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dschonbrun
Jan-17-2017, 10:23pm
This post is to share my newest mandolin.

Just in from the NorthField workshop, my custom Engelmann top, 5-Bar omnidirectional, wide-necked beauty. This took 9 months from the start of the project until delivery. The color inspiration was from a cabinet outside Adrian's office. It had an old world feel with light sheridan browns and some rawhide for highlight/contrast. We hand-selected a book-matched flame maple back with consistent figure, minimal variation, and extension from the center all the way to the edges of the frame.
The mando has a French Polish finish with a touch of light brown... which is incredibly beautiful and still curing. The color is shifting slightly as it hardens giving more warmth. The neck has minimal varnish "violin/speed neck", which makes it very easy to play.

Fit and finish are lovely. The binding is consistent, and includes fine details both top and sides. The lighter stain requested for this build really demonstrates the beauty of the raw materials, and the high level of artistry and craftsmanship to make them sing.
The headstock inlay is brass wire with abaloney, done in house at the NorthField workshop. It took several months to get the inlay design completed, one of the major delays... but I wanted something that represented Northfield's aesthetic and would be re-used (not a one-off).

And now for the important stuff: how does it sound? I'll be posting some audio files in the near future, but here's a good sense... The mandolin is incredibly warm, resonant, woody, and has sustain of over 40 seconds. The trebles are louder than on my previous mando, making chords and stops much easier to play with balance. It's also crazy loud and responsive... surprised me at first just how loud. It's great to play and listen to. The full contact bridge is superb and Derek did an amazing job with setup.

I played the mandolin in comparison to a few others this week including the following:
1984 Zeidler Carrara
February 1924 Gibson signed by Lloyd Loar
2015 Collings MF5V
2002 Gibson F5 Master Model Fern
1980 Monteleone Grand Master

The old wood of the 1924 had more richness and maturity of sound, and a Loar is a Loar, but it wasn't a huge difference. The Zeidler was quite close sonically, but the Northfield had much more volume and less resonant frequencies to distract the ear.

For $6,700 (retail) including the complex Inlay, Airloom Case, and Airloom Case Cover, I'm quite pleased with the results. After playing it, I'm not surprised that Mike Marshall, Adam Steffey, Don Julin, and Emory Lester choose to play this instrument even though they each own multiple mando's including signed Loar's. To sound this good when it's brand new... it will be fun to hear this open up and grow in the coming years.

The photos were taken before the bridge was mounted. I'll take some other pics of it now that it's fully setup.

Enjoy the photos. Feel free to ping with questions.

Best,
David

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First time I saw the varnished back... I was stunned.
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almeriastrings
Jan-18-2017, 12:18am
That's beautiful. The back is very striking, so much so that I almost thought I recognized it! It is very close indeed to the wood on my older 'Big Mon', which was itself specified with an extra-high grade back. Here they are side-by-side:

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Sounds like you got a really fine mandolin there, anyway. Congratulations!

Enjoy.

dschonbrun
Jan-18-2017, 6:10am
Thanks Almeria... I think it just goes to show that the team at Northfield are getting really great wood stocks and are able to deliver consistently high quality instruments.

Darren Bailey
Jan-18-2017, 6:35am
Every post about Northfield mandolins draws me like a magnet, and they never disappoint. This one's a real stunner, just beautiful. Every chance i get to play one i jump at, they are amazing instruments. Thanks for sharing, look forward to hearing it.

JSanta
Jan-18-2017, 7:44am
I'm glad that belongs to someone here! I saw the back of that instrument on Northfield's Instagram, and have a picture of saved amongst my rotating desktop backgrounds. Everything about that instrument is just perfect. Hopefully you can post a few soundclips and/or vidoes!

guidoStow
Jan-18-2017, 8:31am
Wow. What a beautiful instrument. Enjoy!

Drew Streip
Jan-18-2017, 8:51am
Now THAT'S how you do a speed neck! I've never liked the look of a stark contrast from stain to raw wood, whether done at the factory or aftermarket.

If I ever upgrade from my Eastman, Northfield is on my short list. Congrats on the beautiful new baby.

AlanN
Jan-18-2017, 9:27am
Lovely. The headstock inlay is delicate and gorgeous. I also like the oval-shaped T/R cover. Is that pickguard your design? And how do you like the case and cover?

dschonbrun
Jan-18-2017, 11:24am
Drew, they are selling my F5S amber (after Derek polishes the frets). If you're interesting in an incredible Mando in lovely condition after 1 year of regular play, at a discount off new, call Peter and get on the list for "David's F5SA." It comes with an Airloom case.

dschonbrun
Jan-18-2017, 11:35am
The pickguard is their design, stock for artists... it's real ebony, triple bound, brushed satin finish. I love the case, and like the cover. I chose to cut down the case feet to half depth so they don't protrude as much (it's easy... they are a rubberized polymer). The cover is the first design iteration and fits the case quite nicely. Great canvas and fleece, light but sturdy. It's well finished, and looks great. I do question the rectangular cutout for the handle, but that's minor. Because I live in New England, and since my small dog case has backpack straps and fits over the Airloom cover, I'm actually "double bagging". It helps the instrument stay in tune, and provides more cushion for air travel.

Best, David

CES
Jan-18-2017, 12:44pm
Gorgeous mandolin! Those guys/gals are doing some amazing work! Agree, the inlay is very tastefully done!!

Johnny60
Jan-18-2017, 1:07pm
Stunning back - and I love the design on the headstock.

Cecily_Mandoliner
Jan-18-2017, 1:59pm
What a lovely instrument! Enjoy!

Bill Slovin
Jan-18-2017, 7:49pm
Beautiful mandolin David. Enjoy!

Clement Barrera-Ng
Jan-18-2017, 9:10pm
Just gorgeous and congrats. Hands down best headstock inlay I have ever seen.

bigskygirl
Jan-18-2017, 10:04pm
Beautiful and congrats! I absolutely love my Northfield F5M, I was able to play two of the AS last summer and they are great, the headstock inlay is awesome!

Don Grieser
Jan-19-2017, 7:41am
Very very nice. +1 on the headstock inlay. Exquisite.

AlanN
Jan-21-2017, 7:44am
I chose to cut down the case feet to half depth so they don't protrude as much (it's easy... they are a rubberized polymer).

I just removed the 4 bottom feet (they unscrew, I found out...lol). They weren't needed with the cover on and can be re-installed at any time. And, the cover fits better without them.


I do question the rectangular cutout for the handle.

I like it, as it allows a flush cover-to-case look and feel. And no under-the-handle cover flap, as other cases sport. A very good thing. Funny, when I first got the cover, I couldn't figure out how it went on, and I put it on upsidedown and backwards :)):mandosmiley:

Denny Gies
Jan-21-2017, 8:44am
I already hit "thanks" for sharing these photos with us but have to say, what a beaut.

dschonbrun
Jan-21-2017, 8:11pm
I just removed the 4 bottom feet (they unscrew, I found out...lol). They weren't needed with the cover on and can be re-installed at any time. And, the cover fits better without them.



I like it, as it allows a flush cover-to-case look and feel. And no under-the-handle cover flap, as other cases sport. A very good thing. Funny, when I first got the cover, I couldn't figure out how it went on, and I put it on upsidedown and backwards :)):mandosmiley:

I didn't completely remove the feet, because there is a female screw mount that protrudes about 1/4" from the case. You'd have to grind those down if you remove the feet completely, otherwise they might puncture the case cover.

Best, David

- - - Updated - - -


I already hit "thanks" for sharing these photos with us but have to say, what a beaut.

I'm working on some new pieces with my teacher, will share audio files shortly. It sounds incredible; the D and A strings have a bell-like quality that is amazingly pure.

Best,
David

AlanN
Jan-21-2017, 8:28pm
I didn't completely remove the feet, because there is a female screw mount that protrudes about 1/4" from the case. You'd have to grind those down if you remove the feet completely, otherwise they might puncture the case cover.


Interesting. No such screw mounts exist on my case; simply threaded screw holes, flush to the shell.

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-22-2017, 5:05am
It seems that maybe Northfield have changed the method of attachment for the feet screws.
A '' protruding female screw mount'' sounds as though it was an afterthought when the case was finished. Drill a hole & 'glue' in a threaded bush for the screws. Usually when something like that is required,a piece of 'some material' ie. Tufnol / Nylon or 'whatever', is layed up with the laminates as part of the construction & then drilled & threaded to take the screws. The technique is most common in types of sandwich construction but can be used in fiberglass / CF layup. It simply provides a non-delaminating strong point in which the screws are fitted,
Ivan;)

AlanN
Jan-22-2017, 6:12am
A likely scenario, Ivan. This case is v1 and Adrian has talked of a 'Son of Airloom' in the works. I have supplied some ideas heretofore, where an awesome case can be made even awesomer....:mandosmiley:

LKinser
Jan-22-2017, 1:40pm
Awesome looking mandolin, I bet it sounds as good as it looks.

dschonbrun
Jan-22-2017, 8:36pm
Actually, This is the newest version and it has some small changes from the v1 proto that I had previously, and so it's not an afterthought. The female threaded post is a T-nut, and is inserted from the inside of the case through a small hole. It was done during production, prior to the foam and fabric being laid down.

That said, there are opportunities for improvement of the case. Numerous customers have provided feedback. The boys at Northfield are very customer centric and love to tinker.

Best,
D

DataNick
Jan-22-2017, 8:52pm
That wood is crazy! Awesome looking instrument, and I'm sure it sounds great, congrats!

dschonbrun
Feb-06-2017, 10:57am
I know many people had been asking about the Airloom Case Cover recently. While I've been very happy with it's fit and finish, I wanted to have backpack straps as an option. Attached, please find pics of some customization I did on the cover to add backpack strap connections. It was very easy, can be done by anyone with a basic knowledge of sewing and a modern machine in about 15-20 minutes. I used 1.5" polypro webbing and a black metal D-ring.

The materials to make the conversion cost me about $6, and a set of aftermarket backpack straps from pro-tec instrument cases were $15. This allows me to have a backpack when I want it, and remove the straps when I don't. It's simple, sleek, and light.

To make it comfortable, I cut down the feet on the case-bottom by half, and added another layer of fleece-backed thinsulate on one face (inside). It carries very easily and is super comfortable; I'm travelling today and will test it in the airport and on the plane.

Hope you enjoy the photos. Feel free to PM with questions.

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