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



This is a 10 string version of an octave mandolin. It would probably be called a cittern by celtic musicians. It is tuned an octave below a normal mandolin and the extra high pair is tuned to A. The body is tuned an octave below a mandolin and has a 19 inch scale.

Here is a video of it

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 503 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.

On the left is a curved laminated back, but below is another design I call a "turtle back". I bend the sides on an iron, join them together and reinforce the center join so that it doesn't vibrate. Aside from less weight, I can't find much difference between the two except that I currently like the turtle back for the unusual look.

turtle back