1978/2019 Yamaha Nylon-String Mandocello Conversion




Sometimes instruments just want another round of fun, don't they? This Yamaha FG-345 is now back for the third time. I'd originally fixed it up on the quick as-normal and sold it locally to someone needing a good-value chord-banger. I then bought it back from the owner in 2016 and converted it to a nylon-strung mandolone (a baritone-range mandobass, essentially, tuned ADGC low to high) for a recording project. It's since come back from a buddy of mine after hanging-out in his recording space. This time around, however, I restrung it as a nylon-string mandocello, and it's never been happier.

What's nice about using nylon strings compared to steel is that the neck of a converted steel-string guitar will happily accept 8 nylon strings (that's close to the tension of a regular set of 50w-11 strings) but it won't happily accept 8 big steel mandocello strings (that's like a set and a half of 54w-12s). Also, the left hand feel is comfortable and fast and the twanginess of a steel-string mandocello is turned to warmth and mwah. Someday I'm going to purpose-build myself an instrument just like this. I love the sound of mandocellos.

Work included: in the past... a fret level/dress, quick conversion (fill-and-redrill) of the pinholes to accept the nylon strings, a couple extra tuners added at the headstock, new nut, and a setup. The neck is straight, the truss works, and action is bang-on for nylon at 3/32" at the 12th fret. It can be adjusted up/down easily to taste with the drop-in saddle and shims.

Important stringing note: I used a custom set of gauges ordered from JustStrings.com's D'Addario classical guitar single strings selection. It's tuned CGDA low to high. C = 50w, G = 36w, D = 29w, A = 38 plain.

Scale length: 25 15/16"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 29 5/8"
Lower bout width: 16 1/4"
Waist width: 10 1/2"
Upper bout width: 11 3/8"
Top wood: ply spruce
Back/sides wood: ply rosewood
Neck wood: mahogany
Bracing type: x-braced
Fretboard: rosewood, bone nut
Bridge: rosewood, synthetic saddle
Neck feel: medium C/soft V shape, ~14-16" radius board

Condition notes: general usewear throughout but overall it's pretty clean. There's an unfilled jack-hole drilled at the 3/4 position on the lower-bout-side... not an issue but just aesthetic. My fill/redrill of the pinhole job was also not as pretty as I'd do for a fancier instrument (but it's perfectly functional).






The bridge uses "string-through" top loading. You have to push the new string in from the top through its mounting hole, pull it out the soundhole, knot it, and then pull it snug against the bridge plate and then up to the tuner. It's really simple, effective, and elegant. It also removes the annoyance of pins with so many strings at the bridge like on this guy.








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