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Thread: The Pocket Mandolin

  1. #1
    Albert the Magic Pudding Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default The Pocket Mandolin

    I put some pics up a couple of weeks ago of this in a more skeletal form. Here it is strung up. 13" scale with a zero fret. Rock maple neck and tuner support structure. Rosewood soundboard slightly radiused. Sitka spruce soundboard and body framing. Bhutan cypress around the sides. Less than 16" /400mm long, 2" /50mm deep, it would fit in a generous sized pocket.

    It has little sound, and what there is sounds like it is coming down a very old telephone line. I need to smooth out/round over and strengthen the end of the body where the strings go in underneath. The D strings especially were jamming there, and I broke 4 trying to get them up to pitch. Rollers would be good if I can find something suitable. I will also try drilling a couple of soundholes in the soundboard or (one in the side) and fitting a removable back, attached with fridge magnet material.

    As mandolins are about as portable as stringed instruments get, the whole idea might be considered to be a bit pointless, but it has been an interesting exercise in working out a way to make a mandolin as small as possible. Not quite there yet, but even if it doesn't have much sound, a internal piezo pickup and a small headphone amp would make it more practical as a compact travel instrument.

    cheers

    graham
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  2. #2
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    I just love the inventiveness around here

    Keep us informed how this one progresses, John.

  3. #3
    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Nice! How about the brass ends from guitar strings for rollers on a metal bar for an axel.
    Jim Richmond

  4. #4
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Can't wait to see your final tweaks and adjustments to this- I'd buy one in a heartbeat!

    Cheers,
    Jill

  5. #5
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    that is all bracing not contacting the top, just tuner and neck support, I expect.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    The sides look awfully thick. Is that required for structural stability? Also, as mandroid implied, is the top able to move independently? Can't tell too much from pics - and pic#3 needs to be uploaded again or something - doesn't expand.

    But kudos for sheer inventiveness. Now if you could just put in a hinge between the neck and body so the neck could fold down, it could get really small ...
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  7. #7
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    This could be a great addition to the mandolin family. Does it have a back? That might help projection, especially if you cut a side soundport in it. We had a bass player at the series (Charlie Chadwick, with John Jorgenson) who built a killer folding bass.

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    Now this would make a really cool mandolin, and it seems like you're just about there, if it doesn't wreck your original concept...

  8. #8

    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    if you want some acoustic volume then putting a small banjo skin under the bridge instead of solid wood would workor maybe a resonator. but great stuff love it

  9. #9
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    I really like travel mandolins and I have a Risa and a Mederios. I applaud your adding to the genre. A couple of thougts: I think the Risa is a great design, but it doesn't have paired strings and it doesn't have any acoustic soundbox. I have often thought of ways to add another row of tuners and strings and some kind of a soundbox around that basic design. I do like the fact that it has nylon strings. I think for a travel instrument, this solves some problems: First, the string tension is less, so you don't have to beef up the neck and soundbox so much. Also, I've been surprised to find that nylon strings project amazingly well with not much of a soundbox. Sure, steel strings win out with full-sized instruments if you get the soundbox just right, but look at ukuleles: They can produce a lot of sound without much of a body. For a travel instrument, that's all you need.
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  10. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    I actually like the headphone concept and the fact that it is quiet. The instrument you can practice on without waking the family. Pretty cool actually.

  11. #11
    Albert the Magic Pudding Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Thank you for suggestions and comments. The string ball ends as rollers might well work, but I will need two sets of them I think and a diameter of something more like half an inch will work better. I do have a piece of tubing about that size, so that some work over the weekend on that. The structure which holds the tuners only contacts the soundboard under the fingerboard and the last half inch or so before the end. There is a pic in the 'mandolins in progress' thread from a couple of weeks ago, but I have attached it here as well. The sides are only 1/16" thick, it is the bent laminated spruce frame which is bigger. The Bhutan cypress was a bit I have had around for years. I tried making a bouzouki from it years ago, but it is just about impossible to bend. The flame in it is very short grain and it would just snap when bent past the most gentle curve. Stay tuned for the next installment

    cheers

    graham
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  12. #12
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Really cool design.

    BTW I have seen rollers on the nut of an old Shutt style Harmony mandolin.
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  13. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    The only real problem I see with this design is that there isn't a scroll....

  14. #14
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Graham, totally cool...thanks for sharing, as it's neat to see how you think through this thing, and also cool to hear the other wacky ideas out there. That folding base is a great concept, though the folding neck obviously presents some engineering challenges...

    I also like the idea of a pickup/headphone amp with this one...I love my mandobird for quiet practice, but it's still a little too long to fit in a carry-on sized rolling suitcase (I've come so close to taking a saw to the end of the headstock on a couple of occasions, but have resisted thus far). This looks like something that could eventually find a niche...
    Chuck

  15. #15
    Registered User dkinyon31's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Very interesting design.

    Dave

  16. #16
    jsmandolin
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    You might consider a sliding back that would cover the tuning knobs - this would allow the sound to reverberate in the box. That idea of putting in a sound hole is a good idea - maybe you could put two f-holes so that the tuning knobs wouldn't be visible from the front.
    Just some ideas. Good luck!
    -jsmandolin

  17. #17
    cyclo-mandolinist! OzMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Throw a magnetic pickup in that puppy and it'd be sweet! Maybe even a small battery powered headphone amp.

    Very nice work though. Very inventive of you.
    Play on friend, play on...

  18. #18
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    and a lamp. and a nuclear reactor for self-powered amphitheater concerts. and a snack bar, with chili dogs.

  19. #19
    Studies dead guys. Mandoviol's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    You'll have to post a sound file of it so we can all hear how it plays.
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  20. #20
    Registered User parttimepicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    This is timely! I have several sketches of a design very similar to this except with a solid body for use as a quiet practice mando. Thanks for sharing!
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  21. #21
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Occurred to me ... side sound ports , is a good idea, along with that previously mentioned
    sliding back cover..

    other than that I suppose you have to mount the tuners, before you can glue the sides on
    and apply the finish.

    or how else would you get the screwdriver to the tuner mounting screws?

    at least a few side soundholes in the sides will let you get a screwdriver thru them..
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  22. #22
    ...but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    The skeleton body is an M.C.Escheresque work of art in itself (I'd call it "Mandolin in a box"), worth to be displayed in MOMA.

    I wonder how the bridge behaves upon tuning up. Since it is near the moving end of the strings, I'd expect it to shift or tilt - does it?
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  23. #23
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    I like the design and scale of the instrument. I can see one of the bigger makers buying the design and incorporating it into their offerings. I would buy this over a Martin backpacker mandolin.
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  24. #24
    Albert the Magic Pudding Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Thank you Bertram and Jim for your kind remarks. Now, if you know anyone from MOMA or one of the bigger mandolin companies, don't hesitate to tell them to get in touch

    The tuners do have to be screwed into place before adding the sides. I figure I could remove them with a right-angled srewdriver of some sort if it became necessary and there is enough width in the body for them to come out.

    I went off to Bunnings this morning (the local version of Home Depot, in fact almost exactly the same except for different coloured shelving) to find something for the strings to roll over to get to the tuners. I found an anodised aluminium drawer handle 14mm in diameter so I cut a piece of that off to the right length and then cut it in half and epoxied it to the end of the body. It would look neater to inset it into the body, but it would have meant too much work at this stage.

    I cut a soundhole in the side facing the player, 7/8" /22mm diameter with a forstner bit and made a back with the remains of the cypress. Two lengthwise braces are a press fit to the outside frame and hold it in place well enough to try it out. It doesn't fit very well, but it works. I will do a sound clip in the next day or so

    Here are a few pics
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  25. #25
    Registered User big smiley guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Pocket Mandolin

    Very cool. How did you attach the back? I was thinking that it might be cool to attach with some small rare earth magnets.

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