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The third time may be the charm but we’ve entered the fourth dimension.


Northfield 4th Generation F5

A diffuse light permeates the workshop through the thickly frosted windows. Coffee’s on. We find ourselves musing abstractly on our latest F5 development. We’ve approached mandolin making from many angles. The sum changes a degree with every design tweak. Where are we going? Pressing forward while looking backward? Time for another cup… A concept gleaned from the field of physics resonates with our latest F5 design process: The relation between the 3rd and 4th dimensions. Space and time – form and history. 

The name: We call it this because it’s really the 4th time, in our more than ten year history that we’ve revamped our approach to the F5. New directions, new motives, new design/dimensions/fixtures/materials yields a new sound.  Or is it an old sound? Everything is about interpretation. We think every mandolin player and maker is drawing from specific examples (or experiences) they have come across. As time goes by and the years start to accumulate you draw from a bigger well of information. For us it’s been about finding the links between the sounds we like, and the instruments we want to play. Again, the experience.This is now the 3rd variation in our Artist Series mandolin family - and it's quite different from the other two.


The inspiration: We’ve been incredibly privileged to work with world-class artists like Mike Marshall and get helpful and informed feedback (even buy precious instruments) from some of the best mandolin builders on earth. Of course, even those instruments, by those legendary builders, are interpretations of the old Kalamazoo made F5s. It’s kind of like the telephone game - they said/did this (pass along), they said/did this (pass along)... on and on. And the story changes. The context and the application for how you use that information (regardless of whether or not it’s still in its original form) is what ends up being important - even when, or we could say especially when, the end results weren't anticipated. Like the original F5s being designed for classical music and orchestral ensembles and then, after some on-the-job experimenting, they become the standard for Bluegrass music. This yielded a new horizon for the mandolin. So, we go experimenting with bluegrass and mandolin designs only to come back around, deep in classical and other music. We ultimately deciphered for ourselves why the original F5 designs work in those varied contexts - AND why certain aspects to the design really are critical in a performance setting.