First, check out these custom Gold Tone-Gards. The “W” is for “Weber.”
“MandoMedic: The Tone-Gard” by Ken Cartwright, Mandolin Magazine (Spring 2001)
You probably haven’t seen a Tone-Gard unless you’ve seen Radim Zenkl perform and have paid attention to his mandolin up close and personal.
The Tone-Gard … is a thin, flat metal device that gently but firmly attaches to the back of your mandolin by friction and compression. It’s construction is wire about one-eighth-inch in diameter tacked together so it resembles a spider web. The contact areas are shielded from the instrument with rubber that fits over the metal frame.
The manufacturer says that it should not mar or hurt the finish on your instrument, but it’s “buyer beware” and that he can not assume responsibility for marring. “If you put it on and take it off carefully and correctly, you shouldn’t have scratches or nicks.” So far there have been no reports of finish reaction or discoloration with the rubber insulators, but again, there are no warranties,” he said.
The Tone-Gard holds the back of the mandolin about one-fourth to three-eights of an inch away from your body and clothing. Several solutions to problems are achieved. The most important is that you no longer have to swing the back of the mandolin away from your body to achieve the true, non-muted tone of the mandolin. You won’t perspire on the finish on the back of the instrument. Your mandolin back won’t get as scratched from your buttons and zippers. And lastly, you won’t bring andy buttons in contact with the back that give you a new rattle or vibration.
The Tone-Gards are handmade by Antone Pires of Visalia California. He makes them part time, one at a time, and they are under a hundred bucks — one more great device from getting something more out of that mandolin that your spouse said you paid too much money for and you’d better not trade it for another one!
This clever device really works well, fits in your case, staying on the back of the mandolin when you put it away. It is very low profile and easy to get used to. I won’t play my mandolin without it now that I’ve gotten used to it. Two thumbs up Antone!!
© 2001 Ken Cartwright & Mandolin Magazine
“ToneGard” by Steven Stone, Vintage Guitar Magazine (March 2000)
The ToneGard is the creation of Antone Pires. Once you see it, you’ll wonder why no one invented it sooner. Like all great gadgets, it’s uncomplicated and elegant. The ToneGard design is based on the elementary principle that a mandolin sounds better if its back is allowed to vibrate freely. Simple huh? The problem is when you play a mandolin it is usually held against your chest which very effectively damps the back of the instrument. Some players lean forward while their playing to allow the back some elbow room, but this is a surefire path to back and neck problems if you try to do this all the time. So what’s a mando player to do? Enter the Tone-Gard.
What this device does is move the mando back away from your chest. It does this by way of a welded steel rod cage that mounts on the back of the mandolin. It is held on by three metal mounting arms that grasp the sides of the instrument. Where the ‘Gard does touch the back there are several 1/2″ pieces of rubber tube with felt bumpers that mount on the ‘Gard. While this sounds ungainly, in reality it is very neat. The ‘Gard adds only 1/2 extra thickness to the mandolin, so not only does the instrument fit easily in its case, but a player’s normal way of holding the instrument are unaffected. It weighs only a few ounces so the mandolin’s weight seems unchanged. This design works on almost every mandolin on earth. It fits on both “standard” F-style and A-style mandolins without any modification. Unusually shaped instruments like a mandola or Olde Kraftsmen mandolin can also be accommodated with a custom-order ‘Gard.
Next question, does it work? Oh yes. In A/B tests it’s clear that a mandolin with a ToneGard sounds like a mandolin that is being played away from your body. Compared to an unmodified mando, the ToneGarded instrument has more volume and greater bass extension. Besides the sonic benefits, there are some important ergonomic advantages. By removing the mando back from intimate contact with your chest you eliminate the summertime phenomena known as “the wet spot”. When I play mando in warm weather I get all kinds of hot and sweaty. While my sock solution keeps my forearm from gumming up the front of disgusting. I literally had to peel the mando off my chest. With the oneGard, there’s some space for cooling air to pass between the mando and my heaving breast. Now that is COOL.
Since some folks need to see that someone “big” (besides me) is using a product before they’ll take it seriously, Radim Zenkl, mandolin “superstar,” uses ToneGards on all his instruments.