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Thread: Vegan mandolins?

  1. #1

    Default Vegan mandolins?

    I'm looking to upgrade to a better mandolin (I'm looking in the $450-500-ish range) and it seems that just about every mandolin I'm able to find in that price range uses either mother-of-pearl inlay, abalone dots, or a bone nut. Is anyone aware of a builder that makes a decent mandolin in the range I'm looking without any animal-based parts?

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Better check if the glue uses animal by-products as well (they don't call it hide glue cuz its hard to see). Most mandos in that range are using plastic or other non-bone material for the nut (Tusq, corian, etc.).

  3. #3

    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Yeah, it's usually the inlay that's a problem, but it seems like whenever I do find one without MOP inlay they're using a bone nut. I think hide glue has mostly fallen out of favor, but I'll be sure to check.

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    Registered User Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Hide glue is used extensively when you get to higher priced instruments but not much if at all in the price range you mention.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    I think hide glue has mostly fallen out of favor
    With who? I guess I hadn't heard this...

    Regarding the bone nut--you can always change it for a plastic one. You could have a luthier do it so you don't have to touch it.
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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Hide glue is not typically used on factory produced mandolins. However, it is not the only glue made with animal products. It may be difficult to trace down what the contents of the glue used in the Asian imports are. Also if there are any laminates used vs solid wood there's a chance animal products were used to bond the layers together. Inlays can be removed and filled or replaced with a lighter wood if you like. As stated above, nuts can be replaced with something non-animal related. So I guess some questions could be does it have to absolutely be vegan or just look vegan? Are you willing to buy an instrument that contains animal products and then replace things like inlays and nuts? The cost of these mods may make you want to consider having a builder make a truly vegan model from the get-go. But it will certainly exceed $500.

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Mid Missouri / Big Muddy. Flat top and back with minimal accoutrements. You could call Mike Dulak and specify exactly what you wanted. If you're looking for a carved top/back instrument you may be a bit out of luck. Are there issues with shellac finishes made from beetle excrement? With the availability of computer cut, very thin veneers of shell that may not even be inlaid on a headstock (thus lowering the cost) this is a way for inexpensive instruments to look more expensive.

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Thanks for the info, everyone. For a little more background, I'm contemplating on taking my local guitar store up on their trade-up policy, so I'd need something straightforward to have ordered, I'm afraid having custom modifications made is out. If I can't find anything that's good for me stock, I'll just stick with what I have for now and wait until I've got the money for a custom order down the road.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    To be honest I don't think the inlay of the Loar mandolins is real shell. I can't vouch for the dots.

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Some bone nuts, and bridge saddles, are made of deer antler, last I checked they drop those every year,, and some animals die of natural causes...just a thought., what ever I like real bone, and pearl..

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Should be easier to be picky for a mandolinist than for a violinist...

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    The Ovation line of instruments uses no animal products whatsoever, and barely any wood (all of which are common species and renewable). The inlays are wood, the nut and saddle synthetic. It's hard to think of such a non-traditional instrument as being 'green' in any way, but they are surprisingly so. The plastic is recyclable.

    There are also some carbon fiber instruments out there that I believe use no living (or previously living) materials at all.

    A conundrum occurs if we consider that the impact of producing the synthetics can be far more significant to the environment than using, for instance, a bit of fossil ivory or a discarded shell.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim2723 View Post
    There are also some carbon fiber instruments out there that I believe use no living (or previously living) materials at all.
    Carbon fiber, yes, or aluminum:



    Quote Originally Posted by Tim2723 View Post
    A conundrum occurs if we consider that the impact of producing the synthetics can be far more significant to the environment than using, for instance, a bit of fossil ivory or a discarded shell.
    I thought of that, too. After all, nature works by discarding and recycling materials all the time, life is not dying but constantly changing form. The impact of our hightech materials which cannot be part of that is not to be underestimated.
    Human communities living most close to nature have always been recognised by making the utmost use of every part of an animal they killed. And even in urban civilizations like ours, no cow is killed just to make mandolin saddles and nuts, no horse dies just to make a fiddle bow. All we must avoid is cruelty and waste.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    I'll take a natural organic piece of byproduct over petrochemically produced piece wherever I can...
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Let's all attempt to stay away from the philosophical discussion on this. Make all the product suggestions you want to.

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Hear, hear! The OP simply wishes to use products that function satisfactorily while eschewing all animal-derived materials, regardless of how they were obtained. If I understand the vegan philosophy correctly, it doesn't matter whether the item in question came from an animal that was killed for it, was taken without harming the animal, or was found lying around, its life long ago having left it. They just want nothing to do with it. The OP is entitled to his beliefs and just wants some advice. Brave of him, coming to us for advice, knowing he might well get a few tweaks in the process.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    I think you can easily get a maker to make you whatever you want with whatever materials you prefer. The big problem, as i see it, is your price range limitation. Anything you buy in that price range will be pre-made and therefore using the std materials out there. As noted above the main problem areas where you would find animal products are the bone for the nut or bridge top and the pearl for the inlay. Only the cheapest of mandolins will have plastic nuts and will not sound all that good anyway.

    Most Asian instruments will use bone and pearl which readily appeal to most buyers and are very available in the countries of manufacture. You can replace those parts, of course, but the damage will already have been done.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    You can have your luthier change out the bone nut for a delrin nut. Maybe the problem would be that most mandolins have pearl dots on the fretboard and some kind of pearl in the headstock. I would think that it would be hard to find one with plastic inlay but I could be wrong. Best of luck in your search.

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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Then it appears the task is to identify mandolins costing $450 - $500 that are assembled without bone, horn, ivory, or shell and are constructed with synthetic adhesives. I believe the Ovation Celebrity or Applause mandolins still fit that bill. I can think of no other except to have an instrument specially constructed, which might easily exceed the expected price range.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    As far as I understand, oysters don't have a central nervous system. Even Peter Singer said it's perfectly ethical to eat them (in Animal Liberation, no less). That means that mother of pearl is probably something you shouldn't worry about.

    Just avoid abalone, leather, and bone and you should be good-to-go.
    Last edited by PJ Doland; Jun-25-2012 at 8:37am. Reason: clarity
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    As I see it, assuming I understand the application of Vegan philosophy to this subject, the problem stems largely from the budget imposed. If the OP had asked for a vegan mandolin under $3000 the answer would be easier. An instrument could be custom built with all appropriate measures considered. It's finding one for $500 that presents a problem.
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by PJ Doland View Post
    As far as I understand, oysters don't have a central nervous system. Even Peter Singer said it's perfectly ethical to eat them (in Animal Liberation, no less). That means that mother of pearl is probably something you shouldn't worry about.

    Just avoid abalone, leather, and bone and you should be good-to-go.
    I like oysters and mandolins, both. The OP has raised an interesting question. I hope he follows up with his own research with builders and manufacturers and is able to come back with an informed report. For me, tortoise shell and ivory are some of the grimmer reminders of some of our earlier sensibilities. Can't turn that clock back, only move forward with a new set of values. Knowing what some options might be is helpful. Hopefully Ovations (or aluminum) aren't our only solutions.

    Good post.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    I agree with Tim that to stay in that price range, prob the only instruments out there not using animal products would be the Ovations. You could easily swap out existing animal parts (Delrin for bone or wood for pearl inlay dots) but if your aim is to avoid using animal parts -- well, those were used already.

    It is an interesting exercise to think within these restrictions. Of course, luthiers these days are under many restrictions (see Gibson's latest wood woes). It would be quite easy to create a new mandolin using completely non-animal parts but, once again, a luthier would prob have to charge much more than $450-500.

    Also, the question is how far do you want to go with the vegan restrictions? I may be mistaken here but I believe that there are some plastics that are made with milk products. You would have to research which ones those are. And others have mentioned glues used to bind laminated wood esp in China.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    That's how I view it: An interesting exercise. With the possible exception of the Ovations I think the answer to the question is simply 'No' and that his plan to save for a custom instrument is his only reasonable course.

    And for the record, I'm not 100% certain that the Ovations fit the bill. I believe the adhesives are entirely synthetic, but I don't know that for a fact.
    Last edited by Tim2723; Jun-25-2012 at 9:13am.
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    Default Re: Vegan mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim2723 View Post
    There are also some carbon fiber instruments out there that I believe use no living (or previously living) materials at all..
    Actually, I take that back. It's entirely possible that some of the carbon used in those instruments might well have come from a previously living thing. Consider that your own body might contain an atom of carbon that was once part of a fern in the Cretaceous era.
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