by Teja Gerken
February 29, 2016
Founded by former Flatiron Mandolins head luthier Bruce Weber in 1997, Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments has grown into a premier source of quality mandolin-family instruments. First located in Montana, the company moved to Bend, Oregon in 2013, after being purchased by the Two Old Hippies company (which also makes Bedell and Breedlove guitars). Although the shop location has changed, Bruce Weber continues to be actively involved in the design and manufacturing of Weber instruments.
Weber offers the entire range of mandolin-family instruments, from the diminutive sopranino to the XL-sized mandocello, and at this year’s NAMM show, our curiosity was piqued by Weber’s new Cutaway octave mandolin with a body shape reminiscent of an archtop guitar. Octave mandolins are tuned an octave below a standard mandolin (to G D A E), with a scale length of 20–22 inches. They often have a beautifully rich voice that is perfect for accompaniment, as artists such like Tim O’Brien and Sarah Jarosz have proven.
Most Weber instruments are available in a variety of styles, and the Cutaway Octave Mandolin we had a chance to check out has the company’s Red River package. With a beautiful transparent red nitrocellulose finish, the instrument is built with a red spruce top and highly quilted maple back and sides. The arched top is braced with tone bars, and while an oval soundhole is an option, our demo model had a pair of f-holes.
The Cutaway Red River was incredibly fun to play, and sounded spectacular. The 20-inch scale (a 22-inch scale option is also available) reduced the necessity for long reaches, and the instrument had a powerful, slightly throaty voice with great bass, as well as excellent definition on the treble notes. In this video, Peghead Nation Co-Founder Scott Nygaard and mandolin instructor Sharon Gilchrist give the instrument a thorough workout.
SPECS: Octave mandolin. Carved, arched, red spruce top. Quilted maple back and sides. Maple neck. Ebony fingerboard bound with tortoise binding. Adjustable floating ebony bridge. 20-inch scale length. 1⅜-inch nut width. Tortoise/ivory/black body binding. Double-action truss rod. Nickel-plated cast tailpiece. Grover tuners. Made in USA. $7,999.