View Full Version : Why is aged mahogany better then new mahogany?

11-10-2013, 02:56 PM
I have a 1920s Martin Mahogany Soprano. When you hold the uke against your body and play you can feel the vibrations. When I do the same with a new Mahogany Soprano I don't "feel" the instrument near as much. why is that? What is there about aged mahogany that makes it vibrate more then new mahogany?

11-10-2013, 03:45 PM
An interesting question:

I think I've sensed two schools of thought about sopranos- a hard wood seems to make it pop, but that is overwhelmed quickly with paint or clearcoat which just tends to deaden the sound

could aged mahogany be drier and harder than more porous new mahogany?

I've had a Rogue mahogany guitar for years and bought it because mahogany is definitely a more mellow warm sounding guitar, despite the clearcoat

I searched the density of different woods and was surprised that mahogany is actually one of the more dense- I thought the warm tone was due to relative softness, but the density charts- and woods vary in range within a species- suggests otherwise

I cut down a maple violin bridge recently and found it surpisingly hard wood. Violins use a lot of spruce and maple.

11-10-2013, 03:52 PM
Probably wood expanding + the coating getting worn down due to years of wear and aging.

11-10-2013, 03:55 PM
Tighter grain mature wood back then and years of vibrating

11-10-2013, 04:34 PM
Not to worry. The new models will sound just as good in 80-90 years.


11-10-2013, 05:20 PM
It's a Martin, the higher quality builds make a huge difference!

11-10-2013, 06:10 PM
Not to worry. The new models will sound just as good in 80-90 years.

Thanks, that's good to know. I almost sold a mahogany uke that sounds a bit weak, but I'd have kicked myself if I'd sold it and then heard it sounding great 80-90 years later...

11-10-2013, 07:27 PM
Not all mahogany is the same. The older Martins were made with Honduran Mahogany, I don't think that is the case with the newer Martins. Any wood that is older, well seasoned, built right in the correct environment, taken care of and played will sound better than the new stuff.

11-10-2013, 10:18 PM
Do newer Martins have the same bracing and wood thickness as older ones? Are they otherwise built the same way? There may be build factors that differentiate newer Martins from older ones, so the age of the wood, or the type of mahogany used 80 years ago vs. that used now may not be the only factors. Yours is a good question, though. Have you considered asking this question in the Luthiers Lounge forum?

11-11-2013, 05:44 AM
I haven't compared a vintage martin to my Collings, but my UT-1 Mahogany vibrates like crazy when you play it. It's extremely light and well built.

11-11-2013, 07:00 AM
To answer your question as I understand it, there could be several reasons. Assuming the quality of the tonewoods being compared are equal, the seasoned one has a more "closed" cellular structure due to moisture loss and is capable of transmitting vibrations more effectively. While often debated, if the thickness of a finish, satin/matte/gloss, is equal, it is a wash...a non issue. Gloss finishes do not deaden sound unless they are thicker than the other finishes (they sometimes are). That's why you see some finished listed as "acoustically transparent." In theory, a better quality new tonewood could sound better than a poor quality seasoned one, or a poorly finished one. That's why I try to compare "apples to apples" as I often say. Then there's construction. Usually, with equal tonewoods, the better constructed uke will sound better. (thickness of top and back, bracing) Two luthiers, standing side by side, making the exact same model, may have tiny differences in their construction techniques that could result in one uke sounding better than the others (although most of us might not notice....some would). Good luck..hope this sheds further light on your questions. You'll get lots of good answers here.

Good listing of tonewood: http://tonewooddatasource.weebly.com/species--attributes.html

and a non-traditional view of the matter: http://www.guitarnation.com/articles/calkin.htm

and another worth reading...good comparisons: http://www.esomogyi.com/tonewoods.html