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Thread: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

  1. #1

    Default Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I currently have a Eastman MD-505 and MD-415. Started with a cheaper Kentucky mandolin (KM-154) and at one point had the MD-505 and a Kentucky KM-805. Liked both, but didnít like dealing with the different neck profiles as I switched between them, so I traded the KM-805 for the MD-415. I do like the neck profiles on the Eastmans. I would like to add a really good mandolin to the mix. I have my eye on a Pava, but I donít want to repeat the ďneck profile warsĒ. Iíve also considered just adding another Eastman (MD-815/V or MD-915).

    Any thoughts, or similar experienceís that could help me think through this? Comparison between the neck profiles of Pava and Eastman? Would the neck profiles be similar? I havenít been able to learn much about the Pava neck profile. Maybe I should just become a one mandolin man? I know the best (maybe only) solution is to actually play them side by side, but I donít have any Pava dealers close. The Pava is in a totally different class than the 505 or 415 and would be a huge upgrade, but would the 815 or 915 be a significant improvement over the 505 or 415. Thoughts?

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  3. #2
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    My main playing mandolin (2002 F-9) came to me used, originally with a pronounced V-neck profile. It always hurt my thumb to play it, enough that I was eventually considering selling it.

    After a few years of playing it and putting up with the profile, when the finish on the back of the neck was just about completely worn off, and the instrument needed re-fretting anyway, I took it in to a well known US builder, asked for a re-fret, and while he was at it, asked him to re-profile the neck down to a C profile with a sealed speed neck applied afterward. He did excellent work and at this time I consider this mandolin my lifetime instrument -- no more sore thumb and excellent neck work.

    I'd recommend if you have an instrument you really like except for the neck profile, and would like to keep as a lifetime instrument, that you consider having this kind of neck work done. It's a shame to give up a great instrument when a simple modification can make it what you really want.
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    -- Don

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I took these measurements on my favorite player. It is thick and round and comfortable for me. I am having one built to these measurements by Roy A. Gordon.

    Scale 14"

    Radius 12

    Nut Width 1 1/8

    Width at 12th fret 1 1/2"

    Neck thickness at nut 1"

    Neck thickness at 5th fret 1 1/8

  6. #4

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    My main instrument is a Red Diamond model A with a very thin neck profile. I recently purchased a different mandolin which has a wider and rounder neck profile, and I notice that after playing the new mandolin for a couple days I experience some wrist pain. Of course, this could be for other differences in the instrument as well.

    All of that is to say that I think it can make a big difference.

  7. #5
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    If youíre thinking about a Pava, an Eastman 815 or 915 would be a stepping stone.

    Neck profile and hand comfort are big deals. Find a mandolin you love that is comfortable. Or, like Don said, make your loved mandolin better

    Enjoy the ride!

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I owned a Pava for a few years and I ended up selling it to a friend to fund a new guitar. The neck profile was very comfortable. The most comfortable of all my mandolins I’ve owned. I think it was C shaped rather than a V, but I can't be sure on that.
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  11. #7
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    When I had an Ellis made, I discussed neck dimensions, shape and measurements with Tom - got a neck that feels comfortable like an old sneaker without the odor. Pava mandolins are made in the same shop. If you are looking for a custom build, I'm sure you could contact Pava Kenxevic, or at least get specs on her stock neck profiles. Knowing if you prefer flat vs radius fingerboard and having measurements of the nut width, depth of the neck at several key points (nut, 5th +/or 7th fret, 12th fret), and contour (V vs wide C vs deep C) would also be helpful if you were making a purchase over the internet in discussion with a sales person at one of the better music instrument stores (one that knows and deals with mandolins, such as the Mandolin Cafť sponsors).

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  13. #8
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Playability is usually something that may be adjusted by a talented luthier. It's only money. IMO if you really "like" the Eastman neck shape you will like the more expensive models as well. I expect that the necks are cut to spec on a CNC machine. THe fir and finish on the more expensive grade Eastman instruments is reflected in the cost. Comparing it to a Pava ..... IDK ... As always ... playing an instrument is the best indicator that you will like it. Pava is a small maker http://https://pavamandolins.com/ Ask them... Luck.. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    On the Pava website they list the neck profile specs, so you should get an idea.

    https://pavamandolins.com/models/a5/

    An Ellis has a V shaped neck, the Pava more of a rounded V or U shaped. I think the Pava neck is very comfortable. It is not to thick or to thin and the playability when set up properly is great. You might let folks know your location. This is a great community and if someone close has a Pava they might let you give it a try.

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  17. #10
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I have a Pava youíre welcome to try out but I live in the Mississippi delta

  18. #11
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by John Soper View Post
    ...If you are looking for a custom build, I'm sure you could contact Pava Kenxevic...
    ...or any number of custom builders.
    This is exactly the type or reason to go to a custom builder; to get the exact neck profile you want. The thing is though, you have to know the exact profile you want so that you can convey it to the builder. Saying something like "sort of a rounded V or U-shape, kind of thin" doesn't help the builder much, but if you do your research and find a neck that you really like a good custom builder can duplicate it or perhaps even improve upon it.

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  20. #12

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Wow! Some really great comments and exactly what I was hoping for. It’s good to see I’m not alone, as it’s obvious many of you have spent some time on these same issues. I’ll measure the neck profile on the Eastman and compare it to the Pava measurements that’s provided on Pava’s website. I live in North Georgia, so Nashville will probably be my closest location to actually try a Pava. It looks like a Pava A model would be about $1000 more than a high end Eastman. And it seem there’s a general consensus that the Pava is very, very good to excellent, as opposed to mostly very good on the Eastman. Is that difference worth a $1000? Still an open question. But it begs the question of what makes the most sense. Having a super excellent mandolin, or 3 pretty good mandolins. I’ve been through this with guitars and I’m down to 3 from 7, and could go to 1 if required to. I’m not bragging about this, I’m not rich, I know many that have more, but also some have less. In the beginning it was about having the different instruments and seemed like the more the merrier. As time has passed, it’s become more about the music, and it seems I’m happier with fewer than more. So in that light, it seems taking a chance on the Pava makes more sense. BUT I do still like having at least 1 additional mandolin for knocking around. One I can hand the grandkids and not sweat it.. Sorry about the rambling, but I’m interested on how others feel about having multiple instruments and how you balance what you have..All of course of trying figure out what my next move should be.

  21. #13
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Mac56 View Post
    Wow! Some really great comments and exactly what I was hoping for. It’s good to see I’m not alone, as it’s obvious many of you have spent some time on these same issues. I’ll measure the neck profile on the Eastman and compare it to the Pava measurements that’s provided on Pava’s website. I live in North Georgia, so Nashville will probably be my closest location to actually try a Pava. It looks like a Pava A model would be about $1000 more than a high end Eastman. And it seem there’s a general consensus that the Pava is very, very good to excellent, as opposed to mostly very good on the Eastman. Is that difference worth a $1000? Still an open question. But it begs the question of what makes the most sense. Having a super excellent mandolin, or 3 pretty good mandolins. I’ve been through this with guitars and I’m down to 3 from 7, and could go to 1 if required to. I’m not bragging about this, I’m not rich, I know many that have more, but also some have less. In the beginning it was about having the different instruments and seemed like the more the merrier. As time has passed, it’s become more about the music, and it seems I’m happier with fewer than more. So in that light, it seems taking a chance on the Pava makes more sense. BUT I do still like having at least 1 additional mandolin for knocking around. One I can hand the grandkids and not sweat it.. Sorry about the rambling, but I’m interested on how others feel about having multiple instruments and how you balance what you have..All of course of trying figure out what my next move should be.
    Mac, I appreciate this thread, as I'm looking for my first upgrade. I don't have the opportunity to try any other than beginner grade at local music stores, so what I'm learning is what's posted in the Forum. Not to step on your thread, but sometimes it's nice to know others are benefitting from our posts and the responses we receive.

  22. #14

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Hey that’s great Sherry Cadenhead! I’m certainly learning and appreciate all the input. I’m in the process of taking neck profile measurements on my current mandolins and have a couple of surprises (at least for me) and will post them later..

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  24. #15
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    When I had my 2 point made, I measured the width and depth of my favorite neck at 3 points and used a profile gage at those same 3 places to provide the necessary info for the builder. Perfect match of my favorite neck was the result, by Austin Clark.

    To me, it is the most important playability aspect to consider in a custom build.
    Play it like you mean it

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  26. #16

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Here's the comparison I promised..

    Pava A specifications:
    Width Nut 1.125"
    1st. Fret 1.135"
    9th. Fret 1.385"

    1st. Fret neck depth 0.945"
    9th. Fret neck depth 1.250"


    Eastman MD-415 measured:
    Width Nut 1.102"
    1st. Fret 1.142"
    9th. Fret. 1.4195"

    1st.Fret neck depth 0.8175"
    9th. Fretneck depth. 0.975"


    Eastman MD-505 measured: Eastman Specification 1-3/32" or 1.09375"
    Width Nut 1.1385"
    1st. Fret 1.1635"
    9th. Fret. 1.4670"

    1st. Fret neck depth 0.8175"
    9th. Fret neck depth 1.065"

    Pava has 1-5/8" string spacing, Eastman has 1.625" string spacing
    Pava fret board radius: compound 7.5"-15", Eastman fret board radius: 12"
    Pava neck profile listed as soft C, Eastman as U-shaped..


    Comparing the Eastman neck carve profile to photos of the Pava.. seems to be very similar.
    very interest, neck depths on Pave is greater, especially at the 9th fret.. and the compound radius probably feels different.
    I was suprised the nut width on the MD-505 was wider than 1-1/8".. I really didn't expect that.. Maybe that tells me something about my being able to discriminate differences in width? um... I do know I can feel the differences between and u-shape and a soft v (Kentucky)..
    Last edited by Mac56; Feb-24-2021 at 10:42pm.

  27. #17

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Not that it really matters but the referenced Kentucky in the original post was a KM-254, not KM-154..

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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I’m gonna throw this out there cause I feel that it may be of some use to someone. I recently got a new mandolin and it has a slightly different neck shape then my mandolin that I’m used to playing. I was having a hard time putting my fingers exactly where they needed to be. I kept thinking, I’ll get used to this neck.” About 5 hours into playing my new mandolin it occurred to me that my mandolin was sitting about an inch lower then I was used to. I tightened up the strap just about an inch and like magic my fingering was dead on. So I guess the point in sometimes the little details matter. Maybe not for everyone, but it did for me.

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  30. #19

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by killntime View Post
    I’m gonna throw this out there cause I feel that it may be of some use to someone. I recently got a new mandolin and it has a slightly different neck shape then my mandolin that I’m used to playing. I was having a hard time putting my fingers exactly where they needed to be. I kept thinking, I’ll get used to this neck.” About 5 hours into playing my new mandolin it occurred to me that my mandolin was sitting about an inch lower then I was used to. I tightened up the strap just about an inch and like magic my fingering was dead on. So I guess the point in sometimes the little details matter. Maybe not for everyone, but it did for me.
    Killntime I think your observation is right on track.. It is the little details that matter! I think what I'm beginning to see is that sometimes you attention is directed in the wrong direction, and what's important is not to be so hard-headed (me!) that you can't see the forest for the trees..I'm just hoping to keep my "intelligence" and "wants" at bay, and getting my "needs" and "common sense" back in control..ha..

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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    One other note since you mentioned Pava. I bought a mail order Pava based on there good reputation and I didn’t care for the tone. It was a beautiful mandolin but the tone just wasn’t my cup of tea. I know that I’m in the minority here. Anyway, if you can get to one of the big mandolin stores and play them all to see what you like, it could safe you some money down the road.

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  33. #21

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by killntime View Post
    One other note since you mentioned Pava. I bought a mail order Pava based on there good reputation and I didn’t care for the tone. It was a beautiful mandolin but the tone just wasn’t my cup of tea. I know that I’m in the minority here. Anyway, if you can get to one of the big mandolin stores and play them all to see what you like, it could safe you some money down the road.
    I think you are correct..

  34. #22

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    I believe my original intent for this post has been accomplished. I’m very appreciative for all the comments and discussion. As much as I want, or at least think I want an upgrade, now may not be the time. As someone pointed out a MD-815/915, which I’m sure are good mandolins, would still be a stepping stone. It seems a $3000+ class mandolin is where magic begins to happen. Finding a used mandolin in this class may be possible also.. A custom built (more cost) would definitely require one to know exactly what type of neck profile to ask for, and I’m not there. SO for now, I’ll stay with my current mandolins, be patient, and make it my goal to play as many different models as possible, and continue to do my research.. Thanks to all..,

  35. #23
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    a Pava A style was the first mandolin i purchased (couple years ago). I had no idea what i wanted or preferred. My stepdaughter was 8 yrs old and had wanted to learn mandolin so i sold a Martin guitar and took her to a shop in Pigeon Forge, Tn that carried Weber and Gibson. I knew i wanted her to have something really good in tone/playability. There we were, my wife, daughter, me. Nobody could play mandolin. But the guys brought 4 Gibsons and 4 Webers and gave us an empty room. Being a guitar geek and familiar with guitar setups, i adjusted the bridges and neck relief on all the mandolins so she would have as low action as possible(shop allowed me to do this). She ended up with a custom Weber Gallatin. It was a fantastic mandolin. that neck fit me perfect and i started playing around on it at night after she was finished.
    Joined the Cafe and it was around the time Pava had just started her own line of mandos. I purchased a satin brown from TMS. It was an excellent mandolin in build, tone, sound, playability. Had it all. By that time i was familiar with what a correct setup for a mandolin should be. That pava was fine in every way.......except i never bonded with the neck profile. To me it had a full U shape which increased in depth to the heel in a thick fashion. The Weber had a very soft V shape that stayed thin from 1st fret to heel. I had considered reshaping the Pava neck, but i posted it for sale and it sold overnight. I went to a Collings MT and that was the experience of what i call defined V shape neck with shallow shoulders. very different than the Pava or Weber. Had a very different feel with the compound 5 1/2 -11 5/8 fingerboard radius. I quickly found out that neck profile was my personal achillies heel with regards to how well i would get along with a mandolin(or guitar).

    there are some players that can pick up anything and not be bothered and rip it up. I am not one of them unfortunately.

    the Pava i owned was a superior instrument in every way. the neck profile shape was a personal issue. i have just about traded into or purchased another Pava thru the years, knowing i loved the tone, i would reshape the neck to my liking nowdays.

    for some of us we simply have to get something in our hands and play it a while to determine if its going to work.

    keep you eye on the classifieds here, used Pava's do show up regularly(like all others), check the used section at Themandolinstore and other Cafe sponsors.

    its been a while, but if i remember correct, the Eastman neck is more along the lines of a Collings rather than Pava. You can find excellent used Collings MT's in the classifieds as well. Either one around $2100-2300. If the used Pava or Collings doesnt work out for you, you can probably resell it for little to no loss here in the same classifieds.

    good luck, keep us posted on what you end up with
    d

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  37. #24

    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Thanks darylcrisp.. Very good post with lots of great information..

    I think “It’s the neck stupid” for me, for sure! Ha! But it did take awhile to figure that out. I do envy those that seem to be able to transition from instrument to instrument with ease. I only started learning to play since retirement and have found great difficulty switching between difference neck profiles and string spacing on all of the stringed instruments. I don’t have decades of playing behind me, and certainly not in front of me, so I want to make this as easy, and enjoyable as possible. While it may be possible to learn to live with a neck, my old wrist has requested otherwise. The challenges of switching between different neck profiles has also been true with guitars, I went through several before finding my favorite, which is a re-imagined, Martin 000-28, with what they call a modified low oval with a performance taper. At this point I can switch between it and a Gibson custom shop J-45 without problems. I bought the j45 used, have no ideal what the neck profile is, other than when I played it, I liked it. It would be easier if both necks were the same, but they are close enough to make it work for now.

    Once I make the next step, I’ll share it..

    When I started this learning to play adventure, I had no ideal, but didn’t know I didn’t have any ideal. Now that I’m into it, the biggest change is, I know, I don’t know..But I’m enjoying the adventure!

  38. #25
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on neck profiles and a mandolin upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    for some of us we simply have to get something in our hands and play it a while to determine if its going to work.
    daryl offers really good perspective here. Thereís lots of advice repeated in this forum about playing an instrument before you buy it, and while that approach may work in some instances and for some people, it hasnít been the best for me. I might get a sense of an instrumentís tone or feel in a store, but I only get a real understanding of what it can do (or what I can do with it) after owning it for a few months. Like daryl, I bought an early Pava on reputation and am glad that I did. But over time, I found (again like daryl) that its neck had more meat in the shoulders than a Collings MT I preferred and so I sold it (and ultimately the Collings as well). Sometimes it takes a while before you realize that certain instruments just make it easier for you to make music on them. Those ones are the true keepers.
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