View Full Version : Rosewood Mandolin

Rave On
Feb-24-2004, 4:52pm
I've bent a set of brazilian rosewood sides for an F and glued the back plates together and I'm getting ready to carve. This wood rings like a bell. I'm seeking advice about what kind of wood I should use for the top...I've got Red, Engelmann and Swiss Spruce on the wood pile. Whether to leave the back and sides thicker/thinner/same as maple. Any advice on the frequency response of rosewood vs maple would be very helpful. Rave On

Feb-24-2004, 5:50pm
Intuition speaking here, not necessarily knowledge...

I built several arched back mandos using Brazilian, and I always liked to use a wider grained Engelmann with it...
Both for looks and sound...

I remember taking the rosewood down pretty thin compared to maple...

I also remember that it was a lot easier to get a nice smooth recurve in the arching--the stuff loves to be scraped into shape...


Chris Baird
Feb-24-2004, 7:09pm
Rosewood is quite a bit more dense and stiff than maple. It will likely produce a brighter tone so you will want to go with a softer top wood like englemann to mellow it out.

Feb-24-2004, 7:39pm

In my guitar experience, maple sides and back are typically "brighter" than rosewood sides/back.

I realize that a typical drednaught guitar is built very differently from a carved back mando.

I would think you would need to go thinner to achieve similar maple-like responses.

I suspect two backs of identical geometries out of rosewood and maple would be dramatically different sounding.

Michael Lewis
Feb-25-2004, 1:52am
The above information is geneally good. #If you leave the back as thick as it would be if maple you will have a rather heavy mandolin and I think it would take a LOT of playing to open up. #This material is a booger to carve, but stick with it and you will be rewarded. #Leave the last little bit of the surfaces to be removed with a scraper. #Spruce is right on here, it scrapes like plastic, but planes like angry glass and splinters. #Any knots or knot shadows will be problematic. #Keep your tools very sharp and take light cuts, then go to the scrapers. #Actually, you may find it easier to do most of the carving with the scrapers. #You will find an oval shaped scraper about 1 1/2" X 2 1/2" very handy for this project (cut your own from .015" blue steel shim stock). #Make the outside surface as perfect as you can, take it out into sunlight so you can see any surface irregularities, and take care of them. #About 1/16" (.060") in the recurve area and 3/32" (.090")in the center will get you in the ball park. #Let it get thicker toward the neck block. #With practice you will be able to go thinner, but be careful as Bz. Rw. splits easily along the grain.

Feb-25-2004, 6:24am
I once owned a Cole rosewood mandolin and it sounded wonderful and was an absolutely beautiful mandolin, it had an natural blond finished engleman top. It really was a stunning mandolin.

Rave On
Feb-25-2004, 11:26am
Thanks for your help. I'll post a picture when it's done.
Rave On

Michael Lewis
Feb-27-2004, 1:29am
I'm going to revise the measurement of the center of the back for a rosewood mandolin. It should be more like .100" - .110" or 2.5mm - 2.7mm. This is a structural consideration. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

May-10-2006, 7:47pm
I also am in the process of building a Brazilian Rosewood mando. I have a brw neck also. I've taken mine down to 2.5mm graduating to 4.5 in the middle. Near the finger board area i'm at 5.5 to 6.5mm. The back does ring rather glass like. I have 100+ year old top wood of red spruce. I also have a very nice Sitka spruce with the nicest even bear claw pattern i've seen. I have a third Sitka top to carve which has sooo much bear claw pattern it's scary. As the brazilian is so bright i may use the bear claw Sitka for eveness of tone. I think the old tone wood may be too much in low tones for the brw. When done i'll post a photo. Then i have to decide how to do the second brazilian set i have.

Ron C
May-10-2006, 8:26pm
Western Red Cedar and Redwood topwoods would be awesome for a Brazilian Rosewood mandolin, I've done that, been there, fantastic tone and volumne.
Also Englemannn Spruce would be a winner too on this type of wood
Ron C

Cole Mandolins http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

barry k
May-10-2006, 10:03pm
I agree with Ron, the perfect choice would be a western red cedar top....it would knock out the sharpness or harshness of the Rosewood.....and go thin, thin, thin (carefully) on the back and sides...2 cents

Michael Lewis
May-11-2006, 12:40am
Shorty, take your own feelings regarding thickness to heart. If you feel the back is getting too thin you have to go with that. YOU are the one that has to decide when to go and where to stop. The previous figures I gave worked for me, but don't use my numbers as gospel. Bz rw is pretty rare and shouldn't be wasted, so my counsel is to make some other mandolins to get EXPERIENCE before you commit your best materials to an instrument. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

If you make your parts 25% - 30% thinner than maple you should be safe.