A custom F-style mandolin built by Austin Clark using traditional methods.
by Dan Gabel
September 12, 2016
Austin Clark has been building and repairing mandolin-family instruments and guitars full time for the past ten years. Based in Boise, Idaho, Clark has recently focused on building custom F-style mandolins and octave mandolins with archtop guitar bodies, and he also builds two-point and A-style mandolins, mandolas, and guitars, primarily OM and archtop styles. Clark is a familiar face at a few popular festivals, including the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival in Grass Valley, California, where he is one of the primary instrument repair people on site, and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, where he donates a Clark mandolin to the National Mandolin Championship each year.
We recently had a chance to check out a beautiful Clark F5 mandolin that was completed in June 2016. This custom instrument has a solid carved Adirondack red spruce top, solid carved maple back and sides, and a comfortable neck with a slight V profile and a 1¹/₁₆-inch nut width. Clark favors traditional building methods; he used hot hide glue on most of the joints and applied a French polish over an oil varnish for a thin, rich looking finish on this mandolin. On the more contemporary side, the F5 has EVO fretwire, a two-way truss rod, a custom compensated saddle, and an engraved James tailpiece. Clark works with each customer to come up with the right appointments and specs for the instruments they’re ordering, so this is just one example of the combinations of options he offers.
Peghead Nation’s Advancing Mandolinist instructor Joe K. Walsh was in the studio while we had the Clark F5 on hand, and he played “The Kitchen Floor Waltz” on the mandolin so you can hear its balanced, crisp tone.
Learn more about Austin Clark’s mandolin-family instruments and guitars at ClarkMandolins.com.
Thanks to Brad Hart of Reno, Nevada, for loaning us the Clark F5 mandolin for this demo.
SPECS: F-style mandolin with solid, carved Adirondack spruce top, solid red maple back and sides, solid maple neck, ebony fingerboard,1¹/₁₆-inch-inch nut width. EVO fretwire, Gotoh tuning machines with ivoroid buttons, custom compensated saddle, adjustable bridge. Two-way adjustable truss rod, engraved James tailpiece. French polish over an oil varnish. Made in Boise, Idaho. $9,200. clarkmandolins.com
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