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Thread: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandolin

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    Default Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandolin

    Good afternoon!

    So, I think this is pretty exciting. I have been talking with Chris - the Co-owner of Synergy instruments in Canada. They make some pretty cool carbon fiber guitars and Ukuleles. I sent them an email to see if perhaps a carbon fiber mandolin could be on the horizon and they seem very, very interested. Anyway, Chris said he would jump into this discussion soon and they would love to hear thoughts from mandolin players about carbon fiber mandolins. What style might we be interested in, etc. I know for me the thought of being able to leave a mandolin out all the time (like I do with my Emerald guitars) and be able to sit outside and not worry about humidity and have something that would hold its tune is very exciting.

    The Synergy website is here: http://www.synergyinstruments.com/
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Hey I would be interested in an OM based on their baritone uke if it were near the price of that baritone.
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    In addition to my very nice "wood" mandolins, I also have a Mix F-5 style carbon fiber mando which I like very much. I personally like the traditional F-5 shape and it has very good tone, but it is a bit lacking in volume. I do find the neck a bit on the chunky side though. They are no longer being made* but used ones do come up for sale every now and then.

    I was checking out the very sexy and modernistic carbon F mando that Z Mandolins was offering for $2990 including a custom Calton case and about $2350 without a case. I am kicking myself for not buying one because they are now sold out. You snooze, you lose.

    I am in the market for a second carbon mandolin and would be interested in what Synergy comes up with, but the pricing would be a consideration. Somehow it just seems easier to spend thousands of dollars on a nice hand-carved wooden mandolin. Possibly a flat top and back A-style mandolin with a nice feeling modern neck could be fabricated more affordably than an arched F-style. But I would be interested in checking out anything they come up with. I especially like the fact that Synergy instruments are made in Canada.

    *I heard through the grapevine that the Mix carbon mandos might be going back into production.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Quote Originally Posted by MojoMando View Post
    In addition to my very nice "wood" mandolins, I also have a Mix F-5 style carbon fiber mando which I like very much. I personally like the traditional F-5 shape and it has very good tone, but it is a bit lacking in volume. I do find the neck a bit on the chunky side though. They are no longer being made* but used ones do come up for sale every now and then.

    I was checking out the very sexy and modernistic carbon F mando that Z Mandolins was offering for $2990 including a custom Calton case and about $2350 without a case. I am kicking myself for not buying one because they are now sold out. You snooze, you lose.

    I am in the market for a second carbon mandolin and would be interested in what Synergy comes up with, but the pricing would be a consideration. Somehow it just seems easier to spend thousands of dollars on a nice hand-carved wooden mandolin. Possibly a flat top and back A-style mandolin with a nice feeling modern neck could be fabricated more affordably than an arched F-style. But I would be interested in checking out anything they come up with. I especially like the fact that Synergy instruments are made in Canada.

    *I heard through the grapevine that the Mix carbon mandos might be going back into production.
    I agree the idea of spending thousands on a carbon fiber mandolin seems wrong. I am not expert on CF manufacturing but I would expect that to top would be made in a mold and not require the substantial effort that a carved wood top does. My first hobby is bicycling and that industry seems to make CF parts and frame fairly cheaply relative to a high end mandolin. the durability and ability to handle changes in environment makes it appealing though

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    Question Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    I'm OK with my Mix A5 *.. the pattern making for the F, I'm told, better understood the way the dimensions of the finished piece cam out of the mold..

    Taking advantage of the weather proof-ness , a Carbon Pocket Mandolin for traveling & camping would be super..
    but @ $2K that would be a bit steep.. so may as well target the Deep Pocket buyer.. & they'd want fancy..

    *with Shertler pickup installed .. 3rd hand, It got a re-fret after a number of years ..

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Perhaps to keep costs down and keep with the flat top instruments, they could make an Army-Navy style mandolin. Heck even an octave mandolin too for that matter.
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    I’m interested in an A-style CF mandolin with f-holes and a medium neck profile. It seems that an arched top & back wouldn’t cost any more than flat once a mold is created.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    I love the army navy style flatirons as travel mandolins. Would love a carbon fiber version of one.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Another vote for a flat top A/N, Flatiron, Kalamazoo KM-11 style. Do like the concept of an instrument that can stay out of a case all winter. Or even be played outside in the cold and snow, or rain for when it's warmer. (Always thought the early Rainsong ad of playing under a waterfall in HI was great. Especially for those of us that live in the frozen tundra.
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    One of their ukes has a 15” scale. So close! Tweak the body shape and lose an inch of scale...

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Thanks Gary for starting this post, and thanks everyone for the great input already.

    As it stands right now our game plan would be to initially release an A style with the option to have either an Oval hole or the F holes. The carbon fiber mandolin will also feature arched front and back, however a flat top model isn't out of the question. While a flat top would simplify production slightly, not enough to warrant a significant price difference. Our carbon fiber mandolins will also feature a richlite fingerboard and likely a richlite bridge as well in an effort to remove all components that would typically be made from wood and be susceptible to temperature and humidity changes.

    Furthermore we are looking to offer the same instrument in Ekoa / Flax giving the instrument a very unique wood like look all while remaining impervious to temperature and humidity changes.

    One other thing to consider is any design changes you may like to see. For instance would you prefer to have the heel removed from the neck and blended into the body in a smooth transition? Things like this are 100% possible as we will be designing the body and neck to be built as one piece.

    While we are still in the early days of developing a carbon fiber mandolin we are aiming to hit a price point somewhere between $1000 - $1500 Canadian ($760 - $1140 USD).

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    At that price point Id be interested in a mandolin, and agree with Jim that an OM based on the bari uke, if similarly priced (realizing the tuners are doubled, etc, so expect it to be more), is very intriguing!

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Just a few thoughts. (in no particular order)

    Since CF is a "modern" material.. why not make a "modern" mandolin.
    Interpretation subjective.

    One specification would be paramount for me to buy any mandolin..
    At minimum.. 1 3/16ths nut width..
    preferably wider.. say 1 1/4.

    As to CF itself as a material for a musical instrument..
    I am, at heart, a traditionalist..I like wood and steel.
    Could you tell me why I would want a CF mandolin?

    Another poster said his first interest is bicycles.. I, too, have an affinity for them,over 50 in my lifetime, currently owning 6.
    I will add that one of the six was an early 90s production prototype mountain bike CF frame with aluminum alloy lugs. Quite a beauty.
    But, in 28 years I have ridden it less than 50 miles. All of my other bikes are steel, lugged frame. Italian SOMEC, Japanese hi end, and two Rivendells.
    I cannot reason why I would want a carbon framed bicycle. Light weight is unimportant to me.

    Why would I want a CF mandolin ? What would it offer that a conventional mandolin does not have. ?

    Best of luck, sounds like an interesting project.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Tapping into Jeff Hindreth's thoughts -- how possible is it to offer different neck widths as an option? We get a lot of people moving to mandolin from guitar who want a wider neck, and then there are people like me who prefer/need a slimmer neck. You could offer several models -- or depending on build specs, individual neck versions -- that might attract crossover traffic and make a selection more attractive to buyers.
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    A carbon fiber flattop in that price range would be a very attractive instrument for travel. I would definitely want one if the tone was there.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    One specification would be paramount for me to buy any mandolin..
    At minimum.. 1 3/16ths nut width..
    preferably wider.. say 1 1/4.
    I think that "most" players that consider the mandolin as their primary instrument do not prefer wide or chunky necks. Other than Gibson's Sam Bush model, most modern builder's neck specs are much narrower than than 1-1/4". Of course guitar players that occasionally play the mandolin might feel more comfortable with a wider nut.

    The wide nut was a problem for the Mix A model (and was adjusted for their F model) and also one of the reasons that I did not immediately pull the trigger on a Z Mandolin.

    Tooling and die expenses would probably make multiple neck sizes unfeasible.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Jeff,

    The beauty of these instruments, for me, is their "impervious to the elements" design. I don't want to take my Kelley or my Rigel camping in the summer or when temps start dipping low, hiking trips where we drive to various trails before settling in for the night, to Sullivan's Island's beach on a SC July or August day, etc. I also don't want to leave them in my truck between job sites, even if I know I'm going to have a break that will allow me to play for an hour or two. For a gigging musician who plugs in and is thus not necessarily going to get acoustic tone anyway, I can see their utility, because of their stability regardless of the temp/humidity. We downsized a couple of years ago and I sold/gave away 10+ instruments, one of which was my beater. I didn't miss it for a while, but, with COVID-19, all of our recent trips have been local and involve the outdoors. I have a soprano travel uke that I'll take with me, but it doesn't scratch the itch as well for me, and, I still won't leave the wooden instruments locked in a car for hours while I'm out on a trail. I also don't want to spend 3+ thousand on a "beater." Hence my interest.

    Would I buy one to play at home as my primary instrument, or even to use in church (if we're ever able to get that rolling again), local indoor jams (same disclaimer? No. But for a worry free travel mandolin/"beater," I can see their advantage.

    Also, I'm a wide nut guy myself, but many are not. Maybe a 1 and 1/8 inch nut to catch those on the extremes of preference?
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    I agree there would probably be more interest in a no frills travel/camping mandolin since they are less impacted by weather, temperature extremes, and transit jostling. If you can make it so both loop and ball end strings could be used, it should appeal to a wider audience.

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    My Mix A5 does indeed have a chunky neck, too chunky to qualify this instrument as a major player in my arsenal. However, I keep it to hand where I live, in a too humid/too dry kitchen. And, of course, it travels with me ... er, of Covid course, it traveled when I used to travel.

    All that said, my current efforts are aimed toward proficiency with a bowlback. So, why not?, I'll be the lone voice to plump for a bowlback carbon fiber. (Note that I am not including a laughing emoji here!) I believe they are (or were) available in Europe at a price beyond the capacity of my piggy bank.

    And, of course, there is that aluminum bowlback on ebay ...

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    Last edited by Joe Bartl; Oct-14-2020 at 11:54am. Reason: add text

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    I play on a river cruise on the Mississippi River in the summers. Well I did, and hope to again someday. It is hot and humid a lot of days and a CF mandolin would be a welcome addition for tuning stability from humidity in the 90+ % range.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Quote Originally Posted by SynergyInstruments View Post
    Furthermore we are looking to offer the same instrument in Ekoa / Flax giving the instrument a very unique wood like look all while remaining impervious to temperature and humidity changes.
    Now that peaks my interest. I played one of Blackbird's eKoa Clara concert ukes a few years ago and it was possibly one of the best sounding ukes I have ever played. The shop I was in (remember those) had a CF one too but I liked the eKoa much better. IIRC it had a bit more warmth, was more responsive, and sounded more woody to my ears.

    I did contact Blackbird to see if there were any plans for an eKoa mandolin—they have made a tenor uke and some guitars since—but they said they were not planning on going into mandolin production.

    Would the eKoa mandolin be in that same price range as the CF one?

    I would have to think of the design changes that these different production processes would allow. That once piece neck/body smooth transition might be very enticing. You folks might have a better sense of the possible since you have developed the process.

    I am not sure why some folks think that a CF mandolin should be much cheaper than a wooden one. I was under the impression that the process to make these is different from traditional wood instruments but that it is not, for example, like creating a mold and pouring molten plastic into it.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Oct-14-2020 at 1:28pm.
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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Hildreth View Post
    Just a few thoughts. (in no particular order)

    Since CF is a "modern" material.. why not make a "modern" mandolin.
    Interpretation subjective.

    One specification would be paramount for me to buy any mandolin..
    At minimum.. 1 3/16ths nut width..
    preferably wider.. say 1 1/4.

    As to CF itself as a material for a musical instrument..
    I am, at heart, a traditionalist..I like wood and steel.
    Could you tell me why I would want a CF mandolin?

    Another poster said his first interest is bicycles.. I, too, have an affinity for them,over 50 in my lifetime, currently owning 6.
    I will add that one of the six was an early 90s production prototype mountain bike CF frame with aluminum alloy lugs. Quite a beauty.
    But, in 28 years I have ridden it less than 50 miles. All of my other bikes are steel, lugged frame. Italian SOMEC, Japanese hi end, and two Rivendells.
    I cannot reason why I would want a carbon framed bicycle. Light weight is unimportant to me.

    Why would I want a CF mandolin ? What would it offer that a conventional mandolin does not have. ?

    Best of luck, sounds like an interesting project.

    Thanks Jeff. Excellent points and questions.

    In the future we may consider trying our hand at designing a modern mandolin, however we understand that there are a significant amount of "traditionalist" out there not unlike yourself, and for those a new non traditional material can be a hard sell. Mix that with a new non traditional shape and style and well then it can be an even harder sell.

    So why a carbon fiber mandolin over a traditional wood mandolin? First and foremost is how durable carbon fiber is in comparison to wood. This means being able to take our carbon fiber mandolin places you would never consider bringing a traditional wood instrument. Carbon fiber instruments do have a different sound in comparison to their wood counterparts, however we find our carbon instruments are extremely resonant, have excellent sustain and a nice clean sound. I know you mentioned that weight is unimportant to you, however it is one of carbon fibers strength in that it allows us to build a very durable instrument all while still achieving weight savings over wood instruments. Our Ekoa version may be more to your liking as it will have a more traditional look and the Ekoa helps create a tone more similar to a wood instrument.

    With regards to bicycles, carbon fiber not only can reduce weight, but it can allow the manufacturer the ability to tailor individual components to handle different stresses meaning they can design a part that can be stiff when it needs to be and compliant when it needs to be. Something not so easily done with metal bike frames. That being said, I'm not in the business of bikes so I won't go too in depth

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    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Jim, I don't think a CF mandolin should be inherently less expensive to build (and possibly more expensive, at least initially from what I've read on threads through the years), I just haven't played one that I like enough to shell out Mix range dollars for yet based on how I'd use it. If I found one that I liked as well as my Kelley or Rigel, I'd consider it. I don't think they're asking too much, I just haven't been willing to pay it yet. The eKoa seems to be a different animal, though, so we'll see!
    Chuck

  29. #24

    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    Tapping into Jeff Hindreth's thoughts -- how possible is it to offer different neck widths as an option? We get a lot of people moving to mandolin from guitar who want a wider neck, and then there are people like me who prefer/need a slimmer neck. You could offer several models -- or depending on build specs, individual neck versions -- that might attract crossover traffic and make a selection more attractive to buyers.
    While we would love to be able to offer various neck profiles since we design most of our instruments to feature a one piece design body and neck, offering different neck profiles will unfortunately not be in the cards as we would need to generate tooling for each individual neck profile. Initially we will be looking to tap into musicians who use the mandolin as their primary instrument and as such mandolin will feature a slimmer neck profile.

  30. #25

    Default Re: Carbon Fiber Builder wants our input on a Carbon Fiber Mandol

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Now that peaks my interest. I played one of Blackbird's eKoa Clara concert ukes a few years ago and it was possibly one of the best sounding ukes I have ever played. The shop I was in (remember those) had a CF one too but I liked the eKoa much better. IIRC it had a bit more warmth, was more responsive, and sounded more woody to my ears.

    I did contact Blackbird to see if there were any plans for an eKoa mandolin—they have made a tenor uke and some guitars since—but they said they were not planning on going into mandolin production.

    Would the eKoa mandolin be in that same price range as the CF one?

    I would have to think of the design changes that these different production processes would allow. That once piece neck/body smooth transition might be very enticing. You folks might have a better sense of the possible since you have developed the process.

    I am not sure why some folks think that a CF mandolin should be much cheaper than a wooden one. I was under the impression that the process to make these is different from traditional wood instruments but that it is not, for example, like creating a mold and pouring molten plastic into it.
    The Ekoa mandolin would be slightly more expensive as building Ekoa instruments is alittle more labour intensive than carbon fiber, however it will not be a significant increase and should still fall within the price range listed above

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