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Thread: New Kentucky Home

  1. #1

    Default New Kentucky Home

    Hi All

    I'm a novice guitar player, aspiring mandolin player and just ordered a Kentucky KM270 mandolin. After searching this forum I was looking for a KM150 but for whatever reason Amazon was selling Starburst KM270's for $249. and KM150's for $419.

    When I get it I plan on taking it to a luthier that has an excellent reputation and having him do the following set up:

    "Set-ups include diagnostics, redressing and buffing frets, cleaning fret board, tightening hardware, restring, adjusting nut slots, truss rod adjustment, balancing tremolo, adjusting action, setting intonation, checking electronics, adjusting pick ups, detail and cleaning. Electro/acoustics get balance of output, and archtops have bridge located and taped.

    Fret levels include measuring and leveling frets, recrowning and redressing to a high polish."

    For this, they want $150. The mandolin comes with cheap strings and requires the bridge be set up, which would be included in the above. I plan on putting Thomastik 154 strings on it-I know they're a little pricey but I've read excellent things about them and I'm lazy and don't like to change strings and hear they last.

    My only knowledge of mandolins is from this site and google. I'm trying to build a reliable beginner to intermediate mandolin and figured what I saved on the purchase price I'd make up for in set up and strings. I want a warm, not shrill tone and heard oval hole A's and flat strings provide that tone. Am I doing this the right way? I'd really appreciate any advice you more experienced folks can give me. I confess I always try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear!

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Well, luthiers will charge $150 or more for fret level/crown/polishing along w/setting trussrod, bridge and nut slots, which will make it play and sound better *if it needs it*.

    So before you spend any money (except on ruler measured in 1/32") get this pdf ebook on setup and measure your instrument https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...by-Rob-Meldrum. Likely your strings are too high at first fret

    and polish the frets and look at string reflections off them. If the trussrod/frets are good, you'll see smooth curves w/relief, otherwise high frets, hump over neck joint, maybe other issues.
    The Keepers: Kentucky km900, JBovier A5
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    some really really loud banjos and dobros (Oops large body resonator/Resophonic square neck lap-steel-style guitars)

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    I'll second the vote for Rob Meldrum's free e-book, a fantastic service to the mandolin community!

    MANY decades ago, when Santa Clause brought me the Kay parlor guitar that I learned on, I didn't know any better and, uhmm, just learned from some Mel Bay books.

    A year or two later, I was playing electric (one of the first Hagstroms imported to the US, followed by a used '62 Fender Jazzmaster) and was impreseed by how low the strings could be. So I took my dad's jeweler's files to the Kay's nut & saddle and (surprise!) made them better. And that was without any outside influence or instruction, o/t trying out stuff in music stores. In the mid-60s, even Guitar Player mag didn't yet exist, much less the MANY other resources available today.

    So, as gtani7 suggests, my strong inclination would be to evaluate the instrument first, referring to the e-book, and then decide whether you want to spend a bunch of money VS. spend some patient evenings learning the job yourself. Lots of folks here have commented on how much Rob's book helped them do just that.

    As to those "other resources" available today, I've found Frets.com, the Stewart-MacDonald catalogue, and (duuh!) YouTube to be among the more helpful.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  4. #4

    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    I'll second the vote for Rob Meldrum's free e-book, a fantastic service to the mandolin community!

    MANY decades ago, when Santa Clause brought me the Kay parlor guitar that I learned on, I didn't know any better and, uhmm, just learned from some Mel Bay books.

    A year or two later, I was playing electric (one of the first Hagstroms imported to the US, followed by a used '62 Fender Jazzmaster) and was impreseed by how low the strings could be. So I took my dad's jeweler's files to the Kay's nut & saddle and (surprise!) made them better. And that was without any outside influence or instruction, o/t trying out stuff in music stores. In the mid-60s, even Guitar Player mag didn't yet exist, much less the MANY other resources available today.

    So, as gtani7 suggests, my strong inclination would be to evaluate the instrument first, referring to the e-book, and then decide whether you want to spend a bunch of money VS. spend some patient evenings learning the job yourself. Lots of folks here have commented on how much Rob's book helped them do just that.

    As to those "other resources" available today, I've found Frets.com, the Stewart-MacDonald catalogue, and (duuh!) YouTube to be among the more helpful.
    Thank you both-sounds like with the reference help of Rob's e-book and 1/32" increment ruler I can set the bridge up and get started playing. I would be slightly apprehensive about taking anything abrasive (file/sandpaper) to it without any previous experience and would have a luthier make any adjustments that require the removal of material. Almost wish I could watch him when he does it, maybe help. He'd probably charge me more!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Quote Originally Posted by junior1954 View Post
    ... Almost wish I could watch him when he does it ...
    Thus, the reference to Frets.com! Do note that archtop instruments, whether guitar or mandolin, follow much of the same logic, so there's much to be learned there. Hey, it's an adventure!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  6. #6

    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Thanks Ed-requested copy from Rob Meldrum and about to check out frets.com.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    This sort of shows looking at string reflections to look fo rhigh frets but it's pretty straightforward https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBzirIfsQPo

    If you need to polish frets, you can make a fingerboard guard like this https://www.stewmac.com/Luthier_Tool...rd_Guards.html

    Best is to show your brand new instrument to a teacher or experienced player, let them check action/tone when you get it. If you don't know any, just ask questions here. And i've seen some cutrate shops do a semi setup, where they level the frets but don't crown for less $$. You don't want that.
    The Keepers: Kentucky km900, JBovier A5
    Yamaha piano, clarinet, violin
    some really really loud banjos and dobros (Oops large body resonator/Resophonic square neck lap-steel-style guitars)

    Shopping/monitoring prices: Yamaha brass and woodwinds

  8. #8
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    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Rocking a small straight edge across three fret is much more accurate than any visual you may try to see for high frets.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  9. #9

    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    My thanks to Rob Meldrum, who was kind enough to forward his "How To Set Up A Mandolin" PDF! Very nice of you and great job!

  10. #10

    Default Re: New Kentucky Home

    Follow The Meldrum guide, and do the best you can. Then find a good stringed instrument store and play some new quality instruments. Any playability differences are likely to be fret related. Collings mandolins are plecked, so that would be a benchmark standard for playability.

    If you don't know, a pleck machine is a computer driven fret leveler, costing over $200,000.

    There was quite a difference when I leveled the frets on my Michael Kelly. The higher the cost of a mandolin, the more likely this won't be necessary. The cheaper the mandolin, the more likely a fret level is in order.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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