Soundboards and Backboards

Soundboard Header

Siminoff’s precision pattern carvers replicate soundboards and backboards to an unprecedented .010″ repeatable accuracy. Our patterns have been meticulously crafted and are known to produce the most precise replicas of early F5, F4/F2, H5, and A5 arched soundboards and backboards available today.

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1) Which soundboard wood is best for you? Generally speaking… Sitka spruce provides a full, bright, tone. German silver spruce has a full clear, bright tone. Adirondack red spruce is generally “warm” with clear bass and treble balance. Western fir typically delivers a very bright “bark” tone and is a bit stronger in the treble registers. Redwood, an often overlooked soundboard material for mandolins, provides the excellent warm, deep, “dark” tonal quality typically associated with older mandolins. We also have Western Red Cedar that provides warmth with clarity and brightness.

2) Appearance: From lightest to darkest: German Silver spruce is a light white-ish color with an iridescent sheen, tight straight grain, and light “silk” whisps going across the grain. Adirondack Red spruce is a bit darker with straight grain of even widths. Sitka Spruce is a bit darker and a slightly more amber colored than Adirondack Red with grain laid up narrower towards the center seam. California Redwood is a medium reddish-brown color (like chocolate milk) with its tighter grain laid up towards the center seam. Western Red Cedar is a more ochre-colored wood, similar to a yellowish coffee color. Douglas Fir is an orange-like color. Although all of these soundboard woods can be left natural or stained dark, California Redwood and Western Red Cedar lend themselves to being left natural and can be finished in a clear coat. To help get a better appreciation for the color and grain differences of these woods, please click here to see Soundboard Wood Samples, or click here for Backboard Wood Samples.

3) Considerations during our carving process: Every soundboard and backboard we carve is considered for its overall density, grain, mass, and stiffness, and we make slight adjustments to our pattern carver to change the overall thickness of each soundboard to compensate for these differences based on IMS data we have developed. This does not change the contouring or graduation shapes of our soundboards and backboards, just their overall thickness to compensate for these factors. (More about this IMS [interdependence of mass and structure] is described in our book, The Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual.)

4) Tone bars? F5, H5, and A5 soundboards include tone bars (un-attached and un-shaped). Redwood, cedar, and Douglas fir soundboards include Sitka spruce tone bars. F4/F2 soundboards include the cross brace (un-attached and un-shaped).

5) Scroll volute carving: The carving of our soundboards includes basic shaping of the soundboard and backboard volutes (the peaks in the body scrolls, as shown in this photo) which require only minor final shaping and sanding

6) Soundboard and backboard shaping. In addition to being fully graduated inside and outside, our soundboards and backboards are meticulously profiled around their perimeter to their precise final outer shape including the cut-out in the scroll area. The backboard includes the backboard’s “button” under the neck heel extension. (Final outer edge shaping can be omitted on request if you want to work oversize.) The outer edge profiling and scroll cut-out is also included in our “L” service (pattern carving of your wood).

7) Extender platform: Our F5, H5, and A5 soundboards are machined to a flat plane in the area where the fretboard extender goes to ensure a precise square fit of the bottom of the extender to the soundboard.

8) Soundholes (apertures): f-holes (F5/A5/H5) and oval sound holes (F4/F2) are an option and are not included in the regular soundboard and backboard prices above. See Soundboard and Backboard Services for more information about soundholes, tap tuning, Virzi Tone Producers, and more.

9) Special woods: We often come across interesting and unusual woods that are not common enough for us to include in our price list or on-line store. Don’t hesitate to email or call us if you are looking for something different.

10) Want to learn more about how we prepare our soundboards and backboards? Click here for More about our soundboards and backboards.

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For a printed version of our complete price list, please email us with your full address, or write to us at Siminoff Banjo and Mandolin Parts, PO Box 2992, Atascadero, CA 93423, USA.