View Full Version : Jacobson #7 - "Basilisk" Pseudo-arched Celtic

Marty Jacobson
Jan-22-2004, 11:35am
Cheeriest greetings, everyone!

It's great to see how this board continues to thrive; thanks to Mr. Tichenor and everyone who contributes their expertise and curiosity.

This is the inaugural mandolin from my new set of plans, the first one in which all the issues have been resolved. It was designed for a particular customer, so if you happen to think itís perhaps a bit overboard on the mythological ornamenation, you are probably correct. I find it rather attractive, however, and personally, Iím partial to dragons, celtic knots, flaming swords (engraved in ivory on the headstock), as well as untranslated bits of Beowulf written in Tengwar script (engraved on the tailpiece).

Extensive use was made of an X-660 laser cutter throughout the process, used primarily for registration points, templates and the like Ė all binding, inlay, tuning and voicing was done by hand.

Back, sides, and neck are of Bubinga rosewood, which lends a bit of clarion crispness to an instrument which otherwise might be rendered muddy by the depth and size of the air chamber.

The soundhole, as you probably have noticed, is admittedly unconventional, but I hope you donít find it obnoxious. Each instrument of this type, of course, can be customized with more traditional or even more modernistic appointments. I do strive to maintain a tasteful aesthetic in all of my instruments, however. If anyone happens to find it a bit over-the-top, please let me know, that information would be highly appreciated.

The top is Sitka spruce from Bruce Harvie, and one of the strongest, lightest pieces I have had the opportunity to implement. However, the dragon contains some very delicate elements, indeed, and requires a bit of reinforcement. Bracing scheme is ďparallelĒ tone bars, after (another) miserable failure using X-bracing on a prototype. X-bracing just doesnít seem to jive with me, and the tone bars work splendidly on this instrument.

Iím not at all ashamed of the tone, please listen for yourself: Sound Clip of Basilisk #2 (http://www.runslinux.net/~noellej/mando/basilisk1.mp3)
Unfortunately, Iím not much of a celtic mandolinist, and my recording setup (or lack thereof) lends a rather tinny timbre to the instrument. In actuality, if there would be any criticism of the tone from a celtic mandolinist, it would be that itís not bright enough. Sustain is ridiculously strong, better than any true flat-top celtic mandolin Iíve played.

The top, by the way, is flat underneath, but carved on top. I think this looks blazingly frisk, and compared to my previous prototype, it seems to sound much better.

This gets shipped off to Texas tomorrow morning.

Thanks for viewing the pictures. Cheers!

Marty Jacobson
Jan-22-2004, 11:37am
Sorry for the pictures being intermittent, folks.. it's fixed now, courtesy of my ridiculously cool sister, Noelle.



Marty Jacobson
Jan-22-2004, 11:40am


Marty Jacobson
Jan-22-2004, 11:41am



Jan-22-2004, 11:53am
Looks great! I love that top color. Taking us into the future...

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-22-2004, 11:57am
Outstanding design.........well done..I love the "wine" concept. #Excellent "snakehead" variation...nice tailpiece design

Jan-22-2004, 1:47pm

Congrats on your latest project! I really enjoyed some of your earlier designs, too, though I forget if you mentioned them here or on the comando list. I see you have a new web-site at http://www.martinjacobson.com, but I don't see all the designs I remember there. Please add to the instrument pictures when you get a chance.

You are broadening mandolin design. Keep it up.


Chris Baird
Jan-22-2004, 2:16pm
Very elegant design. #From reading your description I was expecting something gaudy. All the ornamentation is well done and "in balance". #The only thing that doesn't quite hit my eye right is that it is so round. #I think however, that I'm just in the rut of tradition there. #It also has a beautiful tone. #I do hear a little intonation problem but that may be my speakers; a few too many chladni experiments. #Anyway, beautiful mandolin.

Tom C
Jan-22-2004, 4:14pm
Very nice and original.

Bob DeVellis
Jan-22-2004, 5:07pm
A really handsome instrument.

Jan-22-2004, 5:43pm

John Ely
Jan-22-2004, 6:08pm
Lovely work. I wouldn't go for the dragon soundhole myself, but that's just a matter of taste. #The peghead design is nice, and I like the tailpiece. The only suggestion I would make would be to make the design of the scrim on the heel of the neck follow the shape of the heel more.

Jan-22-2004, 9:45pm
Very Nice!

Jan-22-2004, 10:41pm
EXCELLENT! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

Jan-23-2004, 3:14pm
Very pretty mando Martin. Great details and appointments. Very original and executed in the most tasteful ways.

Marty Jacobson
Jan-23-2004, 11:02pm
Thanks everyone, for the encouraging comments. I wasnít sure if this would receive a tepid response, since it is much bolder than most celtic instruments. I think that after two years of fiddling around, Iíve finally come up with a design thatís basic and elegant enough in and of itself that it can be extensively personalized without becoming overwrought. F-5ís are remarkably beautiful creatures, but a dragon soundhole on an F would be sacrilege.

Now, just to find a someone that wants an Art Nouveau motif, which could be very classy. I can also imagine some clean turquoise and stirling silver inlay on a southwestern-themed one, maybe with mesquite back and sides and a black topÖ

Once again, your comments and kind words are much appreciated. I hope that I may yet be able to turn this into more than a mere hobby. Thanks to this board, of course- collectively, you all are the best instructor Iíve ever had.

The intonation problem was probably due to the fact that I hadnít really done a full setup at that pointóI know, shame and for shame, but the initial enthusiasm of a newly-built mandolin is liable to carry one away.

If you get a chance, let me know if you still hear an intonation discrepancy. Iíve recorded these with a slightly better setup.
Basilisk Clip 2 (http://www.runslinux.net/~noellej/mando/basilisk-cut-2.mp3)
Basilisk Clip 3 (http://www.runslinux.net/~noellej/mando/basilisk-cut-3.mp3)

Jan-24-2004, 4:12am
Coolest mando I have ever seen. As soon as I have the money I want one too http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jan-24-2004, 12:19pm
I think it's very tasteful, with the exception of the soundhole. But then again, that is probably the feature that will get it the most notice, so maybe it's not all bad!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Jan-24-2004, 4:44pm
Very nicely executed. Tasteful...fun..beautiful. Someone is going to be very pleased. Thanks for showing us all.

Bob Sayers
Jan-25-2004, 10:16pm
A fabulous design. #The clean shape, offset soundhole (I love the stylized dragon), and minimal ornamentation lend it both a Celtic and an Asian feel. #It's really refreshing to see someone doing something a bit different. Hearty congratulations, Martin! I hope this launches you on a full-time career in luthiery.


Chris Baird
Jan-25-2004, 10:44pm
The intonation sounds better.

Jan-26-2004, 6:07am
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif I can't see the pictures? is there anything wrong?

Jan-26-2004, 10:13am
I can't see 'em either, and the link to Martin's new website doesn't resolve.

Jan-26-2004, 11:12am
Great looking mando - elegant and not at all "over the top." #As I read your description, I was expecting something really gaudy and outrageous. #This looks great, and of course, it's totally unique. #Nice work!

Jan-26-2004, 11:42am
I think it's lovely, and that the soundhole design is also... obviously unconventional and not everyone's cup of tea. I'm wondering about the decision to have only one soundhole... how this impacts the sound/projection, etc. and if the lack thereof has any positive effects (perhaps supports the sustain?)
Just wondering,

Marty Jacobson
Jan-26-2004, 5:00pm
Sorry about the pictures not loading, everyone, my web server's pretty flakey, but it usually comes back up after an hour or two. I really ought to get that taken care of. *sheepish grin*

A conventional soundhole for a celtic mandolin is an oval or circle, roughly the same distance from the bridge, except located between the bridge and the fretboard. I have noticed no detrimental impact due to offset soundholes, and many argue that in some cases they are an improvement. I don't know enough to say conclusively one way or the other. Everything you do effects the sound in some way or another, but for this mandolin to sound as good as it does, it can't be all that detrimental to the sound, eh?


Jan-26-2004, 9:23pm

Jan-27-2004, 4:08am
That's what I was going to say...WOW. Not only to the beautiful mandolin, but the sound clips too!

Jan-27-2004, 2:41pm
awesome I dig it all the way, sounds "F" ish, couldn't get to the website, but I am intruigued - what's the round about price and the expected wait?
Do you install pickups?

Jan-27-2004, 2:59pm
Very impressive original design. Not overblown at all. The dragon is gorgeous.

Marty Jacobson
Jan-27-2004, 8:04pm
Thanks for your interest and comments, everyone.

Timothy, I have experience building and repairing electric guitars, a pickup or two would be no worry whatsoever. I'm assuming you're thinking of a piezo pickup; admittedly I don't know very much about the particular brands and models available for mandolins, but that's a problem that this board could clear up pretty quickly, should the need arise. A semihollow or solid electric of this type could be rather interesting, too.

This mandolin type is intended for the sub-$1500 price range. (Weber Absaroka, etc.) I think I give them a pretty stiff run for their money in terms of both tone and looks; but that's for each to decide for himself. The fixed price of the instrument would be agreed upon after the design is completed; design is billed by the hour. Considering the fact that I don't provide "options" for the player, but actually create each element from the ground up, I think this is a fair arrangement. How long the design takes and how well it turns out has a lot to do with how much feedback I get from the player.

All the best!

Jan-28-2004, 5:56pm
Martin - I am considering my next purchase , and your price range is certainly acceptable.
a custom built instrument is more appealing to me than a factory stock, or even old gibson, as so far I have had great luck in this arena.
so while I can not commit at this time, I will keep your
presence in mind.
I am looking for a mandolin, stressing tone and play ability above all else, more importantly I am not looking for "bluegrass" tone, or even specifically Celtic or Classical for that matter.
I do prefer a wider neck and fretboard than say an F5, and really go for long sustain, prefering a darker tone.
The sound files for your baselsik seem to fit the tone, so who knows.

Jan-29-2004, 10:24pm
I can't get over the back...that Bubinga rosewood is something else!! What a beautiful grain!

mad dawg
Jan-30-2004, 3:09pm
Absolutely beeeee-U-teeeful!

Jan-30-2004, 7:25pm
What can I add to the comments?
Clean lines, well-executed, tasty, unpretentious, gutsy, pushing the envelope, classy, slick.
Kudos, man, and keep up the good work!

Bill Snyder
Feb-01-2004, 12:50am
I think the instrument looks great. But I am curious - you said the top is flat on bottom but carved on top. How thick does that make the top?


Feb-01-2004, 8:28am
Awesome!! it looks great! but the sound clip does not work for me:( oh well.. seeing it is enough

Marty Jacobson
Feb-04-2004, 12:57pm
The top graduations, Curious, are naturally much less pronounced than typical arched instruments. The top starts out at .110 overall, with nominally .30 of graduation in the recurve, a bit more on the bass side. The neck angle is significantly less than typical arched-top instruments, in order that the break angle, and corresponding pressure on the top, should correspond to the lighter weight of the top.

Mr. Garrity, thanks for the kind words. Considering your reputation and contributions to mandolin aesthetics, it is all the more appreciated.
Thanks, as well, to everyone who's viewed and contributed to this thread.

All the best,


Bill Snyder
May-20-2005, 5:51pm
Does anyone know what has happened to Martin Jacobson? He has not posted in over a year and his website has basically disapeared. Does he still build? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

May-21-2005, 7:13am
I hope so. He did some great looking pieces.

Jun-08-2005, 7:50pm
aren't you afraid of the structure of the soundhole, it looks like one good knock would ruin it... anwho, it's an amazing loking mando, the tailpiece is my favorite.