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Thread: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    I just love it when a 7 year old thread in which I was involved gets revived!

    I have had seven years to think about this. I am of course in favor of thinking outside the box in terms of design and woods. The question a luthier has to ask himself is, can I sell it? Copies of the classic Loar design are easy sellers. That said, there are certainly buyers looking for something different. And there are luthiers out there willing to experiment. May these forward thinking sellers and buyers find each other.

    You still generally have to have soft wood on the top and hard wood everywhere else for sound. I have seen mandolins that were all mahogany though, including the top. Somewhat dark sound.

    There are woods that are technically hardwoods but in reality as soft as some softwoods. Butternut, for example. I think a walnut body and butternut too would go together nicely.

    If you want a wood that makes a nice looking top but has good sonic properties too, I think bearclaw spruce would do nicely, as well as figured redwood. My wife has a dulcimer with a nice flamed redwood top.
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    I just love it when a 7 year old thread in which I was involved gets revived!

    I have had seven years to think about this. I am of course in favor of thinking outside the box in terms of design and woods. The question a luthier has to ask himself is, can I sell it? Copies of the classic Loar design are easy sellers. That said, there are certainly buyers looking for something different. And there are luthiers out there willing to experiment. May these forward thinking sellers and buyers find each other.

    You still generally have to have soft wood on the top and hard wood everywhere else for sound. I have seen mandolins that were all mahogany though, including the top. Somewhat dark sound.

    There are woods that are technically hardwoods but in reality as soft as some softwoods. Butternut, for example. I think a walnut body and butternut too would go together nicely.

    If you want a wood that makes a nice looking top but has good sonic properties too, I think bearclaw spruce would do nicely, as well as figured redwood. My wife has a dulcimer with a nice flamed redwood top.
    This is what I was wondering as well. Many hardwoods are softer than spruce itself. Balsa, poplar, etc. So why is it that these can't be used as soundboards? Also, if they use all koa and all mahogany ukes and guitars, why not on a mandolin?

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pranav Ajay Warrier View Post
    This is what I was wondering as well. Many hardwoods are softer than spruce itself. Balsa, poplar, etc. So why is it that these can't be used as soundboards? Also, if they use all koa and all mahogany ukes and guitars, why not on a mandolin?
    There is more to it then just how hard the wood is. Poplar is roughly as dense as spruce but a bit harder. Balsa is much softer and less dense. But in top woods it's the stiffness to weigth ratio and some other factors that play major role. These woods will produce different tone which in some instruments may be desirable. The Koa guitars sound distinctively different and koa is THE traditional choice for UKE so anything different will be considered inferior by many musicians...
    Back wood has much less impact on overall tone and type of wood can be compensated by thickness etc. so it is common to see many species on backs but generally only softwoods similar to spruce on tops.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pranav Ajay Warrier View Post
    Because luthierie is an art, not a math equation. If somebody painted the Mona Lisa a billion times just because it is the most famous painting, art wouldn't be valuable at all. As we get older, we have to try things. I hate the idea of just copying the exact Loar plans or Stradivarius plans and such. Where's the fun in that? We shouldn't always follow tradition, if we did that, the world wouldn't progress at all. It is such an elitist attitude to believe that just because the Lloyd Loar or Stradivarius designs were the "best", we should keep doing exactly what they did, or else, we are breaking tradition, and disrespecting them.
    You should respect other opinions here. I LOVE the sound of BG mandolin and I didn't know who LL was when I first started playing in a band. Actually I learned about him only after I made my first mandolin and dived deep into studying it. There is nothing elitist about it most makers are living out of what they sell and greatest demand is for traditional styled mandolins. Being not dependent on income from building I could afford to make whatever wild creations just for fun, but as I said I love the sound and I LOVE the design - the original design for F-4 and F-5 is work of genius. I would compare it to works of great architects as the details really blend into whole in a way that is hard to replicate. Back when I started drawing F-5 I just started with teardrop and added points and scroll and found out that it looks UGLY even though all curves are perfectly symmetrical and smooth and scroll flows smoothly into button etc. I kept looking at many mandolins (I still have a database of thousands of pics I downloaded over the years) and found out the ones with best shape were the old Gibsons. I found out that you cannot keep the overall symmetry of teardrop shape and add points, the whole is out of balance. The general curves on opposite sides of mandolin will necessarily have to be a little asymmetric to keep the balance of whole and the shape of scroll is another level... Took me years to find out.
    To me building is more like shooting at target. Billion folks have hit the center but I want to hit is as well and then consistently again and again... Lutherie is VERY different form arts like painting. They capture one moment but luthiery (at high level) is a craft that became quite rare and almost like art because not everyone can do it.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    You should respect other opinions here. I LOVE the sound of BG mandolin and I didn't know who LL was when I first started playing in a band. Actually I learned about him only after I made my first mandolin and dived deep into studying it. There is nothing elitist about it most makers are living out of what they sell and greatest demand is for traditional styled mandolins. Being not dependent on income from building I could afford to make whatever wild creations just for fun, but as I said I love the sound and I LOVE the design - the original design for F-4 and F-5 is work of genius. I would compare it to works of great architects as the details really blend into whole in a way that is hard to replicate. Back when I started drawing F-5 I just started with teardrop and added points and scroll and found out that it looks UGLY even though all curves are perfectly symmetrical and smooth and scroll flows smoothly into button etc. I kept looking at many mandolins (I still have a database of thousands of pics I downloaded over the years) and found out the ones with best shape were the old Gibsons. I found out that you cannot keep the overall symmetry of teardrop shape and add points, the whole is out of balance. The general curves on opposite sides of mandolin will necessarily have to be a little asymmetric to keep the balance of whole and the shape of scroll is another level... Took me years to find out.
    To me building is more like shooting at target. Billion folks have hit the center but I want to hit is as well and then consistently again and again... Lutherie is VERY different form arts like painting. They capture one moment but luthiery (at high level) is a craft that became quite rare and almost like art because not everyone can do it.
    I'm not saying he can't admire the Loar mandolins and attempt to recreate it, but I feel that it is a bit elitist to say it is wrong to stray away from the norm. I think there is much to gain from exploring new areas in anything. Even in math equations, there are always new holes and paradoxes to explore and figure out, and that is what makes it fun and cool. When making something for money, I understand it, but stuff like what elkhorn does, using different woods and experimenting is definitely something that shouldn't be put down. Tradition shouldn't dictate what we do all the time, sometimes it's good to let curiosity take its turn.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pranav Ajay Warrier View Post
    Because luthierie is an art, not a math equation. If somebody painted the Mona Lisa a billion times just because it is the most famous painting, art wouldn't be valuable at all. As we get older, we have to try things. I hate the idea of just copying the exact Loar plans or Stradivarius plans and such. Where's the fun in that? We shouldn't always follow tradition, if we did that, the world wouldn't progress at all. It is such an elitist attitude to believe that just because the Lloyd Loar or Stradivarius designs were the "best", we should keep doing exactly what they did, or else, we are breaking tradition, and disrespecting them.
    I follow you and agree with you (more or less) until you have to use that charged word elitist which truly has nothing to do with a discussion of art or of luthiery. Follow the history of instrument making through the centuries and you will see that there always was and always will be people who experiment with all sorts of configurations and designs that veer sharply from the average or the norm. That is all to the good and makes it all very interesting.

    There are examples from at least a hundred years ago of multiple-top instruments, those using odd woods, metals, or even glass and ceramics, multiple-necks, added sympathetic strings, fretted violins and fretless guitars, etc.

    OTOH there are those proven designs that dominate for a good reason. Those are the ones that work for most musicians to get the tone, volume, projection that they are looking for to express their artistic bents. Yes, luthery is an art for sure, but it is also a means to produce a tool to produce other art. Sort of like experimentation in paintbrushes: "Hmmmmm... how about a paintbrush where the handle is made of hair and the brush is made of wood?" Could, work, right?
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I follow you and agree with you (more or less) until you have to use that charged word elitist which truly has nothing to do with a discussion of art or of luthiery. Follow the history of instrument making through the centuries and you will see that there always was and always will be people who experiment with all sorts of configurations and designs that veer sharply from the average or the norm. That is all to the good and makes it all very interesting.

    There are examples from at least a hundred years ago of multiple-top instruments, those using odd woods, metals, or even glass and ceramics, multiple-necks, added sympathetic strings, fretted violins and fretless guitars, etc.

    OTOH there are those proven designs that dominate for a good reason. Those are the ones that work for most musicians to get the tone, volume, projection that they are looking for to express their artistic bents. Yes, luthery is an art for sure, but it is also a means to produce a tool to produce other art. Sort of like experimentation in paintbrushes: "Hmmmmm... how about a paintbrush where the handle is made of hair and the brush is made of wood?" Could, work, right?
    Good point, I see how my response came off a bit rude, but I didn't mean it like that. However I do like your point at the end.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Pranav Ajay Warrier View Post
    I'm not saying he can't admire the Loar mandolins and attempt to recreate it, but I feel that it is a bit elitist to say it is wrong to stray away from the norm. I think there is much to gain from exploring new areas in anything. Even in math equations, there are always new holes and paradoxes to explore and figure out, and that is what makes it fun and cool. When making something for money, I understand it, but stuff like what elkhorn does, using different woods and experimenting is definitely something that shouldn't be put down. Tradition shouldn't dictate what we do all the time, sometimes it's good to let curiosity take its turn.
    Even in the math you have to learn the good old basics and gain some experience in it before you can dive into those new things...
    Even in music you will have to start with simpler things and only later you will be able to explore other directions....
    There are many succesful musicians who worked within one rather simple musical style (like Blues, Bluegrass...) all their life and still created lots of beautiful music.
    Even Elkhorn started making more or less traditional instruments and learned on that. (I bet he would recommend starting with porven materials as well)
    This is mostly about learning experience. Time will tell you that skipping stages is not always best for getting good at something.
    We ALL love Elkohorn creations made out of exotic woods even though it may not be what we do (but who says we'll never try it, too).
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    I think for the top, there is a small margin for that "stiffness to weight" ratio. If you dont reach that margin, then the tone suffers. If you can carve a hardwood top that has the stiffness without the weight, then I think it would do fine. The problem I see, is that to keep the weight down, you may have to carve very thin. And thin tops, whether they are spruce or even maple, will deform under pressure of the bridge.

    Hardwood is usually much heavier. If you want to see how added weight affects tone, take a 30 gram piece of clay and put it on the center of the top. The tone suffers, especially as you go up the neck on the upper treble strings.

    So how heavy would a maple top be if it had the same stiffness as a loar carved spruce top? If a Loar top was say 110 grams, then the equivalent maple would likely be about 160 grams. That would make a very heavy top for those little E and A strings to drive.

    A guitar has much longer treble strings. So they have more inertia so to speak. Thats one reason why a maple top may work ok for a guitar. Not the preferred choice, but it still works.

    Building an instrument is about maximizing the energy it can produce.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    "I wonder if anyone has experimented with Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) for instrument sound boards? The tree is also not a true cedar but actually a juniper. The lack of prairie fires in the developed areas of the eastern USA have allowed this tree to become very plentiful as it is a pioneering species. The wood is soft albeit very knotty -- but large pieces can be obtained and I'm just wondering if it has been tried..."

    A few years late for a reply but yes. I own a violin made with a Eastern red cedar top. Much more mellow sound than my other violins.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Top wood, in my experience, is best if you choose the standard cedars, spruce, redwood. I have made instruments using koa, maple and fantastic figured myrtle wood that were magnificent in their aesthetics but were duds as far as their ability to generate lovely music. Eventhough I may be a staunch traditionalist, I still believe that the top wood/sound board should not be maple.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

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    I built this OM with an Eastern redcedar top. I think it sounds good, but the redcedar seems to require stiff but very light weight bracing.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Here is something different and the top wood has millions of trees planted in plantations so no problems with supply way into the future. Top is 3 piece Pinus radiata, back is some recycled Eucalyptus regnans. I made it into a black top because I didn't think anyone would buy it with that striped top. It tapped just like a good piece of stiff Red Spruce and the mandolin sounds like it has a Red Spruce top i.e. it sounds really good, and someone did buy it and loves the sound. Many jaws dropped when I told them it was Pinus radiata, otherwise known in the building trade as Crapiata.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    I think the pallet guitar project sort of proves that the skill and craftsmanship and sense of what works to create tone is more important than the quality of the materials. Of course. the basic premise that you use a softer wood (fir or pine) for the top and a hardwood for the back was adhered to.

    Peter: I actually like the look of that Crapiata guitar. It is a lovely name, too. Of course, I probably would like it better as a black finished one, since that is what my favorite Gibson looks like.
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pelone View Post
    ...the body and sides of a mando are made from maple...
    Not all mandolins. Bowl-back mandolins tended to favor rosewood for the bowls; others were mahogany, and some had alternating ribs of either maple and rosewood, or maple and mahogany. Martin made thousands of mahogany-bodied canted-top mandolins, and quite a few with koa bodies. Gibson built quite a few mandolins with birch bodies. When I had my ten-string fanned-fret mandolin/dola built, I went with "flamed" koa for back and sides.

    Here's my tentative theory: when Orville Gibson started building carved-top-and-back mandolins, he was much influenced by violin construction -- thought the violin was the "king of instruments" -- and violins were spruce top, maple back and sides. Violins, of course, had been made in Europe for centuries, and European luthiers didn't then have access to tropical hardwoods like rosewood and mahogany; they went with the "local" hardwoods of their areas for back and sides, and maple was readily accessible, acoustically suitable, and often nicely figured. Orville G copied that aspect of violin construction as well, and the rest, as they say, is history...

    Coulda been oak, perhaps. But it's maple.
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  20. #41
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Rosewood seems to be the premier choice in the world of xylophones. So it would seem logical that it would work better than maple.

    Had rosewood been a west virginian species then we'd all be playing Loar rosewood mando clones.

    And it bugs me a tad that Martin and Gibson loved rosewood for their guitars but not maple? Just wish I was privy to the conversations back then when they were discussing wood choices for their new line of instruments.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Never underestimate the power of marketing ... or the power of how good a brand new rosewood guitar smells.
    martinjacobson.com - Jacobson mandolins

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by fscotte View Post
    And it bugs me a tad that Martin and Gibson loved rosewood for their guitars but not maple? Just wish I was privy to the conversations back then when they were discussing wood choices for their new line of instruments.
    Both Martin and Gibson leaned more to rosewood for their flattop guitar models but Gibson did use maple for some of their Nick Lucas and L-Century flattops and usually preferred maple for their archtops. Back then I would guess that imported woods especially if bought in quantities may have cost the same or possibly even less than domestic. Also, bear in mind that these makers were concerned about what would sell. I am sure theta they discussed what their retailers told them that their customers would buy.
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    As the spoof on Saturday Night Live portrayed----"it is better to look good than to feel good." If the OP wants to go with highly figured maple for a sound board---more power to him. It is OK to march to the beat of a different drum occasionally and he will learn from the experience. To paraphrase a great philosopher......An education is what you get when you read the fine print...experience is what you get when you don't. Or---there are no failures, just new learning. Just hoping that the OP posts the pictures.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Ibanez has an "exotic wood" series of guitars (and ukuleles). I bought a gorgeous model made from spalted mango. Prettiest guitar I've ever owned or played. I got comments everywhere I played it. The problem is, it just didn't sound all that great. Not only could it not touch my Martin D-35, my lowly Rogue guitars played and sounded better! I got lucky and sold it for more a little more than I bought it for and used the money to buy an abused newer-production Martin with HPL back and sides, matte-finish top that I don't really like the looks of, and it even needs me to replace the nuts and washers on the tuning pegs because a previous owner removed them with a pair of pliers and hacked them up. But as non-pretty as she is, she sounds really good. And that's what matters the most.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pelone View Post
    If the OP wants to go with highly figured maple for a sound board---more power to him. <snip> Just hoping that the OP posts the pictures.
    Just bear in mind that the he posted this over 6 years ago and he hasn't posted anything since 2012.
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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Jim---now I am really intrigued and want to know what happened to this project---did he really pull it off? Is the exotic mando languishing in some sort of purgatory of neglect? I may not be able to sleep tonight---I need resolution. Is there anyway the moderators can reach out to Parnav...is he even in the country or on this site any longer? I feel so alone!

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Just noticed that the original post was from abdavis---I am so confused......never mind.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pelone View Post
    Just noticed that the original post was from abdavis---I am so confused......never mind.
    Lol I just brought back this thread, I didn't start it. And my name is Pranav. And I use this site every day.

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    Default Re: Flamed Maple Top on a Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    Here is something different and the top wood has millions of trees planted in plantations so no problems with supply way into the future. Top is 3 piece Pinus radiata, back is some recycled Eucalyptus regnans. I made it into a black top because I didn't think anyone would buy it with that striped top. It tapped just like a good piece of stiff Red Spruce and the mandolin sounds like it has a Red Spruce top i.e. it sounds really good, and someone did buy it and loves the sound. Many jaws dropped when I told them it was Pinus radiata, otherwise known in the building trade as Crapiata.

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