View Full Version : Introducing the Haywood Mini Camper Suitcase Travel Mandolin

Tom Haywood
May-14-2018, 2:41pm
167689 167690

Introducing the Haywood Mini Camper Suitcase Travel Mandolin.

Designed and constructed in the same spirit as the Army/Navy (A/N) mandolins of old., this mandolin (Serial #0018) is designed to travel in a standard 27” suitcase rather than a duffel bag or knapsack and to withstand the rigors of modern travel without the need for a separate case. It is the perfect practice mandolin for sitting in a hotel room or at home. Small in size but not in tone or volume, there is no embarrassment in taking this one out to a jam – even to a bluegrass jam.

The 13” scale length is necessary to achieve the correct mandolin length (23.5”) and to get the bridge in the correct location for full resonance of the top. It does result in a little bit of an “old fashioned” sound, but frankly it sounds better than the other small mandolins I've heard. The scale actually has improved my ability to see and use larger sections of the fret board as I play, which is an unexpected bonus. This mandolin is designed and braced for J 74 or other medium gauge strings. The Macassar ebony fret board is very comfortable to play and adds substantial strength overall. The medium sized frets and the custom shaped one-piece maple neck (1 1/8” at the nut) add to the ease and comfort of playing. The neck has a solid non-adjustable steel truss rod. The one-piece bridge and the hand made bone nut set the strings to a medium-low action, resulting in excellent playability and intonation. The cloud tailpiece provides a good resting place for the forearm.

This is a very niche instrument, but it was made necessary by my particular travel needs. Thanks for looking.


May-14-2018, 4:07pm
Looks really cool, Tom! I like that you can string it up with 74s. Can’t go any higher than 62s on my 1N, and it’s too long to fit in the new/smaller carry on size bags...intrigued...

Marty Jacobson
May-14-2018, 4:51pm
Looks great, Tom. Next you should work on a travel-sized symphonic gong. :-)

Tom Haywood
May-15-2018, 7:32am
This was the test drive before it was completed.


Tom Haywood
May-17-2018, 11:10am
Can’t go any higher than 62s on my 1N, and it’s too long to fit in the new/smaller carry on size bags...intrigued...

This one should fit in a 24" carry-on. The idea was to be able to pack clothing on all sides. That might not be possible with the 24" suitcase, but it might not be necessary as long as your bag isn't gate checked.

Looks great, Tom. Next you should work on a travel-sized symphonic gong. :-)

Marty, the day I have to fly with the 32" gong is the day I'll start designing a travel size. So far, the orchestras aren't calling. As usual, you've gotten right to the heart of the dilemma - how do you take a successful instrument, shrink it, and retain an acceptable level of volume, tone and playability.

Tom Haywood
May-21-2018, 9:23pm
This mandolin came into being mainly because of traveling on airlines and traveling for extended periods of time. It seemed to me that the only way around the airline carry-on issues is to have the mandolin in checked baggage. Then it needs to be in my suitcase so that it ends up wherever my luggage is. Then it needs to be small enough to be well padded in the suitcase but not displace necessary clothing. And it needs to be strong enough to survive baggage handlers slamming the suitcase onto the pavement a few times with all their might. (I could have written that Thile song.) Finally, it needs to sound good and play well because, after all, I have a $50 Rogue that's as good as it can be and I don't want to get stuck playing it for an extended time or with other players. I could not find any mandolin that fit all the requirements, so I designed and built it. Inspiration came from seeing old citterns that are good instruments designed to travel in carriage trunks, the Gibson Army/Navy mandolins that sound pretty good and were designed to travel in nap sacks, and the design changes I built into a campfire style mandolin that produced a big sound. I had no idea how it would work out for a suitcase size, but the design was fundamentally sound and the result exceeds my expectations. I'll get some sound from the finished instrument posted before long.

Paul Busman
May-22-2018, 7:23am
Dang that's cute! What will those be selling for? PM if you'd rather.
I probably can't afford one right now but if you want to lend me one, I'd be glad to field test it in Northern Ireland in June :grin:

Tom Haywood
May-22-2018, 12:58pm
Now for something a little more different.


Tom Haywood
Jul-22-2018, 11:22am
Proud to say that this one passed the test with "flying colors". Thrown into a suitcase with the usual travel stuff around it, it went through two very busy airports twice and traveled in checked baggage without any problems at all. I left it tuned up to pitch for the flights and bus travel, and both times it was perfectly in tune coming out of the suitcase. I saw the suitcase thrown down several times by baggage handlers, and I watched quite a few heavy suitcases being stacked on top of it at the airport. Twice, I placed the suitcase in the hold of a bus on the bottom with about twenty heavy suitcases dropped in on top of it. With the outside temperature around 90 degrees. And it handled an hour and a half solo performance mid-week supporting a group of folks singing along. You never know when you design one from scratch how it will work out.


Tom Haywood
Nov-22-2018, 11:26am
I'm feeling great confidence about this mandolin design now. I've been traveling and living out of this standard 25" soft side suitcase for over two months. It may be the largest mandolin gig bag out there, but it sure is nice to not worry at all about the safety of my mandolin with various modes of transportation or to have to carry it separately and juggle with my other carry-ons. It has been nice also to play it on two occasions with professional musicians playing fine instruments and not be at all disappointed with the sound.


The only issue with it has been a slight bit of finish damage caused by a light weight plastic bag from the dry cleaners when I set some clean clothes on top of the mandolin. The damage is too light to show up in photos. The finish is a sprayed on nitrocellulose lacquer topped with french polished shellac. A full finish repair should be quick and easy when I get home.