View Full Version : What about Mahogany for TG top?

Bernie Daniel
Mar-16-2009, 7:12am
I have been looking for a old (20's - 30's) Gibson tenor guitar and have found a number of them for sale on various venues that are all mahogany (top, sides and back).

I'm wondering about how this impacts the sound (both tone and projection) -- as contrasted to a more traditional wood like spruce or some soft wood.

Here is a pic of a typical 20's era Gibson with that formula.

Barb Friedland
Mar-16-2009, 7:24am
I acquired an all mahogany guitar a while back and the sound is wonderful. I also have a cedar top/ rosewood instrument and by comparison this one is richer sounding with a complex tonal quality. Mahogany tends to be less bright sounding than more common top woods IMHO. I'd describe it as cedar on steroids. Projection on my guitar is dandy but I think body shape and depth has a lot to do with that too. Don't know if that helps you. Of course it all depends on what sort of music you plan to play on it. Try to find someone who has a "hog" instrument that you can play.

Bernie Daniel
Mar-16-2009, 9:33am
Barb Friedland: Try to find someone who has a "hog" instrument that you can play.

Thanks for the insight -- for a minute you had me -- "hog"?

Ok maHOGany - I get it. :)

Yes, good idea. I think Gibson and some others like Martin did make regular 6 -string guitars with "hog" tops easy enough to compare regular guitars.

So to summarize you think the mahogany projects well but gives overall a darker sound? I would see using this insturment as an alternative sounding approach to some songs I presently play on the mandola, tenor banjo, and mandocello -- so strictly Celtic type music I would say.

I wonder what the company's purpose was in using mahogany? Do you think maybe spruce or cedar might have been scarce at the time -- or is it just a very easy wood to work with?

Barb Friedland
Mar-16-2009, 9:58am
I wonder what the company's purpose was in using mahogany? Do you think maybe spruce or cedar might have been scarce at the time -- or is it just a very easy wood to work with?

Some companies are still creating "hogs". Larrrivee for example . Yes, I'd describe the sound as rich and slightly darker- tonally very complex. I play a variety of music on my "hog" guitar. I'm a fingerpicker and it's lovely for that style. Celtic wold work well too.

Mar-16-2009, 11:09am
Martin (http://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/choosing/guitars.php?p=m&m=D-15) has produced all mahogany guitars for decades... probably coming up on a century. They still produce them.

Bob Wiegers
Mar-16-2009, 11:20am
yup. my buddy has a D-15 guitar and it is indeed wonderful. it's got a nice warmth and a boom to the bass.

Pete Martin
Mar-16-2009, 1:11pm
I've known a lot of tenor players who started on mahogany 0-17s. All of them eventually went to O-18s (spruce) s they liked the ring better. YMMV

Bernie Daniel
Mar-16-2009, 1:15pm
Thanks for the info. I did not realize Martin was still making the all mahogany guitars.

The specs. page for the D-15 that Mike linked to says that Sapele can be substitued for Mahogany.

I've seen that wood at our Paxton Lumber outlet here is Cincinnati when I was pricing some cabinet lumber-- they called it "African Mahogany" -- it looks a lot like the American wood except that it has purple cast to it. Since Martin uses it I assume its tonal properties are similar.

Mar-16-2009, 1:24pm
I've owned a Sapele Martin and a Sapele Taylor. Both looked and sounded like Mahogany to me.

Mar-18-2009, 11:44am
Mahogany - Interesting tone wood, very highly underrated. One of the problems with the wood is its identity with inexpensive. It grows fast, is primarily water resistant (traditionally used on a lot of old boats), the grain isn't very interesting and it wears like an industrial item. In both Belize and Honduras, Mahogany is so plentiful they make the piers and decks in the harbor from the stuff and it lasts for years - or until the next hurricane comes through.

Acoustically - it is a rich, not particularly complex sound which is normally very loud and very bright. But, from my limited experience, it seems to be more attack than sustain. Which isn't bad, just a bit different from what is normally expected in a round hole instrument. I always wondered what a Howard Roberts type guitar would sound like made from Mahogany ... Not interested enough to pay to have one built to find out though. Martin is one of the only large instrument companies which has had a line of Mahogany instruments in its catalogue for almost 75 years, the 15 series.

If the opportunity occurs to play a Martin 5-15 tenor, jump on it. This is the smallest bodied 'modern' Martin, has been out of production for almost fifty years and they are terrific.

Bernie Daniel
Mar-21-2009, 7:05am
I've been seeing a bunch of those little Gibson TG-0 come up for sale on eBay lately -- they all seem popular with the bidders and usually go in the $400 - 600 range.

They all seem to have all mahogany-- but some have a very clear pieces of wood that looks at first glance almost like some kind of conifer -- at least in terms of the light color and grain pattern -- but on closer inspection its probably mahog.

Anyone have one of those guitars -- if so how do you like it?

Mar-22-2009, 8:33pm
I have an all-mahogany '40's (probably) Gibson TG. Sounds nice, not real bright, but warm.

man dough nollij
Mar-22-2009, 8:53pm
Sounds nice, not real bright, but warm.

Reminds me of an old girlfriend...

Mar-23-2009, 2:18pm
I have a mahogany tenor that seems to be a bit of an anomaly. Grover pancake tuners, archtop, roundhole, floating bridge. Back isn't braced, but there's a bracing pattern of doped tape, I suppose to keep it from developing cracks. I've never seen another like it, but it sounds nice, and plays nice too, now that I've upgraded the leather friction pads in the Grovers. It's not super bright, but has a nice projection. I've been happy with the sound, and I guess that's what counts.

If I had to guess, I'd say that it might be a Harmony, from the late 20's or early 30's, possibly made for Sears.