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View Full Version : How bad are cheap Rogue mandolins?



k0k0peli
04-26-2015, 08:14 PM
I now own two of the only three mandolins in my life, my grand-dad's ancient, heavy Guckert Deluxe banjolin, and an old Kay flattop. (The older Italian gourd-belly warped long ago.) I'm happy with the Kay. I'm considering a cheap (US$46) Rogue RM-100A to restring uke-style as a mandolele, a hopefully cost-effective way to get eight strings in Taro Patch. But my question: Does Rogue suck?

igorthebarbarian
04-26-2015, 08:47 PM
no idea but their Rogue Baritone's get fairly decent reviews for the price. How would the tuning go? And the strings? If you do this, post pics here!

k0k0peli
04-26-2015, 09:37 PM
no idea but their Rogue Baritone's get fairly decent reviews for the price. That's reassuring. I think I can risk my US$46 with a light heart.


How would the tuning go? And the strings? If you do this, post pics here!
Pix indeed. As for the technicalities: I'll probably fiddle with the tuning but I expect it'll be somewhere around standard to start. Linear or re-entrant? Unison, octaves, or mixed? I'll experiment. I've found some online calculators to guide me on string-gauge selection. If things get weird, well, I know a guy who knows a guy who's a string-maker. :D

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 07:31 PM
The Rogue RM-100A just arrived, along with the Kohala soprano 'uke that will serve as a test-bed for stringing experiments, and a Melodica which unfortunately has stuck reeds. (I might be able to clean those.) Anyway, the Rogue's strings are now stretching and it sounds NOT BAD, a bit brighter and more resonant than my old Kay. After the strings have settled I'll draft some ears for a tone-test. I suspect the Kay may become my lab rat. It may be a few days before I do the conversion. Real life intrudes. Darn.

itsme
05-05-2015, 07:58 PM
I'm considering a cheap (US$46) Rogue RM-100A to restring uke-style as a mandolele...
If you are planning to use nylon strings, you'll probably be disappointed. Mandos are built and braced for doubled steel strings, with thicker tops. Nylon strings don't have enough oomph/tension to power them, so you can expect the sound to be pretty weak.

I have no knowledge of Rogue mandos, but for $46 I wouldn't expect much.

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 09:11 PM
If you are planning to use nylon strings, you'll probably be disappointed. Mandos are built and braced for doubled steel strings, with thicker tops. Nylon strings don't have enough oomph/tension to power them, so you can expect the sound to be pretty weak. Nope, no nylon strings. I know better than to put nylon on a steel-braced instrument, and vice-versa. (My first wife put steels on her student-classical guitar and nicely warped it. Oops.) I have an assortment of metal strings in my stockpile. I know I'll find some interesting combinations.


I have no knowledge of Rogue mandos, but for $46 I wouldn't expect much. I've only had it strung for about seven hours now but I'm impressed. Fit and finish are very good, intonation and playability are excellent, and as I said, the tone is brighter and more resonant than my old Kay (which is all I have to compare it to at home). I've tried more costly mandolins that didn't feel-play-sound as good. I am not disappointed. And even though I've noodling on mandolins for years, I still consider myself at a fairly beginning level. When I get better, I'll buy something fancier.

SteveZ
05-06-2015, 04:39 AM
If you haven't gotten it already, suggest getting Rob Meldrum's free e-book on mandolin set-up and maintenance. He offers it all the time at the Mandolin Cafe and Mando Hangout. Rob uses a Rogue as his "designated victim" for his demonstrations.

strumsilly
05-06-2015, 04:46 AM
i bought one a while back and was favorably impressed. the fitand finish was much better than their ukes.

Ukeefus
05-14-2015, 01:38 PM
This is interesting. I have an old Kay mandolin too, $25 from a pawn shop, if the tuners I ordered don't fit and if I can't address some other issues I may convert it into a 4 string uke. Also have a teardrop mandolin from pre-WW2, someone had converted it to a 4 string (nylon) uke, sounded terrible, 8 metal strings and it's swinging. Evidently if you convert a mandolin to a uke you should use metal strings.

k0k0peli
05-15-2015, 10:12 PM
Evidently if you convert a mandolin to a uke you should use metal strings. Yes, that's what I first tried -- and abandoned. The mando neck is too narrow for the chording a 'uke demands, at least with my not-small hands. I measured neck widths at fret zero: Kohala soprano 'ukes, 35mm / 1.4". Kala tenor 'uke: 38mm / 1.5"; Kay mando: 30mm / 1.15"; Rogue mando, 27.5mm / 1.08". Yup, too narrow.

I have a backup plan. The Rogue sounds sweet (to me) in Irish tuning, GDAD. Yes, I play open a lot. So I'll leave the Kay in concert tuning so I can properly learn the bugger, and keep the Rogue in Irish (for now) for fun. My other plan, tuning the newest Kohala soprano 'uke as a mando, was easy. The set of Aquila fifths nylgut strings cost a whole ten bucks shipped and they sound nice and bright on the 'uke.

So if I want an 8-string 'uke I'll just have to buy one, not convert a mando into one. And those I've tried at the nearest music store didn't impress me. Well, I'll be in bigger cities soon, haunting larger music shops. Maybe I'll get lucky. Or maybe I'll find a fine mandola that will drive my wife to say, "That sounds great! Let's buy it!"


I have an old Kay mandolin too, $25 from a pawn shop, if the tuners I ordered don't fit and if I can't address some other issues I may convert it into a 4 string uke. If you have small hands and thin fingers, go for it! But I have another idea for reviving and mutating a problematic mando: Remove two strings and replace the nut and bridge with six-slotters to turn it into a three-course axe. String spacing will be about the same as a soprano 'uke; lots of room for fingers to fly about. Or leave the strings and cut the nut and bridge for two 3-string courses and one 2-string course. See this huge set of instruments and tunings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringed_instrument_tunings) for possibilities.

SteveZ
05-16-2015, 05:17 AM
Yes, that's what I first tried -- and abandoned. The mando neck is too narrow for the chording a 'uke demands, at least with my not-small hands. I measured neck widths at fret zero: Kohala soprano 'ukes, 35mm / 1.4". Kala tenor 'uke: 38mm / 1.5"; Kay mando: 30mm / 1.15"; Rogue mando, 27.5mm / 1.08". Yup, too narrow.

I have a backup plan. The Rogue sounds sweet (to me) in Irish tuning, GDAD. Yes, I play open a lot. So I'll leave the Kay in concert tuning so I can properly learn the bugger, and keep the Rogue in Irish (for now) for fun. My other plan, tuning the newest Kohala soprano 'uke as a mando, was easy. The set of Aquijla fifths nylgut strings cost a whole ten bucks shipped and they sound nice and bright on the 'uke.

So if I want an 8-string 'uke I'll just have to buy one, not convert a mando into one. And those I've tried at the nearest music store didn't impress me. Well, I'll be in bigger cities soon, haunting larger music shops. Maybe I'll get lucky. Or maybe I'll find a fine mandola that will drive my wife to say, "That sounds great! Let's buy it!"

If you have small hands and thin fingers, go for it! But I have another idea for reviving and mutating a problematic mando: Remove two strings and replace the nut and bridge with six-slotters to turn it into a three-course axe. String spacing will be about the same as a soprano 'uke; lots of room for fingers to fly about. Or leave the strings and cut the nut and bridge for two 3-string courses and one 2-string course. See this huge set of instruments and tunings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringed_instrument_tunings) for possibilities.

Have taken inexpensive soprano ukes (Diamond Head, Mitchell) and tuned them to be "mini travel mandos" GDAE. The only problem was getting an E string which wouldn't snap easily (the commercial ones do). Ended up using 20-pound test monofilament fishing line and it worked fine. However, the E5 seemed an octave too high on the uke, but CGDA worked fine.

The 6-string mando mutation idea sounds like fun. Rogues would be easy and cost-acceptable to "Franken-mando" into something. Thanks for the idea. Turning one into a steel-stringed uke (like the KonaBlaster) or even into a six-string special could make a fun project. FWIW EMando.com is a great source for specialty gauge steel strings.

k0k0peli
05-16-2015, 06:00 AM
Have taken inexpensive soprano ukes (Diamond Head, Mitchell) and tuned them to be "mini travel mandos" GDAE. The only problem was getting an E string which wouldn't snap easily (the commercial ones do). Ended up using 20-pound test monofilament fishing line and it worked fine. However, the E5 seemed an octave too high on the uke, but CGDA worked fine. My motivation for tuning a 'uke in fifths was less about a mini-travel-mando and more about hey-it-can-be-done, and also that I'd have a quiet axe for chord practice (my wife sleeps in late). I won't be pounding it. Probably. But I'll make a note about 20-pound fishline. Thanks.


The 6-string mando mutation idea sounds like fun. Rogues would be easy and cost-acceptable to "Franken-mando" into something. Thanks for the idea. Turning one into a steel-stringed uke (like the KonaBlaster) or even into a six-string special could make a fun project. FWIW EMando.com is a great source for specialty gauge steel strings. Thanks for the source tip. Meanwhile, I had a retro idea I was hesitant to broach previously, something suitable for a mad lute-butcher. I've seen beautiful old viols with sympathetic strings set in their interior, tuned from the scroll. So, a little Rogue franken-surgery: Cut 3-slot bridge and nut -- we'll only play three strings. Add a machine, top-center on the tuning head. Drill-out the neck lengthwise. Cut a suitable slot in the soundboard just before the tailpiece and add an interior bridge (glued down). Feed interior sympathetic strings through the neck to the machines. Now we have an axe with three playable strings and six hummers. Hook it up to the lightning rod and await a good thunderstorm. When the bolt hits, shout, "It's alive! It's alive!"

SteveZ
05-16-2015, 06:42 AM
My motivation for tuning a 'uke in fifths was less about a mini-travel-mando and more about hey-it-can-be-done, and also that I'd have a quiet axe for chord practice (my wife sleeps in late). I won't be pounding it. Probably. But I'll make a note about 20-pound fishline. Thanks.

Thanks for the source tip. Meanwhile, I had a retro idea I was hesitant to broach previously, something suitable for a mad lute-butcher. I've seen beautiful old viols with sympathetic strings set in their interior, tuned from the scroll. So, a little Rogue franken-surgery: Cut 3-slot bridge and nut -- we'll only play three strings. Add a machine, top-center on the tuning head. Drill-out the neck lengthwise. Cut a suitable slot in the soundboard just before the tailpiece and add an interior bridge (glued down). Feed interior sympathetic strings through the neck to the machines. Now we have an axe with three playable strings and six hummers. Hook it up to the lightning rod and await a good thunderstorm. When the bolt hits, shout, "It's alive! It's alive!"

EMando.com is easy to deal with. They provide loop and ball end strings. I got their five-string emando pack as strings for tuning my Konablaster to CGDA. I gave one granddaughter a Rover-50 mando that she doesn't use at all. I may "make a deal" with her to get it back and turn it into a sort-of guitar-uke instrument. Dangerous minds thinks dangerously, rspecially when they run counter to convention.

k0k0peli
05-18-2015, 08:56 AM
EMando.com is easy to deal with. They provide loop and ball end strings. I got their five-string emando pack as strings for tuning my Konablaster to CGDA. I gave one granddaughter a Rover-50 mando that she doesn't use at all. I may "make a deal" with her to get it back and turn it into a sort-of guitar-uke instrument. Dangerous minds thinks dangerously, rspecially when they run counter to convention.
Electric ukes?!?!? Oh no, ain't going there. I'm doomed! The cig-pack amps would be okay, but I'd be sorely tempted to plug in the 250-watt rig and wail. Then neighbors would show up, carrying shotguns, and... No, wouldn't be prudent. I won't do that. Really. [/me looks around nervously] Maybe I should stick with harmonicas. Unamplified. Yes, that would be safer...

BTW does your Konablaster have the 30-06 bridge?

SteveZ
05-21-2015, 04:22 AM
Electric ukes?!?!? Oh no, ain't going there. I'm doomed! The cig-pack amps would be okay, but I'd be sorely tempted to plug in the 250-watt rig and wail. Then neighbors would show up, carrying shotguns, and... No, wouldn't be prudent. I won't do that. Really. [/me looks around nervously] Maybe I should stick with harmonicas. Unamplified. Yes, that would be safer...

BTW does your Konablaster have the 30-06 bridge?

My largest amp (for now) is a ten-watter that I need to work on a bit. Would like to pick up something larger this summer to experiment with the KonaBlaster and the Effin. Am probably going to try a pickup on the banjo stock (the TB and the BUs). Amped banjos really can test intra-neighborhood relations.

Yep, the KB has the "Casing Bridge." What is surprising is how good the intonation is with it. I would have expected the inton to be significantly off, but that's not the situation.

k0k0peli
05-21-2015, 10:30 AM
My largest amp (for now) is a ten-watter that I need to work on a bit. Would like to pick up something larger this summer to experiment with the KonaBlaster and the Effin. Am probably going to try a pickup on the banjo stock (the TB and the BUs). Amped banjos really can test intra-neighborhood relations. My solid old Aloha lap steel came paired with a branded 15-watt tube amp (both US$25 at a thrift shop long ago) that served me well... until a now-ex-friend decided he didn't need his rig, and sold me his Tamara bass and Yamaha bass amp for US$150. How could I turn that down? So on 4 July I roll the Yamaha to the sliding door, plug in the Aria archtop via a couple stomp boxes, and set the Star Spangled Banner flying through the conifer forest. Guys around the post office two miles away said they heard it last year. Well, this is usually a quiet forest. :) Maybe I'll use the fretless 3-string cigar-box electric this year. That should be interesting.

ObTopic: I'm pretty happy with the Rogue. The mandolin, remember? Yes, it's bright and cheerful. But I leave tomorrow on a long road trip and I can only take a limited arsenal of string instruments, especially since I'll probably return with more. The Rogue will stay home; the old, mellow Kay mando will take the ride, along with the Kala KA6 and the Martin Backpacker guitar. All unamplified. Hmm, should I haul along the cig-pack amps, just in case I find a nice electric uke?

Ukeefus
05-30-2015, 12:35 PM
My Kay is now what it supposed to be, a mandolin, didn't have to go with six or four string conversions but the info was interesting, also may try that alternate tuning for my teardrop.

k0k0peli
07-25-2015, 09:23 PM
UPDATE: This thread set off a buying spree for me. I went ahead and bought the Rogue RM-100A but didn't turn it into an 8-string 'uke (I bought one of those a few weeks ago). I keep the Rogue in GDAD 'Irish' tuning and I love it there.

But that wasn't enough. So on our recent long driving tour I scoped-out instruments and bought 1) a superb luthier-crafted Celtic mando (by KE Coleman of Albuquerque), 2) a cheap (needs fixing) Russian oval-mouth flat-top mando, and 3+4) cheap Harmonia F-type mandolin (thin voice) and mandola (not bad). And also a tiple, a Puerto Rican cuatro, and maybe 6 more 'ukes, I've lost count.


And I know more are coming. Yes, I'm doomed.