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If you know of an earlier carved back “onion” shaped Celtic or Irish mandolin please drop me a line and let me know so I can add to this article.
The soundboard of a Gibson mandolin is usually carved from solid spruce. The soundboard of a Celtic mandolin depends on whether it is cheap or expensive, or on the skill of the maker.
Celtic mandolins hold to a less conservative tradition and most bracing patterns have been tried.
They can be split into two broad camps: cheaper flat topped instruments tend to be either ladder braced or X braced.
With a Sobell Celtic mandolin the X brace intersection is placed as high up the body towards the neck as is possible. They also have a structural brace which covers the soundboard centre join starting near the tail and ending shy of the bridge.
Here is a picture of one of my earlier mandolin tops in the making: an NK Forster mandolin soundboard, (thanks to Dave Best for the photograph) where you can see not only the “Sobell” centre brace but a Gilchrist inspired pattern, with the X intersection below the bridge.
WATERLOO WL-MWith origins dating back to the turn of the 20th century, flat-backed mandolins have long been a mainstay of Americana, country, blues, swing and a variety of other traditional styles.
For the purposes of this article we will compare and contrast a “Celtic” mandolin with the Gibson A4 and F5 models. Because they have become the two “standard” mandolins used in western music today.
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But there are other differences beyond their allium roots.
The back of a Gibson mandolin is usually carved from solid wood.