I don't recall the first Nugget Mandolin I heard or played. I simply remember that when it came time to upgrade a mandolin I'd played and loved dearly for over 16 years there was only one logical choice and it was a clear one.
Mike Kemnitzer builds the finest new mandolin in the world today in my opinion. I will speak only for myself, but I know my opinion is shared by a number of Nugget owners when I say that his instruments are equal with the best on the planet, including yesterdays vintage Gibsons.
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Nugget mandolins are born sounding exceptionally warm and bright. I consider myself as someone with exceptionally high expectations when it comes to sound. When I played my new instrument shortly after receiving it, and when others played it as well, we were all astounded that a new instrument could sound this good.
Other Nugget owners: Tim O'Brien, Butch Baldassari, Don Stiernberg, Dawn Watson, Charlie Provenza, Dave Hardy, Dave Wilson, Roger Gagos, Tom Sanderson, Wayne Beezley, Lance Brittain, Terry Handley, Caleb Roberts, Christian Seguret, Michael Whitlow, Ed Neff (#1), Howie Tarnower (#2), Steve Bauer (#39), Lance Billitzer (#50), Allyn B Whitehouse (#54), Sandy Munro (#62), Mark Epstein (#67), Alan Epstein (#68), Sam Broyles (#69), Danny Gotham (#83), Mike Iverson (#86), Rudi Ekstein (#87), Andy Langford (#99), Ray Legere (#110), Betsy Rome (#102), Robin Flower (#107), Dave Firestine (#108), Mike Hall (#123), Pat Japenga (#128), Steve Whalen (#138), Robb Brophy (#148), Geoff Clarkson (#155), Scott Tichenor (#159), Brad Johnson (#156), Ernie Obermaier (#163), Gary Johnson (#170), Bill Williams (#181), Steven Tomlin (#192), Keith Baumann (#195), Don Grieser (#198), Drew Carson (#208), Jeff Horne (#212), Bob Becker (#214), Kathleen Gustafson (#217), Tom Martin (#218), Scott Tichenor (#233), Ted Farha (#246), Sandy Munro (#261) and many others.
The information that follows is taken from Mike Kemnitzer's correspondence for prospective buyers and is reprinted with his permission.
Nugget mandolins, mandolas, octave mandolins and mandocellos are entirely built by Mike Kemnitzer. Every effort is taken to assure that each aspect of the instrument is of the highest quality. For example:
- The tops and backs are acoustically tuned to assure maximum tone quality, responsiveness and balance.
- The bridges are matched acoustically to each instrument and intonated to match the strings of the customer's choosing. The bridges, tops and backs are crafted from old and exceptionally resonant wood.
- The string nuts are made from select mother-of-pearl shell.
- The tailpieces are made from heavier than standard material and hand engraved by myself before plating.
- The sunburst is applied by hand to bring out the maximum figure and character of the wood.
- The instrument's tone and beauty are enhanced by varnish from my own recipe.
- Before installing, Schaller tuning machines (the best available) are completely reworked to achieve smoother tuning.
Nugget mandolins and mandolas are available in three body styles: the F-5, Two-Point and " A". Each style is available in the Standard or Deluxe and the difference is explained below.
The Standard Model F-5 is my attempt to reproduce the Loar mandolins of the 1920's. I have been fortunate to have worked on and studied several of these instruments over the years. They have been a major inspiration and it's their spirit that I try to capture in my mandolins. The Deluxe Model F-5 has elaborate bindings, intricate inlay, very fancy maple and gold-plated hardware.
The Nugget Two-Point mandolins are a definite departure from the F-5 design. The offset points and slightly elongated body give the top a greater vibrating surface. As well, the Two-Point instruments have S holes, cast tailpieces and other unique features. These instruments' tone and responsiveness makes them well suited for a wide range of musical styles.
The Nugget "A" Style mandolins are essentially F-5s without the points and curl. The archings and graduations of the top and back, as well as the f-hole placement and scale length, are identical to that of the F-5. These instruments have a very open and sweet sound.
Standard and Deluxe Models
Standard models are made of curly maple for the back, neck, and sides. Select aged spruce is used for the top. The fingerboard and headstock overlay are made of ebony. Viewed from the sides of the instrument, the Standard model shows white/black/white binding around the body, fingerboard and headstock. This model is inlaid with your choice of tasteful designs and the Nugget logo. All of the metal hardware is nickel plated.
Deluxe models are made from beautifully flamed curly maple, bold in character. The tops are from the finest aged spruce, the fingerboard and overlay are from choice aged black ebony. White/black/white binding is used throughout (visible from the front and back of the instruments as well as from the sides). Your choice of inlay for the headstock ranges from tastefully understated to very intricate and ornate. All hardware is gold plated.
Wood used on the Deluxe instruments is the very highest quality, but I only use choice aged wood. The Standard style instruments are definitely professional quality.
I have been custom making mandolins since the early 1970's for professional and serious musicians. Only time proven methods of construction are used and all assembly takes place in a climate controlled work space. I take a great deal of pride in my selection of fine aged tone-woods and the meticulous care that goes into each instrument.
I unconditionally guarantee your complete satisfaction upon receiving the instrument. All instruments are guaranteed to the original owner for life (mine).
Reprinted with permission from Michael Kemnitzer, Nugget Mandolins. For additional information contact Mike Kemnitzer, P.O. Box 264, Central Lake, MI 49622.