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Thread: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

  1. #1
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    Default Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins like the MD515/v?

    I understand that it's suppose to have a classic violin varnish finish. I'm wondering does it have ONLY a varnish finish, or does it have a varnish finish under the same space age, nearly bullet proof clear coat that the other Eastman 500 series mandolins have?
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
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    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I have one and play it regularly. The finish is just the varnish. I love the sound I get from it - it's become my main mandolin for practice and performances. My Collings MT is getting lonely.
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Mine is only varnish, but I cannot say for sure what they are using these days. IMO, It would be extremely unlikely that they would do anything save a French polish "coat" over varnish finish (which is what their site says).
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    Registered User gspiess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    just varnish.
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Damn, that what I was hoping. Now I have to spend the extra money.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I donít own one but play a few and I think you can get something really nice. The F style varnish I played years ago was exceptionally nice.

    Iíll add, Iíve owned two Eastmanís, with one currently in my stable. Both have been great. Iíve played some in stores I didnít like, but Iím sure that is more of a setup issue. They are minimally good mandolins, and I think some are quite good, exceeding their price point in value.
    Last edited by Kevin Briggs; Sep-12-2022 at 9:31am.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    “minimally good” ? I’d love to have you expand on that thought.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

  8. #8
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Oh. Apologies for any lack of clarity. I just mean theyíre good, at a minimum, as in no stinkers.

    Now. As for ďgoodĒÖ

    To me they are nice and loud, have clear highs and lows, play easily, have comfortable necks, stay in tune, and so on. Sometimes the actual timbre of the sounds hasnít been appealing to me, but that to me is a bit more subjective.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Ah! Thank you.

    Different peopleís starting price point for a ďniceĒ mandolin can range dramatically. For me, my circumstances, and my abilities the Eastman MD515/v is an aspirational lifetime instrument. I realize for others it would barely be their campfire beater, but such is life.

    In addition to saving my nickels and dimes and bottle caps and breakfast cereal box tops, Iím working on ďearningĒ it by practicing scales and arpeggios and learning as many old timey tunes as I can. Not so much having an instrument worthy of my playing but have my playing be the worthy of the instrument.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I got to hang on to one for a little while while I helped a buddy sell it. I would agree that they are great instruments. Hard to find a better value in an F style mandolin. The one I had did have artificial distressing. I found it to be tastefully done, but if that is something that you are opposed to you may want to double check. I don't know if they did some without the distressing or if all the 515Vs had it. Here is a picture of that shows some of it. Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    About three towns over there is an Eastman dealer who has a 505 and a 515 hanging on his wall (Strings & Things, Concord NH). About an hour and a half from me there is an Eastman dealer who is supposed to be getting a 515/v “soon” (Johnson Strings, Newton MA).

    I’ll make sure to give all of them a through test drive.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    About three towns over there is an Eastman dealer who has a 505 and a 515 hanging on his wall (Strings & Things, Concord NH). About an hour and a half from me there is an Eastman dealer who is supposed to be getting a 515/v “soon” (Johnson Strings, Newton MA).

    I’ll make sure to give all of them a through test drive.
    What a blast from the past! I took guitar lessons at Strings & Things early in my guitar playing days in 1983? when I was a student at UNH.
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by RobP View Post
    What a blast from the past! I took guitar lessons at Strings & Things early in my guitar playing days in 1983? when I was a student at UNH.
    If you remember the area from back in those days, I still have my Guild dreadnought that I bought from Daddy‘s Junkie Music.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I bought a nice violin from Johnson about 25 years ago, I'd guess, and some other stuff along the way before it moved on to our son. (It was obvious who should be playing the fiddle in our family - and that violin went into the next one our son got, which he still plays.) Anyway.... if it's the same folks, they were nice to deal with, and always had lots of nice things to tempt me with!
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Johnson Strings has the largest Eastman inventory in a several hour driving radius. They’re more of a violin store but they stock a large selection of Eastman guitars & mandolins also.

    I test drove my first Eastman guitar there before buying it, and am a huge Eastman instrument fan.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

  16. #16
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Hey Dan, looks like you've caught a case of MAS. Where do you think you picked it up
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Some of those mandolins those players had were just beautiful. I never thought I’d want an F style mandolin, but now I just can’t get it out of my mind. Got to have an F style mandolin now.

    Although “now” is a relative term. Even for a middle of the road mandolin like the Eastman 515/v i’m going to have to save for a while. That’s OK though. The longer it takes, the more I’ll improve as a player, and the better it will sound when I finally get it.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    Some of those mandolins those players had were just beautiful. I never thought Iíd want an F style mandolin, but now I just canít get it out of my mind. Got to have an F style mandolin now.

    Although ďnowĒ is a relative term. Even for a middle of the road mandolin like the Eastman 515/v iím going to have to save for a while. Thatís OK though. The longer it takes, the more Iíll improve as a player, and the better it will sound when I finally get it.
    I'm going to go ahead and throw shade at your lingo regarding the Eastman after which you're lusting. It's true, Eastmans are at a low-middle price point, and although there are occasionally quality control issues with such a large output, they really are nice instruments. I moved on from an A style four times the price and an F style three times the price in favor of my Eastman with a nitro finish. It was simply louder and had more charm.

    You could very well get an instrument that is top notch. Don't let the marketing matrix rule your mind!
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Briggs View Post
    I'm going to go ahead and throw shade at your lingo regarding the Eastman after which you're lusting. It's true, Eastmans are at a low-middle price point, and although there are occasionally quality control issues with such a large output, they really are nice instruments. I moved on from an A style four times the price and an F style three times the price in favor of my Eastman with a nitro finish. It was simply louder and had more charm.

    You could very well get an instrument that is top notch. Don't let the marketing matrix rule your mind!
    You don't have to sell me on Eastman making good stuff. Like I said earlier, right now an Eastman 515/v is my aspirational lifetime instrument.
    Eastman MD-514 (F body, Sitka & maple, oval hole)
    Kentucky KM-250 (A body, spruce & maple, f holes)

    And still saving my nickles & dimes & bottle caps & breakfast cereal box tops for my lifetime mandolin.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I own an Eastman MD 815v. I bought it 4-5 years ago. Actually, it was an impulse buy as I wasn't looking for a new instrument that day. I walked into the music store and saw it, a distressed finish, just the shade of sunburst that appeals to me. I picked it up and played a bit and was blown away. The price at that time was several hundred $$ less than current and I couldn't pass it by so bought it on the spot. I still really love it and play it regularly. It compares well with my other instruments, the only flaw being that for some reason the neck block was left with a rough surface and finished like that. I don't know, do they sometimes sell seconds?

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    If you remember the area from back in those days, I still have my Guild dreadnought that I bought from Daddy‘s Junkie Music.
    Hah! Took guitar lessons there too, in Portsmouth during the UNH school year My guitars feels so neglected these days.
    Follow the Flatt Stanley Incident on Facebook

    Listen to original tune "When You Fly" by my old band The Kindreds

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    In my senior year of high school, back when the dinosaurs walked the earth, I had a Gibson electric bass for about a nanosecond that came from Daddy's Junky Music.

    Wish I kept that bass.
    "To be obsessed with the destination is to remove the focus from where you are." Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

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    Registered User Bren's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    I've got an 815v.
    Really good tone mostly (I find the e string a bit thin sounding) . Adirondack top I believe.

    I rubbed the back of the neck with fine sandpaper a bit to make it easier for me to slide along.

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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bren View Post
    I've got an 815v.
    Really good tone mostly (I find the e string a bit thin sounding) . Adirondack top I believe.

    I rubbed the back of the neck with fine sandpaper a bit to make it easier for me to slide along.
    Man, the 815/v, thatís a nice one. And not really THAT much more money that the 515/v.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Does anyone own one of the Eastman varnish finish mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan in NH View Post
    If you remember the area from back in those days, I still have my Guild dreadnought that I bought from Daddy‘s Junkie Music.
    Have some Tortex purple (1.14) with the Daddy's Junky Music logo on one side and a peace symbol on the other. Got them from a store here in St. Paul, MN. Not sure where he got them.

    Back to the topic - have sampled a couple of varnished models and was impressed. Those sounded better than the regular 515 I was able to compare them to. This was in 2019 so can't be positive which models they were. However, I did like them. More volume and a bit more refined tone to my ears.

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