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Thread: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

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    Default Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Hello Friends,

    Iíve been an active reader on the Cafe but have never posted, so apologies if I make any faux pas...

    I am an F4 player, a 1920 Gibson F4 named Lulu to be exact (after a close family friend born in the same year) and am looking to add a 2nd performance worthy instrument, and would like it to be an F5 style. I havenít bonded with too many F5ís, as Iíve been wanting more overtones and sparkle from them and, most noticeably, found them to have a harsh and shrill quality to them.

    I finally found my ideal mandolin, which was one of Jonathan McClanahanís Trinity models. I played one and was in love. The notes just came so effortlessly and beautifully it was like nothing Iíve ever played before. It almost felt like playing an electric guitar, there was so much dynamic range available. After research into Jonathanís story, and listening to clips of basically everything heís ever built, I was hooked on the sound he was getting. Iím bad at tone adjectives, but it sounds to me like there is something special going on with the mids, and I would describe the ultimate tone for me as as woody as possible. My favorite of his instruments is this one, #746, which is Birdseye maple. https://youtu.be/z56pkTt8m4E (He starts playing 4 mins in)

    The issue is, his work costs basically twice as much as what my current budget is. His Trinity costs 15k for a build and Iím looking more in the range of 7.5k. (And thatís the top of my budget for something really special)

    Iíve been tempted by a Northfield Big Mon, which consistently get my 75-80% of what Iím looking for. I have also explored the used Gibson Fern route, but I think Iíd really like a varnish finish. (I consider that an essential part of the tone Iím after. I know Gibson turned out a couple of varnish Ferns, but they usually go for 9-12k)

    Iím wondering if the cafe has any builder recommendations, preferable closer to me in the southeast (Iím in middle TN) who might be able to get me to the tone Iím chasing. Famous names and reputation arenít important, but fit and finish and attention to detail are very important.

    Sorry for the long post, but you all are passionate pickers and can show some sympathy

  2. #2

    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by oneilljr View Post
    Hello Friends,

    Iíve been an active reader on the Cafe but have never posted, so apologies if I make any faux pas...

    I am an F4 player, a 1920 Gibson F4 named Lulu to be exact (after a close family friend born in the same year) and am looking to add a 2nd performance worthy instrument, and would like it to be an F5 style. I havenít bonded with too many F5ís, as Iíve been wanting more overtones and sparkle from them and, most noticeably, found them to have a harsh and shrill quality to them.

    I finally found my ideal mandolin, which was one of Jonathan McClanahanís Trinity models. I played one and was in love. The notes just came so effortlessly and beautifully it was like nothing Iíve ever played before. It almost felt like playing an electric guitar, there was so much dynamic range available. After research into Jonathanís story, and listening to clips of basically everything heís ever built, I was hooked on the sound he was getting. Iím bad at tone adjectives, but it sounds to me like there is something special going on with the mids, and I would describe the ultimate tone for me as as woody as possible. My favorite of his instruments is this one, #746, which is Birdseye maple. https://youtu.be/z56pkTt8m4E (He starts playing 4 mins in)

    The issue is, his work costs basically twice as much as what my current budget is. His Trinity costs 15k for a build and Iím looking more in the range of 7.5k. (And thatís the top of my budget for something really special)

    Iíve been tempted by a Northfield Big Mon, which consistently get my 75-80% of what Iím looking for. I have also explored the used Gibson Fern route, but I think Iíd really like a varnish finish. (I consider that an essential part of the tone Iím after. I know Gibson turned out a couple of varnish Ferns, but they usually go for 9-12k)

    Iím wondering if the cafe has any builder recommendations, preferable closer to me in the southeast (Iím in middle TN) who might be able to get me to the tone Iím chasing. Famous names and reputation arenít important, but fit and finish and attention to detail are very important.

    Sorry for the long post, but you all are passionate pickers and can show some sympathy
    You might consider a PAVA F5. They have it all. Check out Nate Lee's recording "Wings of a Jetliner" . They have it all!
    Steve Smith

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by desertnight View Post
    You might consider a PAVA F5. They have it all. Check out Nate Lee's recording "Wings of a Jetliner" . They have it all!
    Thank you for turning me on to these! I like what I am seeing and hearing, and the general tone Ms. Pava is getting is definitely in the ballpark of where I want to be.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Just be prepared, a huge part of the tone you're falling in love with is coming from the player.

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Thank you for the warning, but I really loved the tone I got when I played the McClanahan in a store. I've also listened to a number of people with different styles play his instruments and I like all of them. So, I realize that tone primarily comes from the fingers, but there are certain categories of instruments I gravitate more to.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    You might consider Skip Kelly in NC. Like McClanahan, Skip is a one man shop and in addition to being a good builder, he is a very good player so he knows tone. Heck of a nice guy to talk to also.

    http://www.mandomutt.com/products-pa...kip-kelley-f-5

    Kevin at Mando Mutt is the sole distributor of Skips mandolin I believe.

    NFI

    Then there is this used McClanahan in the classifieds for half the price of a new one...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/158241#158241

    NFI
    Last edited by Charles E.; Aug-28-2020 at 2:40pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    I think what you like about that particular mandolin is that it is just a really great mandolin.
    There are lots of really great mandolins out there, with a similar kind of tone.
    If you like the Big Mon, you might want to try out the Northfield Artist Series, and if you can swing the price, go for the new Artist 4.0 model that Mike Marshall plays.
    It has that kind of tone. Bright, clear, & strong.

    Of course, the one in the classified mentioned above looks like a good bet, although his builds might have changed over time since 2007. Probably still as good a mandolin as you can get for $6,500.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Thank you very much! I had ignored all of the previous non-Big Mon Northfields, but I like what I am seeing and hearing from the artist models, particularly the 5 bar model which I wouldn't expect. The issue with the one on the classifieds is that I am really after a varnish finish if I can get one, and I definitely can get one at this price point.

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Yes indeed, that Kelly on MandoMutt is definitely on the "short list." I would say right now, I'm looking at a Northfield, Pava, or Kelly. Open to any other builders I should check out.

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Ellis, Mowry, Apitius and Ruhland come to mind. And many people like Collings and there’s probably even a Gibson that would float your boat. Arrow’s are powerful but have a longer scale, not to everyone’s taste. Each instrument is an individual.

    Have fun searching.
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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by oneilljr View Post
    Thank you very much! I had ignored all of the previous non-Big Mon Northfields, but I like what I am seeing and hearing from the artist models, particularly the 5 bar model which I wouldn't expect. The issue with the one on the classifieds is that I am really after a varnish finish if I can get one, and I definitely can get one at this price point.
    The Northfield Artist series varnish finishes are really nice.
    I have the 5-Bar and love it, but it is definitely a different tone than the McClanahan in the video you linked to.
    It isn't sharp like the McClanahan.
    It is slightly more rounded in tone, with a slight compression, which I like.

    The 5-bar has as super rich deep tone, with powerful trebles and bass, and great sustain.
    Mine is very loud.
    Jody Stecher played it and said it was the loudest mandolin he has ever played.

    At your price range, you have access to a lot of really great mandolins.
    Take your time and get the one that really speaks to you.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    I'm not one for new mandolins-I've had 100's! And Love my old 24 Loar and Ferns but less than a year ago I commissioned an Apitius Rosine LS "Loar Voicing" custom F-5, he's finishing her up and I'll get her at the end of September, maybe early October due to shipping taking longer these days? Oliver's work is top notch and I think very great prices for what you get! I think mine was well under 8K but I was lucky to get some Alessi pearl button tuners-that added a bit over 500 bucks alone? Its a boutique mandolin there is no doubt on that! I picked out all the wood used, a killer slip-matched back, a mismatched top-his first one ever "wide grain on bass side and very fine tight grain on treble", also my neck shape and finish and hardware choice, he's very accommodating and a heck of a luthier and great guy! For what you get from him for the price it is well worth it in spades! I'm truly surprised he doesn't get 15K for his builds-they are that awesome! He's a one man shop also-I like that!

    There are many independent makers that have it going on these days, we live in the Golden Age of mandolin or heck even guitar building! A word of advice if you buy quality its easy to get your $ back if needed! I already have a great boutique Vessel-another of my favorite builders/repairmen or modifier , I would love a McClanahan eventually to add to my arsenal! And a few others like a Wiens, Well really the newer builder list can go on with a few more luthiers added! Many post here to show what they can do and they are very impressive! I had a mighty fine 82 Gil F-5 but while it was really McCoury like I love the tone bar sound so that had X bracing so I swapped it! I'd take the right Gil with tone bars also! With any of these "newer builders"-I call them newer even if they've been building 40-50 years because I consider my 20's and 30's Gibson's old! But these builders today have it going on! Good luck and happy hunting!

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    There is the new 4th gen F5, and I am going to call Northfield and see if I can get it with a wide nut. I overlooked them for a while, but they are lovely looking and sounding instruments.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by William Smith View Post
    A word of advice if you buy quality its easy to get your $ back if needed!
    Thatís not always true. As has been discussed here in the past, new instruments depreciate considerably the moment you ďdrive them off the lot,Ē like a new car. A car continues to depreciate, whereas a mandolin will hold a value, albeit significantly lower than the new mandolin sticker price.

    One good indicator of a mandolinís value is how much it sells for used. A new Gilchrist goes for around $22k, but a used recent build will still sell for around $18-20k. Thatís pretty good retained value! Most mandolins drop closer to 30% or so the minute they become used.

    If another maker has a sticker price of X, but you never see them resell for more than half of that, then was it really worth X to begin with? Thatís up to the buyer to decide. Features like a scroll, 2 points, and varnish add to that sticker price, so if youíre willing to forgo some of these things, you could cut your base price considerably.

    IĎm also curious as to why varnish is a top priority. If you are a seasoned player and you like what you like, then thereís no arguing with your preferences. However, if you are newer to playing then I would recommend you try out as many mandolins as you can to see if you can really tell the difference. Varnish is another feature that will add to your final price and may not affect the instrumentís playability, sound, and value as much as you think.

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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Well I disagree Rbear!, I buy quality and have always got my $ back and sometimes even more! And that's with vintage instruments and even newer ones tht are hard to get as supply and demand pertains to quite a few instruments-only so many Loars, Ferns, odd builds, custom new builds etc.. Just my opinion and I've been lucky I guess when I break even or make a small profit.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    I've seen used mandolins going for new or higher prices. I can still see them as they are still for sale.

    I've lost at least a little money on every instrument I've sold for 25 years.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rbaer View Post
    Thatís not always true. As has been discussed here in the past, new instruments depreciate considerably the moment you ďdrive them off the lot,Ē like a new car. A car continues to depreciate, whereas a mandolin will hold a value, albeit significantly lower than the new mandolin sticker price.
    I largely agree, with a couple of exceptions. Certainly, most widely available mandolins suffer an initial deprecation after which their resale prices stabilize. But in the case of some rare and highly desirable builds (like William notes), the first drop can be far less than 30%, amounting to nothing or even a profit (as with Gilchrists in the 90ís). And if you hold an instrument long enough, to allow for new instrument prices to rise (as with Northfield), the used market will also climb and effectively mitigate depreciation. I would imagine that anyone who bought a Pava for $2500 back in 2013 is not having a hard time getting his or her money out, and perhaps a bit more, in 2020. Still, the point holds that new mandolins typically lose value, so the best play is to shop used unless the instrument you desire would not otherwise exist in nature and turn up in the classifieds with a little patience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rbaer View Post
    IĎm also curious as to why varnish is a top priority. If you are a seasoned player and you like what you like, then thereís no arguing with your preferences. However, if you are newer to playing then I would recommend you try out as many mandolins as you can to see if you can really tell the difference. Varnish is another feature that will add to your final price and may not affect the instrumentís playability, sound, and value as much as you think.
    I think itís a matter of causation versus correlation. All of the favorite mandolins that Iíve owned have had varnish finishes. Do I think that the varnish caused them to be my favorite? Not necessarily, any more than I do dovetail neck joints or hot hide glue assembly. Still, those traditional approaches have been correlated with my favorite builders on my best instruments. Iíd be open to the possibility that a lacquered one might dazzle me, but if I went looking for a new mandolin from a distance, Iíd probably operate under the assumption that my favorite mandolins have had varnish finishes and shop accordingly.
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    Default Re: Lost in the Builders looking for a McClanahan Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I think it’s a matter of causation versus correlation. All of the favorite mandolins that I’ve owned have had varnish finishes. Do I think that the varnish caused them to be my favorite? Not necessarily, any more than I do dovetail neck joints or hot hide glue assembly. Still, those traditional approaches have been correlated with my favorite builders on my best instruments. I’d be open to the possibility that a lacquered one might dazzle me, but if I went looking for a new mandolin from a distance, I’d probably operate under the assumption that my favorite mandolins have had varnish finishes and shop accordingly.
    This exactly. I am after varnish just because all of the mandos I've played that have blown me away have been varnish. And I am after a Mandolin that sounds and looks older than it is, which is obviously possible with Nitro, but probable with varnish.

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