1931/1920s Martin/DeWick Frankenstein Bouzouki

Well -- this thing isn't exactly a bouzouki by any measure, but it shares the same format as a trichordo zouk (see here) but I've octaved all the strings and tuned it down much lower. I'd originally wanted this to be tuned gG-dD-gG low to high (where the lowest note is the same as an octave mandolin/Irish bouzouki's low G) but once I got it strung up I initially slacked it to F and then finally down to E where it's at now and I love it at this pitch. It's now eE-bB-eE low to high in the same range as a 12-string guitar's lower 3 courses.

It's built from a 1931 Martin plectrum guitar neck (see here for what one of those is like) that a customer bought as an orphaned part (with no fretboard) and then traded to me after a while. The body is from a DeWick "resonator" mandolin that had a damaged (broken in 2 places bad and one more place lightly, upon close inspection) neck (see here for a DeWick in full glory). The end result is an instrument similar to the Lange or Weymann plectrum/tenor harp instruments (see here for one of those) but with more zing and cut. The 23" scale makes it decidedly more "octave mandolin" or "tenor guitar" in reach compared to an average 25-27" zouk scale, but I won't let that distract me from its sonic signature.

Work included routing the neck for a big carbon fiber rod, fitting an oversize fretboard (I wanted a thick board to make the neck deeper like the cut on my personal mandolin), fretting it, cutting-down some old tuners to fit to the headstock, fitting the neck to the body (a real chore because the dovetails were nowhere near close -- I had to do a lot of finagling and I reinforced the joint with some hidden internal bolting), making a new nut, making a new compensated ebony bridge, and then setting it up and adjusting it.

What's come-out the other side of work is an instrument I've wanted for ages but haven't been able to put together before. The closest I came to this sound was a Weymann 8-string tenor banjo. I figured I'd have to build something like this fresh for myself and I'm so much happier I had the happenstance to come-into parts that would make this work. I don't think there's any other "spare body" make that would give me the same amount of jam-worthy zingy sound and power per its actual size as this does. It sounds remarkably like a Greek zouk or Turkish saz in many ways -- and like a more-cutting Irish bouzouki, too, with the current tuning it's in. These are all sounds I adore.

Just for fun, here are a few in-process shots.

Here's a closeup of me routing-out the original ebony "rod" (which was much skinnier) and fitting a giant new carbon fiber rod. Note that I've used an old straight-edge fit with two small screws to act as a routing guide. Simpler is better!


Phillips said…
Sounds divine Jake !!
Wastella said…
Aspiring luthiers all over crave those in process shots.