View Full Version : Well, been needing a bluegrass mandolin...

Jake Wildwood
Jul-10-2009, 2:40pm
Made you look!

I got this 3/4 fiddle from c.1900 at a flea market up in more northerly Vermont, complete with a top and back in several pieces, no hardware, and some drill holes in the head.

Never fear! I ripped off the old (dyed maple) fingerboard, made a new cherry fretboard, fixed "all de problems" and set it up as a 4 string mandolin.

The result? It's very loud, sounds great with chords, and has super oomph and projection. I never woulda guessed. Here's a YT video:


At any rate, this has been my little project while tending the store this week, done in the 2-5 minute gaps when customers weren't around. :)

Jake Wildwood
Jul-10-2009, 2:51pm
It's not entirely finished yet... I need to touchup the bridge and seat it a little bit better, the 6th fret needs to sit down just a hair, etc.

But I'm having fun, that's for sure!

Jul-10-2009, 2:52pm
Sounds great and looks really cool! Good job.


Jul-11-2009, 1:11pm
Super cool! Nice tone!

Jake Wildwood
Jul-11-2009, 1:22pm
Thanks guys!

It's fun, that's for sure. I think the next changes will be a better bridge fit and some balalaika-style end-pins to hold the strings rather than the stray screws that're there at the moment.

Dan Voight
Jul-11-2009, 1:33pm
Thats one of the most interesting thing ive seen in a while. Is the sound post sitting under the T side of the bridge foot?

Jul-11-2009, 2:21pm
I love this place. Mr. Jake you are definitely thinking outside the box. Keep us posted as this mutant evolves. Great Idea! :cool::cool::cool::cool::cool:

Jul-11-2009, 2:24pm
And I like the I've been needing & made you look lure. :)):)):)):)):))

Jake Wildwood
Jul-11-2009, 3:53pm
Hank: Thanks!

Dan: It's sitting about 1/4" in front of the treble foot (don't ask why, I just put it there out of curiosity for the moment). I can really, really feel the back take off with vibrations when I bang out some chords, but I had been thinking about rebracing the top and eliminating the soundpost. I'm glad I didn't...

Jim Rowland
Jul-12-2009, 11:12am
Well,Jake,..you've set some of my thinking on mandolin making on its ear. I really like the tone of that thing. I'm assuming that you used mandolin strings on it. I imagine quite a few of us are scratching our heads and wondering about the roles of tone bars and sound posts right about now.

Jill McAuley
Jul-12-2009, 11:47am
That thing sounds great - well done!


Jake Wildwood
Jul-12-2009, 12:10pm
Jim: Yup, and the strings are random spares (034w, 024w, 014, 010) on bronze, probably cheapy Martins. Even with the light gauge the thing roars, especially chords, and it's only a 13 1/8" scale. I'm going to be doing some more experimenting with the idea... a fellow in town wants to swap me a bunch of old dilapidated/broken fiddles for one setup like this -- so more may be in the works. I really want to see what happens if I do this with something of higher quality and make myself a proper non-adjustable rosewood/ebony bridge with a bone cap, and a 14" scale.

Jill: Thanks!

Jul-12-2009, 12:42pm
Once again, pretty darn cool job and results, Jake.


Charles E.
Jul-12-2009, 12:53pm
Now that's pretty darn cool. I wonder how a full sized fiddle or a viola would sound?

Al Bergstein
Jul-12-2009, 1:19pm
Ok. I'll add my congrats to you as well. Sounds wonderful and just goes to show what a little ingenuity will get you...fun stuff!

David M.
Jul-13-2009, 10:07am
That's WILD. Very cool. I love the sawed-off bridge.

What's the scale length of a 3/4 fiddle? Probably pretty comfortable to play.

Barb Friedland
Jul-13-2009, 10:26am
Very inventive and wildly cool! I LOVE the tone you're getting from this creation!!!!

Bill Snyder
Jul-13-2009, 10:27am
He said that he fretted the board to be 13 1/8" scale length (which is more that it would have been when it was a 3/4 violin).

Jake Wildwood
Jul-13-2009, 10:29am
Danke again, btw.

Bill: Exactly, though I was tempted to keep it at the 3/4 length and try that with heavier strings.

Charles E.
Jul-13-2009, 4:52pm
Went looking around the shop today and a 15 inch viola would be perfect for a normal mandolin string length. It would put the bridge right between the notches of the F-holes. Now all all I have to do is find a 15" beater viola. Darn it Jake, now you have me distracted from my instruments on the bench! ;)

Jul-13-2009, 5:14pm
Dude, that thing sounds great...I mean, really, I've heard of folks trying this without too much success in the past and was pretty skeptical when I clicked the YT link, but, again, that thing sounds great!! (You can play, too, which helps, of course...)

Keep us updated as you do further work...I'm thinkin' it may be time to find a viandolin of my own...


Bill Snyder
Jul-13-2009, 5:18pm
Well, I have a small violin on hand that has the neck off and I have a fretted mandolin neck I messed up that I am considering attaching to the violin body.
The other option for the neck is to get a banjo pot and make a banjolin.

Jul-13-2009, 6:21pm
not too shabby at all .. check this one out ... the possibilities seem limitless at this point.

Jake Wildwood
Jul-13-2009, 9:19pm
Charley: Bwahaha! Addicting, isn't it?

Jul-13-2009, 9:19pm
My wife Donna's comment about the awful bat, My God! I have to agree We would prefer bamboo under the fingernails. :disbelief::disbelief::disbelief::disbelief::disbe lief:

Jim Kirkland
Aug-25-2009, 10:07pm
Jake, pretty neat. Bob Fistoria, in Deming, NM has been doing this build for many yrs. He is a pretty neat gentleman. PM me and I will provide his phone # to you.

Scott Austin
Aug-26-2009, 8:50pm

Jake Wildwood
Aug-29-2009, 5:00pm
Scott: Thanks!

Jim: Very cool.

Also, just a side-note... I'm going to be doing another one of these guys pretty soon with a Czech fiddle, so stay tuned. :)

This first one was a blast (especially after I finished the bridge work and seated it nicely) but it's out the door to a friend of mine. Darn thing is super loud -- a heck of a lot louder than any flatback I normally play. And something about that soundpost sent ripples of energy into my stomach... you really felt it rumble when banging out chords.

Aug-29-2009, 9:03pm
And something about that soundpost sent ripples of energy into my stomach... you really felt it rumble when banging out chords.

Just think of how it would sound with a custom ToneGard on it! :mandosmiley:

Jake Wildwood
Aug-29-2009, 9:52pm
It would sound better... and I wouldn't have felt like I was getting jabbed in the stomach, too -- both bonuses! :)

Jim Rowland
Aug-30-2009, 10:28am
I've been very interested in this thread,and disappointed that none of the outstanding builders on the Cafe' have speculated on the reason for excellent volume and tone of the critter,all things considered. I confess that I am at a loss to explain it,but I am pretty much an amateur. Any ideas?

Jake Wildwood
Aug-30-2009, 11:20am
I've been wondering if it has to do with bridge placement: it's lower on the body (ie mandolin) as opposed to smack in the middle of the f-holes (ie violin). A label inside insisted that the top had been graduated in 1926, as well (though the instrument's older), which could explain better-than-average response.

It really beats me, though. I thought it'd be a lemon at best (or a lime, for that matter).

big h
Aug-30-2009, 2:09pm
That is amazing! Love it!

Aug-30-2009, 4:39pm
That fiddolin has a great sound to it, very nice indeed.