The First Wiens Mandola
Mandolas aren’t something I run into everyday, but when they do show up in my shop I always enjoy exploring my music in their lower voicing. A run-in with a Lloyd Loar -signed H5 mandola some years back made a big impression on me and of course me being sick with the luthier bug..I always thought someday I’d build a few .
There were so many things about it that I loved but also something I thought could be improved upon. My intuition said a snappier response and improved sustain might be had by lengthening the overall scale slightly bringing up the string tension and giving this Classic Instrument some real power. So finally, after years of pondering and gestation, here is the first Wiens branded Mandola. A tribute to the Loar-signed examples of 1924. Wiens H5 #49, signed June 19th 2020
Specs & Materials
Scale length on this instrument is 16.5″ (That’s an inch longer than Traditional Gibby Mandolas) and the difference in sound ..The sheer volume and deep throaty resonance is striking and something that I’m very proud of.
The Soundboard is a beautiful piece of medium density Adirondack spruce and has traditional tone bar bracing. No, there is no Virzi or “Wienzi” tone producer in this one as we see on many of the Original Examples.
The rim and neck are figured American Sugar maple while the one-piece Back plate is a unique slab of figured American Red maple. The neck has the traditional single compression-type truss rod just like all other Wiens mandolins do.
The Ebony fretboard has a built-in compound-radius for a delightful ease of play. Frets are made of ultra durable EVO gold material and are slightly larger than the standard steel mandolin frets I normally use. The Bridge, which exhibits a subtle radius, is of fine Ebony with silver-plated thumbwheels.
Ornament and Hardware
The peghead on Wiens H5 #49 is completely traditional. The inlay is hand-cut from genuine mother-of pearl and abalone shell and inlaid into Black-dyed pearwood veneer. The bindings are triple layered ivoroid/black laminates painstakingly mitered and joined.
The tuning machines are handmade by Alessi in Italy. They perform extremely well and boast Mother of Pearl buttons and hand-engraved plates.
Nut is bone. 1 1/4″ wide.
At the other end of the strings is a lovely Silver-plated Bill James Tailpiece with hinged cover. The Pickguard is a Wiens handmade faux -tortoise celluloid triple-bound like the rest of the instrument and has silver plated hardware.
Stain and finish
This instrument recieved a traditional Tobacco sunburst. My method is one of hand-rubbing the stains directly into the wood, then sanding it back to almost clean…and repeating the staining process until a truly deep and dramatic effect is achieved. Amplifying every beautiful detail and figure in the wood ,and also every flaw. It can be a nerve-wracking and risky process compared to spraying the stain on , but the final result is always worth it.
The finish is the usual french-polished spirit varnish of my own formula. A laborious process, but one that leaves a a very thin build and the least muting effect on the instrument. It’s also highly repairable if there should be some minor dings and wear the the owner wishes to address in the future.
This instrument is already in it’s new home finding it’s voice and hopefully inspiring new music. I was impressed enough with this one that am presently working on two more H5 mandolas. One of which will be available in 2022.
Thanks for your interest!