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Thread: ‘Beach’ mandolin

  1. #1

    Default ‘Beach’ mandolin

    I visited Gryphon in Palo Alto today to shop for a budget mandolin for road trips, camping and air travel so I can avoid bringing my more-precious-by-the-day Northfield M on excursions where it would be vulnerable to damage or theft. My criteria included a radiused fretboard and comfortable neck profile, tone and overall vibe good enough to elicit happiness rather than frustration, and cost as low as possible. Everything else was negotiable - A vs F, carved top vs. pancake, f-hole vs. oval, appointments, woods, glossy or matte finish, etc. The Northfield Calhoun was my extreme outer limit on budget and Gryphon has one in stock, which I was prepared to shell out for if it really grabbed me. I brought along a 50s Martin O-style soprano uke which plays great and sounds sweet but has some cosmetic issues, and a minty Martin LXM Tres - an oddball in Martin’s pint-sized mother of countertop series which is long out of production (lots of fun to play, can be tuned like a 3-course Irish bouzouki). Both of these have been collecting dust in my home for times measured in decades. I’m on strict 1-in-1-out parole currently. This was an opportunity to earn furlough points AND buy a new instrument so it’s all upside for me.

    As a Northfield owner, even though it was more than I wanted to spend on a ‘beach’ mando I was keen to try the Calhoun first while the friendly staff at Gryphon appraised my trade-ins. I’d never played a pancake before. It’s a different experience from a carved top. Plays great, TONS of volume, but as much as I was predisposed to being hooked by it, it wasn’t what I was looking for. Just for confirmation I tried two other pancakes but neither matched the Calhoun’s volume or playability and I had figured out by then that a pancake wasn’t going to work for me (YMMV). I moved on to the Kentuckys and Eastmans. If you’re curious which models just check Gryphon’s current inventory. I didn’t look at model designations, just prices, and I played everything they had under a kilobuck by these two brands.

    By now I’d gotten word that the store was offering me $200 each for the trade-ins, which was frankly more than I had expected. After running through the rack, an Eastman MD-305 was the hands-down winner. It was set up better than all the others including pricier models, and also had the best tone to my ears. And to top it off a very nice gig bag is included (minimal extra storage but very well designed otherwise). I took it home for $79 plus tax (plus two instruments that were just taking up space and never getting played). I’ve been playing it all evening, going back and forth with my Northfield. I’m extremely satisfied with the Eastman. And also appreciating more than ever the amazing tone of my Northfield M.

    Do you have a ‘beach’ mandolin? What’s it’s story?
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    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

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  3. #2

    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Had you asked me before you made you decision, I'd have told you to buy one of their F style Collings, voila, instant very satisfying beach mandolin.

    Seriously, I've been impressed with the 300 series Eastmans recently. Very decent mandolin for the money.

    I've managed to stay out of Gryphon for three months now. Some kind of record.
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  5. #3
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Waiting for fatt-dad to chime in with his Robinson-Crusoe collection of surf-proof mandolins...
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  6. #4
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Hahaahaaahaa!

    To the OP: carry your new Eastman through your adventures! In a few years, heck, it may wear a few battle scars! Meanwhile, the case queen remains undisturbed.

    It’ll be the Eastman you treasure!

    I just don't see the damage! I’ve taken all of mine anywhere!

    f-d
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

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  7. #5
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    ha! My Eastman is the mandolin I play if I'm going to be plugged in (I put on a bridge mike) but when I was playing it acoustic, I took it everywhere. good choice!
    --------------------------------
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  8. #6

    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Had you asked me before you made you decision, I'd have told you to buy one of their F style Collings, voila, instant very satisfying beach mandolin.

    Seriously, I've been impressed with the 300 series Eastmans recently. Very decent mandolin for the money.

    I've managed to stay out of Gryphon for three months now. Some kind of record.
    Yup - That shop's hazardous to your wallet....
    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

  9. #7

    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    Hahaahaaahaa!

    To the OP: carry your new Eastman through your adventures! In a few years, heck, it may wear a few battle scars! Meanwhile, the case queen remains undisturbed.

    It’ll be the Eastman you treasure!

    I just don't see the damage! I’ve taken all of mine anywhere!

    f-d
    It's already growing on me (played it another hour or so this morning ;-). The Northfield M is definitely NOT a case queen - it's got plenty of honest play wear on it and will continue to accumulate more for years to come, I hope. I'm less concerned about a ding or scratch here and there, and much more concerned with leaving it locked in a hot car while taking a hike on a camping trip, having it stolen from a hotel room, or having it crushed in the overhead bin by another traveler's carry on bag.
    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    For most traveling I take my Eastman 505. It is a fine mandolin, that I also use for gigs after I added a pickup. When I’ve gone camping/boating, or plan to spend a lot of time on a sandy beach, I would bring my Alverez A100. They all sound fine in the appropriate environment.

  12. #9

    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    I'm exceedingly happy to have my 199.00 Michael Kelly for this.
    Silverangel A
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  14. #10
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    This is the second consecutive summer I've traveled to Israel with a mando. Last year I brought the Crafter. This year I have the Eastman. It traveled with no hassles or complaints in its hard case, stored in the overhead bin with my carry-on.

    Other "travel" axes over the years included The Loar (310 IIRC), the MK Legacy O (F-4) and an early '00's Washburn Jethro Burns.

    Mind you, before I had any of these, the Rigel went everywhere.
    Axes: Rigel A Natural #1774 w/mods, Andrew Jerman Irwin-style 5 string electric "Stealie", Eastman 515, Shiro F-5, Crafter M85E, Dillion 335 style, Grandmom's solid-mahogany teens bent-top, Baglamas 002
    Boards: Acoustic Electric
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  15. #11
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    My "beach" -- and folk club sing-around, street festival busking, camping, "throw it in the back of the car, there may be music" -- and, actually occasional performance and recording -- mandolin was a $50 Strad-O-Lin that a 90-year-old lady had pulled from under her bed (in its original canvas bag), and brought to a mandolin workshop I was leading at a NY Pinewoods folk weekend. It had a gigundous top crack, which I got mended but not cosmetically hidden, and I took the Strad hither and yon for nearly 20 years, until I traded it (got $90 for it) for a better-condition Strad-O-Lin maybe eight years ago. The second Strad has inherited the role of my go-anywhere mandolin, though it set me back nearly $175 with the trade-in.

    There are lotsa decent old instruments out there, Regals and Harmonies and such that are sturdy and comfortable to play, sound distinctive, and represent minimal risk when taken into more dicey environments. When I totaled my Honda on the Mass Pike back in 2014, first thing I did, broken wrist and all, was pull the Strad-O-Lin out of the back and check its condition. Came through unscathed, better than I did, and is still playing A-OK.

    So, enjoy the Eastman, but don't neglect the myriad of well-build US "off" brands. We used to produce a helluva lot of good journeyman mandolins; not so much now, but those old ones are still around.
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I'm exceedingly happy to have my 199.00 Michael Kelly for this.
    Me too, although I'd categorize these $199 solid-wood wonders as being nicer than most "beach instruments". That said, the finish that has been applied to these MKs is probably going to outlast most battleships.

    For me personally, a "beach instrument" is one that I wouldn't feel horrible about accidently getting scorched by a bonfire or dropped into the surf. That is not something my MK qualifies for. It does qualify as a nasty weather backup or as an airline-traveling backup for my F-9.

    Along those lines, I'd be more likely to get a Rogue to setup properly and use as a beach mandolin.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002 Gibson F-9
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    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus a large assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars, basses and other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
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  17. #13
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Small World: My travel/beach mando originally sold from Gryphon, but came to me very slightly used—not a scratch or nick to be found and still light blonde, 200 bucks. It's been over 10-years and that Mid-Mo has seen some travel! It really shows it's age and wear, but plays and sounds as good as ever. Just came back from a long holiday weekend on a ranch in the Sierras. Good times.

  18. #14
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    My Oldwave goes with me everywhere when I want a mandolin. I tend to baby the Old Vega More because of age I really want it to last and the Oldwave I take very good care of but bought to play so I take it everywhere.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

    Creativity is just doing something wierd and finding out others like it.

  19. #15

    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    The finish on my MK is indeed industrial grade. I caught my foot on a tree branch while holding it by the neck, braced my fall with the mandolin face down. Heard a horrible sprong sound. Expected multiple cracks and a broken neck. It broke one string, and I could not find a scratch or dent on it, which is more than I can say for my palm and knees. All hail the poly dip.
    Silverangel A
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    1913 Gibson A-1

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  21. #16
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: ‘Beach’ mandolin

    Living on the beach, all mandolins are beach mandolins

    I have 3 acoustic mandolins Morgan Monroe as my low end; Gibson F9 as my mid-range; Newson F5 as my high end. Up until last year, I would only bring the Morgan Monroe to festivals and camping trips. But last year I decide, F that - I'm bring my F9. This is mainly because the Morgan Monroe - putting it nicely - is not a good thing for me to play anymore. It does not approximate either of my other two mandolins in the slightest and I believe playing it hurts my playing more than it helps (mainly because the fingerboards are so different it requires a different style).

    Bring whatever you want to bring to the beach. Just be careful, bring a case, and have fun.

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