View Full Version : Spira Mandola

Sep-20-2005, 11:45am
Hi folks, hereís some photos of my new mandola from Australian luthier Jack Spira. #16.5 inch scale, top is sitka, back/sides Australian blackwood, trim/neck is rose mahogany, fretboard/head veneer is ringed gidgee. #These pictures donít do it justice and it sounds better than it looks; really sings. #

Jack was great to deal with throughout, very helpful, patient and flexible with all design aspects; kept me well informed of construction status, including photos. #He was also concerned throughout with my 100% satisfaction (Iím satisfied!). #I found the price to very reasonable and an excellent value in terms of sound and workmanship quality for $ spent. # Took about 6 months from order to completion; probably would have been a tad quicker if I hadnít dithered over some of the design decisions.

There was discussion on the CBOM board of larger instruments falling on a scale from guitar-like to mandolin-like. # This is towards the guitar-like end, probably due to the fixed bridge, but it goes off into another dimension. #Phil GE described his #Spira mandola as having harpsichord and piano in it, and I donít think I can do better than that. #Itís a great combination of sweetness and sustain but also has a punch and clarity that rings.

Sep-20-2005, 11:46am

Sep-20-2005, 11:48am
soundhole. the little black wheel is a volume control for a baggs rt pickup, with endpin jack preamp. I've only had the chance to play it thru an old princeton tube amp - seemed to be fine, but its not a good acoustic amp so i'm reserving judgement

Sep-20-2005, 11:49am

Sep-20-2005, 11:50am

Sep-20-2005, 11:52am

Sep-20-2005, 11:54am
Last one. Thanks to everybody who responded to my questions during the design process. The cafe folks were a great resource.

Sep-20-2005, 11:55am
well, one more.

Sep-20-2005, 1:22pm
Congratulations, Cedwyn! If yours is anything like mine, and I'm sure it's as good, if not better, you'll be immensely pleased with it and spend many enjoyable hours playing it.


Bob DeVellis
Sep-20-2005, 4:44pm
Great looking instrument!

Sep-20-2005, 8:01pm
I loved the soundclip Phil posted of his. I"m sure yours will be great as well. Don't think this guy will stay hidden too much longer. Maybe I should have gone ahead and put myself on his list....oh well.

Sep-21-2005, 12:49pm
As I'd hoped, it sounds very much like Phil's. I've got some heavier strings to try out on it to see what they'll do to the sound, but so far I've been having too much fun to put them on. Jack does deserve to be less "hidden." I found Jack based on Phil and Dolamon's postings (Dolamon's got three spiras, i think); hopefully this will spur a few more folks to track him down. I think he makes a lot of bouzoukis and OMs as well as mandolins and guitars.

Sep-21-2005, 9:13pm
gooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggg ggggggggggggggggggreeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooo
oooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssssss ssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !11111

Bertram Henze
Sep-22-2005, 5:38am
I've got some heavier strings to try out on it to see what they'll do to the sound
When I put heavier strings on my Fylde OM I had to tighten the truss rod half a turn. You want to be careful with heavier strings, since this instrument apparently has no adjustable truss rod to counter the higher tension - would be a pity to bend the neck of such a beauty. Also, it is better to let the original strings break in first, check the sound, then let them age a little bit, check again, then reconsider.


Sep-22-2005, 7:44am
For reference, visit this page on the Cafe board (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=15;t=11226;hl=spira+and+man dola) to view discussion of my Spira Mandola when I'd just received it.

For credit where credit's due, Dolamon's instrument and his enthusiam for Jack's work inspired my order. Unfortunately, I can't find any pix of his in the archives - may have been posted before the last update to the board software.

Sep-22-2005, 11:25am
Thanks for the caution Bertram. The string I am most interested in changing is the C string, which I find a bit flappy at 0.47. I just read Phil's thread from when his spira was new, and he went from 0.46 to 0.48 on his 17-inch scale for the same reason; mine's a 16.5-scale so a little flappier at the same string diameter. I ran some string tension calculations and I should have some room to change. It does have an adjustable truss rod, but I'll be patient all the same and let it play itself in before messing around with it. Jack had first strung it with lighter strings but he changed them out before shipping it because he felt that although it played fine it didn't stay in tune well enough (this was his first instrument at this scale length).

I mentioned string changing to the folks I play with, and their response was to ask why I would think of doing anything to change an instrument that sings like that - another reason to take it slow.

Sep-22-2005, 7:27pm
Truss rod adjustment on a Spira ... Jack hides his truss rod adjustments inside the body of the instrument. If you look towards the neck block, just under the fretboard you'll notice an allen head adjustment bolt, about an inch inboard from the sound hole. I seem to recall it used a five mm head and required about a quarter turn to get the neck back perfectly in adjustment. I used a 1/4 inch socket set with an allen head set for a really simple, clean adjustment. I think Jack actually sent me a wrench to adjust it ... you may want to look in the case. Bertram, as far as the neck wood goes ... whether it's the Victorian Ash or the Queensland maple, they are both really solid neck woods.

Cedwyn, I had to go up to a .052 on the C course to get a really amazingly solid sound. This took just a bit of tweaking on the bridge to get everything to work together (I had to trim the end of the windings to get the strings to sit flat on the bridge - the posts were a bit close on mine, but I think Jack changed that for other versions). The rest of the set I use on both the Mandola (405mm) and the Spira O/M (537mm) are Elixer NanoWeb C (as mentioned above) - .052, G - .035, D - .022 and a plain .014 for the A course.

What still amazes me about the Spira mandola, besides being truly HUGE sounding on single string playing is the power and capability in full four string chords. This is the ONLY mandola I've ever owned or played which can sound great with all four strings fretted in a closed position. Jazz chords excell and Dan Hicks rhythm pieces just soar on it.

Congratulations Cedwyn - I know you'll be increasingly elated with it. Now if I can just find the pictures of my big mandolins (and the new Spira Tenor Guitar) I'd really be a happy picker.

Bertram Henze
Sep-23-2005, 12:44am
Ok, I had half a mind to suspect the truss rod might be hidden inside the body but could see nothing on the pictures - glad everything's in good hands.
Maybe one of these days I might have a go at one of these, though I am not so much into pinbridges.