New RM1 and the Usual Question!

  1. Ray(T)
    Hi all,
    I'm due to pick up my new RM1 next week and will have the usual problem, deciding how to attach a strap, as with all new instruments.

    I assume the beast comes with an end-pin but I don't particularly want to attach the other end of the strap at the nut. That leaves the option of a strap button somewhere at or near the heel. I don't have any issue with screwing into a new instrument - my Kimble came with one from new.

    What have other people done? In the heel itself or the body? Back of the heel or the side? Have there been any issues of balance?
  2. chasgrav
    I rarely use a strap, so I decided not to install a button on the body. I did try putting a strap on from the end-pin to the nut, and it works fine --- no balance issues.

    I'm about three months in with this mando, and I'm hooked. It sounds better every time I pick it up! Congrats on your new one!
  3. Ray(T)
    Thanks Chas. I've bought a button but have fixed a strap at the nut for now. I usually prefer to play sitting down (with a strap) as its easier to hold a mandolin away from my body and obviate the need for a Toneguard. The benefit of the National is that it doesn't matter if the back is held against your body.

    The only downside so far - I expected a few questions about what sort of instrument it was but I'd hardly got through the door at Saturday's gig when someone asked me "What sort of banjo is that?". I think National need to re-design the case!
  4. chasgrav
    Someone talked me into buying JazzMando strings and a BlueChip pick for it. (Heck, I already had $1500 into the thing). I'm very impressed with both, and wouldn't go back. The only time I pick up my Gibson A-50 now is when someone is sleeping downstairs and I need to play quietly. This is the best-sounding mandolin I've ever played.
  5. JCLondonUK
    I've got Thomastiks on mine, and they're great. I also tried it with a Blue Chip, but actually I find a Wegen dipper is the pick for the way I play this mando. My other mando gets equal playing time (it's a Capek, and equally lovely), but this National is terrific!
  6. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    I just do this:

    I've had mine for 3 1/2 years (s/n 012), works great. I prefer to use a strap to keep it steady and give my left hand more freedom because it doesn't have to hold the neck steady. The fairly cheap nylon strap works well. Don't worry about one of those cool, woven leather straps-- this thing is heavy for mandolin and the extra width of a guitar strap makes it more comfortable.

    You'll love it the National!

  7. Ray(T)
    I'm not into expensive straps, Rick, I usually make my own from a strip of leather (or use a dog lead for an "F" as they come with a ready made loop). Its just that I don't particularly like having a strap attached at the nut.
    I assume only the last part of your s/n which is 012. The number on mine is in the mid 15 thousands and I doubt whether they have made that many. Looks like you've changed the tuners on yours?
  8. Rick C.
    Rick C.

    I don't really like having a strap attached at the nut either, but it works OK for this. At some point I may have a button put in the heel as I did with my Fylde Touchstone, but the National is heavy enough that it doesn't move around so much.

    But no, mine is a 3 digit serial number. I bought it right when the first reissues had come out (I said 2006 I think, but I believe it was 2005. Somewhere I have the invoice from Gruhn) and I guess this was #12 to come off the line.

    The tuners are Grovers. The vintage tuners that came on it were really hard to turn, and I think these were a great improvement. Others I've talked to with this instrument like the stock tuners just fine, so it could be that only the early ones were hard to turn. I got the tuners from Stew Mac, they were about 50 bucks.

    But right, no need for a tone guard with one of these! Just before I got this I tried one of the metal bodied Johnson resonator mandos. I played it for about 10 minutes and boxed it back up to ship back to Elderly. My wife and daughter were both in the kitchen, laughing. That thing sounded like Kabuki theatre with a bunch of reverb, no matter what you played on it.

    The National RM-1 is a class act.

  9. Ray(T)
    Strange - you have a Fylde which was built around 30 miles from here and I have several instruments built in the US!

    Just checked, whilst there is the high number on the mandolin itself, the warranty card has a number in the 200's which I assume equates to your number 12 which would suggest that there still aren't that many of them around.

    Yes, the stock tuners are hard to turn - I intend to lube and adjust them when I next change the strings - hopefully I'll get the nut adjusted next week.

  10. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    Strange - you have a Fylde which was built around 30 miles from here and I have several instruments built in the US!

    Funny! I also have a Fylde Octavius, which I really do like. Bought it from an Irishman living in South Carolina many years ago, and got my Touchstone earlier this year from a Cafe member in Georgia (who happens to have a very nice on in the classifieds here right now). You don't see a lot of Fyldes over here.

    Hey, if you happen across a Mengascini or Borelli melodeon in C#/D while you're out and about over there, please let me know!

  11. chasgrav
    I just checked my serial number, and it's 15210 both on the plate and the warranty card. This came right to me from the factory in early August. It also says product #292, which I assume is the RM-1. It's not clear to me what their numbering scheme is for the serial numbers.

    I kept the stock tuners, which I think are Gotoh. They're not stiff at all. And I haven't had to tweak anything about the setup. It may just depend who's handling the product on a particular day. They were also nice enough to throw in a full set of their cool stickers, as well as the 2-CD set of product demos and 'Artists in Resonance' recordings, and color postcards of their full line of products.

    I play mostly Irish music, and some blues and oldtime stuff, but not much bluegrass. I'm hugely impressed with this mandolin, and I say National is a class act!
  12. Ray(T)
    Just to confuse matters, on mine, the number on the plate is 15396 and the Prod.Number, on the warranty card, is 296. Which is the serial number is anybody's guess!

    Mine also came with a nice set of stickers but not the CD's. You can order the CD's for free from the National website - at least you can if you're in the US - the website is correct in thinking that the UK isn't one of the "States" and won't accept anything else.

    The Jazzmando strings have arrived and I should get the nut adjusted when I get back from "Old" York next week.
  13. Ray(T)
    Nut adjusted - seems that the string heights were set inconsistently and it now plays much better.

    Managed to drop a pick through one of the cover-plate slots today. Had visions of dismantling the thing to get it out! A set of fine tweezers did the trick - are they callet "tweezers" in the states???
  14. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    I did that at the last session, first time... Tweezers sounds right! I'll try that when I get around to fishing it out!
  15. StetsonHat

    Playing up the neck on my resophonic is an unsatisfying exercise... three of the four pairs of strings are noticeably out of tune by the 7th fret, and painfully so by the 12th. Seems I'm in need of a setup, but this has me puzzled, since, as you know, the bridge is not adjustable.

    What can be done?

  16. Ray(T)
    I don't know how "adjustable" the bridge is, you need an experienced repair person. The first question should be "how long have you had the instrument?"
  17. StetsonHat
    Ray, I've had it about 2 years, and I don't know for certain that the problem is new... I may not have played up the neck very much early on.

    Clearly you're right that I need an expert, but I thought someone here might know in general terms how the setup is done on this instrument. (I have a Collings A style as well, and even I can adjust the bridge on that one).

    Since I started to notice this problem, I've just not used the National as often, which is a shame as I love the sound.

  18. Yukon_Don
    Itís a relatively heavy instrument so I prefer a strap. National recommends where to screw-in a button for a strap. Itís in on the outside of the neck above where it meets the body. The National web site does a good job of explaining.

    Virtually all bridges are adjustable either by design or by modification. The bridge on the RM-1 is made of surprising soft wood. Consequently lowering the action at the bridge is an easy modification. I lowered my strings to .060Ē over the twelfth fret. A good technician will adjust accordingly. Personally, I found the E string too high at the nut and lowered it some. Overall my RM-1 plays much better now, but not as good as Iíd prefer. More experimenting is necessary.

    I do not like the constant re-tuning required of the instrument. Havenít figured-out if thatís a function of a wooden instrument or the JazzMando strings. I have a Mix carbon fiber A model that never needs retuning, so maybe Iím spoiled by comparison. Nevertheless, the RM-1 tuning machines are very stiff. Iíve tried oil and many cycles with a tuning machine crank. The tuning machines are still very stiff.

    Iíve had some correspondence with the factory and theyíve been absolutely great. They are clearly very proud of their products.


    Yukon Don,
  19. Ray(T)
    Hi Don

    The National web site explains where to place a strap button but that is specifically for a guitar. Mandolin possibly needs more thought. The problem has been getting hold of a button of a suitable colour. As you say, the factory is absolutely great, they have been very obliging and I now have one to match the endpin.

    I'm using the JazzMando strings but don't find they need constant re-tuning. I do, however, find the tuners very stiff. At the last string change, I gave them a dose of dry-lube and 20+ seconds each in both directions with an electric screwdriver but its made no difference. What has the factory said about stiff tuners?

  20. bevb
    This is great info ! Mine's coming in the post tomorrow...can't wait.
  21. Ray(T)
    The strap button was fitted yesterday - we settled on the side of the heel. After a degree of poking and prodding, we concluded that the shoulders of the RM1 body are partly hollow and we couldn't be sure of the thickness of the wood without dismantling the instrument. Something to look at the next time anyone has one in bits!
  22. Yukon_Don

    I've taken mine apart. What do you want to know about the inside of these monsters?

  23. Ray(T)
    A bit late now Don, but the body seems to have a series of tone chambers off the main well where the cone sits. Prodding with a piece of wire indicated that they are quite deep in the shoulder area. What we didn't want to do was screw into the body and find that there wasn't enough wood to hold it. The other question was whether the neck is attached to the body directly or whether there there was some sort of perch pole. We checked with a magnet first and didn't hit anything metalic! Still don't know whether the neck is glued or bolted?

    How are the tuners?
  24. bevb
    My new babe is here. Tuners are a bit stiff, I thought I may give them a squirt of lemon oil. Strap button fitted no probs. Stickers too, but.....what to do with them ?! Some are pretty grim !
  25. bevb

    Proud owner !
  26. Ray(T)
    Looks just like mine! Trouble with lemon oil (which isn't made for oiling tuners) is that its likely to get everywhere. The thing to use on tuners is some form of dry lubricant containing teflon. You can get it from good bike shops - they use it for oiling chains. Trouble is, as I've said before, it seems to have made no difference. My luthier has suggested 3 micron grinding paste but that's another story.
  27. bevb
    Yes, that's the trouble....they do all look the same. But, luckily we don't !
  28. coolwood
    My new RM-1 was delievered yesterday. I am really pleased.
    I tied a strap to the headstock. It is not working very well. The body is heavy and wants to slide. I seem to be using my picking hand to keep it in place, but that technique is uncomfortable affects my picking a little.
    I called National and they said the strap button diagram is for a guitar, however, the strap button for the mando can be put anywhere on the neck.

    Ray: Would you post of picture of where you installed yours?
  29. Ray(T)
    Hi Bill
    I'd be happy to if I could work out how to post an image. The post image facility in "Go Advanced" asks me for a web link - I suspect its 'cos I'm using a Mac. PM me your email and I'll send one direct.
  30. liestman
    For a strap button, I contacted National and got one that matches the finish exactly, attached it to the further away side of the heel and it works great. By the way, the stock tuners on mine work just fine, I love Jazzmando strings and a Blue Chip 40 pick. My only beef is the skill it takes to deal with putting new strings on, although I gladly suffer that because the tail piece is just so cool looking!
  31. JonZ
    My notes on the above comments.

    Strap: I like a fat one tied above the nut. Doesn't slide. Good balance. I have an Arrow G style and it has a thin strap with an end pin in the neck and the mandolin slides all over the place.

    Tuners: A little stiff at first, but loosened up fine from use.

    Setup on Purchase: Really high. The tech who adjusted it for me really knew what he was doing. (The store carries a lot of resonators.) He filed down the nut a little and opened the whole resonator up to get the bridge just right. Setup is perfect now.

    Intonation: Great. Needs tuning about once a week. Stays in tune much longer than the Arrow.

    Overall: Beautiful bell-like tone. A joy to play.
  32. skip bosco
    skip bosco
    I got my RM1 from a guy on ebay who only drove it on sunday to church, just perfect cherry condition...he put locking strap buttons on it...the forward one on the bottom of the neck at the heel....which is perfect....he also sent me the leather strap he had made special for it...I don't think attacking at the nut would be nearly as playable.
  33. Shelagh Moore
    Shelagh Moore
    I attach my strap (home made from a leather belt) with a loop behind the nut like Rick C and don't have any problems with balance or playability. While I've installed dozens of strap buttons on the heels on instruments, I didn't want to do so on my RM-1.

    The setup when I bought it (from new) was playable but I lowered the string height at the nut and it is now much better with the 11-39 D'Addario flattop strings (wound As) I'm currently using (I've got a set of JazzMandos which I'll try sometime but the flattops suit me very well and give an excellent sound). I don't have any intonation problems at all up the neck with what I would call a medium action and haven't needed to adjust the bridge at all.

    The tuners are a bit stiff on mine as well but I've lubricated and worked them a bit and think they will ease with use. I've personally had no tuning stability problems and often the mandolin does not require more than the tiniest tuning tweak between sessions, if at all.

    I've been playing mandolin for well over 40 years have had a variety of good mandolins in that time but the RM-1 is an absolute joy to play and very versatile.
  34. citeog
    Hi folks,

    I'm happy to report that I am now the owner of a left-handed RM-1 purchased last week from Acoustic Music Works in Pittsburgh, Pa. As I utilize a strap on all of my instruments (except for the whistles:o) I e-mailed National yesterday to ask them if I could install a button on the bottom of the heel (where the heel cap would be found, if there was one) instead of on the treble side of the neck heel. Jason of National replied today that he didn't foresee any problems with this particular installation. I'll let you know how I get on with this modification. I'm also impressed that National responded to my query in one day. I like that. Customer service is still alive and well.

    This mando was set up at the factory with a low action and, as a result of that, can be played with little or no effort. The owner of Acoustic Music, Steve Miklas, confirmed that it was a factory set-up on the phone. Perhaps National heard the grumbling about the high action set-ups and decided to do something about it. My left hand (my picking hand) technique will have to change somewhat because of the strings height above the coverplate. After reading the threads on the Cafe on types of strings to use, I purchased two sets of JM-11's from Ted Eschilman to try out. I bought this for playing at Irish music sessions as my Mowry (while a brilliant instrument) doesn't have the acoustic volume to be heard alongside the pipes and button boxes. Now I find myself lashing into the few old-timey tunes I know each time I sit down to play. This yoke was made for old-time tunes. I feel like a kid at Christmas.

    All the best,

  35. liestman
    Welcome aboard Paul. Irish sessions become a whole different thing with an RM1 in your lap!

    You might want to get your strap button from National (I did) so that the finish matches. Keeps it looking factoryish.
  36. citeog
    Thanks for the tip about the button, Liestman. I might just do that. Right after I replace those microscopic side dot markers.

  37. citeog

    I was just on the National website and I didn't see a listing for their strap buttons in their "store". Where did you find yours?

    Thanks to everyone who recommended those JM-11's. I installed a set last Friday and so far I'm very pleased with them.

    All the best,

  38. liestman
    I forget if I called them on the phone or emailed them. They are not in their online listing but it was no big deal for them to send it once I made direct human contact. Oh, and the side dot markers are not "microscopic" - they are "precision crafted"! ;-)
  39. citeog
    Thanks, Liestman. I rang National and Robynne kindly located and posted off a matching strap button for me.

    And even with my glasses on, the side dot markers are still bloody small. I went to a local shop and purchased some 2mm black side dot material to replace the miniscule factory dots. Now I have nothing to whinge about.

  40. Ray(T)
    Strap buttons - no, they're not on the website. Living in the UK, I emailed them and said I was looking for one which matched the one on the tailpiece and couldn't find one. A couple of weeks later, one arrived in the post with their compliments. Good, simple company to deal with.
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