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Thread: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I have swapped and traded my way out of a good flat top mandolin and would like to get another. I have had a couple of Big Muddy's in the past and they are great but I think Mike is getting ready to retire. What would you advise? How about a Kalamazoo KM-11? If I got another Big Muddy I would want the jumbo with wide neck, but you hardly ever see them. What do you think about a flat top? Thanks,

  2. #2

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    The Northfield Calhoun looks very nice.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I have been nosing around for a flat top as well. I am dying to get my hands on one of the new Waterloos. How much cash do you have? I figure I'm going to have to wait a while until they start coming up used. I had a Midmo years ago and sold it, now I regret it - there is a local one I may be able to deal for.

    What difference does it make that Mike D is going to retire? Buy one now!
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Don't forget older flat tops, such as those made by Martin, the Larson Brothers, Vega, and even some of the better instruments made by Regal and Oscar Schmidt.

    For whatever it is worth, every Larson flat top mandolin I've played made all the Martins within earshot run for the hills with their tails between their legs.

  5. #5
    plectrist
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    There is also the old Weber Alder series. Lynne just got an older Weber Alder Mandola that was wonderful when we got it and even better when it got back from Bruce at Montana Lutherie where Mr Weber put in a pick up and made it look almost like new. Wonderful instrument.
    Ryk
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    "I'm convinced that playing well is not so much a technique as it is a decision. It's a commitment to do the work, strive for concentration, get strategic about advancing by steps, and push patiently forward toward the goal." Dan Crary

  6. #6

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I think the Collings folks with their Waterloo series may have something of interest. Big ad on the front page
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Flatiron 1N on the cheap-ish. Redline Traveler, Sawchyn, Northfield, or Waterloo if you’ve got the funds. Some of the older Kalamazoos are great, but some aren’t, and there’s a higher likelihood of issues that could be costly to repair unless you buy from a reputable shop like one of the Cafe sponsors. I agree with rrcc56 about the Martins. I bought a style A that was a later model (1974, a birth year mando) on a whim, and I was underwhelmed. The craftsmanship was full-on Martin quality, and the mahogany back is beautiful, but it lacks substantially in depth/complexity of tone and also volume compared to my 1N. My daughter actually chose the Martin to take off to grad school because she likes the 13 inch scale length and it’s well set up/easy to play, but she honestly doesn’t play much, and the low volume is a positive for apartment living. Of note, the volume didn’t change much from too high action to nice and playable, in case anyone’s wondering. I know a guy in town who plays an older Martin A (can’t remember if it’s late 20s or 30s) that sounds better than mine, but still not as good as my Flatiron...
    Chuck

  8. #8

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Best, Stevo

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  10. #9
    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Crystal Forest mandolin. Best flat top mandolins out there!
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  11. #10
    Registered User Willem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Howard Morris builds a very nice affordable flat top. You get customization options with him as well. I believe there may be 1 or 2 in the classifieds directly from him.

  12. #11
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Don't let Howard Morris' low price fool you. These are great hand crafted mandolins, at least mine is. At a fraction of the cost compared to the price of the big names. I love flat-tops and have three. Morris, Martin, And a Tacoma m3.

  13. #12
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I'm a fan of the 1N! I had a KM-11 (the one I had had bum tuners.) I preferred the 1N.

    I've owned two 1N's. Loved them both (son in law got the first one, so I replaced it!)

    I have heard great things about the others mentioned. Just showing my love for the 1N!

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

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  14. #13
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I have had my Crystal Forest for seven years now. I am a strong proponent of flat-tops and love this one. It probably gets more play than any of my other instruments, despite being the least expensive. I have played it in a number of different group settings and it fits in well. The fit and finish is quite good despite it being only Terry's 14th instrument. He has built many more since. Note that in these years with lots of play and lots of travel, not a single problem. No cracks. Nothing. It is a good solid instrument and a lot of fun to play. Why not give Terry a call to see what he can do for you. He is a great guy to speak with and to work with. I have known him for some time and he's a good guy.

    Now, another instrument that came to my attention recently is this one: https://cumberlandacoustic.com/produ...-traveler-112/ . This is a Cumberland Acoustics Redline Traveler that Steve currently has in stock and seems to be an extraordinarily nice flat-top. If I were looking for one, this is one that would attract my serious attention. Carpathian Spruce top, Claro Walnut back and sides, Eastern Walnut neck, Ebony binding, radiused fretboard. And, it's from a builder we all know and like. Definitely a contender.

    So, there are two good choices, and there are lots more. I know that these comments don't address the OP's specific desires, but lots of people read these threads and my advice is meant to be more general. But specifically to J.C., why not have a chat with these Luthiers? They might be willing to build exactly what you are looking for.
    Purr more, hiss less.

  15. #14
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    In my experience, the best bang for the buck was a Flatiron pancake which pumped out a lot of sound for its size. If you like that tone but prefer modern playability features (larger frets, radiused board, adjustable truss rod, etc.), then I found the Redline Travelers to be a nice alternative. Now, if you are looking for a GOOD flattop, then the BEST that I’ve owned is a Poe Scout . . . if you can get Andy to build you one.

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  16. #15
    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    I'm reading and liking all the information you all offer! Thanks so much!

  17. #16
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    yeah pheff, but. . .

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    f-d

    (Never played a Scout, but that is fine-looking craft right there!)
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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  19. #17

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    If you like the thought of something a little exotic there are always the lovely flat-tops made by Jimmy Moon in Glasgow, Scotland. Very high quality, and inexpensive.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    Fylde make great flattops.

    Dave H
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  21. #19

    Default Re: Looking for a GOOD flat top mandolin

    sawchyn is the best flat top out there. gibson army navy and arlite's are great and come up fairly cheap now and again. and the flatirons are reliable and often cheap. i thik there's a flatiron on ebay right now for around $500

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