Northfield Mandolins

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Our Story (and we’re stickin’ to it): In some ways, making these mandolins is about finding the way back home, for the instrument and for myself. For years I had been working with other companies making Gibson-style mandolins, based on the designs by Lloyd Loar during the 1920’s—but had never been that satisfied with the outcome. I had spent several years running back and forth from the USA to China, Japan and Korea. At one point I relocated to China with my family to work as the product development manager for Saga Musical Instruments. I, as well as a couple members of The Northfield Workshop, developed hundreds of items for dozens of companies in dozens of countries. We contributed to the development of some fantastic instruments and learned a lot in regards to what we enjoy about instrument building as well as what we don’t. What we enjoyed was the thrill of getting it right, and getting it right together. What we didn’t like……well, let’s just say that trying to get it right thousands and thousands of times ends up undermining “getting it right”. We aspire to make the best instruments not the most.

  • Our Company

  • Our Team

  • Our workshop in Qingdao:

  • Our shop in Michigan

  • Adrian Bagale

  • Derek Smith

  • Peter Bagale

  • Dianhong Yin

  • Kosuke Kyomori

  • Jiduo Qin

  • Xi Sheng Zhang

Our company was set-up based on a few principles that we want to come across in our work.

First, we want our company to be known for our quality and consistency. Each instrument is built with an exacting approach. We feel like we’ve developed our instruments to the point that they have a character in tone and aesthetics. We want to maintain that in each instrument. We also maintain a very serious dedication to the art and respect of the premier designs and instruments by Lloyd Loar. We’re here because he was and we know that.

We want people to know that we’ve grown up in this business traveling and living internationally, and growing as a team with different backgrounds. To us, this international foundation is what makes us good at what we do. Each person is able to grasp a different part of the tradition—be it selecting materials, or understanding the origins of Shellac and varnishing techniques, or wood carving, or creating and maintaining a production process, or…...you get the idea. It’s a big world out there and we learn a little more about it each day, in different contexts than we would if there wasn’t this mixture of personality and culture and the chance to all work together.

Our company is owned together as a group, with each member investing and each member sharing in the rewards. This makes us the same as many traditional shops and very, very different from most of the current international business ventures in the music industry. It’s simple, we all take responsibility for our small company’s work—so we all share in the results, good or bad. Aligning our interests, even those related to paying the bills, has meant a great deal to our development as a team and as friends.

There are many players using our instruments throughout the country. Some of them are multiple Grammy award winners, some of them are just good pickers that have come across our instruments at festivals and performances. The list of players is growing all the time and making friends is even more fun than making mandolins!

Northfield The TeamOur team is made up of 5 people, each with his own strength and contribution to the finished instrument. 3 of us are craftsman and 2 of us specialize in set-up, design work and the other day-to-day business dealings. All of us are devoted to instrument building, history and of course, playing music. Between all of us we have the combined professional experience of around 50 years in and around the music industry. We have two shops, one in Qingdao for the primary building of the instrument and one in Michigan for design, testing and set-up/final detailing. We are a very international company with members from Japan, China and the United States. We’ve also worked closely with luthiers from Italy and Czech Republic to develop strategies and techniques that are part of our approach to building. To us, working with wood and being around musical instruments is a way of life and the adventure can be found in not just the act of making the instrument but in the true collaboration of these different people.

 

Qingdao WorkshopOur workshop in Qingdao:

is based in Qingdao, China, a coastal city in the north of Mainland China. It's a bustling area and developing industrial site for all of China. It's also a destination city because of its proximity to the ocean and the beautiful mountain landscape that surrounds the city. Qingdao (pronounced "ching - dow") was occupied/colonized by Germans around the turn of the 20th century. Cobble-stoned streets, churches and wooden homes with orange-topped roofs make up a quaint "old-town" in the western part of the city.

Taking a trip to the Ba Da Guan, the city's beach area, transports you to a time long ago and into an environment quite different from the frenzy of modern day China. The weather is perfect for building instruments, with 4 discernable seasons and a climate similar to upstate New York or the lower peninsula of Michigan. On a side note: Qingdao is also famous for two of our favorite things: Beer (Tsingtao (the old spelling of the city name), a well know lager and brewery throughout the world) and small sea Clams (Ga La) which are something similar to our cherry-stone clams found on the eastern coast of the United States. .... So if the wood working and instrument building doesn't work out for us we'll never go hungry!

StorefrontOur New US Workshop:

It’s actually just a short jog down the street from my home workshop that we’ve been in since 2009. Our new space is in a very cool old downtown building that was once a restaurant, built in 1874. The historic city center of Marshall, MI is a beautiful place filled with grandiose old mansions and brick buildings that make it truly special; much like its close neighbor to the west, Kalamazoo. The new location features a workshop/bench room, showroom and storefront for visitors. There are racks of wood for selecting sets when commissioning master grade mandolins, a full selection of instruments for trying out the various Northfield options, and lots of charm and history to soak in while sitting in the front room. We’re developing and building mandolins right on site and if you get here on the right day you may be able to check out our latest creations.

Inside-Northfield-Workshop 
Workbench Inside-Wall-Hang
 
Consider this an open invitation to anyone interested in visiting us. Give us a call to set up a time to come by and check out our new digs in person. We would love to show you what we’re up to. Here are some videos of a few projects we did around the shop while building-out the new workshop.

Adrian Bagale

(Design and R&D, Sourcing, USA set-up)

 

What can I say...I'm definitely a product of my environment. My father is a musician and music educator, my mother an artist many times over. My two younger brothers are both gifted musicians. Music and musical instruments have surrounded me for my entire life. I play a few different instruments as a result. I grew up in Rochester, NY and currently live and work in Marshall, MI.

 

My professional work experience has taken me all over the world. I've worked at several different musical instrument companies (Elderly Instruments, Saga Musical Instruments, Voyage-Air Guitar) and maintain a plethora of different projects inside the musical instrument world to this day. My first love is the F5 mandolin, an obsession I've had since I first saw a mandolin being played at the local Lilac Festival in my hometown in the early '80s. Here in Michigan I spend most of time sourcing the materials that will become the Northfield mandolin and getting instruments ready to go to new customers. I also put together the specifications for the instruments and insure that the quality is on target for the market inside the USA. I've had the great opportunity to develop instruments for several famous brands over the years and all of that exposure has helped me hone in on what really makes this craft special. Working with performing artists has taught me a lot about the needs for musicians too. The Northfield Workshop was born out of a need to work more closely with our small team and all of the encouraging people that we had met along to way. I still travel quite frequently, cross-country and around the world. I look forward to spending as much time with my friends and family, including the instruments, as I can.


Derek Smith bench

Derek Smith

I have played music and been interested in the instruments that project it for most of my life. A true appreciation for high quality acoustic instruments was fostered by over 13 years of working at the world renowned string-shop, Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan. That is where I first met Adrian and we even ran the vendor booth together for the IBMA conference when it was still in Louisville.

I have worked in music and theater throughout my years specializing in the songs and life of Hank Williams. I am currently receiving training in therapeutic music and am always looking to grow and change as a musician. I also spend a good deal of time involved in the sport of dragonboating.




Peter Bagale

Peter Bagale

(Sales and Marketing)

Well…… I’ve been playing music pretty much my whole life, with my brothers, my father and now with my own children. I currently call NYC my home and have lived here the past decade working as a professional musician. I do quit a bit of travelling as a performer and have acquired a need to be surrounded by fine stringed instruments as much as possible.

As a bit of an audio tech guy, I started working with Northfield back in early 2011 capturing the sound quality of these amazing instruments. That experience led me to my current position as Digital Marketing Manager and Master Model Sales Rep.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Northfield and look forward to the continuous growth in this company.



Dianhong YinDianhong Yin

(Varnishing)

To him, painting the mandolin is just like painting a picture. "It has to be a unique experience and it has to say something to the viewer at the end, it's very challenging but you do it for the love of creating something new." Our expression of color and shading relies on Yin's keen sense of color graduation and technique. For years he had been experimenting with mixing different shellac flakes with earthy tints and blends of materials.

It's like a brew that he just kept changing and trying... until one day. About a year ago he went about an experiment with a specific mandolin, finishing and refinishing it. Scraping the top, alternating the color applications, and then doing it over. When it was done he showed it to us....his masterpiece unveiled. "Now it's about maintaining the recipe!" Dianghong's interest and skill with stringed instruments is no accident. His grandfather was the chief of a Beijing Opera Group in Jin Lin Province and was also a Jing Hu player. Several of his uncles play the Erhu and have been surrounding him with music for a very long time. The family jam sessions just got a dose of the western world...only his new instrument has got 8 strings to their two! Look out Yin family; the mandolin is going to get you, just like it's gotten all of us.



Kosuke KyomoriKosuke Kyomori

(Design, Shop Foreman & Set-up)


From an early age Kosuke was drawn to the guitar and other stringed instruments. His brother was playing all the time as a semi-pro in Japan and Kosuke was constantly exposed to live music and instruments. After a brief stint at the local university he went to work for Toyota. Still, his heart was in music and the more he saw his brother the more he wanted to surround himself with music and instruments.

 

After some dabbling with repair and set-up he enrolled at the Chubu Technical Academy of Musical Instruments, in Nagoya. For several years he learned the ins and outs of stringed instrument construction and set-up. After graduating he embarked on a journey to the emerging center of global guitar production, Mainland China. During the next 8 years he worked as Quality Control manager and production manager for a few very large companies making mandolins, banjos, and acoustic guitars. All the while he had been experimenting with different building techniques and designs for mandolin construction to be used in a small workshop. His time as a production engineer taught him the keys to quality management. His love for vintage instruments and mandolin playing offer a very unique perspective complimenting his exceptional eye for design and quality workmanship. He's traveled a lot in his young life, taking on the challenges of international business with composure and confidence. As a founder of our workshop, Kosuke has created something very unique and he hopes to finesse and refine our instruments for a long time to come.


Jidou Qin

Jiduo Qin

(Wood working)

Jiduo's obsession with wood started from an early age. His father was a specialty carpenter and worked on things like elaborate doors, and windows for homes. He also made cabinets and custom furniture. Working as his assistant, Jiduo learned how to use all the related hand tools, and then eventually learned how to use the machines. Over the years he worked in a variety of different factories and workshops building furniture and other wood products, until one day he visited a guitar factory. He was enamored with the function and production of the craft "That you could make something so useful and so artistic was amazing to me, I had to try." And try he did. For the last 10 years he has been honing his craft. The Northfield Workshop has given him the chance to shine and focus on what is really important to him. Zeroing in on detail work goes back to his days working together with his father. His training at the larger organizations has resulted in the expertise needed to set-up and maintain our shop's building methods and build with exceptional consistency. His handwork is a gift all of us appreciate more and more each day.


Xi Sheng ZhangXi Sheng Zhang

(Engineer, Sourcing, Team Leader)

Xi Sheng, or “Dino” as he’s known to his closest friends, grew up in the villages around our shop. His mother and father raised the family though some of the hardest times in China. Some of the stories he told us about growing up in rural China offered a perspective that shaped our approach to this business from the start. The location, the people, the culture of the city we work in—he understands more about those important details than any of us. His professional background ranges from mapmaking, to extensive experience with leather tanning and Italian shoe making, to musical instrument production/factory management at a very large scale. All of this professional experience has resulted in an amazing network of helpful friends throughout China, friends that have been willing to help us get this project off the ground. Dino's skill in sourcing materials (wood, pearl, steel, leather for cases..anything!) is so comprehensive that we are constantly benefitting from his resources. His love for quality instruments and knack for managing a small business has helped us grow from an idea to a reality.




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Contact Us

130 W Michigan Ave.
Marshall, MI 49068

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(877) 367-7304

 

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