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Thread: Wood identity question

  1. #1
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Wood identity question

    Is this back stained "birdseye" maple? I believe it is maple - but does the figure make it "birdseye"? Thank you for your help!

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    Last edited by Tim Logan; Jul-20-2020 at 9:09pm.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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  2. #2
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Can’t really tell. Could be burl.

    Pretty though.
    Play it like you mean it

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  3. #3
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Thank you Bill. Here is another picture that hopefully might be more useful.

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    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Yes, I believe it's stained maple, and it looks like bird's eye. Burl would not, I think, be suitable for instrument building.

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  6. #5
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Yes that is stained birdseye Maple. Lyon and Healy used a lot of that, but they also used flamed (fiddleback figure) Maple on some of their mandolin as well.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  8. #6
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Ahh..... Thank you Peter. The more I play and learn about these mandolins, the more I appreciate them. Just imagine had they had the marketing hutzpah of The Gibson folks. Thank you Dave and Bill as well!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

  9. #7

    Default Re: Wood identity question

    I love the design with the abbreviated two points, whose the builder?

  10. #8
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Hi Rob - Thank you, yes, I agree this is a beautiful design. It is my 1925 Lyon & Healy Model A asymmetrical mandolin. I quite enjoy learning as much about these models as I can. There sound is magnificent.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    I have a respected friend who has owned and played hundreds of mandolins. (He owned a store at one time.) He agrees with me (and lot of others) that the L&H asymmetrical model is probably the most beautiful mandolin ever designed, BUT he says that the shorter scale (13.25”?) just doesn’t give him the “hand feel” that he prefers. There is something about the “feedback” to his pick hand that disappoints him. I’ve never played one, so I can’t speak to that issue.

    Every other thing I’ve read about these gorgeous instruments is the highest praise. But, I’d there anything to this scale length issue?

  12. #10
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Hi Mike - I think there possibly could be something to it, but I believe it is not a significant concern. I have felt that the touch of the pic to the strings is better on my Phoenix Neo-classical Euro III, but just a bit, then on the L&H. The Phoenix is basically a Formula One car. They both have TI's. The pic feel only becomes apparent if I play the mandolins continuously back to back. You become unaware of this difference once you play the L&H on a routine basis. So for practical purposes I think it is only a matter of perception. For me the tone of the L&H far, far out rides any other consideration because when I play I want to hear that L&H sound! The sound is really, to me, magnificent. There is one difference you did not mention: the L&H courses are just a hair further a part - making multi-course tremolo just a tiny bit more challenging. Again, I would never think about any of these things if I were playing the L&H 100% of the time - they are simply (very minor) differences, just like no mandolin sounds/feels exactly like the next.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quite a few classical players lean toward the L&H shorter scale instruments but some of the more difficult pieces that some soloists play require longer stretches and the shorter scale is actually closer FWIW to the violin scale. I wonder if Mike's friend was not a classical player. I have one of each of L&H longer and shorter scale A model mandolins and they both sounded excellent.
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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    I wondered about that comparison to classical mandos.

    I actually owned a Brian Dean version of the L&H for awhile. Just a breath taking instrument, visually. For some reason, I don’t even remember talking to a Brian about scale length, nor did I ever measure it. But, I never bonded with the sound, or maybe that “hand feel” thing. Something about it didn’t work for me, and I really wanted to love that thing! I finally sold it to a guy who seemed to love it. Different strokes, I guess...
    Last edited by Mike Buesseler; Jul-21-2020 at 3:37pm.

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    I think we have drifted way off topic....

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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Tim, as to your question, your L & H is from "birds eye maple", a certain growth pattern of acer saccharum (= sugar maple, rock maple). In case you're interested, I read (in some forum with reference to L & H literature/catalogue) that the tops of those L & H mandolins were made from white spruce (picea glauca).
    Enjoy your fine mandolin.

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  19. #15
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Hendrik Ahrend View Post
    Tim, as to your question, your L & H is from "birds eye maple", a certain growth pattern of acer saccharum (= sugar maple, rock maple). In case you're interested, I read (in some forum with reference to L & H literature/catalogue) that the tops of those L & H mandolins were made from white spruce (picea glauca).
    Enjoy your fine mandolin.
    Hendrick - Thank you! That is quite helpful and I am grateful. There seem to be many terms used for maple (birdseye, quilted, sugar, rock, flamed....). Sometimes I think they get tossed around loosely or according to local lore - so I appreciate your specificity. When I first received my L&H I thought the wood was "burl" (not that I really know exactly what burl is!) - but then I read something that made
    me think it could be birdseye maple. How delighted I am to learn that it is. The dark stain confused me.

    Mike - off topic was great. I learned something from you and Jim and found it most interesting. Thank you.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    As Hendrik noted: the various kinds of maple can all come from the same species and can even be from different parts of the same tree that were influenced by the environment or other external effects. This article on Figured Maple explains a few of these.

    My two main violins have back wood of quilted maple. (see attached) I posted it on another thread on the subject of these woods.

    Here is a page from circa 1925 L&H catalog which talks about the construction. I don't see any mention of the type of spruce though. Also, please note, the reinforcement and pickguard material is "vulcanized fibre" which is not rubber but actually a 19th century plastic similar to Bakelite.
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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Excellent - thanks Jim! Pretty neat to have located a catalogue.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
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    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    There seem to be many terms used for maple (birdseye, quilted, sugar, rock, flamed....). Sometimes I think they get tossed around loosely or according to local lore (...) When I first received my L&H I thought the wood was "burl" (not that I really know exactly what burl is!) - but then I read something that made
    me think it could be birdseye maple. How delighted I am to learn that it is. The dark stain confused me.
    I believe it makes sense to make a distinction between the wood species (usually one latin term), the trade names (many in some cases) and the growth pattern. "Quilted", "flamed", "tiger", "curly", "fiddleback" &c. appear in several different types of maple, sometimes in other woods also. "Birds eye" should be sugar maple in most cases. "Burl" may appear in maple, but I associate it with walnut. Washburn catalogues from the early 1920s refer to the back&sides as being from "curly" or "figured" maple "in walnut (...) finish". In fact, it's a very old tradition to stain (or paint) lighter wood dark brown and call the color "walnut".

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Hendrik - that is great, clarifying info - thank you so much. So burl is a characteristic of wood, not an actual type of wood? Seems that the staining tradition has changed over the years - don't see that now a days. Thanks again.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Excellent - thanks Jim! Pretty neat to have located a catalogue.
    I have accumulated quite a few catalogs. I have original 1890 & 1912 L&H and some photocopies of mandolin pages from other years + other makers as well.
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    I read (in some forum with reference to L & H literature/catalogue) that the tops of those L & H mandolins were made from white spruce (picea glauca).
    I have never heard of that before. I think it is unlikely, although can't rule it out completely. It is impossible to be certain what they used by examining the mandolins in detail, but my guess is Red Spruce because it was local, and the feel of the instrument tends to indicate Red Spruce to me. Then again might be European Spruce, it is impossible to tell them apart under varnish, and very often impossible in the white as well.
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    It sure is Nice looking.

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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    I have never heard of that before. I think it is unlikely, although can't rule it out completely. It is impossible to be certain what they used by examining the mandolins in detail, but my guess is Red Spruce because it was local, and the feel of the instrument tends to indicate Red Spruce to me. Then again might be European Spruce, it is impossible to tell them apart under varnish, and very often impossible in the white as well.
    Quite possible, Peter. After some googling I did find a source for my claim, not sure, if that’s the one I referred to above. However, reliable or not, it does seem like the „white spruce“ was mentioned in Washburn literature: https://umgf.com/solid-brazilian-on-...w-t189355.html

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  33. #24
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Thanks, Tim, for getting this thread going. You have a knack of getting answers to my unasked questions.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wood identity question

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    Thanks, Tim, for getting this thread going. You have a knack of getting answers to my unasked questions.
    Oh! That's great!!!!

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Phoenix Neoclassical Europa III #623
    2018 Carlo Mazzaccara Lucia
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin - in progress!

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