Sometime in the early ’60’s, new channels began to pop up in the UHF band, that had the feeling, early on, of almost being Pirate TV, since they had little comercial support, and therefore broadcast a lot of stuff that you would never see on network TV; B-movies, public domain cartoons (including Max Fleischer classics that had been neglected for too long) and, as if to accomodate my exhuberant pubescence, foreign films from Europe, but mostly from Italy. Sometimes shown in the Late Night slot, they were worth sneaking down to watch when everyone else was asleep, because they seemed to be Top Secret contact with the world on the other side of the Puritanical Iron Curtain.
They often starred exotic, dark, and confident women with names like Sophia Loren, Gina Lollabridgida, and the much lesser known Isabella Mandocello.
In my search for unique forms for my instruments, and to address the fetish for scrolls in the mandolin community without building yet another Lloyd Loar ripoff, and to create an instrument that really looked like a mandocello and not a guitarocello, it occured to me to make an instrument with a violin type scroll integral to the headstock. While looking for similar instruments, the only luthiers who seemed to be doing something close were Italian. So in tribute to them, and to the beatiful work that they do, I am calling this the Isabella line, and the first of the series is the Isabella Mandocello.
The neck and headstock are carved from a single piece of big leaf maple from Marksman Woods, who found the perfect chunk for me to work with. It is reinforced with 2 carbon fiber rods with a HotRod two way adjustable truss rod in between. The top is a Sitka spruce wedge set from Alaska Woods (thanks again, Brett!) and the back and sides are from a nice slab of Honduras mahogany given to me by my friend Matt Sowell. Rosewood fretboard, bone nut and solid ebony adjustable bridge.
I made a custom trapeze for this, which creates downward pressue on the strings behind the bridge, which increases the angle, and therefore the pressure that transmits sound to the soundboard. The body is based on Loar’s K- style, with carefully tuned tone bars and f-holes, producing rich response across its range. It is strung with a standard D’Addario mandocello set of strings.