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 3D) and trace it.
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.
Here is a picture of the overlay traced and cleaned up in Rhino………
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.
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
Here is a picture of the original peghead…………………….
For the fret board, I choose to take the measurements directly from Adrian Minarovic’s detailed Loar signed Gibson plans. A few interesting points about the original fret boards… Scale length on most modern mandolins is usually set to 13 7/8 ths. The original Loar fret scale was advertised as 13 15/16th, so this is the scale length we will be using on this project. This fret board also had the small fret wire common at the time which measured around 0.034 wide by 0.032 high. This size fret wire is no longer in production so we decided to go with the smallest available Jescar fret wire which measures 0.040 by 0.039. The binding on the fret board measures 0.040 wide, and that is a common size available today. The frets terminate at the edge of the ebony and do not overhang the binding, another detail in which we will replicate. The dots will be mother of pearl sized at 0.25 Finally, the fret board will be milled flat true to the original. On future copies, I will install radiused boards with larger fret wire if the customer requests it, but for the first two, we are trying to get it as close as possible to the original. Here is a picture of the fret board drawn up in CAD.
For the next step I need to draw up the plans for the rim. My friend Harvey Marcotte happens to own a Gibson A2Z from the same year that this instrument was made. Since the Griffith rim would have been made from the same set of forms, I feel this is the most accurate way to get the correct body size. There actually is a difference in size of the snake head mandolins vs the earlier paddle head variants. The snake head models had a overall body length that was shorter by about 1/4 of an inch. Click here to see an interesting thread on the Mandolin Cafe. I verified this myself taking tracings off actual instruments. I would find this really interesting to find out why the snake head rim sets were actually a bit shorter, but most of the information from this time period is missing. All we know is that there is a difference, so we will follow it.
So to do this, all I used was a couple of blocks and some card stock with a hole cut into it to get an accurate tracing. Since the back is arched, it is impossible to lay it on a table and trace it. Here is what I came up with.
After the tracing was made, I drew in a perfect 1 inch square then brought it down to my local office store so that I could scan it, them import it into my drafting program. Here are the results.
The scan was imported into Rhino (autocad) and traced for the final result:
There is no way to get accurate drawings of the blocks used unless I had access to the actual instrument and a CAT scanner, or if I had access to a disassembled snake head which I do not. I decided to draw in the actual size tail block used on an F5 of the same time period. The head block was an average of two sets of plans and visual inspection of the block on the snake head. I have drawings, from published plans, of head blocks that were similar but each were somewhat different, and neither of them matched the outline of the actual snake head, so I took some artistic liberties and drew it in the best I could from all the data I could collect both in print and visually. I don’t suspect any minor differences in the neck block shape will alter the tone of the final product.