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Thread: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    rcc56 and pops1, your advice is appreciated. A separation at this place is sounding pretty common...maybe it had something to do with bending the top during the build. i was told it was cleated and had closed sometime in the past, although still somewhat visible, and i'm hoping Bryce will do some of his great touch up work on it. It's said the condition is remarkable for a 98 year old mandolin, and the case is about the same, so a case cover might be in order. i hope it's meant to be, but must wait and see.

    String choice is still up in the air. The standard 10-14-24-34 gauge is a little unbalanced, with a little more pull on the E than the G, and the A a little weak. The 10-15-24-36 GHS 250 set seems better, but i'm a little cautious about the little extra tension on this oldie.

    rcc56, what are the strings and gauges in your made up sets?

  2. #27
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    Hello Dan,
    My gauges depend on the mandolin. These early Martins are delicate. When dealing with a newly acquired instrument, I generally start with 10-14-24 nickel-38 nickel. The maximum size I will use on any old mandolin is 10 1/2-15-25-40, but that would be on a Gibson. I would not go that heavy on an early Martin.

    On your mandolin I would be hesitant to use a 15. I might be more inclined to try a 9 1/2 E string first, and see how it responds. If that doesn't work, then you can try the 15. If it feels tight, you can tune the string down before you put the instrument back in its case.

    I have always found that the 34 bass string supplied with some of the "generic" light sets to be thin and flabby compared to rest of the strings. I have used a 36 or 38 bass string on old Martins with no consequences to the instrument.

    I hope this is helpful to you.

    Something that most folks are not aware of: The alloy of a wound string has an effect on its tension. For strings of a similar diameter, phosphor bronze has the highest tension, 80/20 bronze is lower, and nickel is the lowest. I don't know where stainless steel fits in.
    Last edited by rcc56; Nov-12-2017 at 6:37pm.

  3. #28
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    Hi rcc56,

    These thoughts on string gauges for a bent top Martin sound good. i was wondering about a 9 1/2 E string to start, and a 36 G seems good. i also like nickel strings -- which ones have worked for you? It's been said the GHS White Bronze are similar to the Monel alloy, so a 36 might be good there. The GHS 250 has a 15 A, so i might try the lighter gauges first. The string tension charts confirm your experience with a 34 G being floppy.

    Very interesting about the tension with the different alloys; thanks for the great tip. Stainless steel doesn't interest me yet, as it might be a little hard on vintage frets.
    All very helpful...many thanks!

  4. #29
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    I mostly buy singles by the pack from D'addario and GHS. I get the nickel strings from D'addario-- they offer a full selection of gauges, while GHS only has a few choices. I would say that any string made by either of these companies would be of high quality.

    Stainless steel is probably more durable, but it can have a rather cold sound. I don't use it often. It may indeed be harder on frets.

    Since I make part of my living repairing instruments and my specialty is precision fret work, I generally don't worry too much about fret wear. Original frets are charming, but they will wear out sooner or later if you play an instrument much. Most old instruments have frets that are pretty low, and I prefer a higher fret.

  5. #30
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    I have used the 250's on old Martins for a while and not had any problems. I often use custom gauges on guitar putting a heavier low E string on so the string is resonant and not dead. I have done this for several decades and not had problems with one string being heavier. I am after the best sound without compromising the instrument. The different tension of a string or two if not wildly different should not compromise much. The big thing is if the instrument is played regularly then should something be amiss it can be caught right away and changed. I have also used these string on a 20's Supertone for years with no problems.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  6. #31
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    pops1, all good info.
    After studying the photos of the 1919 Style C, i've decided to back off it and resume the hunt for the style A. The 98 year old C would best be served by a collector instead of just a picker like me. However, all this info is still as helpful as ever. A pre-black guard era, large body style is still the way I'd like to go.

  7. #32
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    There's a 1915 rosewood A with the wing shaped pickguard that popped up on Reverb since my last post if interested in seeing one. Nice looking in the pics, tailpiece is questionable, tho. NFI, just I.

  8. #33

    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    Heads up!
    There are three Martins on the classifieds right now:
    a Style B, a pretty and well priced A-K, and a 30's A..

  9. #34
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    Default Re: Martin bent top, flat back mandolins

    The more I play mine the better I like it. I am finding that these are more guitar like in where you pick them. I don't need to pick away from the bridge, but instead get a much better sound picking at the beginning of the sound hole like I would on guitar. Seems I did that on my Gibson oval too and was "the" place to pick. Anyone finding oval hole mandolins are different enough that even technique needs to be changed from and ff hole mandolin. Sorry to slide this away from the original intent of the thread.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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