2000 Dell Arte (John Kinnard) Mandocello

This big, beautiful, well-made mandocello was built by John Kinnard (who does business under the Dell Arte brand) out in California. I've actually had the good fortune to play a number of his instruments over the years, though most have been gypsy-jazz style guitars. This mandocello has some of that styling involved in its design but it also has that sort of "modern, classic archtop" look as well -- especially with the cello-like, pin-loaded tailpiece.

It's a flattop instrument with stiffer bracing, however, which gives it, overall, a celtic-like tone. It's brighter, even, sustained, and clean-sounding with a lot of push in the upper-mids. This is the perfect combination if you want this thing to cut in a group mix with guitars and mandolins and whatnot. It's not the perfect combination if you want to have a luxurious, super-mellow, super-warm, cello-like sound. From my experience with mandocellos, you just can't have both of these worlds. You have to shoot for one or the other.

It's solid spruce in the top, solid flamed maple in the back and sides, has a flamed maple neck, and ebony board and bridge. The bridge is "adjustable" via shims under the saddle -- a thankful addition. I almost made a fully-adjustable bridge for this instrument because the action had gotten on the high side, but I decided to shave the bottom of the bridge and adjust the saddle with shims instead.

This was a team effort with Ancel -- he leveled/dressed the frets and I did the glorified setup work. I'm very impressed by the neck stability on this -- it barely needed any truss rod adjustment and the neck is thin and very fast. The strings on this (74w-22w or so) are brutal heavy and that's quite an achievement.

This is a customer's instrument and not for sale -- at least at the moment!


I played mandocello in a mandolin orchestra in Baltimore. It was the property on the orchestra. A Loar-signed 1924 K-5. One the guitarists had a Dell Arte. He wanted to swap for a couple of weeks. The Dell Arte had a wider body than the K-5, and the neck was more like one for a guitar. I loved that neck! After I settled an estate for a relative, I took part of it to commission a custom built mandocello. One of the features I wanted was that type of neck.