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Thread: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    Howdy. Just curious what woods (other than spruce) people have experimented with for flat mandolin tops? Cedar?, Walnut?, how were the results? Are there any woods that come to mind that are similar to spruce (stiff but light?) I am currently focused on flat tops (currently mandola and octave mandolin, but also am curious about a regular flat top mando).

    I am in the mood to "break away from tradition"


    Mark

  2. #2
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I have used King Billy Pine (from Tasmania) on flat top mandolins. Works beautifully with Tasmanian Blackwood, as good as or better than any species of Spruce.

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    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

  3. #3
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I would imagine that if it works for guitar, then it would work for OM - so mahogany (or similar, Sapele etc) should presumably work?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    Walnut is often almost as hard as maple, so it would probably not make for a good top wood. Mahogany tops are more common, but also considered too hard and quiet by many. I've heard of Cedars, Redwood, Firs, and Pines as other possible alternatives.

    --Tom

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    Registered User PT66's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I have used Butternut for tops on mandolins, guitars, tenor guitars, ukuleles and dulcimers mostly with walnut back and sides. I like the sound I get. A lot has to do with the bracing.
    Dave Schneider

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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

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    I used Eastern redcedar for the top of this OM. Of the 4 I have built it sounds best (IMHO), & it certainly looks best.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    First mandolin I built has a yellow pine flat top. It sounds just like a mandolin.
    Bill Snyder

  8. #8
    Registered User Jim Adwell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I've used yellow pine, western red cedar, redwood, sugar pine(!) and bald cypress in addition to various spruces. It all depends on the individual piece of wood. The sugar pine, while soft and easily dented , had a nice sound when I thunked it, and it was very tight grained, so I made a couple of ukulele tops with it. They turned out to sound very nice with good volume. Bald cypress really isn't stiff enough, but I made a nylon string octave mandolin top with it. It was nice sounding, but the top was too thick to have much volume.

  9. #9
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I've posted before about my Western Redcedar Morris F4, WRC octave F4, redwood A4 10 string mandola and redwood F4 10 string 26" mandocello. Last three all built by Tom Jessen (www.cricketfiddle.com)
    After playing similar spruce top instruments I'm definitely drawn to the sound of WRC and RW. Warmer and mellower tone, certainly not what everyone is after.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I usually use Carpathian Spruce on our RedLine Traveler flat top mandolins, but occasionally I will use other woods, such as this one that had a nice California Redwood top. I had to work around a pesky knot along the glue line, and was able to incorporate the grain lines around the knot as sort of a "frame" for the oval sound hole.

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  11. The following members say thank you to Steevarino for this post:

    hank 

  12. #11
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I have tried a few different woods, maple & walnut both looked fantastic but honestly did not work! (ukuleles)
    I have recently acquired some amazing Monterey Pine, huge slabs of straight grain, knot free beautiful wood that smells like Heaven.
    I believe my harmony tenor guitar has a Birch top - sounds ok but looks so nice!

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    I've used walnut but we'll seasoned, sold 3, the walnut was 120 years old. The buyers loved them one plays professional in Cleveland. Walnut is a hardwood but still soft enough for good sound , I'm getting ready to make #50 with a walnut top. Most of my tops are engleman spruce or red cedar but prefer spruce.

  14. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin Tops - Tonewood

    Thanks for all of the responses. You all are definitely a great source of knowledge.

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