From Kayaker to Luthier

New to musical or string instruments?

Luthier (lu·thi·er)

a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars.

Plunging Head-First Into A New Obsession...

We All Start Somewhere

When I was 18, I started playing banjo. I would take my banjo everywhere I would travel whether it was on a business trip, a whitewater kayaking trip, or a camping trip. As much as I loved playing the banjo, it was cumbersome to travel with. I thought a mandolin would be an easier instrument for travel, so playing the mandolin had been in the back of my mind for a long time.

In 2002 I was on a whitewater kayaking trip on the Feather River when I had an accident that would change my life. I was portaging a drop and carrying my 60 lb kayak on my shoulder when I slipped and fell off a 30-foot boulder and I came crashing down on my left leg and shattered my knee.
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My friends splinted my knee …

… using a breakdown kayak paddle and then they paddled out for help.  A few hours later, a CHP helicopter was landing next to me on a boulder in the bottom of the canyon.  It was a small helicopter that took me to the top of the canyon where another helicopter was waiting to take me to the hospital.  Two helicopter rides later, I was in having surgery on my knee and my kayaking days were over. 

Never settle for less than what you love

With a long recuperation ahead and time on my hands, I thought it would be a good time to start learning to play the mandolin.   I went out and bought a mid-Missouri flat top mandolin and tried to teach myself to play.   Eventually I graduated to taking lessons and became a more proficient player. 

After playing for a while, I began attending the Mandolin Symposium at U. C. Santa Cruz each summer.   I was learning a lot and having fun jamming with other musicians.  That’s where I met Steve Gilchrest.  He was teaching a class on French polishing instruments.  I found this intriguing. 

As an electrical engineer, I took an interest in building mandolins.   Steve and I talked through the process of building, start to finish.   I love woodworking.   I love music.  I love engineering.   Building mandolins encompasses the things I love most and I knew I had to try building my own. 

Driving home from Santa Cruz that summer, I worked through the details of what Steve had taught me and I was ready to experiment with my first instrument.  I thought I had it all figured out. 

I built several instruments based on what I learned from Steve but knew I needed to learn more.  I decided to take Roger Siminoff’s class on instrument building to fill in the gaps.  I learned a lot from Steve and Roger. Twelve years later, there is always something new to learn.

Mandolins make music for the soul.

What Makes Cedar Mountain Mandolin So Special?

I’ve been building stringed instruments in my 400-sqft shop, located in the Washington Cascade foothills just east of Renton, Washington since 2008.   My goal is to build traditionally styled instruments from the mandolin family for the accomplished musician. The traditional mandolins are based on the Gibson Loar era F5 & A5 original designs and built with only the highest quality materials and hardware and utilizing innovative engineering and construction techniques. In addition to traditional designs, I also build custom stringed instruments ranging from Octave Mandolins (based on the Gibson L5 Guitar body style) to Acoustic Double Basses.

High-Quality Materials

From the finest woods hand-picked for each part of your instrument, to the mother-of-pearl inlays on the head, and nickel-silver and EVO Gold fretwires — no expenses are spared.

Strategic Planning

Each step in the process of building your dream instrument is carefully laid out, including detailed CAD drawings.

Innovative Engineering

As an electrical engineer with a love for fine woodworking and music I am always experimenting with new ways to enhance the sound quality using the latest innovations.

Attention To Detail

Nothing shows better than attention to the things others never see. You'll never find a rough edge or a single detail out of place.

Modern Techniques

Acoustic tuning of the soundboard and backboard plates & specialized tension compensated fret scale to provide perfect intonation over the ENTIRE fret scale.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

In addition to a lifetime guarantee of our workmanship, you'll have ample time to return your new instrument if it isn't perfect.

When The Time Comes

Ready to Get Started?

Uniquely Custom Mandolins

Some of My Personal
Unique Improvements

I don't just make your standard mandolins. I take my own unique styling, and I add that to all the knowledge I've gained in my engineering background to come up with my own unique method of creating what I think are the perfect instruments.

Acoustically tuning soundboards in one form or another has been around for well over a hundred years and is one of the defining traits of the Gibson Loar Mandolins of the early 1920’s, the widely accepted “Stradivarius” of mandolins. Different techniques have been used over the years ranging for  “Chlandi patterns” to “Tap Tuning”.  From an engineering standpoint, Tap tuning is called  “Modal analysis” and is a very well established engineering technique for accurately measuring the resonant frequencies of a body, like a mandolin body, and is used by the world leading manufacturers from airplanes to automobiles. What is different from other Luthiers is that I use an Agilent 35670 digital spectrum analyzer to very accurately measure ALL of the resonant frequencies of a soundboard (using a calibrated hammer and accelerometers) which allows me to consistently tune soundboards for maximum resonance across a specific range of notes on the fret board.   The result is an instrument that really “stands out“, “Barks”, “sings”, cuts through” however you want to describe it, in the note range that you normally like to play.   Modal Analysis is what enables the powerful, balanced tone, consistently from our mandolins.

Intonation is another improvement that I’ve been able to achieve through implementation of a technique developed by Gary Magliari at the Guild of American Luthiers called the Tension Compensated Fret Scale. This technique allows me to compensate for the slight ‘Sharpness” of notes as you move up the neck due to action height and increased string tension (thus sharping notes) during fretting. We’ve solved this problem by accurately modeling the string tension increase during fretting at each fret position and then modifying the fret scale and providing compensation at both the nut and bridge. The end result is that every fret intonates perfectly, all the way up the neck!

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