Originally from the village of Condino, Italy located a nice bicycle ride north of the historic musical center of Cremona, my family has had continuous mandolin players for three centuries. We don't just play it, we helped create its history and continue the tradition. To the right is my great grandfather, circa 1918.
Using centuries old skilled handcraft combined with modern technology, I strive to build the finest sounding, playing, and aesthetic instruments made for the entire mandolin family. Mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, & mandocello; currently at #132.
Additionally, I feel a responsibility to pass the traditions down to the next generation of future mandolin builders. Since 1996, I've taught students in the art and craft of mandolin building: at Oregon State University, as a featured presenter at The Guild of American Luthier's Conventions, the Association of String Instrument Artisan's Symposiums, private lessons in my studio, in video and & print in Fine Woodworking Magazine, American Lutherie Magazine, Guitarmaker Magazine, and in my column in Mandolin Magazine.
After two decades of teaching mandolin building to hundreds of students, we've broken the instruction down to small, manageable classes that focus on specific areas of the build process to maximize student learning and success.
Are your tired of spending 200 hours building a mandolin to completion before you string it up only to find out that the voice did not turn out as you hoped? This class is focused on carved top & back instruments using my modular voicing jig featured in American Lutherie Magazine and as taught in Guild of American Luthiers, Association of String Instrument Artisans seminars, and used at the Oberlin Acoustics workshops.
In three days you will carve & brace a working mandolin top to traditional Loar specs and then string up and voice that plate live, as well as have the ability to try several different back materials and options. A fast track that can save you a dozen builds & a decade of struggles in your learning process like no other.
This is the only place I know where in such a short time you get to hear and play your actual top plate as well as try out several different bracing patterns to understand the voice variations with such a small initial time investment.
Check out this thread over at the mandolin cafe from former students perspectives: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/threads/138621-6-mandolins-in-2-days
The dovetail neck joint is the keystone of your whole mandolin build structural integrity. Cutting a traditional mandolin dovetail is one of the more challenging joints in instrument building. In this workshop we cover multiple common methods of attaching mandolin necks and teach you how to consistently get very precise, strong, positive fitting joints. This one day will save you countless hours of challenging frustrations.
To the left is a video from a couple of years back featuring our straight dovetail installation and neck jig.
Great binding work is a continuous challenge for both new and journeymen builders. This is a two day workshop that takes the confusion and frustration out of binding work . We'll focus on cutting a perfect channel using both traditional hand held cutters and modern power tools to apply natural wood bindings attached with traditional hot hide glue as well as modern materials and adhesives. Take your binding work to the next level!
You can build the finest mandolin around or buy the most coveted historic example, but if the fretwork and setup is not excellent, nobody will ever be able to draw out its full potential. Not just OK or mediocre; setting your mandolin up to the best it possibly can be for ease of playability plus maximum tone & volume. Over three days, we'll cover the bridge, nut, fretwork and the fine points as well as making a complete new fretted fingerboard off the body the same as we do for our new builds.
If your side bending and rib garland has issues, then from day one your build is compromised. We 'll focus on how to build accurate, easily reproduced sides, blocks, and linings. We'll also make a set of very accurate, clean molds that will ensure a high level of consistent finished product while using both traditional bending over a hot pipe as well as modern heat blanket and mechanized systems.
Get yourself started on a path to greatness with a well executed plan & progression while laying the foundation for your new mandolin.
If you have a repair or historic restoration that is challenging or beyond your skills, contact me for a private workshop where we'll tackle the project together. "Fix it for a day or learn to repair it for a lifetime..."
A single day covering the centuries old traditional hand rubbed use of color, French polish and spirit varnish application techniques that produce a fine finish with minimal tools and no need for a dedicated spray booth and expensive equipment, as featured in American Lutherie Magazine.
Another popular method of finishing and adding color and sunbursts to your instruments. We'll use larger commercial spray guns and also focus on minute detailing with an airbrush. Another must have skill to compliment your bag of finishing tricks.
Check out the spray finishing video that our friends over at Dream Guitars shot a few years back, featuring James and Ken Jones of Mountain Song Guitars.
Featured is my 1926 "snakehead" Gibson A style mandolin blueprint available from the Guild of American Luthiers, (www.luth.org); a detailed scale plan of an exceptional post Loar period mandolin. Snakeheads are great sounding & playing mandolins from the golden age and are a perfect platform for learning to build a great mandolin: everything you need, without all of the more advanced complications in an F style instrument.