For the last few years, I’ve been making mandolins in batches. It wasn’t always the case – when I worked for Stefan we usually made two instruments at a time, and it wasn’t unusual for one of them to be a mandolin. But in those days, my work mainly focused on making the bodies and doing prep work on the top – flattening and joining the wedges, doing the rough carving. Stefan did the final carving and fitted the rosettes, and much more.
These days I do the lot. From start to finish. So to get the best results I prefer to make all the mandolins at once. That way I can “get in the zone.” The mandolin zone if you will. Its not the same as making guitars. You’re dealing with a lot more tension and a much small scale. Different beasts.
Last year I made a lot of Celtic F mandolins. So the design has evolved a bit – I’ve made a few small structural changes and a couple of cosmetic ones. Last year I made a few with the “fiddle” edge, and bound a few in the traditional manner. This year, everything will be bound in the traditional manner. I’ll be using black rocklite binding with black/white purfling.
Another change is, both Big and Small mandolins will have rocklite bound ebony or bog oak fretboards and the hand polished evo gold frets semi-hemispherical ends. What’s that? It means the fret ends will be shaped like a section of a sphere. It makes them super comfortable to play. Especially when you bind the board with rocklite. It’s a lot of work, but worth it.
This year there is a mix – Celtic F, Celtic O, but I’ve recently made a prototype smaller Celtic O. It worked out really well, so I’m introducing a couple of new variations based on the experiment –
The Celtic F and Celtic O are now called the Big Celtic F and Big Celtic O mandolins. Because, they are really…big. Too big for a regular mandolin case. They now go in custom-fitted gun cases. But the new prototype has led me to introduce the Small Celtic F and Small Celtic O mandolins. The basic design is very similar, but the mandolins are much more like a Sobell big mandolin (confused yet?) And fit in a Hiscox mandolin case. If anything, the sound is a little more throaty and focused than that of the bigger models.
If you’ve not heard my mandolins, its worth listening through this video. 20 mins well spent:
My Big Celtic mandolins have carved (like a violin) solid maple backs as standard. Whilst my Small Celtic mandolins have laminated curved backs. The same as my high-end guitars. The backs are laminated in a cylindrical arch from all solid woods, with a lightweight western red cedar core. They’re really strong and act very much as an amplifier to the soundboard. Other than that, the construction of the two sizes are identical. You can order an O soundhole model, (like a Sobell mandolin), or an F hole version.
Here is a carved back:
And here is a back with a cylindrical arch:
This new design also led me to think about making a stripped-down racing model – a Session King mandolin. I’ve not made one yet, but the aesthetic will be very much like my other Session King work.
The Session King mandolin will have a solid spruce top, carved, just like the more expensive work. And you can have either O or F. But the back and sides will be plain, simple mahogany. Just like the Session King tenor guitars. Only the top will be bound, and only the face of the headstock will have an ebony head veneer. The bog oak or ebony fretboard, won’t be bound and the fret ends will be as I’ve always done them in the past – neatly chamfered and smooth. And like my regular Session King work, the finish will be a high quality satin finish. The Session King mandolin will be every bit as good as the other models, just made in a more simple, stripped down manner to make it more affordable.
All the mandolins will feature my custom tailpiece which is an improvement on the old Sobell design. Instead of brass pins, the strings hook neatly over small smooth castellations machined into the brass. Then the whole tailpiece is lacquered to prevent and slow the inevitable tarnishing. All mandolins will be supplied with a hard felt tailpiece mute. Some players like using them, some don’t. But you’ll have the choice.
For those of you who want a pickup, you can have a K&K twin spot fitted like in the picture above. It has a decent amplified sound, doesn’t damage the acoustic sound and works well with a DI box. No preamp needed. A decent pickup, and affordable compared to many.
Tuners – the Big and Small models will all come fitted with gold Gotoh 510 mini tuners. The Session King will come with satin steel Rubners.
Here are the mini 510s. Superb tuners that have never let me down.
So, I’ve made up a “2021 batch mandolin” price list, with all the options listed. The prices include shipping.
If you’d like one of those two last spots this year, let me know. If all goes well, you should have your mandolin by Christmas.
Send me a message via the form at the bottom of this page. Don’t forget – I need to know which country you are in so I can send you the correct price list.