View Full Version : f-2's and 4's  birch vs maple...

Apr-18-2006, 4:15pm
I've been looking at vintage vintage Gibson f-2's and 4's .. what are the general characteristics of the tone of the birch versus the maple models??? I appreciate the comments made on the various years...what about the woods?

Bob A
Apr-18-2006, 5:40pm
I have an A2Z that I suppose is birch. No complaints about the sound.

FWIW, I just saw a blackface F2 at Bernunzio's (no financial interest). Absolutely awesome sound and volume. Maple back, I believe.

In my opinion, any old Gibson instrument ought to be evaluated individually. While it is possible to ascribe general characteristics, they don't count for much; the proof is in the playing.

Paul Hostetter
Apr-19-2006, 11:19am
Maple and birch are so alike in so many ways. There's a reason why so few people can tell them apart: they look and behave very much like one another. Comparing the effect of mahogany to maple is a much more fruitful endeavor. And as Bob A says, you have to take each one on its own merits. The sound largely comes from the top, and in Gibsons those are always spruce and they vary tremendously.

Apr-19-2006, 11:38am
Paul mentions mahogany vs maple......I'm not trying to steal the thread, but I've been inquisitive about mahogany.....
I'm guessing mahogany is softer, and might make a mellower sounding instrument...possibly less percussive, but sweeter

Paul Hostetter
Apr-19-2006, 12:02pm
I'd say the analogues are very common in the guitar world, but most mahogany-bodied mandolins, such as they are, are so varied and, well, sketchy (A-40s? Anything else?) as to be unhelpful. I did a bunch of work once on a Loar L-5 made of mahogany (instead of his usual maple sides and blonde birch back!) with a spruce top, but simply recall it as being a really nice sweet 16" L-5. With one known example, it's hard to make generalizations! But comparing guitars in various body materials is quite informative, and I think those understandings would translate well to mandolin construction. Less percussive, but sweeter sounding would make a lot of sense to me. I'd personally bank on it. But you don't really know for sure until you've made a lot of them and systematically (or at least mentally) averaged them all.

Apr-19-2006, 12:21pm
To keep the mahagony vs maple thought alive, I found that the Weber Gallatin's I've played, which were mahagony, have exactly that characteristic...more sweet and subtle and less punch.

Paul Hostetter
Apr-19-2006, 12:59pm
Yet it's interesting that many bluegrass guitarists prefer the D-18 over the D-28 because it has more punch. But that punch is coming from (I believe) an overall less complex body sound. And I think there are qualities to a body made of thin sheets of a given wood that are distinct from ones made of carved plates. I tend to evaluate woods first as marimba keys, and from that perspective, mahogany sure has less punch than, say, Brazilian rosewood, and probably more than maple. I think that's a quality that would become evident in a carved mahogany mandolin body, while other qualities will be (are) evident in a typical guitar body.

Apr-19-2006, 4:01pm
I tend to evaluate woods first as marimba keys,

I really like that!!! And as soon as you mentioned it, it seemed so simple and obvious a method! (But someone had to make the mental leap first!)