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Thread: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

  1. #1
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    I have wanted a piccolo mandolin for a few years now. Since my PMAS has persisted that long, I PM'd with a couple of Cafe members who own piccolos a few months back to get some advice (thanks, friends, I appreciate the advice). I was especially happy to learn that they really enjoy their smaller member of the mandolin family, and that they encouraged me to take the plunge. I put down a deposit with Mike Black in July, and now the build has commenced.

    For those not familiar with piccolo mandolins (also called sopranino mandolins), they have shorter scale lengths and smaller bodies and are tuned cgda, up a fourth from a mandolin (an octave above a mandola). Mike Black builds beautiful piccolo mandolins in either A4 or A5 models. Here's the link to his piccolo mandolin page: http://www.blackmandolins.com/piccolo-mandolins.html

    He's just started building an A4 with a Virzi for me. Here's the wood (Englemann) for the top, glued up.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I'm really excited about this build. I'll post pictures here as Mike sends them to me. I hope you enjoy following along.

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Yesterday evening, Mike sent me the next installment of pictures on my piccolo mandolin build. Here they are. Nice flaming on that maple, don't you think? I love seeing the small plane in the shot of the back. It really adds context to the carved wood we see in the pictures. I'll keep the photos coming as Mike sends them along. I think he's doing beautiful work and it's going to be a wonderful instrument!
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    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Very Nice indeed, and a virzi, that should be good bit of fun. Nice woods.

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  7. #4
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    Yesterday evening, Mike sent me the next installment of pictures on my piccolo mandolin build. Here they are. Nice flaming on that maple, don't you think? I love seeing the small plane in the shot of the back. It really adds context to the carved wood we see in the pictures. I'll keep the photos coming as Mike sends them along. I think he's doing beautiful work and it's going to be a wonderful instrument!
    Please join us in the Mike Black social group! https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...hp?groupid=301
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  9. #5
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Please join us in the Mike Black social group! https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...hp?groupid=301
    Thanks for the invitation. I just joined. It looks like an active group and I look forward to participating!
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  11. #6
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    And here are the latest pictures. Mike sent them this evening. Exciting!
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  13. #7
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    And here's the latest from Mike. Virzi looks cool, huh? I hope this uploads OK, because I'm trying to do it from an IPad. I didn't want to make those of you who are following along wait to see the progress!

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    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    pheffernan's Black mandolin and my Black mandolin both anxiously await the arrival of a younger brother or sister!
    "Those who know don't have the words to tell, and the ones with the words don't know so well." - Bruce Cockburn

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  17. #9
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    And here's the latest on my piccolo build! Mike just sent this headstock photo. He created exactly what I had envisioned in this unique inlay. I hope you like it as much as I do.
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  19. #10
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    That's cool! It looks purrr-fect. Haha!

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  21. #11
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    And here is the latest progress report. Artists often express their creativity in details others would overlook. Mike demonstated that type of artistry in the heel button at the base of the neck. This was a real surprise for me and I am absolutely thrilled with it. I hope you enjoy it as well.
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  23. #12
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    For completeness, here's a picture of my piccolo that appeared in a thread today about the mandocello Mike is building. Quite the size contrast, huh?

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  25. #13
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    And here are the latest pictures. Mike has now stained and shellac-sealed the instrument. We were trying for a color between red and brown; sort of a burgundy color. I think he hit it spot on. Can't wait to see the finish completed!
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  27. #14
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Meow, that is a fantastic little kitten!
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  28. #15
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Meow, that is a fantastic little kitten!
    Right you are, Matt! I am thinking of it as a 'kitten' mandolin due to it's inlays and its diminutive size. As Zach pointed out above, I can't wait to hear it purr! I think it will make great 'meowsic.'
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  30. #16
    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Very nice. Great color choice, looks owwld!

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  32. #17
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Whohooo It's NPMD! Awaiting mail delivery. . .still waiting. . .yup, still waiting. . .not here yet. . .good, another 30 seconds have gone by. . . could be a long day
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  34. #18
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    It's Here! It's gorgeous and sounds like a million bucks. It is so easy to adjust to that I plan to take it to an open mike night tonight. Pictures very soon, audio recording a little later. Gotta get back to work now.
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  36. #19
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

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  38. #20
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Ok, so at long last, here are the photos (posted above). I had a lot of trouble photographing this little beauty. The shots just don't really show it's great looks. I tried different locations and these were the best I could come up with.

    It is actually a bit darker and red-browner than it appears. It has the look of an instrument built at the turn of the last century and placed in a time capsule. It really has an old instrument vibe, not modern at all.

    The tone is exquisite, exactly as I had hoped. High pitch notes are not shrill at all, very mellow. I wonder how much the Verzi is responsible, but no need to debate that here. It's tone is just beautiful. I will try to get together with a friend who can record me next week. Might even manage video.

    As for playability, I am having no trouble adjusting to the tight spacing between frets. Seems quite natural after just a few minutes playing time. And my fingers fit easily. Playability and tone up the neck is great; better than I would have predicted.

    And as another member commented to me by PM when I was considering having Mike build this piccolo, it will never become my primary instrument, but it is not a novelty either. It is simply another, worthy member of the mandolin family and one for which I will find a specific repetoir.

    I am thrilled with Mike's build quality. Not the extreme perfection of a Collings, for example, but that's not what I look for in an individual Luthier build. I want to see evidence of his/her hand. This is the case here. Mike's work is gorgeous and you can see that it was done by a skilled, caring hand. Kudos to Mike on a great job. I am giving real thought to having Mike build an exact copy, big sister-build (mandolin-sized A4) at some point in the future. The sound of this instrument is beguiling, to say the least. I think his full-sized A4's must be remarkable. Thanks Mike, I really appreciate the great build.

    Don't hesitate to ask questions. I'd be happy to discuss this great little instrument.

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  40. #21
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Two details I'll mention in case anyone is thinking about one of these. I went for the Rubner tuners with ebony buttons. Really nice. Well worth the minor upgrade cost. I also went with the James tailpiece that, I think, really dresses it up. These are good, solid tailpieces that will make string changes a snap. Again, the upgrade cost is worth it.

    It is really hot here in South Jersey today. Hoping I'll decide I need to take a break this afternoon to play. Need to spend a few more hours on the tractor first, though.
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  42. #22

    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Love that cat silhouette on the peg head!
    "Those who know don't have the words to tell, and the ones with the words don't know so well." - Bruce Cockburn

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  44. #23
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Here's a suggestion for anyone with one of Mike's piccolos specifically, or any piccolo mandolin in general who may be looking for a nice case for it. I wanted something a little more protective than a typical gig bag. I found it in an Access Stage Three Soprano Uke case. These are more rigid than typical gig bags and are really well padded. They come with a movable neck pad and an additional movable pad. Are they as safe as a good hard case? Probably not. But for hand carry even when traveling, especially with the small size of a piccolo, I think it will work out great. It also has lots of storage and for about $100, not too bad!

    BTW, I am playing the heck out of this little beauty. Its tone is incredible.

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    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  46. #24
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Whoops, wrong picture. I wonder how that happened. Here's the right picture.
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    Purr more, hiss less.

  47. #25
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mike Black Piccolo Mandolin Build

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    BTW, I am playing the heck out of this little beauty. Its tone is incredible.
    Hah! You know what we will ask of you now? How about a sound clip?
    Jim

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