3/27/2016

1930s Pluckthun Waldzither/Octave Mandolin Conversion





Not all Waldzithers or Portuguese Guitars are suitable candidates for octave mandolin conversion (either the scale is too short or the nut is too wide), but this one was ideal. It has a wide body, 1 5/8" nut width, and long 19 3/4" scale length which is right around the sweet-spot of length for modern-scale octave mandos.

So, for this Pluckthun-branded (German-made) Waldzither, I did the necessary repair work (board plane, refret with medium stock, new nut, new bridge) and converted it over to an octave mando setup with strings gauged 50w, 36w, 20w, 13. It has a big, rich, full sound and flits between a mandocello's sort of deep sustain and an octave's punch. Because of the relatively short neck, the instrument sits in the lap a bit like a mandola compared to a modern octave (with more frets free) and so the reach is very, very easy. This makes it really suitable to playing tunes in the 1-7 fret area rather than a lot of walking-up chord shapes.

Action is fast and easy with 1/16" DAE and 3/32" G height at the 12th fret. A light player could crank the G down, too.



A zero fret is a traditional element of a lot of Waldzithers (the German influence). I made a nice "key" for the tuners using an old Champion banjo peg that works very well -- and because it has a tuner "button" on it, it's like tuning up "like normal" in the fingers.


The rosewood board is flat-profile and has pearl-dots inlaid. I added side dots in regular "mando" position (note my dot on the 10th rather than the 9th like on the original board layout).


The top is solid spruce with a light dome to its construction. There are a couple of very tight, tiny hairline cracks on the top that are filled and good to go. The binding appears to be dyed maple.


The cool scene is a stencil.


I replaced the original glass bridge with a rosewood one.


Because the tailpiece was made for the original 9-string format, it can accept loop-ends like normal or guitar ball-ends wedged between the posts (like I have here) which makes it easy to make custom string sets up from individual strings.


The back, sides, and neck are all solid maple.


The back has a light arch made in that Eastern European "half bowl" format.


I forgot to put the hook-eye for a tied strap back in place, here.








Here's the Pluckthun label.

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