|I've built many models of mandolins -- oval hole, two points of different varieties -- but my bread-and butter mandolins are the F-5 style and more recently the A style, at the left. Both tickle my bluegrass ear and have timeless, classic lines.|
The next important considerations are the woods for the top and back and sides. Red (Adirondack) spruce is my first choice for top wood. Also available are Lutz spruce, Sitka spruce, Engelmann spruce, and Carpathian spruce. Since most mandolin tops are finished in a sunburst, there's little difference in appearance; for a better look at the grain characteristics of these woods, you can visit the guitar design page. Here's my take on the sound and appearance of these different top woods:
|For back and side wood, any species is fine with me as long as it's maple: curly, blistered, birds eye, or quiltied, maple is the only wood I currently use for back, sides, and neck. I find little difference in the tonal characterists of the different types of maple, nor between hard and soft maple. The choice here, I believe, is an aesthetic one.|
Other important considerations concern the top bracing -- X-bracing or tone bars -- and neck reinforcement.Though the sound of an X-braced is different that that of a tone bar-braced top, I'm not enough of a wordsmith to define the difference other than that the tone bars deliver a more traditional sound, the X-bracing a more modern one. I've built a lot of both, and like both.
The scale length of my mandolins is 13.875"
|My New Vintage instruments have as one feature carbon fiber reinforcing bars that
are attached to the fretboard and extend throughout the entire upper section of the fretboard. On the mandolin this is partiularly significant because the fretboard extension hangs from the fretboard, rather than being fastened to the top and supporting the fretboard. This both frees up the top for more open sound and eliminates that dratted
15-th fret hump that traditionally develops in even the finest of instruments. This also allows the fretboard and extender to be removed along with the pickguard.
|Although most of the hardware choices are detailed on other pages, the selection of a tailpiece is essential and specific to the building of the mandolin. I'll install any tailpiece that catches your fancy, but my preference is for a heavy, cast tailpiece like these shown. I especially like the James tailpiece, left, not only for its looks and utility, but also because it makes string changes a breeze. Visit my Links page for more choices from our vendors.|
|Many questions about a Skipper mandolin can be answered by watching the construction step by step. A wealth of this information is available in my Archives section, where all the instruments I've built in the last several years are presented in detail.|
The following design choices are common to many instruments, and will be discussed in detail on other pages. Click on any of the links to navigate to the proper area.
|To hear a Skipper mandolin being played, visit my Audio / Video page.|
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