Griffith Peg Head Overlay Drawing

OK, so now we have some details into the history of this mandolin.  I am friends with a couple people who have had access to the instrument, so as new info comes in, I’ll be sure to update the history page.
The next thing we are going to do is go through drawing up the plans for a “copy” of the instrument.  I chose to start with the peghead overlay.  Reason being, my friend Bruce Harvey from Orcas Island Tonewoods was able to obtain a direct tracing of the peghead outline from Bill Halsey, a bow maker out of Michigan.  Here is a photo of the template that Bruce mailed to me:


The first thing I need to do is import this picture into my drafting program (I use Rhino) and trace it.

traced template

An interesting point on the overlay is that it is not symmetrical and we will be replicating that in the final product.  Here is a shot of the peghead folded in half so you can see the difference.  Subtle, but definitely there.

asymmetrical headstock folded in half

Here is a picture of the overlay traced and cleaned up in Rhino………

peghead and binding drawing close up

Bruce had this really good idea, to inlay “The Griffith” into the peghead of these copies.  I had him send me a picture of the inlay that he had made for his project.  Again, I traced that in Rhino then sized and placed it on the overlay.

inlay tracing

higher res of g inlay

Here is a whole peghead shot with tuners drawn in.  We will be using Gotoh tuners as they are the closest looking to the original.  They are not perfect, but close.  I also drew in the classic Fleur-de-lis

headstock with Fleur

Here is a picture of the original peghead…………………….



Next, we will work on the fret board drawing……….

Recent A5 at The Music Emporium

Earlier this month, we brought a stunning Girouard A5 Concert to The Music Emporium in Lexington Massachusetts.  The instrument featured a red spruce and sugar maple.  Lauri has been doing a lot of the busts sprayed on, and for this one I asked her to do it old school rubbing it in by hand.  Came out amazing!!!  When we first started out she was doing most of the bursts by hand, but after we invested in a spray booth, she wanted to experiment with the sprayed look.  Let us know what you like, the perfect shading of a sprayed burst or the authentic old school look of a hand rubbed burst.  The mandolin has already sold, but check out the link for more photos:

More Photos at The Music Emporium

Photo’s courtesy of The Music Emporium

Griffith Mandolin History

This is a continuation of our Griffith mandolin project blog.  Most of this information is the result of notes taken from reading bits and pieces of the story online.  If you are reading this and can add any information or detail, email us and we will include it.
Griffith Mandolin History
The Griffith School of Music was located in Atlanta, Georgia. It was founded and directed  by Mary Burke Griffith who ran the school with her children out of their three story home.  Her children all married and eventually all lived and worked together. The three children who worked in the school were: William Butt Griffith (1880-1964), his wife, Margie Keelin Griffith (1891-1965), L’Ella Griffith Bedard (1883-1971), and Mary Griffith Dobbs (1890-1970).


The school sold, taught, and repaired all stringed instruments, and were representatives and dealers for the Gibson Mandolin and Guitar Company.



Margie Keelin Griffith would teach mandolin from time to time, and would borrow her husband’s Gibson Loar signed F5.  As the story goes, she loved the sound of his mandolin, but the points on the F5 mandolin bothered her leg, so she asked if they could order one without the points.  The mandolin was completed and the label signed by Lloyd Loar in 1923.  Serial # 74003
All three of the children, as well as William’s wife Margie, were still living and working at the school in the early 1960s.   After the death of William Butt Griffith in 1964 and his wife in 1965, the remaining Griffith sisters closed the Griffith School of Music, sold the house, and moved elsewhere.


Tut Taylor bought both the F5 and the A5 from the remaining sister in the 1960’s.  The A5 was played by Norman Blake on John Hartford’s Steam Powered Aereo-Plain, which was  released in 1971.  At some point in the 70’s, Tut sold it.  Around 27 years later, he was able to “have it back for a while”.  I’m not sure if this means someone let him borrow it or he bought it back.   In 1994,  David Grisman and Tony rice released Tone Poems with the Griffith A5 on track 9.   The mandolin was put up for sale in Oct 2010 for the asking price of $345,000, but as far as we know, it did not sell and stayed with the current owner, who is located in Washington state.

The Griffith Project

I do want your mandolin Madam!
In my early 20’s, while I was discovering mandolin, I began taking classical lessons and became a member of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra.  I sat next to a fellow mandolinist, who was always telling me about music that I should check out, from classical to bluegrass and all the music in between.  One day we were discussing my interest in purchasing a vintage instrument.  He told me to take a listen to the album “Tone Poems” by David Grisman and Tony Rice, as the album was recorded with a variety of vintage instruments accompanied by a pamphlet that had a small write up of each instrument.
I must have listened to that album over 1000 times.  In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this!  It was really interesting to hear how the different instruments sounded in the hands of the same player, using the same microphones and set-up for each track.  The one instrument I found myself gravitate towards was on track 9, “I Don’t Want Your Mandolins, Mister”.
FullSizeRender (3)
I really enjoyed the tone of this mandolin.  There was just something about it that really drew me in.  Now, back in those days, although the internet was “a thing”,  it wasn’t as full of information as it is today.  I was left with just this small pamphlet of info regarding the instrument.  The more I listened to it, the more I couldn’t believe that there was only one Loar signed A5!  Just one? Why?  Who were W.B Griffith and his wife?  Where is it now?  I was unfamiliar with Tut Taylor, Norman Blake and John Hartford, so that was an avenue I was going to have to explore.  As the internet grew, more and more information became available, so I was able to learn more and more about the instrument…………..

2017 Guitar Body Octave Mandolins Completed.

We finished up the four guitar body octaves for 2017.  The first one featured a solid carved European spruce top and a highly figured red maple back, neck and side set.  This tone wood combo gave the instrument a nice clean and punchy sound.   Scale length on these octaves were 21.5 inches.  This one was sent to The Music Emporium and found a home immediately.  Pictures courtesy of The Music Emporium.  Check out the link to view additional pictures and video clips.  Pictures and video

The second instrument featured a reclaimed “bog” western red cedar top that we obtained from Bruce over at Orcas Island Tonewoods.  We’ve used a lot of this cedar and absolutely love it.  Back, side and neck were red maple.  The combination gave it a nice deep tone without loosing the high end clarity.  This instrument found a home in NY.


The third instrument is our “Studio” model octave.  It featured a European spruce top paired with a Sapele back and side set.  This combo gave the instrument a nice mellow voice perfect for accompaniment, but with still enough power to cut through and take a solo.  This one is at The Music Emporium and is available at the time of this writing.  Photos courtesy of The Music Emporium.  Follow this link to see additional pictures:  Additional pictures


The fourth and final instrument in this batch featured a red spruce top and a one piece red maple back.  Plenty of volume from this box.  Nice dry woody sound with excellent note definition and clarity.  This one went to a gentleman that lives in our town, which makes Glocester RI the highest concentration of Girouard Guitar Body Octaves in the country, as there is another individual in town who owns one!!

We are starting a new batch of GBOM’s in the next few weeks so stay tuned……………..

Staining a Guitar Body Octave Mandolin

We use several different ways to apply color on our instruments.  Watch Lauri apply a water based stain by doing a traditional hand rubbed sunburst.   The top is cedar and does well with a hand rubbed stain as the stain takes evenly on all parts of the wood.   Hand rubbed stains have a more vintage look with a subtle blending that works nice when you want a hint of a sunburst.  (Sorry about the poor placement of the camera and the arm blocking some parts of the view).  Check out the video here:

Guitar Body Octave Mandolins …Coming Up!


Four guitar body octave mandolins that just had their binding put on.  These bodies are ready for final shaping and sanding prior to neck fit.    The first one pictured is a European spruce top and red maple back and that one will be at The Music Emporium in Lexington, Ma.   The second one is western red cedar and red maple and will be heading to New York.   The third one is European spruce and sapele (our studio model) and will be headed to The Acoustic Music Company in Brighton, England.   The last one is red spruce and an amazing one piece red maple back going to a local customer.   We are now accepting orders for guitar body octaves, Studio models starting at $4000 and Ensemble models at $4500.  Both models include hand graduated fully carved solid tops and backs, a 21.5″ scale, body fully bound single color, ebony fret board, bridge and fret board overlay, evo gold fret wire, trapeze style tailpiece,  golden age tuners with black buttons and comes with an Ameritage custom case.