Design

The overall design is very compact, while still remaining reminiscent of a Gibson Les Paul guitar. It has 18 frets with the neck joint at the 12th fret. A cutaway allows for easy access to the upper frets. The electronics were all aimed at a warmer tone since mandolins already tend towards a brighter sound. This included a single pick-up in the neck position.

The most distinctive feature of the mandolin has to be the headless design. I used standard Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners at the tail of the instrument as opposed to a custom tuner setup. Since these tuners usually mount to a 1/2 inch thick headstock, I routed a thin platform for the tuners to attach at the tail end of the mandolin. Brass pins secure the loop end where the headstock should be, and brass pins were also used to redirect the strings to their respective tuners at the tail so the strings can go over the bridge relatively straight. The headless design makes for a smaller instrument and hopefully a less accident prone instrument at the often vulnerable headstock.

Electrical System

The electronics system was going to consist of an inboard pre-amp, headphone amp and jack and a 9 volt battery to power everything. At one point, I even wanted to add a small 2 inch speaker and associated amp for anywhere, out-loud playing, possibly for busking, instead of having to carry a small practice amp everywhere. All of these features would have required separated circuits and a lot more time designing and building the electronics, which is not my strongest subject. The electronics were supposed to be housed in a large routed cavity which currently houses only the pick-up. A separate cavity was routed out for the tone and volume controls. For all of the routed cavities, I left an 1/8 inch thick section of body so the top of the instrument could remain one solid piece with only the pick-up and knobs sticking through.

I wired up the mandolin like a guitar with a simple passive single pick-up only using a tone and volume control. The mandolin still works well as a travel mandolin due to its reasonably loud and pleasant sound when played unplugged, even though it is solid bodied. It really isnít necessary to use a headphone amp with it unless you want to play with effects, which I wouldnít have with me on-the-go anyway.

Construction Method

The basic construction method for a solid body is very different from an acoustic for obvious reasons. This mandolin is also different from many electric guitars and mandolins. I had though about a number of different construction methods before I settled on this one. I didnít want to make a bolt on neck or the other popular option, a through body neck. I decided to use the same mortise and tennon joint system I had used on my acoustic mandolins. The front of the tennon is covered by the fingerboard. To cover the tennon on the back, I used a 1/4 inch thick piece which extends to cover the entire back surface of the mandolin. I was planning on using a thinner back, but the thickness of the wood I could find limited my options on the design. In one way it was good that I had the wood issues: I was planning on making the body much thinner, but at about 1.5 inches thick it turned out just about right.