View Full Version : New Coombe Classical model, based on a L&H

Sep-08-2013, 4:46am
This is a new mandolin I have just finished that I am calling my "Classical" model. It is based on my 1918 Lyon and Healy mandolin. It has been a long term project for me to make a mandolin based on the Lyon and Healey/Washburn mandolins, but they are constructed so different from the Gibsons that I needed an original to refer to. Around 18 months ago I imported an original into Australia, and this the result.

It was tempting to make an accurate copy, but the scroll headstock and unique tailpiece would have involved significant extra costs such that the end result would have been so expensive very few people would be able to afford to buy one. So there were a few difficult decisions to be made. The tailpiece and headstock have been simplified, but the mandolin retains the essential characterisics on the Lyon and Healy, i.e. lightly built, low neck angle, pickuard, solid full contact bridge, engraved tailpiece cover etc. It has a similar light and delicate sound, and is a delight to play as are the originals. Being based on an early Lyon and Healy, it has the longer scale length of 13 & in and with symmetric points. There were a few challenges during it's construction, but I am really happy with the result. Hope you like it.

First some sound clips

Some pictures

Pete Jenner
Sep-08-2013, 10:03am
It's very nice Peter. I notice there are no bushings around the tuner posts. Is that an L&H thing?

Marty Jacobson
Sep-08-2013, 10:11am
Peter, you've outdone yourself on this one. Excellent. I can't listen to the tone right now, but will look forward to hearing the clips later today.
I also love the "wartime" peghead look.
Looks like you're using FT-74's?

Sep-08-2013, 11:02am
Beautiful. So well done!


GarY Nava
Sep-08-2013, 11:17am
Very nice work- I think that you made some very sensible compromises; the head and tailpiece work really well.
Cheers Gary

Jim Garber
Sep-08-2013, 12:02pm
Wonderful, Peter. I wish I lived closer to take a look and play it in person. I have been experimenting with my short scale L&H and even tho I have never liked them (I thought) I tried some T-I strings and was pleasantly surprised. I actually own one of each of the variants --short and long scale.

Nice work on the tailpiece cover and the lack of scroll does not bother me a bit.

I wonder if Geoff Barber or Marrissa Carroll can get to play some on this beauty

Bill Clements
Sep-08-2013, 4:56pm
Beautiful! You've taken a great instrument and made it your own!

Sep-08-2013, 5:31pm
I notice there are no bushings around the tuner posts. Is that an L&H thing?

Pete, you are correct, they did not use bushings. It actually works very well with an Ebony overlay on the headstock because you can drill the holes smaller so the fit is tighter for the string posts. However, the holes need to be drilled very accurately for it to work. I used the Stew Mac old world tuners which give it a vintage look. I was unimpressed with these tuners to start with, but with a bit of fiddling and lubrication, plus a bit of use they do function reasonably well.

Looks like you're using FT-74's?

Also correct. I think Thomastics would be a better choice, but I don't have any at the moment and they are far too expensive to risk breakage while setting it up. I will try a set of Thomastics later.

Sep-08-2013, 8:30pm
Beautiful work!

Sep-08-2013, 8:44pm
great tone - bright and loud

I bet some Bluegrass would sound pretty good on this

love the L&H style

nice work!

Sep-08-2013, 9:35pm
These mandolins are not bluegrass instruments. They have limited volume and dynamic range, although mine certainly is louder than the original. The sound is sweet and delicate so suits classical music very well, but they can be used for just about anything except bluegrass.

Clement Barrera-Ng
Sep-09-2013, 12:34am
Outstanding in both look and sound.

Jim Garber
Sep-09-2013, 8:22am
They have limited volume and dynamic range, although mine certainly is louder than the original. The sound is sweet and delicate so suits classical music very well, but they can be used for just about anything except bluegrass.

I would not say that classical musicians would prefer an instrument with "limited volume and dynamic range" nor would I characterize the vintage L&Hs with that either. I would say the timbre is very different from the std Gibson F5 but I would not say they were limited, just different. For instance:

Don Grieser
Sep-09-2013, 11:47am
Beautiful mandolin. I always liked the look of the L&H Model B more than the A.

Pete Jenner
Sep-09-2013, 12:22pm
Jim that's a superb piece of music and played beautifully but I can't say I'm enamored of the sound of the mandolin. It sounds a little dry to me. I'd be interested to hear it on a Brian Dean Grand concert.

Jim Garber
Sep-09-2013, 1:44pm
It is a matter of taste, Peter. I am used to the sound of bowlbacks. OTOH it is very difficult to compare sounds from youtube videos. My point, in any case, was that IMHO L&H mandolins and I assume Peter C's creation are limited in dynamics and volume. The tone that I have heard from Joe Brent's Grand Concert is closer to the German bowlback tone so, yes, there is a great difference there.

Sep-09-2013, 4:01pm
That's a beauty, Peter! I love the look of those L & H mandos.

Sep-09-2013, 6:01pm
Glad someone posted that video of Marissa. She is Australia's Chris Thile, destined for greatness in the classical scene. I think I have been misunderstood re the reference to bluegrass. These are not F hole mandolins with Red Spruce tops that are favoured for playing bluegrass music. Play a L&H or just about any other oval hole mandolin in a noisy band situation (not necessarily bluegrass) and it gets drowned. They also do not chop very well, and the chop is a vital component of bluegrass music. Completely different characteristics. Mine does go quite loud and projects well, so does have good dynamic range (better than the original), but it has completely different characteristics to my A5 mandolins that can be really thrashed in a band situation. Horses for courses, and variety is good.

Jim Garber
Sep-09-2013, 8:37pm
Peter C: From your photos it looks like your mandolin has roundwound, phosphor bronze strings. Is that so? When my long scale L&H was functional I strung it with D'Addario EXP-74s. It was pretty loud and sweet and projected quite nicely, tho I would say not upper level in the bark department. With my short scale,I tried a number of different set of strings and settled on T-I mediums as advised by Geoff Barber and (I assume) played by Marissa Carroll as well. I like the tone of those but my feeling is that T-Is generally mellow out the tone of whatever they are on. I wonder how the vintage L&H you patterned your mandolin on was strung.

Sep-09-2013, 9:01pm
I use D'Addario FT74. These are round wound phosphur bronze that are ground smooth. The A is wound like the Thomasics. They have a different sound from the RJ74 and EXP74 strings (more mellow), and are also different from Thomastics. Both mandolins have the same strings.

Perry Babasin
Sep-11-2013, 11:03am
Beautiful instrument, classic and cool vibe. I love the finish and the tail piece is very cool, great tribute piece! Very nice work! Did I mention the binding?

Oct-23-2013, 7:58pm
Stunning. Hats off to Peter. He often gets overlooked by other Australian makers, but believe me, I would put his mandolins up against ANYTHING. They are stunning.



Steve Sorensen
Oct-23-2013, 10:28pm
Based upon that Bit 'o Bach, everything is better in W.A.!!!! I think I'm ready to move back to Margaret River!

Gail Hester
Oct-24-2013, 2:52am
Beautiful Peter. Very open sounding yet captures the sweetness of the vintage L&Hs. Bravo.

Oct-24-2013, 8:01am
Beautiful mandolin! It sounds great also. I had a long scale style C for a little while. It was a nice mandolin. Not really loud but it had a nice voice and I remember feeling relaxed and empowered after playing it as it had a very soothing sound. It was kind of like a trip to the spa. Unfortunately I needed a trip to the spa afterwards because it had some of that concentrated dust that old mandolins have sometimes. The tuners also weren't very good but that could have been corrected. Definitely a worthy remake, it does seem more powerful.

Oct-24-2013, 4:14pm
Thanks Gail, you nailed it. I have just been doing A/B comparisons with the original and mine is sounding sweeter and more like the original as it gets older, but has a more open sound and is more lively, with more ring and sustain. The weight is identical to the original and it feels the same in the hands, so is a lovely instrument to play. This is absolutely one of my all time favourite mandolins. No question I would choose mine over the original if I was buying a mandolin. Very pleasing.

Pete, I think the dryness you are hearing with Marissa's style B is to some extent the Thomastic strings she uses, and also the fact it is over 90 yo. These mandolins do have a characteristic sound that is different, so it is a matter of personal preference.