View Full Version : mandolin number 1!

em guitars
Apr-19-2009, 7:47pm
Ok, here goes. My first mando, be kind.http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b306/weezer2112/P1010733.jpg

em guitars
Apr-19-2009, 7:50pm
More pics can be seen http://s22.photobucket.com/albums/b306/weezer2112/

Scott Austin
Apr-19-2009, 8:14pm
Pretty damn cool,I like the bridge and tailpiece,this is your own design?

em guitars
Apr-19-2009, 9:26pm
Thanks Scott, yes, I designed this one. Having researched the instrument pretty thoroughly, I then threw everything out the window and built it like I wanted anyway!My choice of woods was dictated by what I had. The flamed koa top and back were given to me , the swamp ash sides, flamed mahogany neck and flame maple fretboard were leftovers from previous instruments. In fact, the only parts of the mando I had to purchase were the fretwire and the strings. My total expense to build this was $11.00! No kidding!
The tailpiece design I must give credit to Ken Parker's magnificent archtops. What the pics may not show is that the string holder hooks to the upright, and is free to pivot. Pretty happy with how that turned out. I'm also using a one piece maple Red Henry type bridge. The instrument is very warm sounding, and quite loud.
I'm new to all this, so I'll try to get it in the hands of a real player, and get some soundclips.

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-20-2009, 12:14am
I like that very much indeed.As i looked at your other piccies.,i thought "this guy's been looking at Red Henry's bridge site" ( i have many times) - very nice indeed & well done,

Skip Kelley
Apr-20-2009, 7:29am
Awesome!! Very cool body shape! I like it!!

Apr-20-2009, 9:53am
That's pretty wild! I like it. The only thing I can think of that I would have like to see you do differently, is a headstock that went better with the body shape. The body rocks, but the headstock goes kind of simple and plain. I would have like to seen figured wood there as well to complete the look. I like that you staggered the tuners, but you could have gone even farther than you did to jazz that up. Still, it's a fantastic looking instrument. You should be mighty proud of it. I would be.

Only $11??? Wow....that's really cool.

Scott Austin
Apr-20-2009, 10:13am
yes, I designed this one. Having researched the instrument pretty thoroughly, I then threw everything out the window and built it like I wanted anyway!
I like your process, creativity at its finest.

Patrick Hull
Apr-20-2009, 2:38pm
Very nice. I'll give you $22 for it. 100 % profit. Oh, well, I guess you'd have to throw the labor in for free. But, on the positive side, I'll make you some sound clips for free....

Chris Keth
Apr-20-2009, 4:25pm
That is very, very cool. The only critical thing I could say is that the tailpiece looks very uncomfortable for those of us who lay their forearm on or very close to it.

Do you have a headstock inlay planned at all? You have some prime real estate up there to wor with. ;)

Jake Wildwood
Apr-20-2009, 8:05pm
I'm very happy with the tone of the much plainer koa on my mando... I bet that one sounds killer!

(And don't you just love the smell of koa as you're sanding it?)

em guitars
Apr-20-2009, 10:06pm
Thanks everyone, it's always nice to get positive feedback.
D.E., yes, the headstock does seem like something of an afterthought, doesn't it. I had a wilder design in mind, but thought that it might detract from the look of the body, so I simplified. I'll make the next one crazy, promise.
Pana, no plans for inlay, but I'm certainly not going to rule it out as a future add-on. And so far the tailpiece isn't getting in the way.
Jake, I had no idea what to expect from the koa when I started this, but as the process went on I was led to some websites that allowed me to listen to some clips of koa guitars, and they sounded very good. So I knew I was on the right track.
So I've got a lot of other pieces in the works, including an e-mando(solid body, Les Paul shape, mahogany),an octave mando that will blow your heads off, and a conversion of an old archtop into a mandocello. Stay tuned!

May-26-2009, 2:31pm
Eric brought this mandolin over to Northwest Folklife, and members of the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra passed it around the green room after our gig. That explains the ridiculous getup I'm wearing in this photo.

A koa top is unusual but not unprecedented in a mandolin. Martin made some all-koa instruments too, IIRC. Like a Rigel, Eric's mandolin has rims that are carved, not bent. He started with pieces of solid swamp ash, carved the exterior shape and routed out the inside. (Swamp ash on an acoustic mandolin...THAT might be unprecedented.) The floating tailpiece reminds me of the Monteleone Radio Flyer, although of course Eric's tailpiece is metal (forgot to ask, but looks like aluminum to me).

This mandolin has the typical brightness of a flattop, with the tone usually desired by Celtic and blues players. However, it also has excellent volume and projection, and even a decent bluegrass bark, which can probably be attributed to the unusual soundholes and tone bar bracing. Setup is excellent, especially for a first mandolin. Eric said the fretboard has a compound radius, starting at 7" at the nut -- again, similar to a Rigel. Action is impeccably low and it's very easy to play. Obviously it's a great looker, with some of the tightest flame I've seen in a piece of koa. I encouraged Eric to build some more mandolins like this one, but to add an internal soundboard pickup.

Port Townsend, Wash., luthier Jamie Curtis has a few fans here. He builds mandolins and other instruments with unusual shapes and wood choices, and never builds the same instrument twice. Eric hadn't heard of Jamie, but is following a similar path as a luthier.

Chris Keth
May-26-2009, 2:46pm
How much does the "hook" for the tailpiece stick up? I know a lot of people play with their wrist on the tailpiece and it looks very uncomfortable for that.

May-26-2009, 3:53pm
I would have to play it a little more to decide on the comfort question. You'll notice that I was wearing long sleeves, which might have mitigated any discomfort problems. This instrument is a keeper for Eric, so he'll have to be the ultimate judge. If he makes more tailpieces like this, he might consider rounding off those upper corners.

em guitars
May-27-2009, 9:07am
Thanks for the kind words Martin,it was a pleasure meeting you. I'm glad you liked the instrument, as a builder it's the best feeling to put a new piece in the hands of someone who really knows what they're doing and have them tell you " You done good!". By the way, anyone in the NW who gets a chance to see Martin with the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra must do so, they put on a great show!
Chris, as to your question, the tailpiece hook sticks up about 3/8", it's not too obtrusive, intrusive, what have you! And I do intend to make more of these, and will probably have the tailpiece components properly machined, as opposed to the hand crafted ones on this mando.And the ends will be rounded over. It may be a while though, as my wife and I just bought a house, and all my woodworking tools are in storage while I fix the place up and get settled in. It's going to have a great shop when all is said and done, so I'm pretty excited!