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Thread: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

  1. #1
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    A while ago I asked if older mandolins, being all in solid wood, weren't as good or better as newer ones..
    I have since had older 4-5 noname German and Italian mandolins and a Swedish Levin(owned by Martin for a period).

    I also bought a new Hora Mandola solid, a Richwood solid and a defective Kentucky KM805, which I repaired. Prices between 150-400$.

    And my conclusion is that all the new ones are better sounding than the old ones.

    My only niggle is that the two of the new ones have adjustable bridges on a slightly arched top, so I don't know where to place my right hand without being irritated by the edge of the higher bridge.

    I am working on a new technique or a armsupport though.
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  2. #2
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Be creative; sometimes all it takes is a little fine sanding, sometimes a slight modification, to mitigate any irritation caused by brushing of the hand behind the bridge.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    And my conclusion is that all the new ones are better sounding than the old ones.
    Perhaps better to rephrase that: "And my conclusion is that all my new ones are better sounding than my old ones."

    Make not generalization here, that is all. Of course, there will always be some new instruments that are better sounding and playing than old ones and vice versa.

    BTW it is great that you can do your own work on your instruments. I will probably do some minor repairs on some of mine but most are pretty old.
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  5. #4
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    I did try 5-6 mandolins, in a store, and they all sounded better than the old ones so MY conclusion is still the same ;-) ;-)

    So I'll be selling all my old ones and buy a Hora II for my car mandolin.

    Of course You are right Jim but to get on in life, you just have to draw a line somewhere and get on. If you have to try out all options that life gives you, you'll never move on
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  6. #5
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    I suspect that most instruments today are made better than most instruments of the past. The exceptions are famous. But how many 1934 gibsons, say, weren’t as good as a nice Weber or a good Gibson made today? I genuinely don’t know. But the quality of instruments today is very high.
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    I agree with Jim Garber. The conclusion that new ones are better than old probably only refers to the instruments owned by Paul, who started this thread. I think that the statement is a bit wild really. I've handled and owned hundreds of mandolins of varying values and they are all different, regardless of age. Lots of great modern cheap ones and lots of grossly overpriced modern expensive ones. Equally lost of great old cheap ones and poor sounding, old expensive ones.

    Having said that I have a couple of very experineced friends who, when asked about their collection of old Gibsons and other instruments, both said to me that they had sold them all because their modern instruments work better. That surprised me a little. I know they mean frets, necks, bridges, tuners, etc etc with old instruments but equally there will be people who only play old instruments for different reasons.

    Each to his own.

  8. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    All my old mandolins are much more aged than my new ones. I find this consistent across all makes and models.

    On the other hand, the new ones are much more recent.

    Jeez, I love generalizations...
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    You go Allen.......

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  12. #9
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    All my old mandolins are much more aged than my new ones. I find this consistent across all makes and models.

    On the other hand, the new ones are much more recent.

    Jeez, I love generalizations...
    It's farther to New York, than by train ;-)
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    Registered User tassiespirit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    In the price range that you mentioned you are limited to either new laminated top or a s/h solid top but again there are exceptions to that rule too; depending on where you live etc. The other thing is older mandolins have suffered maybe many hands and many hours of sunlight and humid/cold/hot weather over the years and glue joints let go. If you are handy and get in and go some "careful" maintenance and upgrade the nut and bridge / strings and tuners then you would fine great improvements for little money on even the oldest instruments.

    But I would pick and choose which one were worth it to me to do first, like solid spruce top and straight finger board - well you know what I mean.

    Have you seen the Manovoodoo videos on YTube - he tells you a couple of things you could do to your cheapie mandolins to improve them - since it is what he does to "hotrod" ( my word ) the instruments that come into his shop; to open them up.

    Either way you have fun and still learning more about your mandolin passion.


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  15. #11
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    I was hoping to find an older, cheaper full solid mandolin, that would be as good as a newer, more expensive full solid but I failed.
    So I have sold off 4 old mandolins and bought a Kentucky KM-805, which I have fixed, a Richwood RMA-110 and have a Hora 2, on the way, as I liked their mandola I bought earlier and their price/performance ratio. All are full solid wood.
    I am very satisfied with those instruments, even as a newcomer to mandolins and not exceptionally young ears, I could definitely hear a difference to the better in the new ones.
    I kept a Levin for it's small size, as a car mandolin and a very old and decorative one for restauration and display.

    Now back to increasing the speed and sureness of my Sicilian Tarantella ;-)
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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Brown mandolins sound better than red ones....

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Nice wood in that Richmond!
    Charley

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    And if it doesn't have a scroll, it just looses that sonic complexity that allows you to play in a bluegrass band. The florentine F-style mandolins certainly look louder and have better visual tone than A models!

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by John Soper View Post
    And if it doesn't have a scroll, it just looses that sonic complexity that allows you to play in a bluegrass band. The florentine F-style mandolins certainly look louder and have better visual tone than A models!
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Brown mandolins sound better than red ones....
    But playing in the dark evens out the tone in my septuagenarian ears
    Play it like you mean it

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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by John Soper View Post
    And if it doesn't have a scroll, it just looses that sonic complexity that allows you to play in a bluegrass band. The florentine F-style mandolins certainly look louder and have better visual tone than A models!
    John

  26. #18
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Brown mandolins sound better than red ones....
    I hear ya. And yet, Jethro Burns somehow managed to get decent tone out of that red two-point. Say, maybe it had a brown undercoat or something?

    Click image for larger version. 

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  27. #19
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Some people here have been in confinement for too long. Take a walk or kick the dog
    Kentucky KM-805
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  28. #20
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    Some people here have been in confinement for too long. Take a walk or kick the dog
    You can say that again!

    Did you repair the Kentucky yourself?
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  29. #21
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Yes I did but I had a lot of problems.
    When I first glued it, some wood was missing at the end of the break. I filled it with some filler but after tensioning the string, a thin crack developed. I assumed it was the filler that couldn't follow the woods natural bend but wanted to be sure, so I gave it a little more tension, and it cracked again, in a different place, so I inserted a wedge of wood at the end of the crack. It looks like the neck is weak from the wood being sawn with the grain in a 30degree angle, you can see it on the photo.
    I also had a lot of trouble with finishing it. It seems like all materials, filler, spray paint, clear lacquer, were incompatible with each other and I couldn't polish the strange plastic that covers the headplate, so I had to give that a coat of clear as well, as I had also corrected a previous repair, where the scroll had broken off.


    But now I'm very happy with it. It sounds fantastic, is easy to play, although I might just remove the gloss from the neck.

    I got a 1600$ mandolin for 160$ ;-)
    Kentucky KM-805
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    Hora M1088 Mandola
    Hora M1087 Octave
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  30. #22
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Nice job, and nice get!
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  31. #23

    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by poul hansen View Post
    My only niggle is that the two of the new ones have adjustable bridges on a slightly arched top, so I don't know where to place my right hand without being irritated by the edge of the higher bridge.
    I lightly brush the bridge with the heel of my hand. I have sanded off the sharp corners of almost every bridge I own.

  32. #24
    Registered User poul hansen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    I lightly brush the bridge with the heel of my hand. I have sanded off the sharp corners of almost every bridge I own.
    I've done some sanding but I'll try: changing technique, a high armrest or a rest just behind the bridge
    Kentucky KM-805
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    Hora M1087 Octave
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    Noname (German?) mandolin

  33. #25
    🎶 Play Pretty 🎶 Greg Connor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Old mandolins versus new a conclusion

    Right now I own 6 mandolins, a couple banjos and I don’t even know how many guitars. Some are recent and some are vintage. I would guess that my 1917 Gibson A4 would be one of the last to go if I was to sell any of them.

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