Building an Electric Octave Mandolin

AddThis project first transitioned from being another instrument I may make someday to a serious project with a due date when I proposed it as an independent study for credit. Doing it as an independent study would be a great excuse to get credit for making something I wanted to make anyway. It would also be a great motivator to have a firm deadline for the project, something I usually donít have to work with. The three credit independent study would include making two instruments. This project covers the first of the two and was entirely designed and built the summer before the semester I was taking the independent study.

The concept behind this instrument was to be able to arrange guitar parts for the electric octave mandolin (EOM) and be able to play classic rock and hard rock with it as a possible guitar alternative. Whether an EOM will be as versatile and effective in those styles is difficult to say. Following is part of the proposal for the project which explains some of my reasoning for making an electric octave mandolin:

I have about four years experience playing the violin as well as some experience playing the mandolin, both of which are tuned in fifths to GDAE. While I want to play an instrument in the range of a guitar, I would prefer to continue playing instruments tuned in fifths instead of learning a completely new tuning system. The primary goal of this project is to create an electric octave mandolin (EOM) that can be played in the same way as an electric guitar and be seamlessly substituted in any electric guitar part.

The project had already been laid out when I signed up for the independent study through preliminary plans I had worked on sporadically for a while. Really, the idea had been floating around my head ever since I finished my first electric mandolin which I was never really satisfied with for a variety of reasons (a cheap pickup, poor setup, an ill conceived plan which was never realized the way it had first been intendedÖ) Some of these problems were simple to fix, but coming up with the design for an instrument that I will love to play constantly and will be both versatile and useful in all the various styles of music Iím interested in is more difficult. The design stage, took a long time with two or more full weeks devoted to finalizing and refining the designs I had already started. Finding the parts I would need along with their sources also took a while and is a perennially frustrating task for me. The actual construction took about 78 hours over a month to complete.

EOM Plans

Here are the plans I used to build my EOM including many of the templates I used during construction: EOM.dxf. The plans are free to download and copy for reference or as a guide to build your own mandolin. If you don't have a CAD program, there are free CAD viewers available that will let you view and print the plans.

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