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Thread: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

  1. #1
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Mismatch everywhere!
    Notice 4 (four) different bindings. Top and back are IBW but different color, fingerboard is ivoroid of very light color and the grain runs at severe angle, headstock appears whitish without grain lines...
    It's almost impossible to get vintage sized celluloid these days and matching four different styles - Mission: Impossible.
    (Of course there is also the mismatched top halves and non bookmatch back as well)
    Or did they do it intentionally? - ALL parts match the rest by being mismatched...
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    Adrian

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  3. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    I forgot to mention that all pics above are from the same instrument.
    Adrian

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    I believe this reflects a conversation I've had with Bill Halsey regarding "casual perfection". If it's TOO good it's got to be bogus? The thing is, they had production schedules to meet and, it was a factory, factories produce multiples of an item, there will be parameters for specs. As long as they meet the specs and passed Mr. Loar's inspection, out the door they went.
    Now it's getting interesting Adrian! As has been said before, the only standards were what was using material on hand. Granted that happened more in later years to "use up" necks etc. which had been roughed out and were taking up space. Waste less, use more.
    People with the talent and drive to build to the level necessary to really "copy" will spend more time and make it all "too perfect" because they have the time.
    Well, it kind of makes sense to me at least. I expect some of the talents to weigh in and provide fireside chat fodder for another late night. More coffee anyone?
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  6. #4

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Similarly, people who copy 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standards with the intent to deceive, will actually purchase other (less expensive) 1950's Gibson guitars to get the fingerboard, inlays, binding, etc., from. Still, the cost could be $800-1500 to purchase the donor guitar. Also, in the case of a 59 burst forgery, all the parts must be correct (and from the 50's) and very expensive these days. The parts alone would cost in the neighborhood of $25K or more -- the most expensive parts being the pickup rings, believe it or not! So, you can see to make such a correct "copy" would either be a labor of love or a commercial enterprise, since you can't just go to StewMac and order the stuff!

    That would beg the question of could a Loar copyist buy several different vintage A models to locate the proper binding needed? If so, it would be very expensive binding!

    In the case of the Les Paul above, one would be spending $25K plus whatever the luthier would charge to create a guitar that at one time was selling for $300K or more......

    I think of the Shelby Cobra replica cars as a possible modern corollary.............?

  7. #5
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    New bindings, tuners, tailpieces and frets that match exactly are simply not available. Salvaging enough old materials would be the only way to truly match those items. The task of making everything look nearly 100 years old takes special skills, materials and procedures, and then there's making it all look like it was put together nearly 100 years ago... inside and out.
    I would never say it is impossible to copy a Loar exactly, but having all the materials, knowledge and skill, together in one place and time would be a tall order. Maybe an expert with a black light, magnification and all the other detection devices and procedures could be fooled, but the chances are really small.

    It would be much easier to make a bench copy of the work of contemporary builder. We have access to the same materials, and making it look new is not a problem.

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post

    It would be much easier to make a bench copy of the work of contemporary builder. We have access to the same materials, and making it look new is not a problem.
    Yeah, but the price points aren't quite right.....yet.
    A copy of a 20-25K mandolin--if it's any good--is probably worth 20K, right?...
    I guess that a modern maker who gets 8-10K for an F5 might be tempted to go for it, but I dunno...

    A good target mandolin to copy for financial gain would be a Bigsby...
    The pickups are out there (both modern and original Bigsbys), and there are missing mandolins...
    And, it's an easy build.

    ....and eager buyers with a lot of scratch who would bite for a lot of coin...

    Fiddle makers have been at this a lot longer than Loar forgers...
    Check out this page...

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  10. #7

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Well, we certainly are a scholarly bunch, aren't we?

    I'm not sure about the market we are discussing............WHO is buying $20K copies for the MERE PRIDE of owning a copy? I'm guessing nobody, right? The only motivation I can see is an illegal motivation......

    The only example my tiny brain can come up with is that Slash bought a COPY of a vintage Les Paul in the 80's that he has used for most of his career. (along with other guitars) At the time, a real 50's Les Paul burst could be bought for $5-10K easily and Slash could easily afford one. So, again, I'm struggling for the motivation........in his case, maybe he just thought it was a GREAT GUITAR? Not sure.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    ...I'm struggling for the motivation...
    The motivation for replica instruments from the owners perspective is to get close to his/her dream guitar/mandolin without having to sell the farm to afford it. From the builders perspective it is to learn; to thoroughly familiarize him/herself with the instrument that is copied, and use that knowledge and learning to better his/her craft.
    Neither of those is illegal.

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  13. #9

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Perhaps to amplify John's point above, in a recent interview in a country music association journal, George Gruhn makes the case that early-twentieth-century instruments are the finest because they represent that moment when available materials (widely available outstanding tone woods, many now facing extinction) intersected with a craft that had not completely been turned over to mass production. On the other hand, there sure are some great luthiers out there these days!

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scot63 View Post
    ...George Gruhn makes the case that early-twentieth-century instruments are the finest because they represent that moment when available materials (widely available outstanding tone woods, many now facing extinction) intersected with a craft that had not completely been turned over to mass production...
    We have better materials now. You can see grain run out in the majority of guitar tops and mandolin tops from the early 20th century. There were not "tonewood" suppliers per se, and makers bought boards or logs and processed their own tonewoods. Bruce has mentioned several times ho he can't sell top wood comparable to 30's Martin guitar tops these days. Buyers will not accept the amount of run out that is displayed in many of those tops.
    OK, so we can't manufacture with Brazilian rosewood anymore, but we still have plenty of great wood available to us. Some of it is still "undiscovered" as tonewood, but that might change.
    I could go on about this but I'll stop here. Suffice it to say, the quality of maker's instruments is not limited by available materials.

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I'm not sure about the market we are discussing............WHO is buying $20K copies for the MERE PRIDE of owning a copy? I'm guessing nobody, right?
    Right...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    The only motivation I can see is an illegal motivation......
    Not really...
    One motivation for commissioning a copy of an instrument is to avoid the hassle of touring with an instrument that is a hassle to travel with, for all the obvious reasons...
    International borders can be a hassle, for instance...
    Traveling with a 250K mandolin or $5 million fiddle--even if it's just across town--can be a stressful PITA...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Well, we certainly are a scholarly bunch, aren't we?

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Scholarly? Maybe. Verbose and sometimes opinionated? Undoubtedly!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  19. #13
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    There is even one more strange thing on that mandolin not matching majority of Loars. Anyone noticed? (Hint: look at the ppicture with top/back/fingerboard binding)
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Looks like someone put a position marker on the wrong side of the fingerboard. oops
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  21. #15

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Looks like someone put a position marker on the wrong side of the fingerboard. oops

    Actually, that was my first thought. I think though, that is just the hole for the pickguard pin.

    The only thing i can see that is different than most L.Loars would be the way the side binding meets the binding of the 'ear'. I think that usually on the Loar, the side binding butts up against the ear binding rather than running over it. Hard to tell in the pic though.

    Just a guess.

  22. #16

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spruce View Post
    One motivation for commissioning a copy of an instrument is to avoid the hassle of touring with an instrument that is a hassle to travel with, for all the obvious reasons...
    International borders can be a hassle, for instance...
    Traveling with a 250K mandolin or $5 million fiddle--even if it's just across town--can be a stressful PITA...
    So, you buy a $250K Loar, and then you also buy a $20K replica -- so you can play the replica live instead of the Loar? Huh? Looks like you would want to give your audience the best you can give them -- obviously we are talking about a handful of world-class performers who are in that category -- most of us are not. Spruce, you said yourself that Gary's replica did not sound like a Loar to your ears and you thought he would agree........so, what does the audience get to hear? (actually reminds me of something Liz Taylor said on Johnny Carson years ago, she famously owned a 33-carat diamond ring that Richard Burton gave her, but wore a copy out in public........)

    No offense intended to the great luthiers who are capable of such exacting work -- I admire their talent. I certainly can't do it. Didn't mean to imply they were doing anything illegal.

    The reason I mentioned the motivation, and having worked in the vintage guitar show world for 30+ years, I would say while most of the dealers love guitars and are just trying to make a living doing something they enjoy, I have also ran into a few who do operate in illegal circles. One man in particular has made a living selling celebrity instruments for over 40 years and is still doing it. Some are quite legit and some, not so much. Some have all the paperwork and some have paperwork that he has researched and created to support his claim. Over the years he has employed various luthiers to recreate instruments shown on record covers and publicity photos. He has purchased many vintage instruments that were "close" to the celebrity's instrument and then had the luthiers modify it to specs. In the early days of the vintage guitar business, that was all you needed as proof. As collecting became more sophisticated, so did he, using Gibson company records showing a certain guitar was ordered on a certain date by a certain celebrity. He might work two years or more getting all his paperwork/photos/proof in order before he tries to market something. These are not quickie scams. Granted, this is very clever stuff, but also illegal. He is just one person doing this. There are others, as well. And, as stated before, there has to be a certain "margin" of profit or the amount of work isn't worth it. That's why most of these sales are in the $50K-250K range and up. At the very least, I can say for myself that everytime I see a celebrity instrument on display in a museum, I can't help but wonder........
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Sep-23-2017 at 11:52am.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    All I can see with a quick look is:
    -Grain in the ivoriod is the currently available, larger pattern and not the smaller pattern of the older stuff (that we can't get anymore).
    -No binding tabs on the ends of the frets. (Most Loars have had those removed during re-frets anyway.)
    -The neck heel is a little fuller with less concavity where it meets the body than what I've seen on Loars, but it could be very accurate compared to some Loars. I haven't seen them all!

  24. #18
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    The only thing i can see that is different than most L.Loars would be the way the side binding meets the binding of the 'ear'. I think that usually on the Loar, the side binding butts up against the ear binding rather than running over it. Hard to tell in the pic though.

    Just a guess.
    Bingo!
    Actually the top binding strip is not running over the crosspiece but the crosspiece is sitting up on the top of the spruce nad binding, like they forgot to apply the crosspiece(s) in usual way and put it on after the top binding was in place. Standard way was either full height piece from neck block surface up to fingerboard or two angled pieces applied just to fill the visible space and empty space left inside. In both cases the top binding butts against the crosspiece.
    But this one is april '23 so some new processes differing from F-4 were probably still not definitive.
    The heel binding shows the typical angled look of top bound Loar and clear sign of that is the angle in grain (same angle on the other side) as result of this U shaped piece being cut out of bent wide strip of ivoroid at slight angle to follow the curve of neck heel.
    Adrian

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    So, you buy a $250K Loar, and then you also buy a $20K replica -- so you can play the replica live instead of the Loar? Huh? Looks like you would want to give your audience the best you can give them -- obviously we are talking about a handful of world-class performers who are in that category -- most of us are not.
    Well, granted...we haven't seen this happen in MandoLand all that much....
    ...but in the world of violins, the bench copy is well under way and it's fueling the whole business in a pretty big way...
    Folks bought Strads in the 50's-60's for the price of a modest house, and woke up in the 21st century with their fiddle worth millions, and annual insurance costs that match the original cost of the fiddle....what to do?
    Copy it, play that, and park the Strad in a safe spot...

    So-ooo, it's not even debatable as to whether this happens, or even why...it's happening...

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  28. #20

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spruce View Post
    ...but in the world of violins, the bench copy is well under way and it's fueling the whole business in a pretty big way...
    Folks bought Strads in the 50's-60's for the price of a modest house, and woke up in the 21st century with their fiddle worth millions, and annual insurance costs that match the original cost of the fiddle....what to do?
    Copy it, play that, and park the Strad in a safe spot...

    So-ooo, it's not even debatable as to whether this happens, or even why...it's happening...
    Again, please excuse my ignorance concerning violins. I did take an hour or so and Google violin bench copy and saw a variety of instruments and opinions. Some were Chinese "bench copies" that sold for $1000 and the seller saying they sound better than a vintage $9000 violin he had in his shop, FWIW. I understand the insurance concerns of owning a $Million dollar plus instrument. And, yes, it is conceivable that a player in a local symphony could have gotten into a Strad back 50-60 years ago for $15-20K with a little luck and managed to hang onto it. Many of those symphony positions do not pay a great deal of money. I know one man who plays for both the Memphis symphony and the Birmingham, Alabama symphony (and probably teaches on top of that.) So, yes, I could see having something nice and not being able to afford the upkeep on it, even though it is paid for and at that same time not wanting to give it up -- which would be the practical thing to do, but musicians ain't practical.......

    I also read that there are 512 known Stradivarius violins still in existence. That would tell me that they can't all be owned by world-class violin superstars, can they? I'm not sure I can name a world-class violin superstar, anyway. I remember years ago they said that Jack Benny owned a Strad and could actually play it well, contrary to his stage persona and antics. Wonder what happened to his?

  29. #21
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    I hesitate to do this BUT..I see all of the things that are listed showing some differences between a Loar and a copy...My question about this is;;;Were all Loars built to the same exact specs or did some of them vary a little? Some of the things that were pointed out said they were off by 1/32nd of an inch, couldn`t some Loars vary that much with the carving of the scroll, the angle of the fingerboard etc.....

    Just asking. not bashing any one or any thing....

  30. #22
    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    I remember years ago they said that Jack Benny owned a Strad and could actually play it well, contrary to his stage persona and antics. Wonder what happened to his?
    I ran into that fiddle at Hans Weisshaar's shop in LA about 30 years ago...the "Benny Strad"...
    Nice violin as i remember...
    ...not sure where it's at these days....

  31. #23
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    I hesitate to do this BUT..I see all of the things that are listed showing some differences between a Loar and a copy...My question about this is;;;Were all Loars built to the same exact specs or did some of them vary a little? Some of the things that were pointed out said they were off by 1/32nd of an inch, couldn`t some Loars vary that much with the carving of the scroll, the angle of the fingerboard etc.....

    Just asking. not bashing any one or any thing....
    That is good question and I believe it was mostly covered on (I dare to say) legendary (to us Loar geeks) thread about perfect imperfection of Loars by Darryl Wolfe.
    Basicly they had the process pretty much defined in specs sheets. The moulds, forms and jigs result in quite consistency of general shapes and traces of machines etc and remained very constant only few of them changed over the period and remained in the new fashion from the point of departure, but many minor details were subject to "seasonal" changes or sometimes random (like someone found a bunch of old binding strips IBW somewhere? No problem, just throw them on the shelf to the rest so they get used... no matter they don't match color or grain)
    Handmakers most often fail by creating variation on the wrong parts.
    Adrian

  32. #24
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Hey Willie, re read post #3 it's my take on your point.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  33. #25

    Default Re: Why is it nearly impossible to copy Loar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spruce View Post
    I ran into that fiddle at Hans Weisshaar's shop in LA about 30 years ago...the "Benny Strad"...
    Nice violin as i remember...
    ...not sure where it's at these days....
    Wikipedia says upon his death in 1974 he donated his Strad to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

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