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Thread: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

  1. #1
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

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    I just completed my latest Sopranino (Piccolo) mandolin. For those new to that term, it is a higher pitched, smaller member of the mandolin family. It a fourth above the mandolin, or an octave above the mandola. These are quite small with a scale length of around 10.5" and everything scaled down to match.

    This one is Adirondack Spruce on Red Maple, with a slightly shallower body than my others. I am not using tropical hardwoods, so this one has a blackened Oak fretboard, and a Black Walnut bridge. I am still working on the setup, so we'll see what I think of the bridge in a few days. I have typically been making a couple of bridges for each instrument. Also, I increased the angle of the neck on this one just a bit for a little more height at the bridge.

    I am still on my COVID budget, so again I went with economy tuners and tailpiece. I sure would like to go with something a little better, but here we are.

    This one is finished very differently from the others. I was trying for an old and well-worn look, but not necessarily all the way to 'distressed'. I blackened the top, then steel-wooled through most of the black exposing the red-stained spruce in places. I also left some nicks from construction in the top. Back neck and sides are stained brownish red. Varnish was applied but the gloss was knocked back with steel wool. Most of the stain, then varnish, was removed from the neck (not quite a speed neck, but looking well played-in).

    I hope you like it. This build was a pain in the neck for a variety of reasons (it was jinxed in every way) but I kept at it and that gave me license to take chances with the finish. I had fun with it and am overall happy with the outcome. Thanks for looking.
    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    I really like the way the top looks, I think you captured a well-worn look, which to me is very attractive. I also like the contrast between the colors of the top and the sides/back. I'm looking forward to hearing it. How many of these have you built, Bob?
    Sue

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  5. #3

    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Looks good to me.
    The proportions look right.
    Glad you didn't give up.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Looks very nice. I like that sort of Sheratonish brown top.
    Jim

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Whoa, that's neat!

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  11. #6
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    I really like the way the top looks, I think you captured a well-worn look, which to me is very attractive. I also like the contrast between the colors of the top and the sides/back. I'm looking forward to hearing it. How many of these have you built, Bob?
    Sue
    Hi Sue,

    Thanks to you and everyone else for the compliments. I sure am having fun with these. So far, I have build four in this lineage although one is quite a bit different from the others. That is, four that I have completed to the point of an actual labeled, playable instrument. There have been a number of experiments that resulted in lots of saw dust! I am experimenting and trying to learn what works and what doesn't. I am handing them out to a couple if mandolin-playing friends locally so they can give them a go and provide their critique and I can make changes accordingly.

    One thing I know for sure, the bridge makes an incredible difference. I have one that I made a one-piece maple bridge for, then another bridge with a deer antler saddle and a maple base. The difference was day and night. The antler saddle really improved the instrument. I've also learned that although I make the first bridge for most of these as non-compensated one piece, but with an angled 'saddle', the second bridge I make is usually compensated and that is well worth the effort.

    Another thing I've learned is that the back can make an incredible difference in the sound. These tiny, high-pitched instruments (body is only 7.75" wide and 10" long) really benefit from a very lively back. In fact, I like them best with no bracing on the back at all.

    I have also learned that I need to get better at doing the frets. I find that to be a major time-sink, which perhaps it needn't be, once I get better at it. One of the many reasons for all this practice.

    So, I'll keep filling you all in on the progress. I am having a great time with them!

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

  12. #7
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Oliver View Post
    Looks good to me.
    The proportions look right.
    Glad you didn't give up.
    Thanks Eric, I appreciate it. I, too, think the proportions look better on this one than the earlier tries. I have to see how it sounds compared to the others, once it is all set up. I find that tweaking the setup over the first week or so really improves tone and usually volume as well. I am hoping that this one will sound best, because I'd like to keep building them with this depth and neck angle. I'll let you know when I get this one to that point.

    Thanks,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    I like the bridge actually. You might consider simplifying the design/production part with a round hole. Looks good.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  15. #9
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Latest Piccolo (Sopranino) Build Sports a Different Finish

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I like the bridge actually. You might consider simplifying the design/production part with a round hole. Looks good.
    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the helpful suggestion. A round hole would be a good way to go. The way I have been cutting the oval holes isn't working. It takes too long, gives variable results, and sooner or later I will crack a top after all the work of joining the two sides. The next one will be round!

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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