Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Robin's "Hybrid Mandolin"

If you follow my blog regularly, you would have seen awhile back that, for various reasons, I’m limiting the number of commissions that I take on. However, Robin who already has one of my mandolins, tempted me with an interesting project. I’ll cut to the chase! I’m making him, what I’ll call, a hybrid mandolin; a “flat” cedar top i.e. the same as my Standard Plus design with a carved black walnut back same as my Archtop design.
Here are a few photos of the instrument so far;
Birds eye maple neck with a lovely burr walnut head overlay and black pearl inlay.
The black walnut carved back.
The top with the rosette inlaid which, reflects the discreet decorative theme throughout.
Here you can get an idea of what the back and rim will be like- clearly its going to make a much more rigid structure compared to my flat-backs.
I like to think that the body of the mandolin is like a loud speaker; the soundboard is the equivalent to the paper cone and that the back and sides are the metal chassis. Therefore, the back and sides should be rigid so that they don’t absorb energy from the soundboard. This equates to volume and sustain.

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Friday, September 06, 2019


I guess all luthiers search for the Holy-Grail of wood finishes; something that’s a doddle to apply, looks great, doesn’t affect the sound, doesn’t affect your health etc. etc. But having, over the years, used acid-catalysed melamine, two-pack polyurethane, nitro-cellulose, water-based acrylic, the one lesson that I’ve learnt is that there’s no substitute for hard work! Like many of my colleagues, these days I tend towards shellac-based finishes or various oils.
The current archtop mandolin is being French Polished and is looking quite lovely! I put together this video to give you a taste of the polishing process; it's not intended as a "how-to" guide. Hope that you find it interesting.

Thursday, September 05, 2019


I can’t believe it, this is my 500th blog post. Hate to get sentimental about these things, so let’s push on.
 I just got this batch of wonderful Sitka Spruce in from the USA. They will,of course, be used for archtop mandolins. Although they are nice and dry and ready to use, it will be a few months before the next archtop gets started!