New Mandolin

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Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

I built a couple of electric octave mandolins and did a number of conversions of electric guitars to octave mandolin. I just got interested in these. The also sell quite well since there isn't a lot of these things out there. I started taking on-line mandolin lessons and ran into trouble learning while using my octave mandolin for obvious reasons. I needed a mandolin and this is what I came up with.
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Mahogany body with bookmatched ash back cap. Mahogany/Maple/Mahogany neck with a Persimmon lacquered fretboard with a conventional one-way trussrod. Handmade brass/stainless bridge. Handmade P90 type pickup. .090 tortoise celluloid pickguard. Grover sta-tite tuners.
Mahogany body with bookmatched ash back cap. Mahogany/Maple/Mahogany neck with a Persimmon lacquered fretboard with a conventional one-way trussrod. Handmade brass/stainless bridge. Handmade P90 type pickup. .090 tortoise celluloid pickguard. Grover sta-tite tuners.

Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

The bridge and the pickup. All of the bridge material/parts is from McMasterCarr. I have a cheap X/Y table on my drill press which made this possible. Shaping the saddles is the most difficult part. I made an error in my math so the first one I built was just a little too wide son I had to make another. Once you get the numbers figured out, it isn't that difficult to make.

The pickup is a P90 style/magnet configuration. Persimmon and bakelite bobbin using aluminum spacers. 11,000 turns of #42 wire resulting in a dc resistance of about 7.7K. A pair of alico magnets from allparts. I wrapped the coil in cotton string and then wax potted it. The lead wire is cloth insulated shielded wire from allparts. I think the pickup is too hot and brittle for my tastes and I'll probably wind another with 8,500 turns. If I back down on the 500K volume pot it sounds much better.
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M2sm.jpg

Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

The neck is set into the back of the body and a cap covers the joint. This is a Rickenbacker design of neck joint and I like it a lot. Its very easy to do with a lot of process advantages. Its very easy to measure your neck angle and adjust it before you commit to glue and clamps. Ric doesn't run the back cap over the heel of the neck like I did. The result of this joint is a super strong and rigid structure. You can make the tenon as long as you want -- even neck through if you want.

The little dots on the back of the neck... This was a prototype and I needed to measure/verify how deep the curved trussrod was from the back.
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M3Sm.jpg

Clay Schaeffer
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Nice looking Mando. Do doubled strings sound different than single on an electric instrument?

Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

Yes. With chop chords not so much but the pairs can’t help but add a unique character. The solid body is missing a huge amount of mandolin flavor but having the pairs retains an element that is lost with single strings. The difference is the same as a typical electric guitar compared to a 12-string electric guitar - it’s quite a different sound.
Understand that I’ve always been a student of building electric guitars and this is the direction I’ve come from rather than being a mandolin maker moving to electric mandolins. I have a lot to learn. I should almost be posting this in the solid body guitar section with my contemporaries but I want to stay here and get feedback from the mandolin folks. I need to find an accomplished mandolin player locally who can provide me with constructive feedback.

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Barry Daniels
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Location: The Woodlands, Texas

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Barry Daniels »

Mark, I really like the mandolin but I have to tell you that I don't like the bridge (unless this was just a prototype). Too much going on there just to have intonation. Once the intonation is determined, a stream line, hand carved wooden bridge (with fixed compensation) would be much more elegant and might help with the brittle sound.
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Dick Hutchings
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Re: New Mandolin

Post by Dick Hutchings »

I agree with Barry. But, I have no experience with electric mandolins and you are probably partial to that bridge after all the work you did. Make one and change it and see.
Dick Hutchings

Mark Wybierala
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Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

Different tastes for different folks. Yea, I kinda like it cuz of the time I invested. Its a copy of an Alembic bridge that I once saw some years ago. It ain't pretty but a metal intonatable bridge was what I wanted. Its functional and I appreciate brass because in 50 years someone will be able to polish it up to a mirror finish and it'll look brand new unlike chrome, nickle, or gold plate. As the instrument ages, you have a choice to let a vintage patina develop or not. There's nothing preventing me from making an alternative bridge from ebony. Strings are grounded at the 8 hole plate where they come through the body. The ability to intonate individual pair is important to some people but its debatable whether or not its necessary. Understand that I'm an electric guitar maker who is building electric mandolins from the perspective of an electric guitar maker. Some people will like it and others will want the mandolin gods to smite me down in hell fire.

The 15" scale is too long so I'm going to offer the necks I've already made as mandola instruments and revise my templates for a 13.8" scale. A fella named George at D'Addario has been super helpful with string tension calculation and access to single ball-end NYXL strings which are the only string that so far will tolerate the 15" scale. Ernie Ball isn't going to offer their Paradigm string as singles for quite some time. An eight-string electric mando isn't for everybody but I'm really enjoying it.

Clay Schaeffer
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:04 pm

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I think the bridge goes well with the cat eared electric guitar vibe. Once you get another (shorter scale) electric mandolin made you might want to try restringing that one as a mandola and see how you like it. 15 inches is on the short end of mandola scale lengths but might work O.K. for an electric job. Going with slightly heavier strings than the typical mandola set might make them a little less loose.
15 inch scale length is good for a "concert" ukulele. Building a solid body electric uke with a piezo pickup might be an interesting experiment, and as popular as ukes are at the moment might be a good seller. Some are also strung in steel with magnetic pickups and some with chambered bodies and a Baggs type active pickup.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOdaNLqNKyE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Axdw0ehnFvI

Andrew Jerman
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Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2012 11:00 pm

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Andrew Jerman »

I think intonation is a must have on a mandolin such as this because many people are using alternate tunings and will often use a lighter string then they would on an acoustic because they are more apt to bend strings. Its nice to have flexibility. I have a couple different types of bridges that I use but when it comes to something akin to what is pictured then I'll either mill a traditional Tunemmatic bridge out of brass or wood stock but most recently have been experimenting with using brass U channel. Both styles use a traditional Nashville tunematic saddle.
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tun o matic blanks.jpg

Mark Wybierala
Posts: 469
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:14 am
Location: Central New Jersey

Re: New Mandolin

Post by Mark Wybierala »

A little mill is on my wish list. Unfortunately, a dust collector of some sort is the priority. I haven't found brass u-channel. I'm just pleased as punch that I'm able to make a functional bridge. I'm pushing the abilities of my cheap X/Y table and Harbor Freight vise to their limit with very sloppy backlash and an indicator that is very difficult to read but it works. I have a design process now that I'm familiar enough with to make these bridges in any string spacing I want and to be able to do this solves many design issues. Its still half a day to get a bridge but there is a pleasure of not being restricted to designing around an existing manufactured part.

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