1950s Stradolin 4-String Electric Mandolin (Modified)

This project began life as a down-on-its-luck, student-model, plywood-body Stradolin. This same type was made in great numbers by United (in New Jersey) for the Stradolin brand and, compared to their solid-top models, features a single ladder brace in the middle rather than tonebar bracing. For this particular instrument, that light bracing (which makes these ply Strads sound amazing for what they are) was a problem as the top buckled a little wonkily from tension and time.

That wonkiness made the decision to convert this into an electric instrument a lot easier, however. I'd bought this fully intending to electrify it like a "poor man's EM-150," but it helps to have an excuse to carve-up an instrument and to do it the way I wanted -- like a "jazzbox" of an electric mandolin -- with an Alnico II-magnet P90 pickup under the hood and four strings instead of 8. Let's just say I'm a fan of Tiny Moore!

Work included: top rout/cut and install of a P90 pickup, replacement hard-mounted bridge, wiring harness install, a fret level/dress, quick mod to the headstock and tuners swap-out, strap buttons, and a setup with flatwound strings in gauges 34w, 24w, 14, 10. It has a straight neck, plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret, and sounds the biz.

Specs are: 13 13/16" scale length, 1 3/16" nut width, 7/8" string spacing at the nut, 1 7/16" spacing at the bridge, 10 1/8" body width, and 1 3/4"-2 1/2" body depth (side depth and then overall body depth).

Materials are: ply mahogany top, back, and sides, poplar (or maple?) neck, rosewood fretboard and bridge. The "binding" is painted-on.

Condition notes: the top is a little bit distorted from its original domed/press-arched shape (but stable), the bridge and tuners are replacements, and the pickup and wiring harness are clearly unoriginal.

Even though there's a lot of gear installed on the top and the strings are down to 4, this instrument still has decent-enough volume and tone acoustically to practice on or use for tiny-group jamming.

Please don't mock my quick fills of the old tuner holes. I haven't 100% decided whether I want to stick with 4 or go to 8 strings on this guy.

So -- why does the pickup have a weird, chrome-plated, metal P90 cover? The honest truth is that I'd ordered some blank P90 covers in black to use with this mod, but when the instrument arrived and I found the top had pushed-up/distorted more than it originally was when built, I had to scrounge-around in my parts-bins until I could find a cover that would suit the odd shape of the top. This cover had just the perfect tilt and cut to its bottom to accommodate the install, so I overdrilled the holes until I could fit my 4 adjustable poles and then filled the other two holes with some chrome cut-off from a dented-up pickup cover.

The new adjustable bridge has its posts directly installed into the top and the brace just below it. This gives it a bit more range of motion.

Ironically, the parts-bin tuners are '60s single-unit iterations of the 4-on-a-plate units that were on here to begin with.


Reese said…
Casino-fied Stradolin: I like it, Jake.
Interesting to see this Jake. I just picked up an earlier Strad O Lin that someone had butchered with a P-13.

I'll need to replace the top...