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Thread: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

  1. #1
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Last night, after about a year of research, then half a year of making more than 25 iterations, I was finally able to kick back and do some picking on the first new ...

    Sorensen Carbon/Kevlar Sprite Two-Point mandolin.

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    I had yet to test the fit for a Hoffee case. So that's what came next on the evening.
    Here's what I saw --

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    I've talked with Jeff Hoffee about making cases with the Carbon/Kevlar fabric to match the instruments, so it was a delight to see that the fit was perfect.

    A little back story -- This project started when I became obsessed with the idea of "Cold Forged Carbon" as discussed in this cool video from a company called Easy Composites --



    Of course, what I gradually learned is that NOTHING is "easy" about composites ... particularly when trying to create musical instruments.

    I started out by making a set of molds which mirrored the dimensions of a typical Sprite. And quickly found that, when compared to spruce and maple, cold-forged carbon fiber creates hard, heavy objects which sound a lot like ceramic bowls.

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    So I tried going much much thinner and lighter.

    I tried incorporating spruce into the mold.

    And then, after months of variations, I tried creating a new blend of components which were forged with a Carbon Fiber/Kevlar fabric to create a new mix which also included a complex blend of regular epoxy resin, infusion resin, chopped carbon fiber, hollow glass microspheres, and unidirectional carbon fiber sheets. Luckily all those years of science classes finally paid off!

    After about 10 variations, I finally got a version which, although much stiffer than spruce, created an exciting tap tone. While not "woody", there was a responsiveness, balance of tone across the top, and complexity which was quite remarkable!

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    So, this is the first version of the Carbon/Kevlar Sprite Two-Point as it sits on my couch today --

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    I've been picking it for hours and really like what I am hearing. Last night, as my wife wandered out from grading student papers, she said, "Yep, sounds like one of your mandolins. Sounds like a Sorensen!"

    Music to my ears, for sure!

    I'm getting prepped to make a blue Kevlar version starting next week.

    And of course some sound and video will be coming soon.

    Steve

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  3. #2
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Always pushing the envelope! I love it

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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    You've got my attention. The dream becomes reality.

    Can you share your vision of future Sorensen models using this technology?
    -- Don

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    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    I don’t know about that cross grain on the top and back. Probably won’t hold up, wooden instruments were never done that way…….

    Is that a choice or a requirement? May look even cooler emulating a traditional pattern although with a new material there’s no need for that.

    Very nice work.
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  6. #5

    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Very cool and impervious to weather. Emerald Guitars from Ireland doing amazing work in carbon fiber guitars. No affiliation

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Steve:

    I hadn't seen many postings from you recently and thought you might be up to something. Looks fantastic & look forward to the videos. This goes beyond non-traditional shapes - we've been waiting for someone to pick up the carbon fiber construction mantle.

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Interesting…do these instruments basically retain their sound from day 1 with no development over time and play? I understand traditional wood instruments will change over time, or so I have read, so just curious. Can these be built to be relatively consistent in tone across production runs given what is likely to be variations in the blending of all those components? As a scientist by training this kind of stuff is intruiging.
    Last edited by Alan Lackey; Oct-29-2022 at 12:37pm.
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lackey View Post
    Interesting…do these instruments basically retain their sound from day 1 with no development of time over time and play? I understand traditional wood instruments will change over time, or so I have read, so just curious. Can these be built to be relatively consistent in tone across production runs given what is likely to be variations in the blending of all those components? As a scientist by training this kind of stuff is intruiging.
    Good question.

    Whether there is any "development of time over time and play" or not, there will no doubt be a tone-enhancing device marketed, that will supposedly vibrate to the specific frequency of all those tiny carbon chain molecules. And people will buy them!
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  10. #9
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    All,

    Thank you for the kind words and questions. Here are answers for a few --

    Bill McCall -- asking about "cross grain" stiffness: One of the interesting traits of Kevlar is that is strong but springy. The reason it is used in bullet-proof applications is because it stretches but doesn't break. This is very different for Carbon Fiber which is does not stretch but breaks. On the Sprite test versions there were huge differences in tone when I switched the longitudinal component. You'll notice that the Kevlar is the cross grain element while the carbon fiber runs the length of the top .... giving a stiffness/flex response similar to the traits of wood.

    Don -- asking about future models. Perhaps. Right now I'm focused on the Sprite. The shape works for the technology I think. Of course, an F5 copy is not something that makes sense when looking forward. To my mind, that would be like a new Ferrari copying a 1923 Ford Model T.

    Al Green -- Emerald guitars are interesting, but didn't do the trick for me. They are built using a vacuum infusion process with layers of Carbon Fiber (and can include a wood outer veneer) but do not have tone bars or inner structure to help mold the tone. This is the big difference from my approach which does include traditionally oriented "parallel" tone bars which are sized and placed in a manner similar to my wood mandolin builds. Also, my forged top, back, and neck components which includes both chopped carbon fiber (like the video from Easy Composites) and hollow microspheres are shaped in a 3D complex structure which is similar to the graduations found in all modern Loar-inspired mandolin builds.

    Alan -- As is true with all construction, the tone will be as consistent as the construction process. Since I am using quite a few elements in the cold-forged molding process, I have lots of room to tweak and finesse. I am really excited about the balance and complexity of the response in this first one ... but of course, have a few tweaks for the next one.

    Here are a few more pictures --

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    Again, thanks to everyone for your interest and questions. My long term goal for this project/process is to do for mandolins something like what Christian von Koenigsegg has been doing to super cars -- push the boundaries for modern tone, power, playability, and responsiveness in a way that is innovative, engaging, and exciting.

    And, after a long lonely (and expensive!) process of testing, experimentation, I believe that this first Carbon/Kevlar Sprite Two-Point is accelerating in the right direction!

    Steve

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?


    Cool!

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    And here I was, thinking that I wouldn't be thinking of an exciting new mandola possibility in the future....
    ----

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Very cool Steve, what is the neck made of?
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  15. #13
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Charles,

    The neck is also a laid-up 3D molded blend of unidirectional carbon fiber fabric, glass microspheres, chopped carbon fiber, and of course, Carbon fiber/Kevlar fabric for the surfaces of the headstock. An extremely complex structure to be sure. The result is a structure which weighs about the same as the hard sugar maple neck I carved to make the mold ... and it feels delightful with a 2K Poly clear glossy finish!

    The fingerboard is Richlite with a 12" radius and Stainless steel medium frets. After learning that Martin guitars is using Richlite for many of their new guitar bridges, and testing Richlite on several instruments myself, I have become increasingly impressed with its characteristics -- it taps, feels, and works like the world's most perfect Ebony. Fantastic material !!! (And not an endangered tree species!)

    Steve

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    When do you think you'll be producing these for sale and around what price do you think these would start listing at? I'd love to have a mandolin that I could leave out and not worry about the low humidity of AZ.

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    And just when I thought MAS was at bay…
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Yes, I'm ready. Looking forward to hearing a sound clip.
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  22. #17
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    DeBlues,

    My plan is to get a little playing time on this first one so that I can do tweaks to the build process. The goal is to be able to offer the subsequent version of this Carbon/Kevlar Sprite Two-Point in the next month or two.

    I will be bringing this first prototype to the California Bluegrass Association "South State 48 Jam" the weekend of November 4 - 6 to get player picking time and feedback.

    A big part of my process for instrument design refinement is watching and listening as players check out a new instrument. I know that I will leave the Great 48 with a punch-list of improvements.

    So, my goal is to build at least one more prototype version before getting serious about offering these for sale.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Thanks for the reply Steve. I'm quite excited about this. I'm very interested in what you end up coming up with and hearing some sound clips when you do.

    thanks,

    Debbie

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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Pretty cool!

    Jamie
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    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Steve Sorensen, I like everything you've had to say in this thread. Yes, I'm ready for it.

  27. #21
    Registered User mbruno's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sorensen View Post
    DeBlues,

    My plan is to get a little playing time on this first one so that I can do tweaks to the build process. The goal is to be able to offer the subsequent version of this Carbon/Kevlar Sprite Two-Point in the next month or two.

    I will be bringing this first prototype to the California Bluegrass Association "South State 48 Jam" the weekend of November 4 - 6 to get player picking time and feedback.

    A big part of my process for instrument design refinement is watching and listening as players check out a new instrument. I know that I will leave the Great 48 with a punch-list of improvements.

    So, my goal is to build at least one more prototype version before getting serious about offering these for sale.

    Steve
    I'd love to take a test drive at the South State 48 this weekend! I've been looking for a carbon fiber mandolin for a bit for some travel adventures.

    How much do you believe it'll cost? If you'd rather not discuss publicly, I'd be happy to chat at South State or via PM.
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  29. #22
    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Matt,

    Can't wait to get you picking on this one!

    Steve

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    I love your designs and this is no exception!! Can’t wait to hear it in action!
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  32. #24
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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Really great stuff Steve. I never knew I wanted a Carbon/Kevlar mandolin until I saw this. Can't wait to see the finished product.

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    Default Re: Are you ready for a new Carbon/Kevlar Sorensen mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan Lackey View Post
    Interesting…do these instruments basically retain their sound from day 1 with no development over time and play?
    Dunno about carbon mandos, but I bought a good quality carbon fiddle some years ago. Either it 'played' in, and the sound did develop like a decent wooden one, or it played me in so I got a better sound out of it, not sure which

    Guess I have to start saving now for one of these...

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