Steel String

The soundboards are 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.

My bridge uses a deep saddle slot which makes it easy to fit a standard undersaddle pickup. It also allows height adjustment using shims instead of the common screw arrangement that causes sound loss.

I am using stainless steel frets in the main playing area 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.

Videos Blackwood Eucalypt


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 an under saddle pickup.

video1 video2

video3 playing it with fingers.

Live through an undersaddle pickup



10 String

10 string citterns can be tuned in many ways. A common one is like an 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

Video2 Video3 shorter scale

Another version is tuning like a 12 string guitar without the bass E pair.

Video of fixed bridge version Played Celtic style


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")



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 use these 1:15 ratio Rubner brass tuning heads from Germany. (left) or a variety of Japanese Gotoh tuners (right) if the weight is not a problem.




There are 2 hollow carbon rods that don't touch the front or back but support the string tension on the tailpiece. The long term distortion problems that effect oval soundhole mandolins (both Gibson and bowlback versions) simply cannot happen.

The sides of the mandolin are double layered, using two 3mm layers to make 6mm. This helps to project the sound like a banjo rim.


I use various tailpieces like the Ashton Bailey(left), a modified standard brass tailpiece (middle) and the Allen MR-2 (right) which can be ordered in brass to match brass heads.



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.

I sometimes have local figured Blackwood (bottom), which is harder to get and will cost a bit more.

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. The result is very stable and prevents losing bass frequencies through body contact. I use this on all of my teardrop shaped instruments.