Ralph built his first instrument, an electric bass guitar, in 1969. His second instrument became the bass he played professionally through most of the 1970’s. Ralph wanted an electric Bass that felt more natural to play – especially important for someone trained on a traditional double bass – so he designed and built his basses to hang upright and allow for greater (and easier) reach up and down the neck and, thus, better playability.
We Use Local Woods.
Through our experiments we have found extraordinary tone woods in the forests and yards around us. We harvest logs of walnut, cherry, locust and Osage orange and saw them, size them down, season and dry them and finally fabricate them into spectacular instruments. Our in-house control of this process allows us to regulate the cut of the lumber and the drying and seasoning of the important tone-governing materials in our instruments.
Our recent acoustic instruments have all used our patented Total Control Neck. This allows the adjustment of the angle of the connection of the neck to the body of the instrument. The Allen wrench adjustment tool ( shown pictured to left) turned ¾ turn drops the action 1/8 of an inch. This instantly adjusts for seasonal changes in your instruments and eliminates the need for future neck resets. The neck is bolted in and can be removed by a luthier for work at any time in the future.
Along with traditional book matched, quarter sawn options for top wood, we also build using a synthetic Nomex honeycomb material. The Nomex honeycomb is laminated between two thin slices of wood, to produce a soundboard that is light and strong. Double-top soundboards can help an instrument speak clearly, and are often louder and more responsive than standard tops. The double top pairs particularly well with the SP model mandocellos. Double-top guitars sound great in use with fingerpicks.
Sound Port Model
Our Sound Port (SP) model eliminates the front sound hole and replaces it with an enlarged side sound port. This allows the sound board to vibrate in an uninterrupted fashion as one piece. The top bracing can also be uninterrupted and the braces can be placed in a fashion that responds to the tonal requirements of the instrument uninfluenced by the spatial requirements of the sound hole. This design works wonderfully well with our double top and the fact that our neck and fingerboard are cantilevered the top of the instrument. The whole top vibrates as a sound board.
This innovation broadens the range of our instruments, makes shifting left hand positions less frequent, and makes fuller chords available up and down the neck. Once the player is used to the five course arrangement, the playing of these instruments is no harder than a four course model but the potential result is vastly superior. Our standard tuning runs from the C below the E of the guitar to the high e of the guitar. Thus five double strings cover the same pitch space as the guitar plus the added third at the bottom that yields that lovely low C .
The use of the pin bridge on our mandocellos makes the instrument more powerful and clearer than the floating bridge. Our instruments have a little less “twang” than a Mandocello by other makers. We discovered early-on in our development of this instrument that the pin bridge has many qualities to recommend it, and we have used it predominately in our instruments ever since. We do make floating bridge models upon request.