View Full Version : Mandolin Design Project

Feb-05-2004, 1:58pm
Hi, All,
I have taken a keen interest in the mandolin Symposium of late, as it seems like the type of project which will benefit all of us here on some level.
About a year ago, Dennis Benjamin (Spare Change) and I were talking about design over a cup of coffee in my shop, and Dennis planted a seed in my brain. He thought that the idea of a community-designed instrument would be a fun project, to get everyone's opinions and input as to what they would like to see in their dream mandolin.
I recently acquired an absolutely stunning set of quilted maple back and sides. Coupled with a curly maple neck and a Master Grade spruce top plate, we're talking about quite the mandolin here.
What I would like to hear from the Cafe community is what you envision this instrument to look like from an aesthetic point of view. Cobalt blue? Avant-garde F-holes? Wild inlay work?
I'll try to take different elements and ideas and concepts and meld them into an artistically cohesive design. I'll document the progress of our joint effort and post photos in the appropriate section as the mandolin evolves.
This is a fun opportunity for everyone to contribute to a high-end mandolin, and so I hope that the response is great.
This mandolin will be offered for sale, probably in the 5-6K range, with 10% of the proceeds going to the Symposium Scholarship Fund.
Okay, I'm putting it out there. You guys and gals have carte blanche as to it's design. Have fun!

Ted Eschliman
Feb-05-2004, 2:02pm
Cobalt blue? Avant-garde F-holes? Wild inlay work?
Oh yeah!...
You got my attention.

Keith Wallen
Feb-05-2004, 3:01pm
Wow that sounds cool. I have never thought about what my dream mandolin would look like but I will try to contribute if I can come up with something.

Feb-05-2004, 3:13pm
the Mandolin Cafe model could have a coffee cup inlay no?

great idea for a community mando!
hats off to ya'

Feb-05-2004, 3:13pm
Red and black striped binding. Dragon on the inlay, like its curling itself around the finger board and then make its head visible around the fifth fret. On the sides should be an actual flame design, flame as in fire, starting from the edge of the binding on the front with the crest of the flame almost touching the binding on the back. Make the headstock slightly angular with a small flame emblem in something shiny http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif
Just my thoughts!
Kind of involved...but if you're going to dream, dream big!

Jim Garber
Feb-05-2004, 3:52pm
Could be sort of the camel of mandolins: a horse designed by a committee. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Go ahead, please everyone (or no one) ... F5 carved top with scroll onna bowlback Calace style with a Rickenbacker light show and electric humbuckers...stop me now!!!!


Christine W
Feb-05-2004, 4:46pm
I Like the cobalt blue idea with the inlay being JRR Tolkien influenced. As in an elvish design like you would see in Rivendell (celtic influenced ).
Can you all tell what I've been watching.:D

John Flynn
Feb-05-2004, 5:01pm
Two things I always wanted to see someone try:

1) A false back, like high-end mountain dulcimers have, that would act in the same way a Tone Gard would, but would be permanent part of the instrument.

2) An integral wooden arm rest that would be a part of the design and color scheme, rather than an add on.

I also like those holes on the bass side rim so you can better hear yourself play. A couple of builders have done that already and it seems to be a good idea.

Feb-05-2004, 9:16pm
Put a scroll on it and take away the black laquer so the pretty wood can actually be seen. I'd get all the fossilized walrus ivory pieces I could get from thunderplucker too -- bridge, nut & truss rod cover. Put a little steam coming out of the coffee cup, just don't make it look too much like a flowerpot!

Bob DeVellis
Feb-05-2004, 10:11pm
Well, I've always thought that three elements not usually seen together would blend nicely:

(1) A 2-point body shape. This shape can be extremely attractive and the design doesn't compete with the beauty of the wood as much as an F-style does

(2) A forward-curving headstock shape, of the type found on some Embergher classicals and the Foley Celtic style mandolins. Most headstocks are 2 dimensional. Where's the fun in that?

(3) F-holes with parallel bracing of the usual sort found on F-styles

The first two are not unheard of. The Lyon & Healys come close, although the headstock is a scroll rather than the simpler and potentially very elegeant curve with flat finial just waiting for decorative pearl work. (1) and (3) are also nothing new. There have been numerous takes on the two-point A-style with f-holes. But I can't remember seeing all three on one instrument. I think this would be especially attractive on a natural finished instrument with dark rosewood binding and either rosewood or ebony for the headstock and neck. You might think of this as combining a very classical look, a Lyon & Healy flavor, and the playing characteristics of a modern F-style.

For those of you who don't get the headstock description, I'll post a picture of Jim Garber's Pandini headstock as it appeared in the bowlback pictures thread. (I would have linked to his post if I knew how).

Although these curved headstocks often are slotted, I think the basic shape could be adapted for through-from-the-back tuners of the usual type. It might look nice with a profile sort of like a Rigel headstock when viewed full front.

Feb-06-2004, 12:23am
Now this one is just weird! It would be a unique one-of-a-kind. Go to:

Feb-06-2004, 2:59am
I like the slotted headstocks myself... And wood binding (flamed maple?)!

Feb-06-2004, 9:27am
I've had this idea for a dream mando for a while, a Chinese good luck theme. Red stain (rich red but transparent stain to see the grain, think mandohack blue but red) and safron yellow binding with gold hardware; red and gold are the Chinese good luck colors (far as I know, I'm not Chinese). Add fret markers and headstock inlay in green jade, maybe a feng shui emplem of some sort on the headstock.


Feb-06-2004, 8:13pm
I don't know the first thing about how to design an instrument but, this as a community project is going to be an absolute blast....are we talking about a classic F style or Monte style? thanks John....this is very cool.

Feb-06-2004, 8:29pm
Well, Here's a start!! Contact me with any suggestions at: johnw@inreach.com
If you have trouble viewing picture, go to:

Feb-06-2004, 8:51pm
Quote: (mandoluthier1 @ Feb. 05 2004, 12:58)
Cobalt blue? Avant-garde F-holes? Wild inlay work?

All of the above!!!
The more blue, ones the better. Your mando should match your grass.......:p

Feb-07-2004, 3:25pm
Graphite and other modern materials. Ergonomic shape, built in pickup and tuner. 16 to 1 tuners in 2 planes so they are easy to get at with bigger tuner knobs. No resemblance to the Gibson F shape. A new kind of fret- easily replaced, and most of all a unique sound/tone. You can't depart too far from the Loar formula and sound like a Loar, so don't try. Have some kind of tuneable port so you can adjust it for hard chop,, or sweet open tone.
I'll buy one.

Feb-07-2004, 6:59pm
I have one more design (a 4 point) at
This would certainly be one-of-a-kind!!

Feb-07-2004, 9:24pm
Hows about a wicked #birds eye maple cylinder back F5 with Montelone style headstock adorned with the cafe coffee cup in abolone.Fully bound, blonde back, black top with mother of pearl purfling, and and a Virzi,and a varnish finish,and oh yeah #radiused board with big frets, scooped,yeah scooped board, solid gold tail piece hand engraved, no make that platinum and ebony tuner buttons if any one in the world has them http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Feb-07-2004, 11:29pm
I woke up just now...with the Mandolin Cafe community mando project floating thru my veins....something lasting...something that endures...not a wild eyed fad-ish "velvet Elvis" Cafe Cup...no...i ask we toss the cup...maybe on the tailpiece...no new age A style from the Jetson's era and yes...no...Cobalt Blue..anything...sorry Ted. Think big...lets not just involve the average Joe, Ted & Alice but John(a Master Luthier) has really stepped up and put himself out...on the line....for all the mando world to see.....in my "dream" the big boys(and girls) come out to play. The big dogs....calling all big time builders....toss your apron's into the ring fellas? What about a dream mando team? created by the creme of the crop...of builders? Just think what cutting edge designs John could work with then? The Dude...Mr. Gil..a couple golden Nugget's here and there...if John builds it...they will come...right? Unfortunately, thats where my dream ended....and i woke up to my little boy peeing next to me and my wife. Time to change the sheets. I think it was my kid...
Oh yeah....how about a "double neck"?

Feb-08-2004, 3:29am
ok..how about some flames!!

Feb-08-2004, 8:47am
Maybe Picasso (http://cgi.ebay.fr/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3702354624&category=46932) has done it already?

:-) Arto

Keith Wallen
Feb-09-2004, 3:19pm
I have one more design (a 4 point) at
This would certainly be one-of-a-kind!!
John - How about the points follow the lines from the f holes or lightning holes?

mad dawg
Feb-09-2004, 4:10pm
I know I may be duplicating some previous posts, but I like the idea of a two-point carved-top design with a black laquer top, but honey (or reddish-toned?) sides and back that show off the beauty of the maple. Add a radiused ebony with fat frets, an integrated arm-rest, some modernized S-esque holes, and gold hardware, and you've got a wicked cool little axe.