All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Two Left Hands
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All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Two Left Hands » Thu May 10, 2018 3:03 pm

I have spent a lot of time in recent weeks listening to different tones on a variety of guitars mainly steel strings but some classical ones. The sound I most like has been on a Martin 00015 N steel string which is an all Mahogany body and neck.
My question is for recommendations on all mahogany classical guitars with a ceiling of £1500.00 as that is my limit although I hope to buy a second-hand one so may be able to buy a slightly higher quality.
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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Michael.N. » Thu May 10, 2018 4:11 pm

To be honest I think you are approaching it the wrong way. You are severely limiting yourself. Of course mahogany classical guitars exist but around that price range there are very few. What goes for steel strings does not necessarily go for classical nylon.

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by simonm » Thu May 10, 2018 5:19 pm

All mahogany classical guitars are as rare as hen's teeth. I have certainly never seen one "in the flesh" and I am not 100% certain I have ever photos of one.

Mahogany back and sides certainly make nice classical guitars although they are not as common as in the steel string world. I have done 3 mahogany classicals, two spruce, one cedar and plan on doing another one soon for my guitar teacher using mahogany from his old staircase.

Listening to steel string is not likely the best way of choosing a nylon string guitar. It's kind of like choosing a diesel engined car based on looking at only at petrol driven vehicles.

When I was looking for a style of guitar to aim for from a building perspective, I found the recordings of new and historical classical guitars on the Zaveletas website very useful. An internet search will find the site for you. There are likely other similar resources.

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Alan Carruth » Thu May 10, 2018 7:57 pm

Mahogany would be a poor choice for the top on a Classical guitar. Nylon strings are different from steel, and that difference drives most of the differences in the structure between the two types of guitar. I have to warn everybody that it's going to get technical in a hurry here.

Nylon strings have much higher 'damping' than steel: they dissipate energy faster as they vibrate. There are two reasons for this. One is that nylon, as a material, has higher damping than steel. If you tap on a plate of steel it clangs, while a similar plate of nylon just goes 'thud'. The energy of the tap is wasted very quickly, so the pate won't ring on. Also, nylon strings, because of their lower density, have to be fatter than steel to have similar mass and tension. As they vibrate they have to push more air aside. This doesn't generate sound; it's more like trying to run in knee deep water.

It's in the nature of damping that it tends to 'eat' high frequencies faster than lows. If you actually look at the vibrations of steel and nylon strings you can see this. If you pluck a steel sting and a nylon string in the same place and the same way, the initial wave forms will look exactly the same. They will have the same amount of energy in each partial. A second or so later the nylon string will have practically no energy in the higher frequency range, above, say, 4000 Hz or so, while the steel string will still have plenty of energy all the way out to 8000 Hz or higher.

From the maker's standpoint, this means that nylon and steel string guitars present quite different problems. With steel strings the problem is to get enough low end sound to balance out all of the high frequency in the strings. There are several ways to do this, but the two most basic ones are to make the box bigger, and make the bridge and top heavier. With nylon strings you have the opposite problem: getting the most out of the small amount of treble energy the strings give you. For this you want a smaller box, and, most especially, a lighter top and bridge. Just to put a couple of numbers on this: the ebony 'belly' bridges that Martin uses on their Dreadnought guitars weigh 32 grams or a bit more, and to that you need to add another 3-10 grams for the bridge pins; call it about 40 grams with the saddle. A Classical bridge that weighs half that is bordering on heavy, in many maker's judgment.

The top weighs more than the bridge, of course. In making the top for a guitar the thing that limits how light and thin you can make it is the stiffness, particularly along the grain. Tops fold up over time under the load of the strings, but you will seldom, or never, see one that has simply broken under the string load alone. 'Young's modulus' is a measure of how much force it takes to stretch or compress a piece of material by a given amount, and it's a good predictor of how stiff a top will be at a given thickness. The mahogany samples that I have tested have all had Young's modulus values along the grain that were similar to that of a medium density spruce, but they've been as much as twice as dense. To have the same stiffness the mahogany top would need to be nearly twice as heavy.

There's not much horsepower in a plucked string, and high frequency response is related to acceleration in a car: if you have a small engine, and want good acceleration, you need to keep the car light. Getting good, strong, full sounding trebles out of a Classical guitar begin with making light, stiff top and a light bridge. There's more to it than that, of course, but you have to start there.

The long and short of it, then, is that it's possible to get away with a mahogany top on a steel string guitar. If somebody were to insist on a mahogany top on a Classical guitar, I'd strongly suggest making it even smaller than the usual Classical size, which is about an inch narrower in the lower bout than the Martin 000 shape. As you make the outline smaller the balance of treble to bass shifts more toward the treble, and you can get away with a thinner top and lighter bracing. Something on the order of a Martin size 1 might work reasonably well with a mahogany top. It would be even easier to get a good sound out of it by substituting in cedro for the top, which can look similar to mahogany, and have reasonably stiffness, but much lower density. Martin's 1 was the 'normal' size for a guitar around 1850 or so.

Sorry to get so technical. I hope it helped.

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Two Left Hands » Thu May 10, 2018 8:07 pm

Thank You for all the prompt and informative responses, you have saved me wasting a lot of time and effort.
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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by printer2 » Fri May 11, 2018 2:19 am

A cedar topped mahogany almost looks like an all mahogany. :wink:

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Wuuthrad » Fri May 11, 2018 3:03 am

Well, not to rain on any parades or anything, but you can get an all Mahogany Mini...

Cordoba Coco!!!

(Laminate B&S, laminate top, composite fingerboard, gig bag, truss rod and strap for like 99 bux!)

A pretty good campfire/picnic guitar after all is said and done, fwiw

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Gorn » Sat May 12, 2018 10:55 am

If you have the opportunity to find one, you could try a Hanika 50 MC. It's cedar top and all mahogany body - the "lowest end" of Hanika's model range.

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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by dandan » Sat May 12, 2018 1:39 pm

Guild mark1. All solid mahogany. Nylon string, but more of a folk guitar.
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Re: All Solid Mahogany Wood Classical Guitars

Post by Two Left Hands » Sat May 12, 2018 7:02 pm

dandan - Thank You for your information regarding the Guild mark1, I managed to see one 'in action' via youtube and it was made the year I was born. I think this would be a nice, cheap and interesting nylon, classical, folk, fun, guitar to mess about with at home if I can track one down.
Meanwhile I will keep practising on my trusty Yamaha C40 and keep plugging away with my search for an all wood Classical Guitar to get older with.
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