Steel String

The soundboards on these instruments are steamed and clamped in a mold to dry for about a week. They are then finely shaped and reinforced with a carbon lattice. This makes the soundboard lighter and stronger than a carved top instrument. With light playing the volume exceeds that of standard instruments.

A deep (7mm) saddle slot makes it easy to fit a standard undersaddle pickup.

I am using stainless steel frets because they last many times longer than the standard nickel silver.

I put fret markers on the side of the fingerboard at frets 5, 7, 12, 17 and 19.

watch videos > Redwing and Country Waltz


Carbon String

My other main mandolin is a fixed bridge version that uses Fluorocarbon strings. The tension is similar to classical guitar so it is a breeze to play. It is not as loud as my steel string version, but is louder than many commercial steel string instruments. On stage it works well with a K&K saddle pickup.

Here is a video playing it with fingers.

and another video playing it with a plectrum

Here is one using ukulele tuning

Live through a K&K undersaddle pickup



10 String

These 10 string citterns can be tuned like an octave octave mandolin with a high A. This solves the problem in Celtic tunes of having to reach the high B by changing position.

Video of tailpiece version Octave mandolin tuning with extended A

Video of fixed bridge version using guitar tuning without low E


Short scale

Another design option is to reduce the string length by one fret. This lowers the tension of the strings which is good for a guitar or fiddle player who doesn't want to adapt ot high tension mandolin strings.

An .011 gauge E string on a normal mandolin is tighter than the same gauge on a guitar, and is then doubled.

Full scale = 341 mm (13.5")

Short scale = 322 mm (12.7")

This Blackwood top version is an interesting variation. It has a drier sound than a Cedar top, which can be an asset for mic or pickup use.



The zero fret system, tapered head and low head angle, tune much better than traditional style instruments. This is because there is almost no friction at the nut.

I am mostly using these 1:15 ratio Rubner brass tuning heads from Germany. (left)

I can also use 16:1 oval Gotoh SGM tuners (right) if the extra weight is not a problem.


The solid cast Ashton Bailey (left) is currently my standard tailpiece. The Allen MR-2 (right) can be ordered in brass which matches the brass heads.

The sides and back of the mandolin are double layered, using two 3mm layers to make 6mm. This helps the sound to project forwards like a banjo rim, and a heavy cast tailpiece adds to this effect.


I use local Eucalypts on the majority of my mandolins. The mixture of stripe and fiddleback creates a look that I hope will raise the status of this undervalued timber.

Below is a picture of my current back design that I call a turtleback. The two pieces are bent and shaped before joining to make a curved back. Aside from stability, it prevents losing bass frequencies through body contact, which is a common mandolin problem.