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Monthly Update 
March 2010
In This Issue
Product Highlights
Luthier's Tip
Quick Links
More About Us

Luthierie Camp
2010 Luthierie Camps...

H5 Mandola Construction:
July 18-23, 2010

F5 Mandolin Construction:
Oct. 10-15, 2010

Please visit our website or email Kali for more information about these programs.
Dear Luthiers,

February 26th marked the completion of our most recent Luthierie Camp, and by all accounts it was a very successful event. We had four attendees (one from California, one from Washington, and two from Illinois) who spent five long and intense days studying, evaluating, preparing, and constructing their F5 mandolins, with a couple of impromptu jam sessions snuck in. The camp program is fast-paced with rich content that includes a brief background on musical acoustics, demonstrations of several methods for each step of construction, lectures on luthierie technology, evening presentations, and a lot of shop time. We demonstrate how each part is made, after which the campers return to their workbenches to assemble their instruments whose basic parts were completed before they arrived (in essence, working from one of our kits). The tap tuning section was of special interest; after the campers attached their soundboard to the rim and attached the neck, the instruments were individually tap tuned in preparation for the backboard to be attached. This combined demo/hands-on process enabled the campers to experience a procedure and move directly to the assembly process, eliminating some of the elbow grease and production time in the middle. By week's end, each camper had a head full of knowledge and a fully-assembled "white-wood" F5 mandolin ready to take home!


Here's a photo of our campers with their instruments on graduation day along with the Siminoff team. From left to right, Rosemary Siminoff (business manager), Ken Roddick (instructor) with his personal F5L mandolin, Gary Lewandowski, Jim Bernhardt, Bob Mizek, Richard Snelson, Roger (with Loar's Loar), and Kali Nowakowski, (Camp director). Please join me in congratulating our four Camp graduates!

Feb 2010 Camp

We hope you can join us for one of our Camps this summer. Our next available Siminoff Luthierie Camp is July 18-23, 2010, which focuses on building the H5 mandola. Kali, our Camp and Marketing Director, has announced an early-bird sign up program in which she will offer a $100 savings for anyone who signs up 90 days prior to camp. For more information on our exciting Luthierie Camp programs, click here and you'll be connected to our web site. Or you can email Kali or phone her at (805) 365.7111.


Speaking about web sites, we've been working on ways to increase the functionality and user-friendliness of our on-line store. By the time you receive this email, our on-line store will be powered by a new "shopping cart" system so you may notice some differences the next time you log on. Our web manager worked diligently to ensure that all of your previous order history files moved to the new site correctly. However, the encryption system used for your password protection was so secure that we were unable to move your password to the new system. So, next time you log on, you'll have to register as a first-time user. We're really sorry for the inconvenience, but in the long run it will be worth it for you and us. If you experience any difficulties with the new site, please do drop an email to Kali.


Lastly, Kali, just received an award from Constant Contact for her management and development of this email newsletter. We think that she's done a great job, and we hope that you find the content and presentation valuable. Congratulations, Kali!

Thanks for building with us...

Intonation - what's it all about?

Intonation correction is the process of positioning the contact point for each string on the bridge's saddle so that the string notes (intonates) properly at each of the frets up and down the neck. Different gauges of strings require slightly different string lengths because thicker strings tend to change pitch more quickly than thinner strings when they are pressed and stretched to the fretboard. (The string is being "choked" as it is pressed down and that causes its pitch to increase.) So, as the gauge increases, the "string scale" (not the "fret scale") needs to be increased slightly. This is why you see the small saw-tooth stepping on the top of the bridge saddle for each set of strings.


The bridge saddles on most solid-body guitars feature adjustable contact points for each string so that the optimum intonation can be fine tuned. But mandolins and banjos feature fixed intonation points and are basically an average contact point for several gauges of strings. In fact, they are actually the average contact points for the same gauge of strings.


If that last sentence confuses you, you may or may not be aware that a particular wound string gauge in one brand may be comprised of different components than the same gauge in another brand. Wound strings are comprised of a core wire with an outer wire wrapped around it. And, there are several ways to make a wound string. As this diagram shows, a .034˝ string (for example) can be made with a .014˝ core wire and .010˝ wrap wire or a .016" core wire with a .009˝ wrap wire or a .018˝ core wire with a .008˝ wrap wire. And, of course, there are many more combinations for this and other gauges of strings.

String Gauges

If you have a bridge that intonates perfectly for a brand of one set of mandolin strings and you change to another brand that has different core/wrap wire combinations on its wound strings, the bridge may intonate differently.


One question that often arises is "If the intonation position moves back as gauges get larger, then why is the intonation point for the third pair of strings (D) - which has a larger gauge than the second pair of strings (A) - closer to the nut?" Good question! While the third pair of strings (D) is a larger overall gauge, the third and fourth strings are wound strings in which the core or center wire is actually a smaller gauge than the plain (A) strings, so the intonation point must be closer to the nut.


We have two scale lengths at play here: the string scale and the fretting scale. The string scale is predicated on a particular gauge of string's intonated length; the fretting scale is predicated on the fret locations. For example, the F5 mandolin has a 13-15/16" string scale but a 13-7/8" fretting scale. With guitars and mandolins, the string scale is usually based on the second string's length, and the fretting scale is based on the first string's length.


Why don't fiddles have an intonated bridge? Another good question. First of all, the violin (fiddle) bridge wins the medal for the ultimate bridge design. In the violin bridge, there is no direct route of the strings' energy to the soundboard. The energy of each string is attenuated by an opening between the string's contact point at the top of the bridge and the bridge feet. But aside from bridge design, the intonation of the strings on a violin is controlled by the location of the musician's fingers. In the absence of frets, the musician locates and perfects the strings intonation as each note is played.


Some banjo bridges are made with intonation correction notches. For those banjo players who choose straight, non-intonated bridges, they usually turn the bridge slightly counterclockwise to create a pseudo-intonation correction.


Around 1918, Gibson engineers began working on bridge saddles with adjustable contact points. These were made in the form of inserts that fit into a groove on the top of the bridge and could be interchanged or turned around to achieve the ideal intonation. Aside from the fact that the parts were fragile and occasionally got misplaced, the movable insert system presented the musician with too many options, and frustration in using it caused the design to be very short lived in Gibson's accessory line.


We've done some interesting things with our bridge saddles and have tested many different ways of making them. One major change we made is that the intonation notches, as a group, are positioned on the centerline of the saddle to keep the saddle from cocking at an angle on the bridge's posts.

Product Highlights

Tortoise Binding Tortoise Shell Celluloid Binding - Aside from being a cosmetic feature, binding serves to protect the edges of our wood-bodied instruments from dings and damage. The wood itself is not hard enough to absorb the shock of things that the instrument might bang into, and the best protection comes from real celluloid - the material we use in all our bindings - because it is so hard and durable. We now carry a .070" thick tortoise shell celluloid binding in both 1/4" and 3/32" sizes. The 1/4" binding comes in 56" lengths and you'll need two pieces for the body of one mandolin. The part number for the 1/4"  binding is #412 and each length is $14.60 plus P&H. The 3/32" binding comes in 24" lengths and one piece is sufficient for the peghead. It is part #412-A and each length is $5.10 plus P&H. (This tortoise shell binding is brand new and will be in our on-line store under "BINDING" by the end of March.)

Catalogs Catalog Reprints - We have a small supply of several catalog reprints of early Gibson catalogs. These are wonderful reproductions of catalogs from the 1920s that were reproduced originally by Pickin' Magazine. While we describe these in the history section of our web site, the reprints are not in our on-line store because they are not an inventoried item; once they are sold out, they will be gone forever. Our list includes the 1919 Gibson banjo catalog, 1928 Gibson Q catalog, 1920 Gibson banjo catalog, and the 1923 F5 Gibson mandolin promotional flyer. If you would like to see the list of catalog reprints, please email Kali, and put "REPRINTS" in the subject line. She will email you a PDF file of our catalog reprint sales flyer.

NOTE: Please consult the Shipping & Returns page on our website for a P&H table.
Luthier's Tip...Rosette Clamps

The most critical job of inlaying the rosettes into an F or A model mandolin with an oval soundhole is cutting the channel. This is a delicate and tedious process. The second most critical part of the job is getting the rosette clamped securely to the soundboard when gluing in place. One of the key problems that arise in the gluing process is getting a sufficient number of clamps onto the rosette to press it securely into the channel. Unfortunately, there is just not a lot of room to get regular C-clamps into the soundhole opening so some other clamping method is called for.


For gluing rosettes, we've made a series of small C-clamps from U-shaped aluminum channel. We cut " wide pieces from " channel stock and then drilled and cut an 8-32 thread into one lip into which we threaded some small thumb screws.

 Rosette Clamps

We can get six or seven of these clamps to fit easily around the soundhole, and we use a small wood caul between the clamp and the rosette. To ensure that the cauls do not accidentally get glued in place we use thin strips of wax paper between the cauls and the rosette. The clamps are small, effective, easy to make, and inexpensive.


By the way, we've just finished a new instruction sheet for inlaying rosettes. Since it won't be posted to our web site for several weeks, I'd be glad to send you a free PDF file of it if you email me ( and put ROSETTE INSTRUCTIONS in the subject line.

Product of the Month: Buy Two, Third One Free

Peghead TemplatesFor the month of March, Kali is offering a buy any two (2) peghead templates get an F5 peghead template FREE deal. This is a $13.95 value! We have a lot of peghead templates to choose from including Gibson and Vega banjo peghead templates, and peghead templates for the H5 mandola, and the F5, A5, and F4 mandolin. Our templates are accurately cut by laser and are made from 3/32" transparent green acrylic plastic. How accurate are our templates? Here's a photo of some templates on top of the original pegheads from which their specifications were taken. (The F5 template is resting on Loar's personal F5 mandolin.) Until April 1, 2010, when your order two (2) peghead template and enter promo code temptwo, you'll also get an F5 peghead template free! Be sure to add two peghead templates AND an F5 peghead template to your cart to receive the free template.

Free F5 Peghead Template!
Template Special
March's Product of the Month: Buy any two (2) peghead templates and get an F5 peghead template free. Be sure to add two peghead templates AND an F5 peghead template to your cart to receive the free template. Not valid with any other offers or promotions. Use the promotion code temptwo when ordering online.
Offer Valid: March 10, 2010 through April 1, 2010