Flat Top Octave
Before you is a gateway. It may lead to parts unknown but the path eventually steers towards home. A sound and feel that is as unique and novel as it is familiar. At Northfield we place innovation and boundary-pushing at the top of our list.
Our flattop octave is a creation merging traditional small-bodied guitar building with friendlier ergonomic body features. The shallower, tapered body is more accessible to mandolin players and the resultant tone has a sonic signature that does not mingle with other instruments or get lost in the mix.
This instrument has it’s own voice. Rich, woody, focused…As great for back-up as it is for solo and melody work.
Top: Sitka Spruce
Back, Sides, and Neck: Black Walnut
Pickguard: Clear Plastic
Bridge and Fingerboard Material: Black Walnut
Finish Material: Lacquer & Garnett Shellac
Nut Width: 1.4 or 1 - 13/32
Neck Profile: Soft V
Fingerboard Radius: 5.7" at the nut, 7.7" at 20th fret
Scale Length: 22"
String Gauges: .049 .032 .022 .014 (inches)
Total Length: 36-1/4"
Width at Lower Bout: 13-5/8"
Width at Waist: 8-1/2"
Width at Upper Bout: 10"
Depth at End Pin: 2-3/8"
Depth at Waist: 2-5/8"
Depth at Heel: 2-1/2"
Finish Color: Natural, with slight Amber
Tuners: Gotoh Tuners
Binding: Brown Tortoise or Grained Ivoroid
Case: Hardshell Fiberglass
Made in Michigan
After a night of picking around the campfire we got on the topic of small-bodied guitars. In 2014/15 it seemed like a lot of players were acquiring tenor guitars and tuning them like octave mandolins. However, to our ears, the guitars under performed as octave mandolins. That night we made plans to modify an existing tenor by replacing the neck with a newly built 8-string version. Our resident flattop expert and seasoned luthier, Kjell Croce quickly had the job done and within a couple of weeks we were on a plane bound for our workshop in Qingdao. We were really enjoying the prototype and fell in love, as many others had, with this instrument. But, we needed to improve the tonal clarity and body feel beyond a typical tenor/octave conversion.
Over the next two years we were very busy with moving our chief designer and builder, Kosuke Kyomori, and his family to Marshall, Michigan. We also outfitted two new buildings with dedicated production and warehouse space. Kjell worked closely together with Kosuke to develop our flattop octave concept and in the summer of 2017 we completed two prototypes utilizing our new designs and unveiled them at the first Marshall Mandolin Summit. We were very pleased with the results and the reception. We were on the right track.
The flattop octave has a tone and utilitarian flexibility that carves it’s way into many musical styles. One of our favorite players on flattop instruments is Roger Tallroth of the band Vasen. We found an opportunity to get our octave into Roger’s hands at a show in Kentucky. He was quickly smitten and proceeded to play tune after tune backstage. We left the show reeling from the beautifully haunting Scandinavian melodies and set ourselves to tweaking string tensions and tunings per Roger’s feedback. In February, 2018 we met with Roger again at the Wintergrass festival in Washington. He played it throughout the week with lots of seasoned ears around to listen and comment. Roger took the instrument home to Sweden and he has continued to record and perform with it.
We continued to develop and refine the design while we setup jigs and fixturing to make the first small batch which we completed in June, 2018. We are very excited about this new addition to the Northfield family.