K. Michael Clark
K. Michael Clark. $1,500.
Here's a fascinating mandolin from New England boutique luthier K. Michael Clark, who spent years with Ovation but is now out on his own, winning fans and customers around the nation with his innovative guitars.
    This is Clark's first mandolin; it's numbered 001 and has a label proclaiming it a prototype. It features Clark's proprietary "A-wedge" construction, which, according to the builder, "adds a lute flare to the traditional back of the guitar and creates a completely un-braced design which results in a gorgeous look combined with amazing sound and ergonomic feel."
      Single-cutaway body with two soundholes in the upper bass bout. Dark tobacco sunburst on flat spruce top. Glued-on, guitar-style ebony bridge; the tailpiece is ingeniously set into the top just below the bridge, and accepts ball-end strings. Multi-piece, multi-color maple back with modified bowl shape. It's deeper than your standard American carved mandolin; more in the vein of an Ovation in terms of shape and size. The neck has a shallow U shape but is wider than a standard mandolin neck; this may make a good instrument for someone more accustomed to playing the guitar. Tonally, it does indeed remind me of a bowlback, and might be a good choice for classical or Italian music in a setting that required amplification.
     Having acquired this mandolin from its original owner, I sent it back to Clark for some touching up. The top has been newly refinished although it does show a little plectrum wear; the back and sides still have the original finish, which has no chips or blemishes but does have a good deal of fine lacquer crazing. The fretboard is brand new, with jumbo frets, and has side markers. There's a screw hole in the heel for a strap button, but no button is currently installed (I can add one if you like). The instrument has an onboard K&K Mandolin Twin pickup with an endpin jack. Comes in a hard foam case similar to a Travelite.
     It's hard to put a price on this unique mandolin, since Clark hasn't built any others or offered them as part of his line. I can tell you, however, that a Clark A-wedge guitar costs $4,800, so perhaps you'll agree that $1,500 seems like a reasonable price for this mandolin. Add a strap, see more photos, call 425/772-0231, or for more information. $1,500 plus shipping.