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Thread: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin strap?

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    Default Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin strap?

    I recently got an exciting opportunity to have a custom leather strap made for me by a luxury leather designer, and before I give him any specs I want to make sure this thing is *as perfect as I can plan it out*. I know you guys have a lot more experience than my mediocre year and a half (I was a fiddle player up until COVID), so I figured I'd see what the experts had to suggest!

    I currently have an F style mando (Eastman MD515) that I really dig, but I want this strap to be able to be used for years, and for many different mandolins. Personally I've never gotten used to the f-style straps that hook around the scroll (center of gravity always pulls the neck downwards if you let go??), so I'm thinking of having a slot in the upper end so it can be hitched underneath the strings behind the nut, A style.

    My current strap is just a straight leather strip 90/1000ths" thick with a pretty soft hand, but I'm thinking a shoulder pad would lux the strap up a bit, and could potentially have a cool design stamped/burned into it. Does the shoulder pad make a difference in the feel? Should it be solid leather or have fur/cloth? Should it be smooth or grippy to hold the instrument in place? What about adjustability? Would a buckle make more sense than multiple holes for the endpin? There's SO MANY OPTIONS.

    I guess I'm looking for some features of a strap that you guys have noticed and would recommend. I'm open to pretty much anything at this point, I'm just looking for advice!

    Thanks a bunch

  2. #2
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Something to keep in mind is where you are going to put the strap when not in play. I mean, if you are putting it in the case with the mandolin, a buckle or any metal extrusions could scuff up the mandolin.

    I switch my picks often between tunes, so two or three pick slots where I could store my pick, and put my "on deck" picks as well.
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    As far as I'm concerned no buckles/metal/plastic, period.

    Rather than multiple holes in the strap for the endpin, maybe something like adjustable laces to let you lengthen/shorten it by an inch or so.

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Definitely no metal! I'd avoid hard plastic as well, for concern about marking up the mandolin if you put the strap in the case with your mandolin. I usually buy a 2-pack of rawhide 48" shoelaces and use them to braid a "custom" strap for each mandolin - some folks will use the two-pack for two mandolin straps. That doesn't work well for an acoustic guitar and certainly not for a Les Paul! However, if you are getting a custom strap for your honey - good on you!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Best strap I ever had was a Harrison. I'm still kicking myself for including it in a mando sale.

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    - No metal or plastic

    - Non slippery on the underside of it so that it doesn't move around when you're wearing it

    - Leather that doesn't stretch: I had a mandolin strap once that stretched because the leather was soft and thin and it became too long to use as a result.
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    I just posted this on the "Alway use a strap?" thread:

    Big guitar straps can be a problem in tight-fitting mandolin cases or bags, so a lot of players go for small thin straps - since most mandolins aren't heavy.

    I have a couple of braided leather ones, cowhide from Massimo Gatti and kangaroo leather from David Hine.

    Although I have come to prefer these adjustable, woven silk/cotton straps:
    Chicago straps
    I should add that the
    Chicago strap I referenced has leather at the pin end and thick nylon "bootlace" at the head/scroll end
    Bren

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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    A strap snap - L-R:
    Kangaroo on Eastman 815v
    Chicago gold on Peter Coombe F-hole
    Chicago brown on Marshall Dow oval hole.

    You can see that all three are attached comfortably at the head, under the strings near the nut.
    I didn't like the balance of the Eastman with the strap on the scroll.

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    The "Chicago" straps, as they are called by the UK retailer, are actually made by Souldier of ... you guessed it, Chicago.
    But I can't see them on their website, so they might be a custom order by the UK retailer. Eagle.
    Bren

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    Registered User TonyEarth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Recently-ish I watched David Benedict's video on mandolin accessories, where he talks about the importance of the width/contact area of the strap for him (more surface area -> more stable/less movement). I found that an interesting observation though I've not experimented with straps much myself.

    For reference:
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    I am a huge fan of Levi's uke straps for A-styles, because they're small, lightweight and easy to stash in the case without removing them. I got convinced that I had to have a heavier, wider, "grippier" strap on the F-style, because it just drives me nuts to have the headstock taking a nose-dive whenever I let go of it. I found a 3/4" wide soft suede is a nice compromise. (Two-layer, 3/16" thick) It keeps the instrument pretty stable if I let go of it, and still goes into the case without having to remove it. The tail end has different holes for length adjustment, which I didn't like but don't really think about now that I'm used to it. I use the middle hole so it has a "tail", but still fits in the case, and is far preferable to buckles for the reasons others have mentioned.

    One other thing to think about if you like to leave the strap on like me, is coloring in the leather. I started out using the classic leather boot lace strap, which was fine for A-Styles, but had a dark face that the dye bled out of. It ended up leaving a mark on the ivoroid binding of the mando. You might want to discuss color-fastness with the maker.

    Also - Jill mentioned not liking "stretchy" straps - I agree, and I have one of those roundish braided leather straps that sort of bounces, which just feels weird. I want the strap to hold the mando in one spot, not act like a spring!

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Quote Originally Posted by Alfons View Post
    I am a huge fan of Levi's uke straps for A-styles, because they're small, lightweight and easy to stash in the case without removing them. I got convinced that I had to have a heavier, wider, "grippier" strap on the F-style, because it just drives me nuts to have the headstock taking a nose-dive whenever I let go of it. I found a 3/4" wide soft suede is a nice compromise.
    Alfons, I've been struggling with this problem for ages, so thanks for the hint! I'll try to find a strap thats wider, with more of a grip to it. I also like to be able to adjust my straps steplessly. Mine has a velcro fastener ("Klettverschluss" in german - had to google the english expression) for adjustment.

    Remains to be seen if I can find a strap that meets both criteria. But I'm willing to compromise on the stepless adjustability if I can only get rid of this annoying F-Style-unwieldiness

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    350 pound breaking strain paracord with a tight fisherman’s slip knot. Completely secure.

    Me too, buckles are out, as are wide shoulder straps -don’t need them and when I put the mando in a case I want a strap that can stay on and fold gently and easily. Guitar’s and tenors are different of course but I also find that a wide strap when twisted can pull the mando in different directions.
    Thin leather ‘string’ is out too. It looks good but with ageing it’s an accident waiting to happen.

    I do like to have a variety of straps.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Some interesting points here. This is a good topic.

    I've heard of some leather itself affecting the finish of the mando, but hadn't thought about the dye. I wonder how available the "colorfastness" information is?
    I'm thinking of doing macrame with cotton cording and dying it with fiber reactive dyes that I have from doing tie dye. I do know that with tie dye you have to wash a few times to get the excess dye out, so I wonder if a dyed strap like that would be a problem.

    Will, on velcro - how long have you had that strap? My concern about velcro is that it doesn't always work as well with time, ie. it gets's worn out and doesn't "stick together" as well. I think I might be afraid that it would fail and cause the mando to drop.

    Simon, could you show the other side of that strap end? I'm interested in how the paracord is attached to the leather.
    Last edited by Sue Rieter; Sep-16-2021 at 9:58am.

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Will, on velcro - how long have you had that strap? My concern about velcro is that it doesn't always work as well with time, ie. it gets's worn out and doesn't "stick together" as well. I think I might be afraid that it would fail and cause the mando to drop.
    Thanks for your concern, Sue! Accidentally dropping the mandolin won't be an issue, since the velcro is very "sticky" and applied over a long surface area. And even if the velcro failed, the two strap ends would lock into each other, preventing the strap from falling apart entirely.

    Here's a photo!
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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    That's a great design, then, the way the two ends act as a fail safe! Thanks for showing that, Will.

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    Registered User Willi Bahrenberg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    You're welcome I bought it used from a private seller on ebay. It doesn't have a brand name (or anything at all for that matter) written or stamped on it, so no way of telling who made these.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    The hole was already there, I could have just punched through anothrr smaller hole for one line of paracord but maybe it would be more stress on the leather.
    The knot’s another simple fisherman’s.
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    Default Re: Advice/Suggestions on characteristics of an ideal mandolin st

    I have posted this before, but will again. This is a simple way to secure a strap, with some amount of adjustment, without a lot of strap hanging down. You can move the anchor point to the treble side, so it doesn't go around the back side to lengthen, or to another tuner on the bass side. No metal, or knots needed. I have another simple adjustment on a guitar strap that gives continuous adjustment very simply with no knots, velcro, or metal.

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