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Thread: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

  1. #1

    Default Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    First off, huge thanks to anyone who has posted about their guitar to octave mandolin/mandocello conversions in the past. I don't normally post on forums, but since your posts helped me out so much, I figured posting my experience would be a fitting way to say thanks.

    So I've quite fallen in love with the concept of a mandocello ever since first finding out about it's existence. I don't have enough dinero lying around to purchase one. But I did have an old b-brand sg style electric guitar that I bought for one hundo a few years back with the explicit idea of modding it in mind. So after contemplating how to approach a conversion for a while, I decided on starting with the simplest way that I could.

    All I did was drill two holes in the headstock, make four extra slits in the nut, and add two sawn off screws to the bridge. It is quick. It is dirty. It doesn't hold it's tune well. But it certainly works. And since I already had the extra tuners and screws lying around, the total cost of the conversion was that of two sets of D'Addario EXL148 electric guitar strings: 13.20 at my local guitar shop.

    I'll probably be upgrading this gradually in the coming few months. Here's the order of what I'll be doing:
    1. I'll replace the nut with something proper. I've found a mandolin nut for a cheap price, which I'll try. If that turns out to put the strings too close together I'll try working from a completely blank nut.
    2. I'll slim down the neck with a file to a fitting width. I do hope this goes well, it would be an expensive replacement otherwise.
    3. I'll fill up the holes in the headstock and then drill new ones to get rid of those ridiculous bunny ears. At this point I'll probably also buy new, matching tuners.
    4. I'll have to fix the bridge and tail setup. This is something that I haven't figured out at all, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    If you guys would like to see it, then I'll happily post pictures of my progress. Here are a few of what I've done so far.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    interesting

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by kjbllc View Post
    interesting
    It'll be more interesting once the OP gets the string spacing sorted out....

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  6. #4
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    Kinda looks like a Big Joe Williams guitar headstock!

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    It'll be more interesting once the OP gets the string spacing sorted out....
    The string spacing is actually pretty decent. Not that it can't be improved, but it's certainly playable. I would gladly take any suggestions though .

    Quote Originally Posted by John Soper View Post
    Kinda looks like a Big Joe Williams guitar headstock!
    To be honest I had never heard of him before, but I'll definitely be checking him out, thanks!

  9. #6

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by DVVVDM View Post
    4. I'll have to fix the bridge and tail setup. This is something that I haven't figured out at all, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The right hand spacing looks to be pretty tight to my eyes (hand?) like you were more focused on placing each pair over a pole piece on the pickup. I'm no expert but my understanding is that the magnetic fields overlap considerably so you shouldn't have much (if any) drop off in signal strength if the strings are not centered over a magnet.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Perhaps a tailpiece similar to the one from my electric mandolin pictured above could help space the strings more comfortably(?). Just a thought.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

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  11. #7

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    I like these types a threads a lot and find these genre of mods interesting so thanks for posting. I think a great candidate for these are the Squire mini's which you can often pickup for ~$50. I suspect that narrowing out the neck will go quite well. Do you plan to pull all the frets and refret or do you think it can be done without refretting?
    -p

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    Quote Originally Posted by lenf12 View Post
    The right hand spacing looks to be pretty tight to my eyes (hand?) like you were more focused on placing each pair over a pole piece on the pickup. I'm no expert but my understanding is that the magnetic fields overlap considerably so you shouldn't have much (if any) drop off in signal strength if the strings are not centered over a magnet.

    Perhaps a tailpiece similar to the one from my electric mandolin pictured above could help space the strings more comfortably(?). Just a thought.
    Thanks! It actually hadn't really occurred to me that they should maybe be further apart. I guess it felt somewhat natural as the distance between the bottom of each course is equal to the distance between strings on a guitar. I actually used the old saddles as guide lines, rather than the pole pieces. (BTW, I'm a physics student and can confirm that you are right on the magnetic field overlap.) I'll definitely try to find some proper measurements, like the one on you electric mandolin, and adjust it.

    Quote Originally Posted by peter_lj View Post
    I think a great candidate for these are the Squire mini's which you can often pickup for ~$50. I suspect that narrowing out the neck will go quite well. Do you plan to pull all the frets and refret or do you think it can be done without refretting?
    -p
    Their cheap price certainly makes them good candidates. I think their scale length is probably better suited for an octave mandolin, but those are great too. I also have no idea how to work eight strings into a stratocaster bridge though.

    I read a guide online, as well as a thread on this forum where they used a belt sander to slim the neck down. It actually specifically mentioned making sure not to work on one side too long so that you don't heat up the frets too much. So it seems that you don't need to remove the frets. Which is great, because I have never done any kind of fretwork, let alone a complete refretting. I also don't have a belt sander, only a file, so I do suspect it will take a considerable amount of time. (I probably should have saved the guide and the threat as bookmarks, because I can't find them right now.)

  14. #9

    Default Re: Quick and dirty electric mandocello conversion

    DVVVDM. Re. Belt sander. These are very aggressive things for anything other than a flat surface, and you could easily make a mess handheld, even with a fine belt. You might try to do the bulk of the work with a handplane or a wood rasp, or a drawknife. I’m pretty sure that the frets are not hard enough to destroy a good blade, but even if they do, you resharpen.
    If you do use a belt sander anyway, I’ve found that clamping it upside down in a bench vise allows using both hands to hold the work and see what you’re doing. A too-fine belt will overheat the wood and maybe loosen the frets, so coarser will be cooler. The ‘table sander’ often used is essentially an upside-down belt sander.
    The front roller is exposed. and might be handy for carving the new transitions at both ends, as would a 1-2” diameter sanding drum in a drill.
    As a fan of old tech, I think everybody needs to have a drawknife and a spokeshave!

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