I'm making my first mandolin and I've never had to figure string spacing on a double stringed instrument. The nut width will be 1 1/8". I could use some suggestions for the simplest way figure the gaps between the courses and the strings. Also what do any of you like for spacing between the fretboard edge and the first string. I've seen measurements from 1/16" to 1/8". I'm thinking the less the better to give me more space between courses. What do you all think? Thanks all.

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The simplest way would be to copy the spacing off an existing mandolin. Since mandolins have the double strings and the spacing between these double strings is also a factor it complicated matters some. The space between the outermost strings and the edge of the fingerboard is critical because you don't want the string to slide off the edge when it is noted. A proportional divider is a handy tool to have when spacing a nut. One end measures the total width and the other end measures each string space. Frank Ford has some information about this tool on It will work for a mandolin but the extra strings complicate the process. Personally, I like to set the nut in place and mark the two outermost strings and even install these two strings over the nut so I can see where they will fall after it is slotted. You'll just know when it looks right after seeing a lot of them (no matter what the measurement is). After you mark and locate these two strings, the rest is more or less getting everything evenly spaced. Some luthiers prefer to compensate the spacing to overcome the string size differences, but I usually just make the spaces all the same. If you start measuring and looking closely at some old instruments, you'll discover that a lot of the string spacing on the nuts are obviously "eyeballed". I hope your project goes well.
Ronnie Nichols
Hi Rick,

This may be helpful.

Thanks for the link Joshua. There is some helpful information there. I'm leaning toward trying to eyeball it and if it looks good, measuring it and seeing how close I came. Ronnie mentioned proportional dividers and I looked into those a couple years ago. I lusted after them but could not justify the expense at the time, they are expensive. I might try those as well. Nice thing about nuts is I can keep trying until I get it right, but I hate to waste material.
I build mandos with a range of neck widths.

I'm ashamed to say I do each one freehand with an attitude of "if it LOOKS right, then it IS right"!!

I'll get the nut widthe right then use the flattened pencil trick to mark the depth ot the cuts.

then I'll do the outer two strings,

then freehand mark a partner string for them both.

I'll then measure and divide the distance between the upper two strings by 3, and add the partner strings, again freehand.

thicker strings are a hair wider than the thin ones.

I KNOW this is sacrilidge to a lot of the folks here and they'll probably ban me for it, but well, sorry, thats how I do it!!
I know what you mean about wasting material. You can always make 'dummy' nuts out of scrap wood until you get the spacing right and then copy that one onto your nut blank. On some of my minstrel banjos I use wooden nuts. Historically correct, cheaper and I can make 'em out of scrap.

Rev George
Stew-mac sells a proportional ruler for nut spacing. Might not work simply for a coursed instrument, but it sure helps me get it right. Otherwise, I agree to use an existing nut and copy the spacing. Start you slots with a small file .010, then finish with one that matches string gauge.
Hi Martin- You kno since I go by the addage "do what ever you do best and let someone do the rest'' I dont usually get into a terratory that Im not fimilar with, but this mandolin thing has sparked an interest.
Hrers the thing that I would like to know if you have the information---
can a mandolin be made with a larger body and a longer scale length say 25" and a 1-5/8"width on the neck.
JUst wondering here and if you have the info then I would be most greatful if you pass it to me --
Best to you--
Hi Rick -- I have no idea in this world why a mando has such a narrow neck in the first place
I have hands like a gorilla and I have a mando that Ive tryed my heart out to play.
I can see your delima in making a nut for it and I wish you the best in your adventure..
Im not much help here but I juss thought Id voice anyway--
best to you Rick and be safe....
I'm with you Donald, I started making mandos because I couldn't get my podgy big hands onto a reguler mando neck.....

but as time goes by, I'm now playing a regular width neck.....

with the same podgy fingers!
Hi Martin - Im wondering if someone out there in mandolin building land has ever tryed to make a neck and finger board say at least 1-3/4 inch wide for us people with large hands-- PS -- is a Mandos tuned like a mandolin?? and is the scale the same or longer?? Just wondering-- Im also in the process of making a solid body mandolin with only 4 strings 1-1/8 nut--
Hi Donald,
As a guitar player I understand the issues with a narrow neck. I play mandolin a bit too and found that it requires me to readjust to the intervals between notes on strings. In other words I've found that I have to use the pinky on my left hand a lot more than I do on the guitar. I think it might be harder to reach a lot of those notes or cords if the neck is too much wider. It also might slow things down just a hair on those scorching fast bluegrass runs (like I can do those!). I'm not a particularly good mando player but I have come to appreciate the compact neck on those long stretches. BTW, "mando" is just lazy talk for mandolin.

Not that I'm being judgmental and I'm not knocking it but I have to ask, is it still a mandolin if it only has four strings? Doesn't a tiple become a ukulele if I remove the paired strings? Just asking.

Hi Ned-- I dont kno if a mandolin and a uke are tuned the same because I never got into the uke. I do kno hiwever that the fiddle and the mandolin are tuned the same... I wanted to try my hand at making a 4 string Mandolin for room purposes, so I could maby get my fingers on the board...juss got to do some things to see what hapens if ya kno what I mean....
best to you,


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