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Review: The Mandolin Project by Graham McDonald

Review: The Mandolin Project by Graham McDonald

Reviewed by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #97, 2009

The Mandolin Project
Graham McDonald
ISBN (paperback): 9780980476200
Graham McDonald Stringed Inst., 2008, $37.50

It’s funny how the cover of a book can prepare you for what’s inside. The cover of The Mandolin Project is about the same color as a brown paper bag, with type in a darker brown — in other words, nicely plain. It looks like a work book, which put me in a pretty good mood for what was inside. This is serious stuff, the making of instruments. Save the glitz for the useless coffee table books. “Roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work,” the cover says. I like that.

But first, (snore) a little history. Most instrument building books feel compelled to explain the origins of the instrument before the woodwork begins, as if we didn’t know. Much of the time it just seems to pad out the book to help justify a higher price. But McDonald is a cerebral kind of guy with serious intent and he wouldn’t jerk us around like that. The first thirty pages of his manual trace the life of the mandolin using some very nice color graphics and text that you may or may not find interesting, depending on how eager you are to finish your mandolin and finally learn to play “The Rights of Man.” Suffice it to say that if you wish to place yourself amid the human calender as a mandolin builder, the first chapter is for you. If not, well, the photos are so good that I’ll be surprised if you don’t at least find yourself skimming the text for the names that match the pictures. And you know what? There was a lot of information I didn’t already know.

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