The Mandolele


The Mandolele project was inspired by Don Williams who had the idea that the New England Luthiers should have a group Ukulele build. Don also provided some fine Black Acacia for the project.

The Name "Mandolele" is more descriptive than accurate, as far as I know. Some of the references I could find are usually "Uke Like" instruments, some with doubled strings and in some cases, the strings are steal and not nylon. Although, recently, a Luthier from Hawaii, Bill Griffin, made a beutiful instrument he is calling a mandolele. I might add that the idea to call this instrument a "Mandolele" was not mine. I think Don Williams was the first and the N.E.Luthiers seemed to except this title so it just stuck. The biggest difference this instrument has compared to what I have seen, is the shape. Although the shape is my own design, I must say I was greatly inspired by the shapes of instruments in William Cumpiano's Shop (the Puerto Rican Cuarto and the Tres).

Through the process of researching for this instrument, the design has changed many times which delayed the building process but I think was worth the time spent. Starting with the intent to build a large sized Uke changed to more like an octave Mandolin. I went with a double coarse of 4 strings and decided on steal strings instead of the nylon

Although this Mandolele is technically a hybrid instrument, the building techniques were mostly barrowed from those of a flat top guitar build. For me, the Mandolele build was a great learning experience. One of the surprizes was the amount of volume a small scale instrument is cappable of. I have built a few more since the first and have happened apon a few changes in building tecknieque and design that seem to have made some improvements in tone and volume.

A pile of parts ready for assembly.

A close-up of the cherry burl I got from my Brother Clark. I used some epoxy fill on the headstock to pop the grain figure. The rosette around the sound hole also has some burl.

I glued the scoops directly on the top as you would the head and tail block.


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