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Thread: About done upgrading my MD315

  1. #1
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default About done upgrading my MD315

    After I decided I wasn't going to sell my MD315, even if and when I get an upgrade mandolin, I relaxed and evaluated what relativity cheap things would I do to the MD315 to maximize its potential.

    First, I gave it a speed neck just because it was free (well, cheap anyway - sandpaper cost more than I would have guessed).

    The next thing was the tuners. I've worked the original tuners a lot and they just weren't improving. I also wanted the internal K&K twin pickups. Local music stores quoted $150 and $100 to install the pickups. After watching a few YouTube videos, I decided to do it myself and ordered the pickups, along with Grover 309FVN tuners. Since both jobs required removing the strings, might as well do the two jobs at the same time.

    Installation this evening was surprisingly easy! I did need to drill screw holes for the outside screws on each tuner plate, and that went smoothly. I used a 1/8 to 1/2 stepping drill bit to enlarge the end strap button hole and the hole in the tail piece and that went smoothly, too. (I tried using a hand reamer for the tail piece but that went too slowly. The stepping drill bit worked perfectly!)

    So, I'm almost done upgrading. What is left? I'd like to try medium (for playability) gold EVO (for durability) frets, but for now I'll keep on wearing down the stock frets.

    If it were a nicer mandolin, I would be more likely to pay a professional for these kinds of jobs, but doing it myself on the MD315 has given me a whole new level of affection for this little instrument!
    Doug Brock
    Silverangel Econo A #446, Eastman MD315, MD505
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

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  3. #2
    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Hi Doug, Wow, those are some very nice improvements. The tuners, K and K and a speed neck to boot. You have a lot of courage, let alone talent. I admire these efforts and I am sure that MD315 was well worth the time and funds invested. Enjoy your customized F5!

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  5. #3
    F5G & MD305 Astro's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Maybe try a Cumberland Acoustics bridge?
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

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  7. #4
    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Pictures or it didn't happen.....lol
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

    Kentucky KM-150
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  9. #5
    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    It's cool that you decided to experiment and ended up learning some things. I have done the same type of thing on electric guitars and have learned a lot and ended up with some nice instruments.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

    Eastman MD615SB
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  11. #6
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Quote Originally Posted by B381 View Post
    Pictures or it didn't happen.....lol
    I suppose you're right, but it didn't feel like I was doing anything unusual that needed to be photographed. I did think about taking a picture of the enlarged endpin hole - that was one clean job, lol.
    Doug Brock
    Silverangel Econo A #446, Eastman MD315, MD505
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  12. #7
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    Maybe try a Cumberland Acoustics bridge?
    I did think about that, but it's so hard to guess if that will make much difference. I've heard some folks love them, but some folks say the bridge can make a very minor difference. Plus you have the hassle of fitting the bridge. (I've done some reading and it doesn't look TOO painful.)

    I thought about a James tailpiece, too, but suggestions from this forum about how to improve my string changing process (particularly the suggestion to use an envelope beneath the strings between the bridge and the tailpiece) have made the cast tailpiece less of a pain, so I decided to pass on the tailpiece upgrade.

    Since the frets are a while down the road, I won't be shocked if I get antsy and try the Cumber Acoustics bridge before too long!
    Doug Brock
    Silverangel Econo A #446, Eastman MD315, MD505
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  13. #8
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    You could buff out the body to get a semi-gloss patina.
    Being right is overrated. Doing right is what matters.

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  15. #9
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Quote Originally Posted by gspiess View Post
    You could buff out the body to get a semi-gloss patina.
    I thought about that, too! I'm actually getting some finish buff to some areas just from regular use. Since the mando has the matte finish and isn't all that protected to begin with, I've also thought about doing some strategic aging in certain areas! Most folks I've run into lately don't seem to know much about mandolins and think that the MD315 is an old and expensive mandolin, lol. They're so used to all the cheaper instruments with their thick glossy finishes.
    Doug Brock
    Silverangel Econo A #446, Eastman MD315, MD505
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  16. #10
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    Maybe try a Cumberland Acoustics bridge?
    That would be my next move. I've done it, and it really isn't too painful. You just need a couple of hours to take your time and do it right. It made a big difference on my old Kentucky. Can't imagine that it wouldn't make a difference on your Eastman.

    Sanding the matte finish and relic-ing (sp?) also sound like a great idea!
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5 Mandolin
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    Girouard A Mandola
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  18. #11

    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    I'm gonna go with bone nut for improved string spacing, CA bridge for improved sound, and taller frets for improved playability.

    Mandovoodoo could be worth considering too for more sound improvement.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

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  20. #12
    Registered User TEvans's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    I did file down the bridge feet on my old 315 to make it a full contact bridge. Tape down some sandpaper on the top, make sure it's nice a tight. Then just slowly work the bridge back and forth till you get it sanded down to full contact on the top! Helped make the tone a little more full & rounded out.
    Austin, TX

    Ellis A5

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  22. #13
    Registered User Jim DeSalvio's Avatar
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    Default Re: About done upgrading my MD315

    Nice work! I love when folks branch out and try to do things themselves. You have chosen wisely on this project. I have 3 Eastman's and they are all really nice sounding instruments, and more mando than I will ever need!!
    Jim D

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