures of the assymmetric models.

    Next question is I have seen some pictures with adjustable bridges. Are these original, or have the original one piece bridges been replaced. My bridge is only 14mm high, so would be a squeeze to fit an adjustable bridge. Is the bridge height higher on the later models?

    Reason for asking is I am starting work on a new model of mandolin to be based on my L&H. I would also like to be able to offer an assymetrical mandolin with a 13" scale length. Unfortunately I can't just drop into a vintage music shop because these mandolins are virtually unkown here in Australia. Quite a few decisions need to be made on how closely to copy the original. I think I have found someone who can reproduce the tailpiece cover, but the scroll headstock is a bigger problem because the tuners are different, and it is a heck of a lot of extra work. Cost needs to be a consideration as well so I am thinking of passing on the scroll headstock and the leg pin. There is no point in making an instrument that costs a lot more than an original. Still have not decided what I am going to do about the headstock. The style B headstock is a possibility, but the tuners are worm under and it is still quite a bit more work than a small snakehead (i.e. same shape as the original but no scroll). Exact copies I think I will leave to Rigel and the folks who can afford to pay the premium for all that extra work. Reproducing the sound should not be too hard since my smaller bodied long necked oval hole does sound surprisingly similar to the original L&H.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by peter.coombe; May-22-2013 at 11:49pm.
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  2. #2
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    No idea Peter but congratulations on your mandolin #150.
    The more I learn, the less I know.

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  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    I hope this is not a thread only for people named Peter from Australia

    I have both an early symmetrical A and a later asymmetrical (Washburn label, no leg pin). I can take a look at both mine and let you know. I haven't a clue how to tell what kind of spruce and I doubt that it was mentioned in the catalogs -- even if they did that is no proof that they used it in all their instruments.

    Frankly, Peter I am always more impressed with luthiers who are able to copy the tone and playability of these instruments vs. those who only copy the looks. I have played and seen a few "copies" that look like L&Hs but really are based on Gibson bracing and voicing, so what is the point of that. IMHO a simpler headstock is not a problem but if you can duplicate the tone -- that would be more impressive to me.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Come to think of it, I did play one of Graham McDonald's L&H copies when he was over here in the US a few years back. It was not a slavish copy for sure but did have a pleasing tone. Of course, he used myrtle for the one attached here. I don't recall if that was the same one.
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    Jim

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Frankly, Peter I am always more impressed with luthiers who are able to copy the tone and playability of these instruments vs. those who only copy the looks. I have played and seen a few "copies" that look like L&Hs but really are based on Gibson bracing and voicing, so what is the point of that. IMHO a simpler headstock is not a problem but if you can duplicate the tone -- that would be more impressive to me.
    Agree entirely. I have also come across a few like that. About the only thing they have in common with a L&H/Washburn is the body shape, so to say they are based on the L&H is somewhat misleading. The L&H's are very different from a Gibson. Different arching, different graduations, different neck angle, lower bridge, thin full contact one piece bridge, smaller body, all contribute to the different sound. The sound is the most important thing for me as well, and that means reproducing all those differences, and most makers don't do it. Mine cost an arm and a leg to import from the USA, but having an original to refer to is invaluable so I think it was a good decision to spend the money. It is a bit beat up so is not a collectors instrument, but it has been played a lot and sounds great which is what is important.

    Apart from the headstock, I will probably also change the neck. Mine has a great big fat neck which nowadays with carbon fibre reinforcement is unnecessary. A thinner neck would make it a bit more comfortable to play.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  6. #6
    Registered User Geoff Barber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Hi Peter,

    I am in Perth, Western Australia and I own three Lyon & Healys. One A model and two B models. I also sold the B model L&H to Marissa Carroll which she plays so beautifully.
    I generally play a B model in our local mandolin orchestra. The clarity of sound and projection (volume) is common to all three but they do have minor differences, including slight differences in construction from the earlier (I have a B style #18) to the later models, and also between the A and the B models. Thomastik strings are a must in my opinion - these are classical instruments, not bluegrass.
    There are some good videos of Marissa playing the B model. Here are her latest:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v3EWXnzjmE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpttIi3qvKI

    I can be contacted on ggbarber@gmail.com if you want some photos etc.

    Regards
    Geoff

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    Registered User jmkatcher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    May I ask which Thomastik string set you'd recommend for L&Hs?

  9. #8
    Registered User Geoff Barber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins


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  11. #9
    Jim Garber Fan Bill Clements's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    I like the TI mittels for my Rigel Lyon & Healy Style A as well. I believe JeffD here on the Cafe also uses mittels on his vintage L&H.
    Peter, I highly recommend you contact Pete Langdell of Rigel for answers to your questions. He makes faithful replicas of the L&H, is an expert on these beautiful instruments, and is a great guy. I would also be happy to send you photos of my instrument's pickguard or other details of the instrument.
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  12. #10
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Well thanks to some help from Geoff this project has finally been completed. I am pretty damn pleased with the result.

    Sound clips
    http://petercoombe.com/Classical_sou..._Inchiquin.mp3
    http://petercoombe.com/Classical_sound/Hornpipe.mp3

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    Well thanks to some help from Geoff this project has finally been completed. I am pretty damn pleased with the result.
    Wow, stunning.
    As much as I post, I pick a whole lot more. Just sayin'
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    ♪☮♫ Roll away the dew ♪☮♫ Dan Krhla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    That is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing sound clips, just amazing.
    do good things

  16. #13
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Peter...I have a Lyon & Healy book that just says "Top made of selected spruce wood", it says this in all models ...No mention other than that...

    The book also says that in 1918 they went to a 13-3/4 scale like Gibson was making...Most of the pictures that are shown in the book show a one piece bridge however one photo shows a bone like compensated bridge top on it and it appears to be an adjustable bridge, that could have been added later though....

    Willie

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    Registered User AaronVW's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    Good stuff. Looks and sounds great! Thanks for sharing.

  18. #15
    Registered User the padma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lyon and Healy mandolins

    With the exception of sitka, once the bark has been removed it is impossible to tell what variety it is.
    Re: sitka...its got to be tested in a lab to determine if it in fact is a sitka.
    Re: Sonic qualities, yes they vary from species to species. But then so does a top from the bottom of the tree differ from a top further up of the same log. Then there is the unquestionable sonic effects of each loofers personal persuasions of how to build with it.

    So its really a crap shoot as to what it might be.

    Bottom line, if your a builder...find a spruce dealer that wasn't a used car sales person in a previous life.


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