View Full Version : WWYD: Vintage oval or good new replica?

Rick Crenshaw
Oct-04-2009, 3:14pm
Probably not exactly a direct question about vintage instruments, but I'm finding myself ready to purchase a good oval hole A for a different sound than what I've got. I have two great F5's, not vintage, but built to get that vintage tone (yes, I know you can't buy seasoning and age, but you can get a mandolin that goes close in that direction). This was done primarily because I could not afford a Loar or even a 30's Fern... not even close. (Well, I guess I COULD, but I love being married to my wife.)

Now, vintage oval A's are more affordable and within my ability to purchase without my wife reaching for the frying pan. My question is should I buy a good condition vintage A (snake head, 20's A, or teens A) or should I buy a really top notch replica?

There are several factors which might help you guys give me good advice here:
a) I'm not a collector. I'm after tone, tone, tone.
b) I'm not a fan of fat necks. I prefer more modern slimmish V necks, though I suspect I could learn to adjust for a good sounding mandolin.
c) Don't want a high maintenance instrument. If I can't take it out and play it, I don't really want it, though I suspect I could do that with any good condition vintage mandolin.
d) I'd love a Loar Era Snakehead (any great sounding model) but would be fine with a paddlehead if the tone is better.
e) I don't have access to good instrument shops, though I do live 3 hours from NashVegas.
f) I don't want an overly tubby mandolin. Prefer a rounder tone than my F5's which are very Loarish, midrangey, bright highs.

Any of you care to make comments? Especially comparing the best sounding vintage models to modern maker replica's. Oh, also, any dealer recommendations who will work with me well long distance.

TIA, Rick

Oct-04-2009, 4:39pm
Older As are not slim necked , so you may be happier with a build , that you can specify .
as well as a hybridization of a F like long neck and the oval sound hole body.

I own a brown '22 A0 and another redburst '22 A4

Rick Crenshaw
Oct-04-2009, 6:10pm
Older As are not slim necked , so you may be happier with a build , that you can specify .
as well as a hybridization of a F like long neck and the oval sound hole body.

I own a brown '22 A0 and another redburst '22 A4

So, are those just prior to snakeheads or is one or are both snakeheads? Is there a preference in your mind for the early twenty's mando's over the mid to late teens tonewise?

How many A's did you check out prior to buying those two? Is there a pretty wide tonal difference in examples? In otherwords, is this purchase going to be a long term hunt for 'the one'?

Ryk Loske
Oct-04-2009, 6:57pm
It is often said that we are in a Golden Age of Lutherie. My vote is a new build. I am unabashedly in the Rigel camp and have seen and heard some wonderful instruments recently coming out of Pete's shop. (A Vega cylinder back copy which was a joy to see and hear ..... and i am anxious to hear what happens when Pete does his promised copy of the D'Angelico asymetrical A's.)


Rob Gerety
Oct-04-2009, 7:03pm
You can buy a decent teens paddle head A model for less that $1000 these days. Are there good modern instruments with the vintage tone available in the market place for that kind of money?

Bob DeVellis
Oct-04-2009, 7:11pm
Both old and new have their strengths. Old instruments have character and often a really beautiful tone. They may be a bit more finicky, but not necessarily. I have old oval holes that I love but I also have new ones that are great.

For versatility and value, it's hard to beat a good Bussman Old Wave oval hole. The only possible negative is whether the neck suits your hand -- an important issue on any instrument. But that's the only thing I've ever heard in the way of criticism of a Bussman oval hole. Their necks aren't less popular than anybody else's, mind you; it's just the only thing I've ever heard someone dislike about a Bussman. Some people don't like oval holes of any sort, of course.

I have a couple of old Gibsons, a couple of old Vegas, a couple of old Howe-Ormes, an old Lyon & Healy and they're all wonderful instruments. But for versatility and affordability, I'd put my Old Wave at or near the top of the bunch. Plus, Bill's a great guy and much better about replying to emails than Orville Gibson or Patrick Healy.

Oct-04-2009, 7:26pm
I wholeheartedly agree with Bob about Old Wave oval-hole A models. Bill built one for me earlier this year, and it's a very fine mandolin. If the neck profile is an issue with you, maybe Bill can make the neck the way you want it.
Jim Blanchard

Oct-04-2009, 10:35pm
I had the same question some years ago and decided to get a new build because I wanted to specify neck shape (round no "v") and length (14 frets clear) and it worked out well. My mandolin was built by Will Parsons and was reasonably priced, looks great and has a wonderful oval-hole tone, if you know what I mean.

Dave Greenspoon
Oct-04-2009, 11:06pm
I guess the first part of the question is, What is your budget? The second is, What is the sound you're looking for?

Budget: If a top of the line A-4 snakehead in decent but not great shape and all original parts runs about $5000 or more and ditto if not more so the A2Z, how much of a value is it to buy the functionality of a new build at your budget point?

Sound: Is a Gibson A style the sound your music is looking for, or is a mid-20's vintage Martin with Brazilian rosewood and a spruce top going to do it for you at a more accessible $2k? What about some old bent-top with great tone and mojo for even less money, with upgraded tuners if necessary since you are not in it for a pristine collector's piece? Ditto the idea of a Vega cylinder back?

I have to say those mid-20's Martins and old Vega cylinder backs certainly have their appeal! Then again, I'm a cultural infidel and would not be averse to changing out tuners and the like on a vintage Gibson if that's what it took to have a playable instrument. At the end of the day, if my budget allowed I'd probably be calling someone like Gail Hester to discuss the A-4 of my dreams, with the idea that maybe my one of my [eventual] grandkids might fall in love w/an "early 21st century instrument with some really great old tone."

Martin Jonas
Oct-05-2009, 12:13am
If it's tone you're looking for, some of those vintage Gibsons can be spectacularly good value. I got my 1921/22 (the serial number is right on the boundary of these years) paddlehead Ajr for GBP500 (around $750) around two years ago, which was a great catch as Gibsons are normally much more expensive in the UK than in the US. The neck is slimmer than a teens A with a slight V shape, although not as slim as most modern F5s, and it feels great. I think these early Ajrs already had the non-adjustable truss rod of the later ones, but I may be wrong. Intonation is spot on, tone is more snakehead than teens tubbyness, strong throughout and somewhat aggressive on the trebles. The tuners are working well, although one maybe has to retune slightly more frequently than with modern tuners. The reason for the low price is that it's fairly beat up and that the neck joint/heel looks a bit iffy (but has remained stable all the time I have had it and while the previous two owners have had it). There are some photos in this (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?t=30583) old thread.

So, good vintage ovals can still be had at prices where they compete with Eastman and Kentucky, not Old Wave. It's more than a little potluck, though, and at the affordable end there are likely to be some structural doubts that need to be assessed for their seriousness. No such worries (usually) with modern instruments.

As far as Old Waves ovals are concerned, I've only ever played one and that was an unusual custom model with mahogany back which was offered to me for GBP1000 (around $1500), itself rather a bargain price for those. It looked spectacular, played like butter and had a cool vintage sound on the bottom three strings. However, on that particular mando the E string was a bit weak and I passed on the offer. As I've never heard of that issue with other Old Waves, it was probably not typical and may even have been a setup issue. The general consensus is that the Old Waves are as close to the vintage mojo as you can get in a modern build.


Oct-05-2009, 1:42am
Hey Rick. For what it's worth, I've got an '18 A and a '24 Jr and here's my take. The '18 I picked out of a largish lot of vintage A's and it was outstanding. The tone really beat up the competition of higher end, more collectible models. Nothing touched it in the room to my ears anyway. The neck was livable and I really grew into it. This was my stage axe exclusively for ages. I picked up the snakehead Jr off the classifieds for the sole reason that it was a great price and I thought it would be a reasonable back up. Man, it killed me the first time I played it! I've never given tons of my time to the whole "it has to be a snakehead to be any good" mentality (deliberate exaggeration here....) but if this is an example of what they are all like, sign me up. If you A-B the two of them, the tone is shockingly similar but the '24 plays better than it's older relative in my hands. Bare in mind that I've always found my '18 extraordinary, even by old gibby standards. On top of the playability, the Jr has that extra little "something" that I can't describe but it's painfully obvious when you pick it up. Serious mojo. You'll pay more for a high-end luthier built copy I'd imagine and while you'd get a beautiful instrument, it just wouldn't have that character and experience. That being said, I've commissioned a copy of my Jr for the
stage. I know you can't build in 85-90 years of playing and tone into an instrument but you can try. I'm just becoming increasingly nervous hammering on these night after night and transporting them all over the place doing fly away shows, so I'm going to see if I can live with new build. Strictly because I don't want to destroy these mandos and I will be able to better preserve them for my own pleasure and studio work. My opinion on all of this of course. Good luck in your quest-there are some real outstanding examples out there so be picky and find something you love!

Pete Martin
Oct-05-2009, 3:41am
Can't beat an Old Wave oval. Have two of Bills babies myself and enjoy the heck out of em.

Oct-05-2009, 11:17am
It sounds like you (really) want a snakehead Gibson. The snakehead A-ovals went to a considerably more narrow neck/fingerboard, about 1-1/16" I believe, than the paddleheads (1-3/16") both before and after. So that may fit your preference better, but they seem to run ~50% or more expensive than paddleheads. I have two Gibson paddleheads; they are my preference because of the wider fingerboard. But my ideal period would be mid-late '20s with the adjustable truss rod.

The Old Wave A-ovals are fantastic, but they have wider fingerboards a la the old Gibsons. One suggestion I would make is to look at this as a difference/characteristic of this style of mandolin, not something to necessarily avoid. From experience, it can be hard to find a used Old Wave for sale.

What about that distressed Pomeroy A-oval that has listed several times now in the classifieds? If I felt that I could pull the trigger on a $1K mandolin purchase right now, it would be this one.

Oct-05-2009, 11:57am
As some have already mentioned ... it depends on what tone you're looking for and your budget .
I was in a simular situation having the F model that was perfect for me but was always longing for the oval hole tone of a vintage Gibson. Tried several vintage and newer oval holes ... like the long neck hybrids. I landed with an old vintage Gibson A4 1919 paddle head ... all original and in great shape. The short & fatter neck took a little getting use to but boy that sweet tone of it was what I was really looking for. I'm very happy that I got it. It really has that old timey sort of what I call "Norman Blake tone" and that's what I wanted. I suggest you just try a few out and see if that's what you're looking for. You can get a pretty decent vintage Gibson oval hole that won't set you back to far pricewise.

Oct-05-2009, 2:53pm
A Gilchrist Model One would appear to suit several of your requirements.

Rick Crenshaw
Oct-05-2009, 5:54pm
A Gilchrist Model One would appear to suit several of your requirements.

Yowza!!! I bet it would. Think I'll try an Old Wave or vintage Gibby first.

Thanks to all so far. Great observations. Anyone dealt with Charles Johnson at Mandolin World... PM is fine. Other than that, Gruhn's trip advised I supposed.

Bob DeVellis
Oct-05-2009, 7:13pm
Charles is a good guy with a solid reputation. He also knows a lot about mandolins. I've only heard good reports from people who've done business with him.

Mike Snyder
Oct-05-2009, 7:48pm
I have purchased one mandolin from Charles, quite a while ago. The transaction was satisfactory in every way. He has always had an awesome inventory. Those F4s are killin' me.

R. Kane
Oct-05-2009, 7:54pm
There's an Old Wave oval here (http://www.acousticmusic.org) that I played a few weeks ago and I think is still for sale. NFI. It sounded great, was easy to play, had a nut that seemed in between the snakeheads and my MT20, so maybe 1 1/8". I have 2 Old Waves, and am very happy with them.

Martin Jonas
Oct-05-2009, 9:58pm
Thanks to all so far. Great observations. Anyone dealt with Charles Johnson at Mandolin World... PM is fine. Other than that, Gruhn's trip advised I supposed.

Charles has a great reputation and I've only ever heard good things about him. My Ajr was at one stage sold by Charles, and although I bought it a couple of owners later, one of the things that reassured me about the stability of the neck joint is that Charles had given it a thorough check and had pronounced it sound. Turns out he was right.


Stephen Lind
Oct-06-2009, 12:09am
I'm suprised that no one here has brought up what I decided to do being in the same situation as the OP.

After much ground work and deliberation, I have ordered a mandolin to be built by the amazing Mrs Gail Hester!

I own a couple of very nice paddle head Gibsons ('17 & '20) and even though i come from guitar and am comfortable on a large range of neck sizes including Nationals, basses, my Leo Kottke...I perfer a "modern" (as in Loar) neck carve on a mandolin
My Givens A3 is perfect at 1 1/16

The first Hester that I played just floored me on all accounts-
and a VERY vintage vibe
then i visited Gail and Chuck and that did it
had a GREAT time and was able to play a few of her pieces next to a vintage F4
The mandolin Gail is making for me is for my 60th birthday and is a very important milestone in my life and I know that it will be spectacular in every way

there will likely be a thread on the build as it will be a very unique A with (of course) a historical precedent

so WWYD?
that's what I'm Doing

Rob Gerety
Oct-06-2009, 8:47am
This is certainly a conundrum. I went through this same vintage v. modern interpretation in my guitar life. Of course, there is no answer. I feel myself getting sucked into the same thing all over again only this time it is mandolins. Its pretty clear from the posts here that I'm not the first one to struggle with this, eh Rick? I am in the exact same place. Ultimately, if I had the resources, which I don't, (and therein lies the problem), I would have both.

Unfortunately, I have to be practical about this. I want to play a nice reliable oval hole with good tone. It does not have to be the ultimate - very very good will be satisfactory. In guitars I tried vintage, then had a couple of custom builds and then ended up changing my whole attitude completely and I found an excellent used Bourgeois for half the cost of a custom build that I am now head over heels in love with. I'd like to avoid all the wasted money and time and stress this time around. I feel a case of MAS coming on.

Aside from the custom builds - which are on my radar screen for sure - what are the better A shape oval hole mandolins out there in the under $3000 price range from the high end medium builders - I know Collings - any others of that ilk?

Oct-06-2009, 10:28am
The Colling's ovals have a hybrid neck and would likely not sound like an old Gibson. Frankly, you can get a players vintage Gibson in playable condition for much less than a new build. I kinda like supporting the new independent builder but I've played some very comfortable, great sounding vintage Gibson's too. I'm happy this question isn't my current problem. No easy or right solution.


Bob A
Oct-06-2009, 10:46am
I go with the old ones most of the time; but then, I'm not going to be around long enough to put 30 years of breaking-in into a new instrument. Your mileage may vary.

FWIW, I've had few problems, none very costly to remedy, with my 1920s Gibsons. And I "imprinted" on the typical Gibson neck size long ago, so that's no problem for me.

Chunky But Funky
Oct-06-2009, 10:48am
Aside from the custom builds - which are on my radar screen for sure - what are the better A shape oval hole mandolins out there in the under $3000 price range from the high end medium builders - I know Collings - any others of that ilk?

I would lump Pomeroy (http://www.pomeroyinstruments.com/)'s in that ilk, made by Don and Josh Paine. There was a recent naturally distressed A in the classifieds. Also Steve Miklas @ Acoustic Music Works (http://www.acousticmusicworks.com/Pom64.html) has a used F4 style oval hole Pomeroy. NFI on either, BTW. Steve would be able to give you an in-hand description compared to the Collings ovals, because he carries both.


Rob Gerety
Oct-06-2009, 11:43am
Hmmm. The Pomeroy's look interesting. The sound clip of the A2 model sounds lovely.

Oct-06-2009, 11:55am
One like this? :grin:


Rob Gerety
Oct-06-2009, 1:28pm
That would do nicely. Is that Pomeroy? Or is that yours?

Oct-06-2009, 1:39pm


Ryk Loske
Oct-06-2009, 1:42pm

That would do much better than nicely. Superb work on a very handsome mandolin,


Rob Gerety
Oct-06-2009, 1:50pm
Send it on over - White River Junction, Vermont 05001.

Jill McAuley
Oct-06-2009, 4:50pm
Hmmm. The Pomeroy's look interesting. The sound clip of the A2 model sounds lovely.

I have a Pomeroy A4, got it at the beginning of the summer and I absolutely LOVE it! If you want to hear it I've got some videos up on my myspace page (link to that is in my signature) and also an mp3 recorded on a Zoom H2. The sound quality of the mp3 is better than on the videos as they were recorded just using a webcam. Don's prices are really competitive and he's an awesome person to deal with too!


Randy Smith
Oct-06-2009, 6:33pm
Besides the neck length (see JES' post), you should check the type of bracing used on the roundhole you're interested in to hear the difference the bracing makes in the instrument's sound. The old Gibsons use a transverse brace--a single brace below the soundhole. Many newer roundholes use X bracing. Mandolins with either type can sound very nice, but they will very likely sound different. (Yes, of course, different mandolins with the same type of bracing will sound different from each other.) Listen to soundclips online if you can.

Good looking,


Rick Crenshaw
Oct-06-2009, 8:18pm
Dang, Johann! That looks great! I've played one of you style 21 mando's... very very nice! You're definitely on my list. I just have to do some work to find out just what I want. Nashville trip definitely in the works, but I won't buy until I check out some of the modern makes here somehow. Kamp's a good place though too far away in time.

Reckon, I best put the ol' RM-1 up for sale to get the pocket money ready! I like that mandolin a lot, but I'm needing a different sound for my style music.

Oct-07-2009, 6:16am
Send it on over - White River Junction, Vermont 05001.

Send $$$. Minneapolis, MN. 55412 :grin:

Thanks Rick!

Rob Gerety
Oct-07-2009, 7:57am
Send $$$. Minneapolis, MN. 55412 :grin:

I knew there would be a catch.:crying:

Oct-07-2009, 11:28pm
I have a Woodley that has a unique sound hole that sounds a lot like my '22 A2. Has a modern long neck and radius ed fingerboard. Mostly i play my 21V and love it to death. Thought nothing would replace my Gibson, but Hans has built one that is superb (more than one i am sure). Nice looking A in the pic Hans.
I am sure you would be hard pressed to find a better A model than the one Hans has in the pic.

Oct-15-2009, 8:47am
I spent about an hour in the Music emporium in boston last Saturday, trying out just about every mando in the store, and they have a few. the Collings and Weber oval holes were the best of the batch IMHO. You can spend more if you want, but they're not bad for the money. Collings gets points for doing almost everything right in terms of fit and finish. I think the Weber tailpiece is a pretty good design. joel

Oct-17-2009, 2:27am
I spent about an hour in the Music emporium in boston last Saturday, trying out just about every mando in the store, and they have a few. the Collings and Weber oval holes were the best of the batch IMHO. You can spend more if you want, but they're not bad for the money. Collings gets points for doing almost everything right in terms of fit and finish. I think the Weber tailpiece is a pretty good design. joel

Another bit of love for the Webers. My custom Bridger A largely killed my MAS, but down the line I wouldn't mind a custom Custom Vintage A. The one that's currently at Elderly did more for my ears than any of the teens and 20s Gibsons that shared a wall with it. (And I'm a big fan of Gibson, having travelled to Elderly this summer specifically to check out a teens A3.)

Oct-22-2009, 10:26am
I believe the Gibson A-jr snakeheads are the best value for the buck. I think they are under priced even. Gruhn appraised mine at $2500 and I bought it off of ebay for $1650. they go for $1500-1700 or so in decent original condition. And wow they are loud! And they have a dirty, growling, woody, low end that is just delicious.

If you go for a vintage gibby I would recommend playing before buying if possible because the intonation might be off. Apparently, back in the 20's Gibson outsourced some of their fingerboard/fret work and the work was not consistently accurate. I have owned two mid 20's snakeheads and the intonation was way off at certain frets on both mandolins due to the frets not being cut in the right place. On my A-jr I had Lynn Dudenbostel replace the fretboard with a new radiused fretboard and thicker fret wire and then he set it up nicely. I now believe it is the most perfect vintage oval A on the planet. I'll post some pics later.

Oct-22-2009, 12:35pm
FWIW , Rick, the ones I have are 'Paddleheads'. premium uptick in cost for 'Snakeheads' (in '23 particularly)
as I see in these pages and looking at online store's web pages

Dave Greenspoon
Oct-25-2009, 8:08pm
There is currently a Rigel A+ custom in the Cafe Classifieds for $1800. If the divorce wouldn't cost me a whole lot more...

Anyway, nfi on my part. I've just always loved the Rigel A ovals for both the obvious reasons: Rigel, and oval!

Jack Roberts
Oct-28-2009, 7:22pm
Hans, if I hadn't spent all my money on my children, I'd be spending it on your mandolins.

Oct-28-2009, 7:34pm
You can find disappointing vintage instruments as well as really yummytoned classics. And new instruments can sound great or not so great too.

It really depends on the individual example that you try out.

I happened upon a vintage instrument years ago and I think its tone is exceptional. I would be just as happy if it were new, if it sounded as good.

Rob Gerety
Oct-28-2009, 9:06pm
Hans, if I hadn't spent all my money on my children, I'd be spending it on your mandolins.

I'm in that very same boat. Be nice if some of that economic stimulus went to forgive PLUS loans.

Oct-28-2009, 10:21pm
My 22 Gibson had intonation problems for a long time till i figured out that the nut was 1mm too close to the first fret, moved it back and she sounds great.

Rob Gerety
Oct-29-2009, 10:38pm
I struggled with the very same issues as the OP. It is a tough decision. In the end, after playing various instruments in my price range, I made the decision to find a good vintage A and after a bit of a search I ended up with this little sweetheart.

man dough nollij
Oct-30-2009, 12:16am
I heard my first old Gibson paddlehead a few years ago, and decided I really wanted something with that resonant, sustainy sound. I got an Eastman 504. I've never been able to A/B it with anything other than that paddlehead, but I actually prefer the sound and playability to the old Gibson. I will be selling my 504 not because of any weakness with it, but because Bill B is almost finished with my Cedar/Mesquite A! If I were you, I'd try to get ahold of an Eastman X04. You may well be blown away, as I was. I paid $500 for mine from Gianna Violins about four years ago, and consider it probably the smokin'est mandolin deal I've ever seen. :mandosmiley:

Will Kimble
Dec-11-2009, 1:51pm
Fresh out of the shop...


Will Kimble

Dec-11-2009, 1:56pm
Will -- are you making ovals again or is this a one-off?? If you are making them again that's good news!! That is a stunning mandolin. Any more pics?

Gail Hester
Dec-11-2009, 2:35pm
Lovely mandolins Will and Hans. Here's my last A4. (click on picture three times for a close-up)

Will Kimble
Dec-11-2009, 2:36pm
Hi Shaun,

I still make them occasionally for my own pleasure, but not to order. Not sure what will happen with this one yet, it is making a strong case for staying at home on my wall! I will try to post some more pics later.

Will Kimble

John McGann
Dec-11-2009, 3:07pm
wholly mackerel, Will! :mandosmiley:

Will Kimble
Dec-11-2009, 3:33pm
Gail, that is beautiful! And Hans makes some of my favorite modern oval holes - along with Mr. Gilchrist, of course!

Here are some more pics as requested:





I am loving the new StewMac Elite tuners on this one, they are working great!

Happy Holidays to all,
Will Kimble

PS: Hey John McGann, when are we gonna hang out again! It has been too long and I have too much I want to learn from you!

Dec-11-2009, 4:08pm
ooohh man!!! YA'LL ARE KILLIN ' ME!!!! those are some beautiful mandos...and I'm getting some serious Oval A envy right now......

the OP asked WWYD? lie awake nights tryin' to decide comes to mind...serious felony misbehavior involving hi-speed car chases and bags of cash is an option.

it's not fair to ask a question like that in here with so many mando-addicts lurking about. the upside to your dilema however is that for all the choices you have in front of you....they're all great.

let us know what you decide, so we can check that particular instrument off our "gotta have/can't decide" list

Rob Gerety
Dec-11-2009, 4:34pm
Hey, do those tuners come in worm under?

Dec-11-2009, 5:34pm
I have a Weber Vintage A, which is an Oval A made from old wood. However, I think that it is an entirely different beast than a Snakehead. The sound is way different, not better different, less "tubby" more singing. Personally I think the playability of the Weber is way better. That being said, there is something just wonderful about playing and hearing a snakehead. Someday, I would love to have one. But, it would be no threat to the Weber as they are just so different. They both stand on their own as great instruments from different eras. The Vintage A in more Celtic in feeling and the the snakehead more old tymey. That is just my take.

Dec-11-2009, 5:37pm
Here are some pictures of the Weber Vintage A for your perusal.

Dec-11-2009, 5:47pm
Beautiful Will. I especially like the coloring on this one. That is really nice work!! You deserve to keep one for yourself.

Rob Gerety
Dec-11-2009, 5:58pm
I came real close to owning a WVA. Had it in my living room for a few days. I liked it a lot. Extremely resonate. But I fell in love with a teen Gibson so I had to let the WVA go. Not sure I would agree on the playability question. For some reason the short and beefy Gibson neck (with modern frets) feels absolutely delightful in my hand.

Dec-11-2009, 6:29pm
Well, I've followed this thread from the beginning because I was in the same boat as the OP.

I ended up trading for an Old Wave A oval a few weeks ago and couldn't be happier. It's been played a lot over the years and has a few scars but it has the sound I've been searching for and plays like a dream.

Will Kimble
Dec-11-2009, 7:04pm
Thanks Shaun, I really appreciate it.

And Tony, it is interesting that you mention playability - that is one of the main reasons I am drawn to modern oval holes over vintage. It is exceedingly difficult for me to find an old one that has a good sound AND has a neck shape and setup that I can get comfortable with. I just expect a lot from that angle and am very particular.

I also really like what Gilchrist has done with oval holes, especially using hard maple for the back and neck in order to tighten up the bass and give a little more clarity. I would say I am actually copying Gilchrist oval holes, not old Gibsons.

Best wishes to all,
Will Kimble

Dec-13-2009, 7:22pm
I come to play music, not to recreate any particular period, or to breath life into old neglected instruments, nor to support new builders.

What ever mandolin that gives me the tone and playability I want, be it vintage or replica, and within my budget, thats the one. Given identical tone, playability, and price, I would go with the one with the better tuners.

Dec-13-2009, 8:18pm
Beautiful mandolins Will, Gail and STE. Sure is refreshing to see these beautiful oval A's being built. As much as we all love a great F5 they all fail miserable where these shine.

Will Kimble
Dec-14-2009, 10:20pm
All right, finally got the requisite JR-style pickguard mounted:


I was listening to Butch Baldassari's O'Carolan CD today and it reminded me of something relevant to this thread - track 8 on that CD is the best recorded example of one of my oval holes, it is a duet between Butch on an oval hole A similar to the one in these pictures and John Mock on one of my mandolas. Butch didn't love the 12 fret neck, but he sure made it sing on that track.

I also wanted to say that Hans Brentrup's A4C in the classifieds would be one of the finest oval holes you could buy for any price.

Best wishes to all,
Will Kimble

John McGann
Dec-14-2009, 10:52pm
PS: Hey John McGann, when are we gonna hang out again! It has been too long and I have too much I want to learn from you!

Yeah man, I'm way up for that! :mandosmiley:

Dec-14-2009, 11:19pm
I'm gonna have trouble sleeping tonight. Just when you think you have MAS back in the box. Hans if only, they could be mine.
My heart and prayers for your wife's surgery.