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Thread: Carbon fiber mandolins

  1. #1
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Carbon fiber mandolins

    I've always been envious of folks who live in mando-friendly environments. I don't. So I'm toying with the idea of a carbon fiber mando and wondering if anyone is building/selling them? What I find on the web seems to be years old ... which may be an indication that this was/is an idea not worth pursuing? Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Peter Mix was building and selling them under the brand names NewMad and Mix. I believe production has stopped. You might look for a used one.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Maryland is not mandolin friendly? What environments are?
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    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Marty Jacobson built a prototype carbon fiber mandolin a couple of years ago. Thread HERE. He's on here fairly often, so maybe he'll chime in.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I played a Blackbird CF ukulele a few years ago and have played some CF guitars. Blackbird also has a flax-based material that they started using called eKoa and I played a concert uke made with it. Now they have some guitars too. I wrote them to see if they will building an eKoa mandolin but I don’t think they have any plans to do so.

    Actually I just checked their site and I think they don’t make CF at all. I played the Clara uke and it was a wonderful instrument. I also think the process for building out of eKoa is less toxic than CF.
    Jim

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  8. #6

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Maryland is not mandolin friendly? What environments are?
    Coastal California is just about perfect.
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    So one of the problems, from a commercial standpoint, is that the vast majority of players expect them to sound bad. Because of how they look.
    And all the legend behind wood - you know, aging, torrifaction, D-log, and all that, not to mention the fact that we grew up looking at wood instruments.

    I've gotten dozens of inquiries from people about my carbon fiber instrument plans. All but one were from folks who wanted a more durable instrument so they wouldn't have to worry about humidity changes. Basically, as "good an instrument as possible without being wood".

    I'm excited about them because I think there is a possibility to make instruments at least as good - if not better - than wood instruments. I don't see CF as being a close acoustic second with some compelling structural benefits, I see it as a thrilling engineering medium with some really compelling acoustic properties.

    If I sat down with a customer and explained the pros and cons of wood vs. the pros and cons of CF as a structural material for a new custom build, in the absence of a previous bias, I guarantee you they would want me to make the instrument out of CF.

    From an engineering perspective, CF is like a chef being able to plan a menu and go shopping for the ingredients. Working with wood is like one of those Iron Chef shows where they are given a more or less random selection of ingredients and they have to make something palatable out of it.
    That's a little bit of an overstatement, but not much.

    But they look like plastic. So they're hard to sell, so nobody makes them. One of my ideas is to incorporate real wood as an outermost cosmetic layer. It'll be encapsulated in resin, so no problems there. The outermost cosmetic layer could also be verdigris copper, or even thin slabs of granite... that would rock. But it needs to be wood to appeal to the consumer, in general.

    I plan to get back to making more CF instruments later this year. I still have a few kinks in my process to work out, but I look forward to doing it.

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I’m very pleased with my carbon fiber Ovation Limited Edition Adamas MM80-NWT Mandolin. They only produced about 30 of them before the factory closed after Fender bought Ovation, and USA mandolin production never resumed even after Drum Workshop bought Ovation. There are some still out there, but you might need to be actively looking and patient in order to find one.

  13. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    But they look like plastic. So they're hard to sell, so nobody makes them.
    I assume that you mean nobody makes CF mandolins. That is true, however, there are a few companies making CF guitars and at least one I know making quality violin family instruments: Luis and Clark. I assume some folks must buy them but I think the main problem is two-fold. There is the bias again anything but wood for an acoustic instrument but the other aspects are that they are not all that easy to produce so they must be sold at a high cost. As you can see that the CF violin that Luis & Clark makes cost more that $5,500—not so bad for a quality instrument but it would also have to appeal to a non-traditional player. Perhaps the third barrier might be that it is hard to try one out. I don't know if the have dealers who sell them or they only sell direct.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bradford View Post
    I’m very pleased with my carbon fiber Ovation Limited Edition Adamas MM80-NWT Mandolin. They only produced about 30 of them before the factory closed after Fender bought Ovation, and USA mandolin production never resumed even after Drum Workshop bought Ovation. There are some still out there, but you might need to be actively looking and patient in order to find one.
    Wow, I never knew about those. I guess this one was sold a while ago.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Jim

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  15. #11
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I got to play Marty’s protoype, and it sounds amazing. I was totally blown away. Looks great too!

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  17. #12

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    In addition to Dave's mention of the Adamas mandolin, Ovation has made CF topped Adamas guitars for over 30 years........so they have their fans. I believe they used a thin inner wood layer sandwiched between two thin CF layers, FWIW.......

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    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    http://avastrings.com/neapolitan/
    These are made in Portugal.

    I bought a used Mix F5 used in 2012 after the-summer-that-wasn't in England. I needed an instrument more impervious to humidity fluctuations. For 6 and a half years it has been an excellent stage instrument. I don't know what I would have done without it.

    Daniel

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    Registered User Perry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I have a New-Mad Mix "A" style mandolin. An early one #5 I believe.

    It's everything you could want in a carbon fiber mandolin

    Here is a very old video recorded with an iPhone

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr3UAiyyHy4

  21. #15
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I'm only a hop,skip and a jump from you (Frederick) and haven't really found climate change to be a bit problem with mandolin,tenor banjo,or acoustic guitar. What kind of problems are you having?
    (BTW-- do you go to any of the area's session/jams?)
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  22. #16
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Personally, I'm looking for a CF mandolin for camping and kayaking trips to avoid issues with water damage. I've only played one so far (my friend from Costa Rica has one for humidity reasons) and it was great. A little lighter as I recall than the wood counterpart - so perfect for backpacking.

    If the price was right, I'd buy one in a heartbeat. It may not "look the part" but if it sounds good and holds up in weather a wood mando can't, there's value there for me at least

    Marty - if you do start making them again, let me know.
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  23. #17
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Thanks, everyone.
    -- I've looked at the avastrings site that Daniel recommended: 3,250 euros ($3,702) for a bowlback design ... + taxes and shipping ... not for me.
    -- Jim Garber put me on to an Ovation Adamas at Reverb, but the item has a "no return" stipulation meaning that this would be a $2,200 gamble ... high anxiety for the likes of me.
    -- Marty Jacobson, how about it? I'd like an F4 design but am willing to look at whatever you come up with.
    -- Paul Busman, I live in an old Victorian with a dirt-floor cellar. High humidity of the year, mostly too dry the other quarter. I've created a room for my instruments with a de-humidifier running year round and an additional air-conditioner in the summer. But I'd like to have a mando by my side where I live, in the kitchen. Jams in Frederick? Would probably enjoy this if I weren't so insecure.

    Thanks, again, to everyone for your comments.

  24. #18

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Well, forums are great for discussing the minutiae of our hobby.........however (you probably saw that one coming, right?) IMHO, the OP may be overthinking "mandolin friendly" and "humidity" and its effect......

    People play stringed instruments in less than ideal conditions all over the world -- the jungle, the arctic, the desert, on ships, vehicles, as well as in houses and kitchens everywhere..........my advice, don't sweat it!

    If you are concerned with ruining a good instrument......how about a $50 Rogue for your kitchen? To my way of thinking, $3700 buys a lot of $50 Rogues -- if they become unplayable due to humidity warping and need replacing every six months, $3700 would set you up for 74 years.............but I think one will probably last you years and years...................

    Now, sound quality is another story........
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Feb-26-2019 at 8:53pm.

  25. #19

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Or buy a pretty decent instrument for $1000. Treating it really poorly, it'll probably last at least 5 years. So for $3k, you can beat up a perfectly decent instrument for $3000.
    That's one of the reasons why I think there needs to be more to a composite instrument than just "sounds ok, takes a beating".

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  27. #20

    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I think Marty is onto something, and having watched his work from afar for a few years, I think he could break new ground and make a success of his new direction. I have a carbon fiber A4 which was the final result of more than three years of hassle and broken promises and let-downs from the builder. The end result is a wonderful instrument, but only after I spent considerable time and money fixing what was wrong with it when it arrived, a near-$4,000 custom build riven with flaws (at least two of which, one cosmetic, remain impossible to fix); at that point the builder abandoned me, telling me he was 'done with this'.

    I live in extremely humid north Thailand, which is one reason why I went for carbon fiber. But my other instrument is a nearly forty-year-old no-name F5 that retains its tuning and intonation almost as well as the carbon fiber instrument. I know that that would not apply to all wooden instruments, but it does prove it is at least possible to enjoy a traditional instrument even in extreme climates. But the c-f A4 beats the wooden F5 for sound and tone all day long.

    Now, if only Marty can overcome the market prejudice against anything remotely different. There might be the rub, though the idea of a wooden outer skin is quite brilliant, and I'll be excited to see what Marty's next models look (and sound) like.

  28. #21
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    I have two good wooden guitars (Martins) but I prize my carbon fiber guitar, the Bluegrass Performer, made by Composite Acoustics. No wood at all, not even the fretboard. Tough and rugged, not affected by extremes of temperature or humidity. Action never needs to be adjusted but is always the same. Sound is beautiful and loud. Just a wonderful instrument that sold for about $1400 new (I bought it used for $900).

    When I started playing mandolin, my first hope was for a CF mandolin for all the reasons that the CF guitar was a valuable member of my musical family.
    Doug Brock
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  29. #22
    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by flatpicknut View Post
    When I started playing mandolin, my first hope was for a CF mandolin for all the reasons that the CF guitar was a valuable member of my musical family.
    I have a Rainsong OM-1000, so I was aware that CF instruments could be good.

    I had the luck and pleasure of playing one of Peter Mix's first A models at Supergrass in Bakersfield in 2006 I think. It was very good. So when a CF mandolin became necessary, I asked around for a Mix mandolin. I bought my Mix F5 from a fellow cafe member.

    With the increasingly stringent and difficult to manage CITES requirements, CF looks even better.

    Daniel

  30. #23
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    But I'd like to have a mando by my side where I live, in the kitchen. Jams in Frederick? Would probably enjoy this if I weren't so insecure.

    Thanks, again, to everyone for your comments.
    There are several sessions/jams not too far away.I play mainly Irish and go monthly to a terrific,beginner friendly open session first sunday of each month at The Garryowen Irish Pub in Gettysburg. As a bonus, they give players their first beer FREE, and $10 off dinner if you elect to stay. The food is really excellent,worth staying for.

    There's a mainly Old Time session at Beans In The Belfrey in Brunswick,and what I think is a mixed session in Harper's Ferrry on Wednesdays.

    Don't let insecurity stop you from going to sessions even if you don't play. They're the best way to hear these types of music in their natural environment.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
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  31. #24
    Registered User Pete Braccio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    If anyone can make a composite mandolin that gets past the "buy with the eyes test", it will be Marty. His sense of design is amazing in both visual and acoustic properties.

    Embedding wood, metal, or stone in the cosmetic layer sounds really interesting. I can't wait to see an example of that.

    Pete
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  33. #25
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon fiber mandolins

    Just to finish this: A couple of weeks ago I bought a used Peter Mix A model from the classifieds here. Never having handled one, I hoped for the best. The seller generously agreed to a 48-hour trial period. What I got was one great instrument! It is built! The tone is obviously very different from my vintage Gibsons/Vegas ... but fun getting used to and fun learning to get the most from. I expect to visit my vintage mandos from time to time, but the Mix will be where I live. Thanks to everyone for your feedback.

    Paul B., thanks for the jam session suggestions. I hope I can try these out in the near future ... you'll know me by my mando!

    Joe

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