This is a Mid-Missouri M2 flat-top mandolin, made by luthier Mike Dulak’s shop in Missouri (what is now called “Big Muddy Mandolins“). It has a solid spruce top with solid maple sides and back, a mahogany neck, and a rosewood fingerboard.
I stumbled across this mandolin in an online auction, were it was listed as an “unmarked tear-drop shaped mandolin.” Because the mandolin is missing the label on the inside, the seller didn’t seem to notice the brand stamped into the side of the headstock that says “Mid-Missouri Mandolin Co.”
There were no photos of that side of the mandolin neck (for reasons that will become clear in a moment), but I recognized the shape immediately. I kept an eye on it and won the auction for a very reasonable price.
When the mandolin arrived, the neck was cracked. Not terribly – the crack only went halfway through the neck, and came down from the headstock toward the bottom of the neck for an inch or two. In fact, string tension actually pulls the crack closed, so I knew that it was repairable. I was still happy with the purchase price of the mandolin, even with the crack. Since it had been shipped with the strings up to tension, I thought the damage could have been from shipping. But when I asked the seller whether the mandolin had been cracked before it was shipped, to determine if I should submit a FedEx claim, half my purchase price was quickly refunded. Now I was really happy with my purchase price.
After removing the bone nut, I made some small cherry wedges that I inserted into the crack to gently open it up enough to work glue all the way in. I used a brush and capillary action to get the glue in, and then removed the wedges and clamped it up using some shaped cauls on the back of the neck and a straight scrap of cherry on the fretboard. Then I worked a few small wedges under the cherry caul to put pressure on the edges of the fretboard. I left it clamped up for 48 hours. While the crack is still visible in direct light, it holds tight.
I strung the mandolin up with D’Addario EJ73 light strings. The D and G have a rich, woody tone, complimented by a wonderful midrange and treble that almost sparkles.
The rosewood floating bridge that came with it was 5/8″, which probably gave good action in arid Arizona (where it used to live). In humid Michigan, action at the 12th fret was very high, over 1/8″. Flat top mandolins often have fixed-height floating bridges, rather than adjustable bridges like carved mandolins. I made a new compensated maple bridge and now the action is down to 3/64″ at the E and 1/32″ at the G strings. It practically plays itself.
The mandolin doesn’t sound like a bluegrass mandolin, despite sharing spruce and maple as the primary tonewoods. The round hole, coupled with the flat (not carved) top and back of the instrument give it a more guitar-like sound. It’s also X-braced like a modern guitar, rather than having tone bars, like a carved-top mandolin (or violin).
This mandolin is probably not going anywhere. I love it.
Here’s a sound demo, where I tried out a new microphone. Not sure if it’s better or worse: