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Thread: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

  1. #1
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    Default ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    I have been thinking of another project lately. Building an octave mandolin from an ES arch top guitar kit. I have most things worked out, but stuck on the scale length. The shortest guitar I have found is 24.75". Can this scale length be used for a credible octave mandolin?


    Here is a pic of an ES

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  2. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    With my utter lack of experience backing me up, I'll say yes. Although at that length it might be called a bouzouki
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

  3. #3
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    That would be a very long and unusual scale length for an octave mandolin. Most OM's stop around 22" and the 20" ones are getting more popular. I guess you could call it a bouzouki, which generally have longer scales, but that doesn't seem like a good match for an electric ES type body. Just my opinion.

    It's a good scale length for mandocello. Just in terms of aesthetics I think that's a better fit for a conversion. If you go that route, make sure the tuners and other hardware can handle the larger gauge bottom strings.

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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    One approach would be to make a new neck with a 20" scale. If you're set on doing the project, that could produce a more usable instrument.

    Just personal preference, but a 20" scale on an OM is the maximum comfort zone for me. I have reasonably large hands, but above about 20" it's no longer possible to fret all my standard mandolin chord forms. An OM with a 25" scale would require the hands of an NBA forward. My bouzouki with its 26-3/4" scale really isn't much like playing a mandolin at all. Then again, maybe that's just me.

    @foldedpath is right; guitars make good mandocellos.
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Ward View Post
    One approach would be to make a new neck with a 20" scale. If you're set on doing the project, that could produce a more usable instrument.

    Just personal preference, but a 20" scale on an OM is the maximum comfort zone for me. I have reasonably large hands, but above about 20" it's no longer possible to fret all my standard mandolin chord forms. An OM with a 25" scale would require the hands of an NBA forward. My bouzouki with its 26-3/4" scale really isn't much like playing a mandolin at all. Then again, maybe that's just me.

    @foldedpath is right; guitars make good mandocellos.
    I have built 22.5" electric tenor guitars tuned GDAE with good results. Perhaps the acoustic needs the shorter scale. I think I will shoot for the 20" scale by modifying/replacing the neck I am not into the sound of a mandocello right now so we will give this a try.

  6. #6
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    Interesting. I have thought of doing something similar to a mini strat. I will be curious to see how it goes for you.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  7. #7

    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    Five minutes with a capo will answer all your scale questions better than a lifetime of internet surveys...

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  9. #8

    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    I've done this a number of times and really enjoy the result. But this is from the perspective of a guitar player that has never really attempted to play mandolin. Making these instruments is the only reason that I joined this forum - for-real truth. 24.5 to 25.5" scales yield an instrument that you can call either an 8-string tenor guitar, an octave mandolin, or a bouzouki -- nobody who has come to my shop has threatened me because I call it something incorrectly. You can also set it up as a mando-cello

    What I think may be a problem for true mandolin players is that they'll be unable to manage a few of the traditional chord shapes among the the first six frets. The distance is too great. But the tuning interval totally changes the voice of the guitar into something different which I find quite beautiful. Again, this is from the perspective of a guitarist. I typically thin the width of the neck at the nut by about 1/2" total and I thin the width at the last fret by whatever I can cosmetically and technically get away with depending on whether or not it is a set neck or a bolt-on neck.

    One of the coolest conversions was a Taylor Big Baby acoustic guitar. It was a very easy conversion.

    I keep the pairs of E and A-strings as unison pairs but split the octaves of the D and G-strings. I haven't tried keeping the D and G-strings as unison pairs. I also always have made these as eight string instruments rather than 4 strings. If I were to make a mando-cello with a low C-string, I'd probably make it a 4 string instrument.

    I've done both conversions and scratch builds and for the foreseeable future I don't think I'll be making any standard guitars. I happy in this little niche and am able to sell what I make a lot easier than if I were making guitars.

    Mini strats, the mini Epiphone LP, and the cheap knockoffs of these mini guitars completely lend themselves to conversion. You can take any of these, thin the neck profile, do some serious revision of the production line fretwork, and end up with a very respectable instrument. Six polepiece pickups work just fine. You can easily modify a traditional style strat-style trem to function with eight strings.

    I do this work for the fun of it. If I can purchase a less than high quality guitar for cheap, I'll buy it and convert it. Then I'll sell it to cover the cost of my time. There is also a fun "Hey look what I can do" element to this at my shop. If anyone is interested in this, feel free to email me.

    This is a scratchbuild 24.5 octavemandolin and you can call it anything you like.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #9
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Interesting. I have thought of doing something similar to a mini strat. I will be curious to see how it goes for you.
    Here is a pic of my first tenor from a mini strat. The second one is in work.

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  12. #10
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    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by Wrnchbndr View Post
    I've done this a number of times and really enjoy the result. But this is from the perspective of a guitar player that has never really attempted to play mandolin. Making these instruments is the only reason that I joined this forum - for-real truth. 24.5 to 25.5" scales yield an instrument that you can call either an 8-string tenor guitar, an octave mandolin, or a bouzouki -- nobody who has come to my shop has threatened me because I call it something incorrectly. You can also set it up as a mando-cello

    What I think may be a problem for true mandolin players is that they'll be unable to manage a few of the traditional chord shapes among the the first six frets. The distance is too great. But the tuning interval totally changes the voice of the guitar into something different which I find quite beautiful. Again, this is from the perspective of a guitarist. I typically thin the width of the neck at the nut by about 1/2" total and I thin the width at the last fret by whatever I can cosmetically and technically get away with depending on whether or not it is a set neck or a bolt-on neck.

    One of the coolest conversions was a Taylor Big Baby acoustic guitar. It was a very easy conversion.

    I keep the pairs of E and A-strings as unison pairs but split the octaves of the D and G-strings. I haven't tried keeping the D and G-strings as unison pairs. I also always have made these as eight string instruments rather than 4 strings. If I were to make a mando-cello with a low C-string, I'd probably make it a 4 string instrument.

    I've done both conversions and scratch builds and for the foreseeable future I don't think I'll be making any standard guitars. I happy in this little niche and am able to sell what I make a lot easier than if I were making guitars.

    Mini strats, the mini Epiphone LP, and the cheap knockoffs of these mini guitars completely lend themselves to conversion. You can take any of these, thin the neck profile, do some serious revision of the production line fretwork, and end up with a very respectable instrument. Six polepiece pickups work just fine. You can easily modify a traditional style strat-style trem to function with eight strings.

    I do this work for the fun of it. If I can purchase a less than high quality guitar for cheap, I'll buy it and convert it. Then I'll sell it to cover the cost of my time. There is also a fun "Hey look what I can do" element to this at my shop. If anyone is interested in this, feel free to email me.

    This is a scratchbuild 24.5 octavemandolin and you can call it anything you like.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Mando 091.jpg 
Views:	28 
Size:	505.8 KB 
ID:	178570
    That is a great looking instrument. I will be looking at the fret board hat comes in the kit. I am not a guitarist and the shorter fret spacing is a feature I like on the tenor guitar and mandolin.

  13. #11

    Default Re: ES Arch Top Guitar Octave Mandolin conversion

    You can cut a fretboard off from the top, just remove one or two frets and move the bridge up accordingly. Then you can have whatever scale length you want if you use a floating bridge or move the bridge posts.

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