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Thread: Mandocello Measurements

  1. #1
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Mandocello Measurements

    Hi all, I have been scouring the forum for a few hours looking for Gibson mandocello measurements and did find two threads with some measurements but not all the ones required for my future build. So if any of you have either style A or F, and a ruler I would love to have the following measurements:

    Nut width
    Width of neck at 12th fret
    Length of head stock from tip to the nut
    Width of headstock at widest point
    length of body
    width of body at widest point
    body depth
    height of carved arches
    scale length
    inside width of the C,G,D and A courses (how far apart double strings are from each other)
    space between the C-G course
    space between the G-D course
    space between the D-A course
    height of bridge
    neck angle

    Thanks!

    Max
    Last edited by Max Girouard; Jan-18-2010 at 12:36pm. Reason: forgot some measurements

  2. #2
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Checkout the Guild of American Luthiers article written by Lawrence Smart on the modern mandolin faimily for those details. Also remember that just because that's the way they built it back in the day doesn't mean that it is the right combination for your personal build. I've played a lot of historic mandocellos that had a huge club of a neck that was difficult to play and then a few modern builders instruments that almsot had a mandola width neck that was a joy to play.

    j.
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  3. #3
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    I'd like to chime in with my opinion that the Gibson mandocello had a scale much too short to support a C string. Real cellos—the bass of a string quartet—have a 27" scale. Gibson's mandocello scale was 24.5" - arguably too short even for an E note, much less a C, and even shorter than their guitars of that era. That scale was/is ideal for octave mandolin, but tepid for cello pitches. Theoretically you can increase the string gauge to compensate for the scale, but the results usually tell you that the thicker string just sounds thuddy.

    You don't normally play chords on a mandocello—it's a single note instrument like its violin family relative. If you want the most authoritative sound from a mandocello over the whole range of the four courses, please consider a 27" scale.

    This woman plays a 24+"-ish scale, quite close to a Gibson mandocello scale, but tuned (appropriately) GDAE:



    Her instrument is known in Europe and environs as a mandole.

    And for something else to think about, here's my Greek laouto, a mandocello with a 28.5" scale!



    Steel strings, gut frets, hurts like h*ll to play, but what a sound!
    .
    ph

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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Hostetter View Post
    I'd like to chime in with my opinion that the Gibson mandocello had a scale much too short to support a C string. Real cellos—the bass of a string quartet—have a 27" scale. Gibson's mandocello scale was 24.5" - arguably too short even for an E note, much less a C, and even shorter than their guitars of that era. That scale was/is ideal for octave mandolin, but tepid for cello pitches. Theoretically you can increase the string gauge to compensate for the scale, but the results usually tell you that the thicker string just sounds thuddy.
    Although I'm not a builder, I'll second Paul's comment about the C string's sound. I have a wonderful Weber mandocello, and my ONLY complaint about it is that those C-strings' tone lacks the richness of their three companion sets. The standard scale length on all Weber m'cellos is 24.75", which is in the old Gibson ballpark, rather than what Paul recommends.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

  5. #5
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    'Gotta agree with what has been said already. I played a Forster octave mandolin earlier this year that had a 25.0 scale length and it worked great. 27.0 for a mandocello sounds a LOT better; the only way I would consider using the original Gibson scale is if that were the treble side for a fanned fretboard. An important thing to consider with a mandocello build is that while it may have similar origins, it really isn't just a big mandolin- it is more like a completely new instrument with similar tuning intervals. Thinking about it like a big mandolin changes your approach to chord construction and playing style and makes a lot of people want a smaller scale length. Once you've played a well made box with a 27.5" scale and .075s strung up on it you'll understand how lush and full that low C really can be and that it is worth the stretch.

    As a huge fan of all the larger mandolin family instruments and an upright bass player as well, there is no substitute for a big body volume and long scale length. I know a lot of double bass players who put an extension on their low E string to bring the scale down to around 47+" long for a SERIOUS low C note!

    j.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Lefty Luthier's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    I have been experimenting with a mandocello that has a 25 inch scale length and have found that properly tuning a Virzi helps a lot with the lower register. Increasing the scale length would undoubtedly improve C tone but I prefer the shorter neck length from a visual standpoint.

  7. #7
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Here's what I get off my '20's vintage K-1:

    Quote Originally Posted by max3 View Post
    Nut width 1.5 inches
    Width of neck at 12th fret 2.0 inches
    Length of head stock from tip to the nut 6.75 inches
    Width of headstock at widest point 2.75 inches
    length of body 18.25 inches
    width of body at widest point 14.25 inches
    body depth 3.25 inches
    height of carved arches hard to tell on mine, since the top's flattened a bit; maybe 1/3 inch
    scale length 24.75 inches
    inside width of the C,G,D and A courses (how far apart double strings are from each other) 3/16 inch
    space between the C-G course 7/16 inch
    space between the G-D course 7/16 inch
    space between the D-A course 3/8 inch
    height of bridge 1.0 inch
    neck angle Can't help you there...
    So this is what's on my "ham sandwich," and I leave it to others to advise you to construct a "tuna salad on rye" instead.... My C strings are quite adequate in terms of volume and resonance, but YMMV.
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  8. #8
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Thanks!!!!! That is exactly what I was looking for. Maybe I'll try making two, one with the old scale and one with a 27 inch to compare. Thanks!

    Max

  9. #9
    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    After reading this I wonder if H5 Master Model (old & new build) owners with it's 15 5/8" Scale length find it's C tension satisfactory? Is setup affected much from the extra slop of a shorter scale length or is this all about tone? What's the most common distance that 5 course fanned fretboard open up to on the c course?

  10. #10
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Does anyone have any thoughts on nut width? I've heard that 'cellos can range from guitar neck width, to more narrow than the traditional gibson 'cellos.
    Would a more narrow nut make the 27" scale more manageable?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    This evening I had the opportunity to play a K-2, it is a good sounding instrument, but the C string was pretty thuddy sounding and there was quite a bit of buzzing with the action at a reasonable height.
    Walt decided to go with the 27" on the 'cello I'm building for him and I think it is the right way to go. I will also be reinforcing the neck with CF which will help to reduce the neck to a more comfortable size, and I will be making it a bit more narrow, also.

  12. #12
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Paul Hostetter: I'd like to chime in with my opinion that the Gibson mandocello had a scale much too short to support a C string. Real cellos—the bass of a string quartet—have a 27" scale. Gibson's mandocello scale was 24.5" - arguably too short even for an E note, much less a C, and even shorter than their guitars of that era. That scale was/is ideal for octave mandolin, but tepid for cello pitches. Theoretically you can increase the string gauge to compensate for the scale, but the results usually tell you that the thicker string just sounds thuddy.
    I own a 1936 K-1 and I like it but I would have to agree with Paul. Although until he mentioned it I had never thought about it before.

    For sure the standard mandocello C-string is a monster (0.074") so I would could not imagine wanting to play an even heavier gauge.

    I think the suggestion is right -- a longer scale and a lighter guage C-string would be an improvement. I wonder if it would be harder to play however.

    Also I have often felt that the body of a Gibson mandocello (K-1, K-2 or K-4)is too small compared to a mandolin/mandola. But I've never done math so maybe not. But a cello seems much larger relative to a violin --than the mandolin is the the mandocello. Is this true? Certainly the cello has a much deeper body than the mandocello.

    Also it sure seems to me that the body K-5 was somewhat larger than a K-4? I think if I were the OP I would go for a K-5 copy with the longer neck that Paul recommends.
    Bernie
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  13. #13
    Registered User zookster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    I own a '14 K1 that I've had for about 12 years. Yes, the bottom C tends to be thuddy. I've tried various gauges and have settled on the standard .074s. Also, the neck is pretty large since there is no truss rod. I like the scale, but I find the whole notion of longer scale/lighter strings to make quite a lot of sense. Even with a longer scale, if you could thin down the neck it would play a LOT faster.

    I had the good fortune to play a Loar-signed K5 a number of years ago. What a tone! Probably the combination of the bigger body, F holes, and longer scale. VERY playable neck as well. Since Gibson based it on their guitar design, it leaned more toward a 12 string sound, but still hands down an improvement over the previous K series. Now if I only had the money to have bought it...........

  14. #14
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    zookster: I own a '14 K1 that I've had for about 12 years. Yes, the bottom C tends to be thuddy. I've tried various gauges and have settled on the standard .074s. Also, the neck is pretty large since there is no truss rod.
    Agreed -- at one time I had three mandocellos -- a very early 1907 K1, one that I think was a 1914 (or 1915?) K2 and the 1936 K1 model. The neck on the '36 with a truss rod is much nicer. I sold off the two older ones but I hated to part with the K2.

    Couple of years ago I converted an old 6-string square shouldered dreadnought into a mandocello -- the conversion was pretty easy and the resulting mandocello has a thundering voice but the guitar neck is not ideal and much harder to play on then my Gibson mandocello --- the guitar nut/fingerboard is just too wide for my taste.

    The mandocello has two more strings but only 3 "large" spacings(between courses) and 4 small spacings (between strings) -- where as the guitar has 5 large spacings.

    The more I think about it the more I think that a K5 with the longer neck -- as suggested -- would be the ideal mandocello.
    Bernie
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  15. #15
    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    What is the mandocello that Sarah Jarosz is playing in this clip? Or is it something other than a mandocello?


    Rob G.
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    Brentrup Evangelist Larry S Sherman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Pretty sure that's an octave. Here's a quote from a previous thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by mandomania7923 View Post
    This is made by fletcher brock. she calls it a bouzouki because the bottom strings are tuned in octaves. hope this helps.

  17. #17
    Registered User zookster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    I'd be interested in any results you builders have had with converting an old arch top to a mandocello. You'd still have a guitar scale length to contend with (versus longer) and you'd probably want to slim down the neck so the nut width is in the 1 5/8" to 1 9/16" range, as well as slimming the neck profile.

    You'd also have to alter the peghead. But.......that body size seems to be ideal for the low registers. Any successes out there?

    Now if I could just find a blueprint for that K5............

  18. #18
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Look to the left side:



    It still had the short scale, but there is a precedent.
    .
    ph

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Gibson's mandocello scale was 24.5" - arguably too short even for an E note, much less a C, and even shorter than their guitars of that era. That scale was/is ideal for octave mandolin, but tepid for cello pitches. Theoretically you can increase the string gauge to compensate for the scale, but the results usually tell you that the thicker string just sounds thuddy.
    Paul, following up on that thought I am thinking of just restringing my K1 to with:

    G = 0.048"
    D = 0.032"
    A = 0.022"
    E = 0.016"

    The first three are standard mandocello strings (from J-78s')-- but based on your comments would you go to with a tad heavier guage all the way across?

    I don't know why I did not think of this a long time ago...........
    Bernie
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  20. #20
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Not to sideline this very good thread, but are you sure that the low "C" and a mandocello setup is the right thing for you? As much as I like the larger scale and feel of the low C note when I'm playing alone, when I'm with others, I'd much rather have an longer scale octave mandolin. No new thinking process, just jump into it with what I already know and then go full out an octave lower. The mandocello tunings always throw me off a little. Even on a double bass with an extension, I rarely use the low "C"....

    I got a chance to play the Weber #1 full scroll mandocello prototype over at Dream Guitars (www.dreamguitars.com) for a few hours this month- pretty cool instrument with a huge low end. Playing it in a huge room full of custom guitars worth abouth $two million + all resonating while you play was a blast! Anyone looking for a nice mandocello should check it out. ( no financial interest here, just a mandocello geek...)

    j.
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  21. #21
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Paul, following up on that thought I am thinking of just restringing my K1 to with:

    G = 0.048"
    D = 0.032"
    A = 0.022"
    E = 0.016"

    The first three are standard mandocello strings (from J-78s')-- but based on your comments would you go to with a tad heavier gauge all the way across.
    That seems like a good and well-reasoned place to start, and certainly will do no harm. Seems like the E might be too heavy though. The K-1 has a right stout neck which can take it, certainly, but I have a hunch an .014 might sound better. Give either one a try.
    .
    ph

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  22. #22
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    Paul: Thanks.

    grandcanyonminstrel: Not sure if your comment is directed toward me or the OP but I essentially agree with you.

    Max3: I hope you post a pic of you new mandocello when you get it.
    Bernie
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  23. #23
    Registered User Max Girouard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    I'm still in the process of finalizing some plans. I should be putting in an order for some wood from Spruce in a few weeks. Maybe I'll post some photos in the mandolins in progress page when I get started. At this point I will be going with the 27 inch scale and perhaps a smaller nut length. I also am going to go with the K-4 body style. I will try a guitar body in the future, but right now I think it would be cool to have a giant mando! Thanks all for the info and making this a great thread!

  24. #24
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    max3: At this point I will be going with the 27 inch scale and perhaps a smaller nut length. I also am going to go with the K-4 body style. I will try a guitar body in the future, but right now I think it would be cool to have a giant mando!
    Yes, I fully agree it will be amazing and wonderful to have.

    I was wondering one thing -- will you have to carve the top differently because your are going for a longer scale?
    That is I am assuming the the bridge placement will move toward the neck and above the middle of the F-holes?

    At least that is what would happen if you just put a longer neck on a K4?

    I'm not sure about this but what made me ask is the thought of having a longer mandocello neck constructed to fitted to a 40's period Gibson L-48 that has broken headstock. (i.e., instead of fixing the guitar headstock I'd just replace the neck?)
    Bernie
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  25. #25
    Café habitué Paul Hostetter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandocello Measurements

    If you're lengthening the scale, that's all you do. It's the same as taking a capo off the third fret and playing the strings open.



    Same string gauges, same string tension, same top graduation.
    .
    ph

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