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Thread: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

  1. #1

    Default Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    I am cooking up a summer project, and have been thinking I would built myself an electric mandolin. I like the sound of courses over single strings, but I also like the idea of having a low C course, so I am inclined towards trying to make a ten string. From reading this forum and others, I understand that raises an issue of scale length, and from what I have seen, fanned frets seem to be the best solution. I haven't been able to find many examples of a ten string electric at all, and the five strings I have seen haven't had fanned frets. Does anybody have insight as to why?

    I also have some questions about wood selection. I would like a more acoustic sounding tone than I have heard out of solid-body mandos, so I was thinking of trying a semi-hollow design similar to how some Fender Thinline Telecaster guitars are made. Initially I was thinking of making a mahogany back with a maple top, but after some thought I'd rather use domestic woods. Are there good domestic mahogany substitutes? Also, any good domestic fretboard options?


  2. #2

    Default Re: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    Great project. A thinline tele with chambers is a great idea. You can do a multiscale instrument, and then you'll have the advantage of having the only one around. Bruce Harvie made a 10-string cittern/mandocello thing out of a Danelectro "longhorn" guitar, but that was an octave below what you're planning.
    When doing multiscale, you can make it a "mandola with a high E", with a scale length of maybe 16" on the C side and going to 15" on the E side. Much longer than that, and your .008's are going to break a lot on that E course.

    You can split the difference, and to a 15.5 - 14.5" scale. Or you can do a "mandolin with a low C", 14.75 or so to 14" or so.

    However you do it, it's a ton of work. Getting a fanned-fret instrument to look good is just a lot more variables. On an electric instrument, I'm not sure it's worth it. But try telling that to Ralph Novak, eh?

    Some woods to consider for the body:

    - Walnut body, neck and fretboard, curly maple cap
    - Curly maple body, curly maple cap, curly maple neck, curly maple fretboard, dye it how you like
    - Hard maple (or birdseye) neck, body, redwood top
    - Ash body and neck, curly maple cap
    - Thermally modified (chocolate, super lightweight) poplar or ash decking for the body, curly maple body and cap
    - All redwood body, maple neck

    How about Ironwood, persimmon, or mesquite as the fretboard. Sonowood is awesome. Not domestic, but renewable and non-tropical. Ziricote, does that count as domestic? Mexico is a geographic border, but ecologically we're part of the same landmass... it's probably not very renewable though, if that's the goal.

  3. #3
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
    Rockville, MD
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    Default Re: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    Quote Originally Posted by rdroosa View Post
    I haven't been able to find many examples of a ten string electric at all, and the five strings I have seen haven't had fanned frets. Does anybody have insight as to why?
    Because it is unnecessary. The C course does not have to rule the entire instrument. Four courses are, after all, mandolin-tuned. Most violas have a scale length of 14.25" - 14.5", which lets them be played pretty much like a violin. And fiddlers are playing 5-string violins with a low C added. Brazilian choro guitarists like their 7-string instruments and do not lengthen the scale for a B or C string. Jazz players tune their 7th string down to low A.

    Two virtuoso mandolinists from Brazil play 10-strings of approximately mandolin scale. Dudu Maia's Morton resonator 10-string is 14". I played Lawrence Smart's fanned-fret 10-string and was not happy, as I could not reach the chords I need, and the goal for me is not a huge C string but a playable instrument.

    You might check out my sound samples to hear music played on 14.25" 10-strings (acoustic and electric), and some earlier work on 14" 5-string.

    BTW, I owned a thinline Tele and heard no large difference from the solid one, except for humbuckers instead of single coils. I will report that my two solid body mandos, both 10-string, have different tones. One is 14", a Ryder, with mahogany body/maple overlay (Les Paul style) but bolt-on maple neck. Sweet tone, gentle midrange. The other is solid sapele, a harder tone but plenty of meat to it, and 14.25" scale is a bit stronger in sustain and attack. It is my favorite. Both have single-coil (stacked humbucker) pickups.

    Good luck with your project. Look at the Almuse mandolin gallery for some ideas.
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  4. #4
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Jun 2014

    Default Re: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    I would say the reason you don't see fan fretts is because not many have ever played them and most aren't will to spend a decent amount to try them. And also all my 5 string and 7 string instruments are still in the scale length of thier counter part 4 and 6 string.

    I would love to play yours if you make it. Sounds very interesting
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  5. #5
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
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    Tavistock UK

    Default Re: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    My 5 strings are all standard mandolin scale:

    Double courses will work at that scale, but you will need to be careful that a pair of thick strings doesn't make a bid for sonic world domination Single courses seem to be easier to handle in that respect for some reason.

    Fan frets would obviously work, been there done that on an acoustic, and as others have said it's way more work than you expect, not least in the setup phase. It doesn't actually make as much difference to the string gauges as you might hope either...

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  7. #6
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    Dec 2009
    central VA

    Default Re: Ten String Electric Thinline Design

    Tavy - a good looking and sounding instrument there. What p/u and amp were used?

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