Cocobolo Irish Bouzouki

Cocobolo Irish Bouzouki
Cocobolo teardrop back

This Irish bouzouki was one of my favorite kind of builds. Made for George up in beautiful Scotland to match his cocobolo mandolin. Its always a privilege to work with quite such beautiful wood. Cocobolo is up there with some of the finest tonewoods, it has a tap tone which needs to be heard to be believed. Pared with a AAA set of Moon spruce from Switzerland this is a loud punchy instrument.

Moon wood itself is fascinating for anyone like me who enjoys nerdy topics. Its felled in the winter at very specific parts of the lunar cycle. There has been a great study by Prof. Dr. Ernst Zürcher on the topic for anyone who fancies a read.

High gloss back

I'm not usually a fan of high gloss finishes. For most applications I find them a little over the top. However for some timbers like the Cocobolo on this Irish bouzouki, it would be rude not to. It really does bring out the grain and the wonderful depth of colour.

Thought i'd leave this picture in to prove i'm handier with the hand tools then I dare say I ever will be with a camera!

Tenor Guitars

Small tenor guitar

Very pleased to have been asked to build these two tenor guitars for two incredible Scottish musicians. One smaller body for CGDA tuning and one larger for GDAE. The bigger body has a richer sound and is great for accompanying singers. While the smaller of the two has a more focused sound and is well suited to holding its own in larger groups.

Large Tenor guitar

This 00 inspired tenor guitar (now in the very capable hands of Anna Massie) Is built on an Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce body. An absolute classic combo for a rich warm tone. I often like to play around with lesser used tonewoods. And particularly like to use native species where possible. But sometimes its lovely to go back to the old faithfuls.

The smaller of these two is in European walnut and western red cedar. Now with Alasdair Paul from the mighty Pons Aelius. It was great to work with Alasdair, he shares my love of vintage tones and more obscure instruments. This instrument has a cylindrical back rather than the more common domed. It really helps focus the sound, particularly in the higher registers. Keen to build more tenor guitars in the not too distant future. Give me a shout if you have some ideas you'd like to explore.

Octave Mandolin


Octave mandolin

This is one of my smaller bodied octave mandolins. I make them in a variety of scale lengths to suit the customer. But these largely fall into either 20.75" or 22.75". Depending on your style of play the shorter octave mandolins can be easier on the fingers for melody playing. For a lot of players moving over from a standard mandolin you wont even have to change your fingering.

But its horses for courses. If you were after something a little louder and more strident I would suggest the longer scale and larger body.


Yew Rosette
Yew back and sides

This instrument was built with some lovely Yew from the lads over at David Dykes. I was particularly happy being able to get the sapwood to run the full length of the sides. Not something that would be easily achievable on a larger instrument. I was lovely to be able to incorporate some of this into the rosette also. It really pops on the very white moon spruce top.


Octave mandolin
Old English Yew back

Electric Tenor Guitar


I’ve have long wanted to build an electric. Having not made any since my days back at the Galloup school. Not wanting to get involved in anything too mainstream. I jumped at the chance to build this electric tenor guitar when asked to buy a customer.

The concept was simple, build a small tenor which is easy on the hands for a customer struggling with double courses. The rest was up to me.

Heading down the route of a drop top, I saw this piece of Walnut from Conway tonewoods and was sold! The tenor guitar body itself has some large cavities internally to help cut down weight. As well as a slight arch to the top. This is largely for comfort and to stop it feeling like a big lump. Something which as a predominantly acoustic player, I often find of electrics.

The rest of the body was built around these Seymore Duncan vintage mini humbuckers. The best fit for a small electric tenor guitar. They sound incredible! There is something really unusual and lovely about suddenly having all the sustain in he world for a tenor guitar. An instrument usually reserved for choppy chords and quicker melodies.

This was so much fun to play, I confess I had a hard time giving it up to the customer.

seymore duncan mini vintage
Guitar f-hole
Electric tenor guitar



This was a great project to build something of a Bandolim/Mandolin hybrid. So what actually is the difference between the two? Well that is still very much up for discussion. But it was an excellent reason to delve into a world of music I knew little about. Truly an eye opener into the virtuosity that some of Brazil Bandolimists have to offer. Its now in the very safe hands of a musical pioneer in London and I for one am very much enjoying the music he is making with it.

A wider and deeper body than my usual mandolins with a cedar top for extra warmth, paired with a lovely set of European walnut. Keeping things local to the UK it has a Bog Oak fingerboard and peghead overlay. The extra course inspired by musical legend Hamilton de Holanda.

Bramley Apple Mandolin


This was my second time working with Bramley apple and it is fair to say it’s definitely growing on me.  For this build I was asked if it was possible to make a mandolin that reflects where the client is living currently in rural Oxfordshire, what better excuse to use this beautiful native species. Softer than some fruit woods the Bramley helps take the edge off some of the mandolins sharper tones .

I'm going to endeavor to get some more sound samples of instruments I build, so watch this space!

17 Fret Open-back tenor banjo


Trad with a twist. Here is a recently finished little open back tenor for a customer in America.

Taking inspiration from a number of little open-back banjos from the 1920s I have been lucky enough to have in my possession over the years. This is a new take on a classic.

I have always found something quite charming about the 17 fret banjos of the 20s and 30s, but there is no doubt that for a gigging musician the stability of tuning is a real issue. Adding a more substantial pot, dual coordinator rods and a two way trussrod to the three part neck has brought this right up to date.

17 frets to the body on a 20.75" scale it a comfortable little banjo to play. A soft V shape neck rather than the modern C allows for more meat on the neck while feeling more slender in the hand. With a nice sharp volute to add some crisp lines to the neck.

I really enjoyed using purpleheart wood, very strong and super stable adding a cheeky touch of colour to the banjo. But I have to confess, it has made the rosewood stripe on my own banjo look rather boring in comparison.

Pearl Inlay on banjo heel cap
Sharp volute on maple banjo with purpleheart centre stripe

Purple heart mandolin

Mandolins, Uncategorised

Continuing my run of large bodied mandolins is this not-so-little number in Purpleheart wood.

It's a fascinating wood to work with, hitting Janka hardness scale with 2,520 lbf. It is harder than rosewood and working it you will find yourself stopping to sharpen tools all day.

And then there is the colour itself. Only developing while the wood oxidizes when you first cut it its a light orangey brown hue slowly working its way towards the purple it is famous for.


This mandolin is on the 372mm scale length giving it a little extra string tension to work that bigger top. The result is a full bodied sound with a rich low end.

The larger body size at a whopping 310m across the belly makes it a really comfortable choice. Particularly for those who find themselves folding over a smaller mandolin.

This long-scale mandolin comes complete with a small fingerboard extension for a player that loves hitting that high Bb up the (usually) dusty end of the instrument!

The Session Mandolin


It was a real treat to work on this mandolin with the customer. Whilst being a little bigger than my standard mandolin, it’s a full inch wider than most common shapes

Using my favourite Swiss moon spruce soundboard for mandolin for that crisp sweet tone. Paired with this stunning set of Cocobolo from the lads at Timberline kindly sourced by the customer.

Its great to still be able to find small sets like this cocobolo as they are becoming quite rare. Whilst its can be a challenge to work with, I think you’ll agree its worth it.

Part of the Dalbergia genus, Cocobolo is now on the CITES list so its only fair and responsible to source it from reputable suppliers.

It seemed rude with such lovely woods to use anything less than a nice flame maple neck. In three parts for extra stability and that vintage look.

The neck itself is slight wider to suit the body shape and players preference. But it is on a standard 357mm scale length, so no difficulty stretching for those notes up the dusty end. All my mandolins are custom made, and so its no problem to tweak about dimensions to suit anyone’s needs.

Initially I was unsure about buying a mandolin without trying it first but my fears proved to be groundless with Cas producing an outstanding mandolin in both looks and sound… He also offered advice on aspects of the design where I was uncertain. I was pleased to help source the Cocobolo for the mandolin. Apart from its looks, Cocobolo produces a strong sound as volume was what I was looking for.

George from Peebles

Irish Bouzouki


A little glimpse at my newest Irish Bouzouki! Built to a similar size of the classic bouzouki luthiers like Foley and Abnett. This lovely piece of Acer Campestre from Conway tonewoods  just seemed to me that it wanted to be a bouzouki.


With a surprisingly sweet taptone and outrageous figuring for a native species hardwood. The fast attack you get from Acer family really lends itself to the hard rhythm Irish bouzouki style.

Irish bouzouki rosette

With a nod to the man himself, Stefan Sobell, I have enjoyed this slightly more challenging rosette. All handcut and so there are no off the peg jigs to let you makes rosettes like this easily. But for me that makes it all the more satisfying.

More CBOM family instruments coming this way soon!

Irish BouzoukiIrish Bouzouki