A century or more ago the mandolin was a major focus of social as well as professional music making. Throughout Europe and America there were mandolin orchestras of all sizes and abilities using mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and guitars playing a mix of light classical music and arrangements of popular songs and dance music of the day. Most of these orchestras disappeared when the mandolin craze faded in the 1920s, but many of the instruments have survived and people are still making music with them.
A long-held desire has been to build a quartet of two mandolins, a mandola and a mandocello from matched timbers and I have been able to to find some Tasmanian King Billy pine for the soundboards and Australian blackwood for the backs and sides to make such a quartet.
The designs for the quartet have been inspired by the Lyon and Healy Style A mandolin orchestra instruments from the late 19-teens.
The King Billy and blackwood for the mandolins and mandola are from the same tree. The timber for the mandocello is as close in colour and density as possible. The necks are from Queensland maple, reinforced with carbonfiber bars for the two mandolins and two-way adjustable truss rods on the mandola and ‘cello. Fingerboards are ebony, slotted to 13.875”/35.4cm scale for the mandolins, 16.5”/42cm scale for the mandolin and 25.5”/65cm scale for the mandocello. Head overlays are blackwood and Gidget. Binding is ivoroid, tuners are Gotoh and Allen tailpieces. Finish is satin nitro lacquer.
The Australian Mandolin Quartet is for available for purchase. A$17,500 plus shipping