Monday, September 16, 2013

Tenor Mandola, Octave Mandolin: a few thoughts……….

I thought that it was about time to share a few thoughts about the Tenor Mandola and the Octave Mandolin that I’m building for Adrian. Firstly, as Adrian wanted two matching instruments, I’ve cut all the component parts, for both instruments, from the same pieces of wood. Here for example are the necks, head overlays and sides....

The back and sides are Indian Rosewood which is my default setting; tonally it’s a wood that never lets you down. I'm using spruce soundboards from the Black Sea area; I bought a number of these many years ago and they have worked very well on mandolins and a mandocello and have a bright, ringing tap tone.
Both instruments have sapele necks (you can read about their construction here).  I’ve been using sapele on quite a few necks lately. It looks like mahogany and has a similar density, but there is something about the way that it works that I like; it seems very crisp and precise, if that makes sense. Also, it seems very stiff, making it ideal for necks. Both of the necks are 14 frets long; apart from easier access to the upper frets (for the player), the main reason for 14 frets, is to locate the bridges as near to the centre of the bodies as possible, which most luthiers agree, will produce a better sounding instrument. Although I never use an adjustable truss in mandolins, I decided to put one in the octave as its neck is just over 300mm long and there is more tension in the strings.
There is, in fact, about 15% more tension in the TM and OM strings compared to a mandolin. So apart the OM neck having an adjustable truss rod (both have two strips of carbon-fibre as standard), both of the soundboards will have proportionally heavier bracing as the downward force on the bridge will also be 15% greater.
In the photo below you can see the rims completed. The rosewood sides are joined together with Honduras cedar blocks; these are laminated from thinner pieces which substantially reduce the chances of them ever splitting- particularly at the tail end where there will be a 12mm hole for a jack socket and where the tailpiece will be anchored with screws.
As far as the ornamentation is concerned Adrian wants clean lines so both instruments are being built to a similar spec as the Standard mandolin, but with the upgrade of my handmade tail pieces.
These two instruments will be completed later this year, so watch this space!
If you are interested in commissioning your own TM or OM feel free to send me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

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