Just about the time I really started to get serious MAS for an octave, my friend and repair luthier, Joe Mendel (jomando), announced that he was getting into building, specializing in octave mandolins and banjos. He got lots of plans, advice and coaching from luthiers like Peter Sawchyn, Chris Baird and Michael Lewis. Joe got an order to make his first octave for Joe Carr, the editor of Mel Bay’s Mandolin Sessions and author of about three dozen Mel Bay music instruction books. I got to play that first instrument in the white and immediately put my dibs in for the second Mendel octave. Then I sold an Old Wave guitar I had to finance the project. Later I got to play #1 finished, just before it shipped, and I really started to get excited. Finally, the wait is over and I could not be more pleased.
My octave has a Sitka spruce top with Adirondack spruce cross braces. The back, sides, headstock veneer and fingerboard support are grenadillo, a tone wood that is often used in wind instruments such as bassoons and oboes, but is rarer in string instruments. Joe feels it falls in between walnut and rosewood in its tonal properties. Joe had used grenadillo on the Carr octave and I really like the sound of it. My OM has a three piece neck made of maple/grenadillo/maple and the scale is 22 3/4". It has Grover tuners, a bone nut, a handmade ebony bridge that is adjustable under tension, a two-way adjustable truss rod and an Allen TR-1 tailpiece. The ebony fretboard is 1 3/8" at the nut, with a compound radius that is 9” at the nut and nearly flat at the bridge. The instrument also has a K&K “Pure Western” guitar pickup system installed. This OM fits snugly in a flat-top TKL resonator banjo case, with only slight modification to the case. The finish is satin nitro lacquer.
It sounds and plays great! If I had to pick one word to describe the tone, it would be “warm.” If I could choose a few more words, they would be “well-balanced, even and loud.” It is everything I had hoped for. My MAS is finally cured! (Yeah, right!)
These pictures were taken by Joe in his workshop.