6/14/2017

1930s/2017 Sewing Drawer Electric Mandola





I just happen to have more old sewing machine drawers and a pile of random instrument necks, so after the 5-string sewing drawer lap steel, what better way to follow-up than an electric mandola? This one is made with a 1930s Regal tiple neck that gives it a 16 3/4" scale length and wide, 1 1/2" nut width. The sewing machine drawer body is the same as on the lap steel and the other bits are either made or cobbled from parts-bin finds -- a new Alnico-magnet mini-humbucker pickup, a bridge I made from some random tropical hardwood scrap, and a 1920s mandolin tailpiece installed flat on the top and anchored as well to the drawer's "footplate."

Work on the neck included installing old, 1920s, mandolin tuners, a fret level/dress, new side dots, and modification to the heel so it'd bolt-up just fine to the body. The body itself received a cut for the pickup, wiring harness install (volume, jack), and a "coordinator rod" (like on a banjo) install to allow for minor action adjustments (and increased stability). The whole thing has turned-out beautifully and it plays perfectly, has a straight neck, and sounds the business through an amp. Despite the wonky stagger of the polepieces over the paired courses, one can dial-in a balanced sound, anyhow, and the mini-humbucker has a nice, full, clear sound to it that's quite articulate.

The current strings are 36w, 26w, 15, 11 flatwound D'Addario mandolin strings (EFW74) that tune to CGDA (standard mandola) just fine. I've compensated the bridge for the unwound D, so depending on what gauge of regular electric mandolin strings one uses, alternate tunings can be achieved. I'd imagine a 34w-10 or 32w-9 set could tune DAEB and that would be neat to try, too. Action is 1/16" at the 12th fret and while the neck is wide and has a somewhat-deep C/V hybrid shape, it handles easily.



The nut is new and bone.





The bridge is compensated and, as usual, I've marked its back-edge in case it gets bumped. I left its look a little rough (and with no finish) to match the instrument.




This side of the drawer has a cool decorative touch but the other side is plain.







Here are the exposed "guts." The black rod is the coordinator rod.


This side has a little receptacle for its cut-off end.


This side has two nuts -- one on the inside and one on the outside -- and if the inside one is tightened it forces the neck angle forward and raises action. If the one on the outside is tightened, the neck angle is forced back and the action is lowered. Just a tiny turn lowers action decisively, so this is a nice novelty to have. In addition, the rod also makes the entire box super-sturdy and as stable as a solid plank of wood.

After I made the rod for this one, I went back and installed one in my lap steel, too.


The outside adjuster nut is on the decorative mount.


Here are the neck bolts.


These are the strings on it right now -- EFW74 stainless flatwounds -- that work well with the pickup and give a mellow, jazzy tone to the low strings.

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