How Northfield Works

Lots of people ask us about our story. How does our company work and where do we make our mandolins? We make mandolins in Qingdao, China and Marshall, Michigan. It seems complicated having two shops and team members on different sides of the world. It is indeed. For many people the interest is based in curiosity and appreciation. For others, there is disbelief that a world-class mandolin could be made in China. In our opinion, this unfounded line of thinking is based on a lack of experience working or living in China and is largely prejudicial. Unfortunately, when it comes to China there’s been too much maliciously motivated press as well as poorly designed and manufactured products, heavily demanded by consumers outside of China. I could go on forever about this but I won’t. 

Why? For us, it’s never been about the dirt under our feet or the place in the world that you live. It’s about who you are and what you can do. It’s about the people and their talents. It’s about bringing and idea to a table of friends from all over the place and hashing out how or why to make an instrument. It’s about passion. It’s about differences in perspectives. It’s about friendship and adventure.

We started this company in China when I (Adrian) was living and working there. We expanded into the USA when we recognized the market demands and the obvious logistical problem we would have to sort out to get instruments into the hands of players here in the USA, the biggest mandolin (in the style we make) market in the world. We then set up a shop here in Michigan, then a bigger one in 2013, and moved to our 2-building warehouse and production facilities in 2018. We can readily make 6 different instruments in Qingdao and 5 different instruments in Michigan. The two teams are completely collaborative. We can make instruments here, or there, we can complete them in either shop or send them in parts for completion by either of the shops. One team spread across two locations. It comes down to how, and WHO, we want to do it.

Our team has a vast amount of experience and skill sets ranging the full gamut of mandolin making. Some are specialists, some are generalists. Each person is recognized for their talents regardless of their location, age, race, gender, or haircut. You get the idea. We’re a modern day company. (I kind of chuckle at this.. as if the idea of a bunch of people from different parts of the world making mandolins (or any instrument) is something new.. no, it’s not at all. Let’s look at the beginnings in Kalamazoo.. or Nazareth just to start).

We’re full of energy and goodwill. We’re ambitious mandolin-making PEOPLE.

 

Here’s some more info and origin details for each instrument we produce.

These details as of 5/15/2019.

A5 Special: hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce sent in sets from Marshall, MI. Mandolin built by the Qingdao team, French polished in Michigan, set up and shipped from Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Case from Germany.

F5/F2s: hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce sent from Pennsylvania or MI. Mandolin built by the Qingdao team, set up and shipped from Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Case from Germany.

Flat-top Octave: all materials from Michigan except for the old west coast Sitka spruce. Made in Michigan. Tuners from Japan. Strings from USA. Custom Deluxe Case from Qingdao.

F5 “BigMon”: hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce sent in sets from Pennsylvania or MI. Mandolin built by the Qingdao team, set up and shipped from Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Case from Germany.

Artist variation 1 and 2: hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce sent in sets from Marshall, MI. Mandolin built by the Qingdao team, French polished in Michigan, set up and shipped from Michigan. Strings from USA.Tuners from Japan. Custom Deluxe Case from Qingdao.

Artist 4th Gen (Artist variation 3): This one is a bit more complicated. Here's our process: All wood selection is done from our Michigan shop’s premium stash. We make all of the mandolin parts in Michigan, utilizing machines, fixtures, and handwork. With the top and back carved, ribs formed, blocks set, and neck completed with truss rod, overlays, and fretboard we partially assemble the instrument. The top and rib assembly are glued up, the dovetail neck joint is fine-tuned and fit to the body. The neck is then removed so we can pack the instrument "kit" in a box along with other supplies we're sending to the gang in Qingdao. The assembly is completed and then sanding and coloring steps are performed by Lao Yin. After a couple weeks of curing the mandolin is sent back to us in Michigan where we then perform final finish steps, wet sanding, french polishing, hardware installation, and setup.

Archtop Octave: hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) from MI, VT, or PA. Spruce sent in sets from Italy. Mandolin built by the Qingdao team, set up and shipped from Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Custom Deluxe case from Qingdao.

The Calhoun: all materials from Michigan except for the Italian Spruce, cut from billets prior to carving the octave tops. Made in Michigan. Tuners from Japan. Strings from USA. Case optional.

Model M: varied and comes down to the specific instrument.

For some (primarily after 5/2019): hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce from USA. Parts and assembly in Qingdao. Varnishing and set up in Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Case from Germany.

For some (primarily after 5/2019): hardwoods (except ebony/Africa) and spruce from USA. Parts and assembly in Qingdao. Varnishing and set up in Michigan. Strings from USA. Tuners from Japan. Case from Germany.