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Thread: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I have been trying to purchase a Kentucky KM-272 for a few weeks. First they sent me the wrong model but I finally got her today. I observe an unusual formation in the wood grain below the pick guard which is inconsistent with the rest of the instrument. Almost seems like there was a knot in that location. Secondly, there is a depression in the wood grain on the same side of the instrument that runs intermittently the whole length of the instrument front. If I had purchased a BLEM I probably would not complain but this is a new instrument. Any advice or should I just send it back for another one. Thanks!

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  2. #2

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    "bear claws" in wood are natural and common. Many builders will look for clean grain but some don't. Lower level instruments certainly receive lower grades of wood and lower levels of quality control. I don't think that it is necessarily an issue as long as it isn't cracked.
    You certainly can contact the seller and ask for a discount, or to return the instrument.
    If you bought it from a reputable dealer (not a big box warehouse) I'm sure they will do whatever they think is needed to make it right for you.
    If you bought it from Amazon or guitar center or what have you, I'd suggest you return it and buy from a better retailer.

  3. #3
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I agree with what stevojack665 said about bear claw. Here’s an article from Maury’s Music on the subject:
    https://www.maurysmusic.com/maury_s_...oustic_guitars

    It’s your opinion that matters, but there are quite a few folks that think bear claw can be cool looking.

    Second item, what you describe as a “a depression in the wood grain.” Hard for me to tell where this is located. However, just hazarding a guess, it’s the centerline – where the two pieces of your top may be meeting. If so, they didn’t do such a clean job of mating those two halves. I personally don’t know if this will be a potential repair issue for you down the road.

    All this said, if these two concerns bother you now, they will probably continue to bother you. It might be best to follow stevojack665’s advice and try again.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Interesting thanks for the info. I looked at it as a birth mark in a way. The linear indents were more of a concern to me. I opted to send it back and try again. It may be a little aggravating but eventually they will send a good one. It actually had wood debris in the gig bag which was troubling as well.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    This vertical line is not at the center. It is actually in the first pic as well under the pick guard and extended to the bottom of the mandolin.

  6. #6
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I think if it bothers you, you should see that seller honors whatever return policy they have. Get the one you believe you paid for! It will haunt you if you don’t.

  7. #7
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Q: Am I being too critical?
    A: Yes.

    There was nothing wrong with that mandolin - nothing in those photos anyway. I see a knot shadow and a slight sinking finish along a soft grain line. Both things can happen in very expensive instruments, and this one is not terribly expensive. That's not to discredit your desire to get a quality product, but assuming a company wants to build a good instrument at a lower cost, they can use less expensive materials and reduce labor. Wood that is less than perfect visually costs less, even though it might be just as functional. The slight finish flaw is minor as well, and would take more production time to eliminate.

    Just last week I saw a $20,000 guitar with a knot shadow much more obvious than that one. While working with the builder, the client chose that top for specific tonal reasons, even though it had a visual defect. The guitar sounded wonderful.

    All that to say, I believe we should abandon (or greatly diminish) our expectation of visual perfection in new instruments. I do not think it serves us well in any practical way.

    Again - my response is not meant to be critical of you. Just trying to share what I think I've learned to this point. :-)
    Todd Yates

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  9. #8

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Wait.. that's a problem. You're supposed to pay a lot extra for bearclaw!

    Really though, wood is a natural material. Any mandolin, at any price point, will show evidence of the natural materials, like this.

    Whether you like, or are happy with the appearance of the instrument is a different story. Some people like really clean, pristine-looking instruments. In that case, pick through a batch at a physical store until you see the one you want. Doesn't mean one that isn't to your liking is blemished, though.

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  11. #9
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    You should see my mandolin. Dragged to over 2,000 gigs. Dents and dings mean nothing to me. Nor do slight imperfections in naturally grown wood. What does it sound like? And, to top it off, to help you understand, you should build a few mandolins. I dare say that it will take a person many efforts to do as well as the mandolin in question.

    Life is not about perfection.

    I had a friend of mine who got a new pickup truck (I am in Georgia) and this guy fussed and belly ached worrying over every little potential scratch and mark in the BED of his truck. We went to a bluegrass festival together and when I tossed my gear in the back (that is what the BED is designed for after all) he gave a load of grief that I was scratching the bed. The next time I saw him he had some fancy sprayed on bedliner. Jeez.

    My grandpa hauled seed corn and hogs and kids and concrete blocks in the bed of his truck.

    I agree that if you are worried or not happy with your instrument you should do whatever makes you happy. But the thing, the mandolin, is a tool. Take care of your tools. I am all for that. But I only hope that your mandolin soon has 200 other scratches, dings and imperfections--put there by thousands of hours of happy playing.

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  13. #10

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I would submit that there’s something significant missing in your assessment process.

    How does it play? How does it feel and sound? That is what matters.

    If you haven’t learned to play yet, call the best mandolin player you can get ahold of and have them play it. Listen to the sound. Listen to an experienced player’s opinion. For one thing, they can get a better sense of what kind of -potential- the instrument has, with fresh strings and a proper setup.

    Sound-and-feel evaluations are part subjective, part objective, and certainly the most important part of your decision.

    Sending an instrument back based on a couple of minor visual flaws (in this case, one flaw, one wood figure) is a bit like recording a song decently, then erasing it every time you want to try another take, in the hope that next time will be better. Pretty often you never get that perfect take to your ears, but you have gotten the best one you ever will without knowing it.

    Hope you find the right mando.

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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Personally, if it sounded ok and played ok, I wouldn't worry about the minor imperfections in the wood. If you look hard enough, almost all mandolins have something that's not perfect.

    But... if it really bothers you, then call the seller. Most would probably let you swap it out if it hasn't been played, but you might be responsible for part of the shipping charges, depending on the terms.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

  16. #12
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Bearclaw is common and is of no structural nor is it a sound issue. It is especially common in European Spruce so it is normal, it is not a fault, don't worry about it. It shows the top is actually natural wood. The other issue looks to me like a bit of finish shrinkage, or maybe they didn't quite sand it enough before finishing. You will probably get more finish shrinkage as it ages. Two very minor issues of no real concern. Get over it and play the thing. After all, it is not an expensive mandolin.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  18. #13
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    As Bill said, how does it play? How does it sound?

    It's a bottom-of-the-line Kentucky. Yes you are being too critical. Play the thing.
    Chris Cravens

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  20. #14
    Registered User Mike Scott's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Do what your heart tells you to do. Don't listen to us. If it bothers you now, it will eat at you later. Send it back if that's the case. Good luck with your decision.
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    My personal take,

    I would like the same model without the anomalies.

    Thank you.

    I do not think that is "bear claw"

    Those images with the buggered finish are indicative of wood flaws.

    Your choice as to a course of action.

    If I received that instrument.... I would have returned it without playing it.

    My opinion.....they have made instruments of the same model without those conditions, I would like one of those please.

    Then when they sent me one without those issues, I would play it and see if I like the tone and playability.

  22. #16

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Hildreth View Post
    My personal take,

    I would like the same model without the anomalies.

    Thank you.

    I do not think that is "bear claw"

    Those images with the buggered finish are indicative of wood flaws.

    Your choice as to a course of action.

    If I received that instrument.... I would have returned it without playing it.

    Then when they sent me one without those issues, I would play it and see if I like the tone and playability.


    That is my exact feelings on the matter. I know over time I will put my own little touches (dents, scratches etc.) in it but being new please do not sell it as new when it is actually a BLEM. Really cannot understand why the first thing out of most peoples mouths is it is a low end instrument and not worth worrying about. I wonder if they feel the same way about a new car that they purchase and when they see bare metal with rust or a few dents they tell themselves and just say well it is a low end car and not a Lamborghini! One should have a reasonable expectation that new should mean new.

    The vast majority of people do not spend thousands of dollars on mandolins as I know I won't. Now do I look for deals on used ones when they become available, yes I sure do and have bought one that way that was originally listed at MSRP for over $2,000 that I bought for $200. If I stated the name on that brand I am quite sure the Mando police would tell me it is not a mandolin!. But it sure plays sweet!

    I like various mandolins for their unique tones and like most people do not live anywhere where I can just walk in a store and play ten of the same manufacture and model # to select that one special mandolin. So I am left to purchase a mandolin new or used and if new and I do not like it I just send it back and if used I just sell it! And I live near a city with a population of six million in the metro area and in the south on top of that!.

    The big A store is very liberal in their return policy so I can actually have a few models in my possession and cherry pick the best one and send the other one back to them. That is exactly what I will do with this one once I inspect the one that will arrive in two days. If both are duds I will just look elsewhere for an oval hole mandolin. I just know that I own or have owned quite a few Kentucky mandolins and none exhibit anything like this one (KM-250S, KM-505, KM-300E). But I must admit, the tone on this KM-272 is lovely!

    The same thing is true for GC but I have found out that are mostly not truthful in their assessment of used equipment and have only kept one of the four used instruments that I have purchased from them. If it is electric and not functional or even one that has chips knocked out of it they just hang it back on their wall and once again list it as Great Condition!

    Well I have vented and I am gone! For those newbies, just buy something cheap and see if you will stick with it. There are plenty of used mandolins that have been setup and are for sale as the original owner is ready to move up to a more expensive model. You do not have to purchase a $2,000 mando to learn to play.

  23. #17

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I think I will skip the building suggestion LOL! I am actually amazed at how well most are constructed.

    I will agree on the truck thing though as they are meant to haul things. I am originally from Albany GA now living in Senoia near Newnan. They are great instruments! I just wish I had started earlier as being my age (and with short fat fingers) things do not come as quickly as I like! The good Lord willing maybe I will have many years in retirement to get better!

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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    I think I will skip the building suggestion LOL! I am actually amazed at how well most are constructed.

    I will agree on the truck thing though as they are meant to haul things. I am originally from Albany GA now living in Senoia near Newnan. They are great instruments! I just wish I had started earlier as being my age (and with short fat fingers) things do not come as quickly as I like! The good Lord willing maybe I will have many years in retirement to get better!
    They are terrific mandolins, regardless of the price. Enjoy it and play in good health.
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  25. #19

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    I would suggest not buying an instrument from Amazon.
    Pay a few bucks more and get one from a reputable dealer who will inspect and setup the instrument before shipping.
    That'd go a long way to preventing issues like this one.

  26. #20
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    I have been trying to purchase a Kentucky KM-272 for a few weeks. First they sent me the wrong model but I finally got her today. I observe an unusual formation in the wood grain below the pick guard which is inconsistent with the rest of the instrument. Almost seems like there was a knot in that location. Secondly, there is a depression in the wood grain on the same side of the instrument that runs intermittently the whole length of the instrument front. If I had purchased a BLEM I probably would not complain but this is a new instrument. Any advice or should I just send it back for another one. Thanks!

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    That appears to be a finish flaw or scratch. It doesn't look like the wood pattern to me. I think you should request a replacement. I do see the bear claw, which wouldn't be an issue for me. That scratch is a matter of you feeling you got what you paid for which is what you deserve.

  27. #21
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    ...Really cannot understand why the first thing out of most peoples mouths is it is a low end instrument and not worth worrying about...
    That wasn't my takeaway at all. You asked a question, but you wanted people to agree with you more than you wanted answers. You got a couple of those and you returned the mandolin, which is what you were going to do anyway, but mostly you got practical answers from people who have a considerable amount of experience.

    There's nothing wrong with getting what you want. It's your money. However, I don't think it's fair to accuse dealers and manufacturers of intentionally selling "blemished" items. The photos you showed do not reveal cosmetic issues that are outside the norm for an instrument in that price range. You didn't like what you saw, and that's fine. I have my own preferences regarding certain things, but I don't make my standard a litmus test for anything other than my own purchasing decisions. Own your personal standard, but call it that without justifying it at the expense of a manufacturer or dealer who did nothing wrong.

    And I'm certain the responses would have been different had you posted photos that revealed a structural issue.
    Todd Yates

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  29. #22

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    You asked a question, but you wanted people to agree with you more than you wanted answers. ....However, I don't think it's fair to accuse dealers and manufacturers of intentionally selling "blemished" items. The photos you showed do not reveal cosmetic issues that are outside the norm for an instrument in that price range. You didn't like what you saw, and that's fine.....Own your personal standard, but call it that without justifying it at the expense of a manufacturer or dealer who did nothing wrong.
    I suspect that there are Lloyd Loar signed Gibsons selling for six figures with larger flaws, especially the wood grain irregularity. And there are definitely A style Gibsons from the teens and twenties with larger wood flaws and probably greater finish flaws selling for a lot higher price than this instrument.

  30. #23
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    But I must admit, the tone on this KM-272 is lovely!

    At the risk of sounding like a jerk, souldn't that be the main factor? I'd rather have a "lovely" sounding instrument with some visual flaws than a great looking, mediocre sounding one. To each his own, I suppose.
    Chris Cravens

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  31. #24
    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    Now do I look for deals on used ones when they become available, yes I sure do and have bought one that way that was originally listed at MSRP for over $2,000 that I bought for $200. If I stated the name on that brand I am quite sure the Mando police would tell me it is not a mandolin!. But it sure plays sweet!
    OK, I'll bite... what the heck kind of mandolin was listed over 2 grand, was available for $200, but isn't really a mandolin?
    ‘96 Sparks F-5
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  32. #25

    Default Re: Am I being to Critical on New Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by GA1817 View Post
    The big A store is very liberal in their return policy so I can actually have a few models in my possession and cherry pick the best one and send the other one back to them. That is exactly what I will do with this one once I inspect the one that will arrive in two days. If both are duds I will just look elsewhere for an oval hole mandolin. ......Well I have vented and I am gone!
    Am I the only one who feels that the abuse of Amazon's liberal return policy is not a victimless crime? Conventional logic would say that it was designed to address flaws or damage, certainly, but not designed for "cherry picking" IMHO! I'm thinking if you couldn't/wouldn't try this at your local music store, you shouldn't do it with Amazon.

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