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Creating Your Custom Mandolin

Our craftsmanship is impeccable. We pay keen attention to every detail of each quality instrument composed by Hill Mandolins. Each aspect of our process guarantees the outcome of superior timbre. Hill Mandolins are created with individual attention at every turn of the key.

Our ability to customize mandolins with a variety of aesthetic and tonal preferences makes our instruments the perfect match for discerning musicians. It is our hope that you will consider this opportunity to merge our passion for producing instruments of exquisite quality with your passion for producing your own unique sound.

See what our Luthier says about his choice of woods for your mandolin.







Choosing the Wood



At Hill Mandolins, we take
pride in choosing each piece of your new instrument from our carefully aged and maintained collection of bookmatched sets.

Once a bookmatched set of
curly maple is chosen for the back of a mandolin, preparation for the rest of the instrument begins simultaneously, as each process takes time.

Shaping the Mandolin

Just as you might take a melody and bend it to suit your tastes, the sides of the mandolin are carefully framed into the traditional F-style, as shown, or the simpler A-style form.

  The wood is moistened and steamed, allowing the fibers to acclimate to their new shape in a moisture- and temperature-controlled environment. The stability, strength and relative light weight of mahogany makes it the preferred choice for reinforcement blocking within the rim.



Carving the Scroll in an F-Style Mandolin

  Hill Mandolins employs specific technologies and tools to produce reliable, consistent results. The duplicate carver is controlled by hand; as it is directed, it reads the original form and sculpts a new mandolin replica. Our F-Style mandolin has a distinctively carved scroll which is sensually and visually appealing. The traditional use of red spruce on the top is beautiful and achieves superior tonality.

The Inside Story

At right is the top of the mandolin after it is sculpted by and then removed from the duplicate carver. Now the top is smoothed by hand in several stages to enhance the three-dimensional scroll.



Less obvious to the eye is the carving which is ultimately the most important to the completed instrument: the hand graduating of the gentle mounding in the center of the front and back. This process, developed by the Amati family and Antonio Stradivari, moves the vibrations of the strings from the soundboard center to its perimeter for more volume and projection.




Hill Mandolins sculpts each instrument individually. We use a recorded, scientific approach, measured in 1000ths of an inch, to achieve the desired sound quality. Tonebars are precisely and individually measured and carved to fit, further refining the stiffness of the soundboard—a process which delivers maximum response to the vibrations which travel some 15000 times per second for a single note. In this photograph, the tonebars are the two vertical bars somewhat centered; the shadows give you an idea of the tonebar shapes. Along the perimeter of the base is the kerfing.


The hallmark of a Hill Mandolin is its meticulous assembly, evidenced in the dovetail neck joint which provides uncompromising strength where it marries the instrument’s body.

Musicians know that each aspect of a piece of music must be directed with precision and feeling to produce the best tune. A mandolin of excellent quality requires the same attention to detail, for it is not only the parts that must be produced with care, but the assembly of these pieces into a harmonious entity.


Accenting the body, Hill Mandolins feature a multi-layered ivoroid binding. This luxurious protective material has the natural look of ivory, and it is warmed, curved and glued by hand. Binding is a trademark of craftsmanship; Hill Mandolins feature precision miters, and a variety of binding options is available.

The fretboards we prefer are a very hard ebony, left natural for the wood’s beauty and for incredible endurance of play.


Mother of pearl or abalone inlays may grace the ebony fret and head of individual mandolins. Featured on this Stanley Tone is the logo—delicately trimmed and inlaid—for the line of Hill Mandolins endorsed by the Legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley. The H of the Hill Mandolin logo is inlaid mother of pearl.

Inlays may be custom ordered, and we can translate your developed insignia or design something according to your requests. Please call us to discuss your concept—the possibilities are many and we are always delighted to be a part of a musician’s dream!

  Finishes are discussed at length on the page Finishing Touches.


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