Electric Mandolin Necks

This page covers:

Fretboards and Fretboard Inlays

My fretboards are radiused as standard and have EVO-gold fretwire (looks great, lasts forever).

I'm currently switching from ebony fretboards to Rocklite Ebano which is a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. It also happens to be easier to work with, without losing the stiffness that ebony is famous for.

I don't currently use rosewood for fretboards due to issues with the new (2017) CITES regulations.

All my stock instruments have brass fret markers (as well as black or white dots on the fretboard side). I use brass because it's nicely visible against the black fretboard, but also not subject to US customs restrictions. However, for custom ordered instruments, I will happily use mother of pearl or abalone as long as they're not US bound.

"Short" vs "Long" necks.

I build two styles of necks for electric mandolins:

Short Neck:
17 fret neck, with the pickup located where the 19th fret would normally be. This is now the default choice for all my electric mandolins as it offers a more uniform response over the four courses with none of the "weak e-string syndrome" that many e-mandos suffer from. It also gives a jazzier/smoother tone, and to be frank, the "missing" frets are unlikely to be missed: very few amps, pickups or PA's can faithfully reproduce those very high notes.
Long Neck:
A 22 fret neck, with the pickup located where the 24th fret would be. This is the default choice for longer scale instruments - i.e. mandolas and up - as these don't suffer nearly as much from a weak top string as electric mandolins do.

Truss Rods and Construction.

For mandolins I use an all mahogany neck, with a carbon fibre baton (ie non-adjustable truss rod) for rigidity.

The carbon fibre runs the whole length of the neck, right out into the headstock, making the neck extremely stiff. My oldest instrument was built in 2010, still gets played nearly every day, and still has an arrow-straight neck. Mandolin necks are so short, that a good setup doesn't need any neck relief, making a truss rod effectively superfluous.

For mandolas and longer scale instruments, I use a 5-piece glue-lam neck construction, with a 2 way adjustable truss rod. The longer scale length means that some degree of neck relief may be required for correct setup, so a truss rod makes perfect sense in this situation. It also so happens that the multi-piece construction gives an attractive looking neck.

Neck Profile.

All my mandolin family instruments have some sort of V-profile. Essentially there are only two viable profiles for a mandolin: V shaped and club!

What you feel as a "slim" or "clubby" neck is in large part determined by how quickly the neck falls away from your hand in the area shown:

Now if the neck is reasonably wide - for example on a guitar, then you can start the profile as shown and join them up in the middle in a variety of ways (C, U or V etc). For a mandolin however, the neck is so narrow, that in order to obtain a decent profile near the fretboard, and still maintain a sensible (and structurally sound!) neck thickness, only a V profile will give you a "slim" feel next to the fretboard.

That said, I try not to make my necks have too "pointy" a V - personally I find that rather uncomfortable. For longer scale instruments (mandolas and OM's etc) with wider nuts, there's also a bit more room for something a little more C-shaped, though they're still V/C hybrids.

Please contact me here, if you see anything you're interested in.

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