About Craig Rantz

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Craig Rantz has created 80 blog entries.

19.44 degrees

Here’s a look at the neck block mock-up cut and placed in the rim tooling, and what it took to get it to that point! And, hey, I still have all my fingers!!!

It turns out I needed 19.44 degrees taken off each side to get the necessary angle.

I’ll cut the actual block […]

Neck Block mock-up

The neck block of a mandolin is second in importance only to the top bracing design. This assembly will hold up to 160 pounds of pull against its structure – it HAS to be sound.

Most traditional mandolins use a dovetail joint for this purpose, in the case of “The Thula” I’ll be using an M […]

The basic shape of “The Thula”

The basic outline you see on this template is an iteration off of a 1922/1923 Lloyd Loar Gibson mandolin.

“The Thula” will be a hybrid of this design, especially the area around the neck joint.

From this template I’ll be able to bend my sides to fit this shape and develop my neck and tail block. I’ve […]

Table saw caddy

The design parameters I’m using for “The Thula” mandolin necessitated a table saw caddy.

The issue was that I needed a tool to allow for accurate cuts on my neck block since the nature of this adaptation is to use a M & T neck joint. A typical mandolin uses a dovetail joint at 5.5 […]

D’Addario N6Alloy Beta Test

A while ago the D’Addario company put out a call to action on Facebook for testing a new set of acoustic guitars string, the N6Alloy. D’Addario is to be applauded for this because it gives guitar players (at all levels, by the way) the chance to try a different set of strings with no risk!

I have a 2003 […]

Anatomy of a new design

The next mandolin is underway!

This will be a special project because the name of this instrument will be “The Thula.” Thula was my grandmother’s name on my dad’s side of the family, she was an accomplished violinist and her story is remarkable. As each step is completed on this prototype I’ll post some pictures of her and of my dad’s […]

The right strings!

Mandolin #1 was completed a while ago, so it’s time to experiment with string type. The original strings were D’Addario J67(s) which have nickel wound G and D strings. I used these because they last a bit longer due to perspiration tarnish.  I’m trying a set of D’Addario EJ74(s) which are a standard medium gauge […]

Mike Rantz & Joe Rantz: Music & Guitars

The picture featured here is of my dad, Mike Rantz and his half-brother, Joe Rantz, playing guitars. There are pictures of the Rantz family stuck away in albums which I simply do not recall seeing as a child. This is one of those pictures.

These two half-brothers share a common father, Harry Rantz, Sr. My […]

Alzheimer’s Disease and Music

A few years ago I was asked to sing a Christmas program for a local convalescent care facility. This facility included residents with Alzheimer’s disease in various stages. At the time I didn’t dwell on that fact — I didn’t know about music’s impact on Alzheimer’s patients!

I chose songs that I remembered hearing as a […]


When I hear the term “unplugged,” I have to laugh. Almost every piece of acoustic music from the 1970’s was unplugged! Then, Nirvana comes along in 1993 with their “unplugged” concert, and people think it’s revolutionary!? And, as you’ll note in this Nirvana video, they still “plug-in.”

Thinking back to folks like Gordon Lightfoot and […]

Mike Rantz & ALCAN Highway

Being born in the Roaring 20’s might have a touch of romance in it, except for the fact that a few years later America would find itself in another World War and this generation gave their all for it.

Robert Rantz (aka Mike Rantz) was born April 9th, 1923. His childhood was a bit challenging, […]

Mandolin Build: Finished Sound

(Prev: String Up)

Here is a sound sample of the finished mandolin.

The sound is rich on the wound strings and punchy on the treble side. I actually use this instrument for bluegrass and folk music. It seems to want to play both equally well.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the mandolin is how the […]

Uke Build: Finished Sound

Here is a sound sample of the finished tenor ukulele.

Mandolin Build: String Up

(Prev: End Pin)

The builder waits for weeks to live in this moment… what will it sound like? Will the top bracing hold 160 pounds of pressure without collapsing? Will all of the work come together to make a fine and unique mandolin?

I’m actually pleased with the sound. I have the string height set at: […]

Mandolin Build: End Pin

(Prev: French Polish Neck)

I took this picture to show how nifty inlay looks with maple, ebony, and rosewood.

The end pin is ebony, the vertical strip is ebony, the binding is rosewood and the body, maple. Quite the contrast, eh? One must be cautious of “bleed” from rosewood, however!

This is where shellac really shines! The […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Neck

(Prev: Bridge)

Looking at the back view you can see the shine of the shellac across the back and up the neck. The necks are neat because the maple’s grain really “pops” when the finish is applied.

Most necks are left unfinished because of shellac’s solubility issues with water (or perspiration). I finished my neck just […]

Mandolin Build: Bridge

(Prev: Headstock)

Here are a couple of pictures of the mandolin bridge resting in position.

The advantage of a “floating” bridge is that it can be moved to allow for excellent intonation of the strings. The disadvantage? Because it moves around on the top of a compound curve the feet will never be in perfect contact […]

Mandolin Build: Headstock

(Prev: French Polish Back)

Here you’re looking at the headstock overlay on mandolin #1. Smaller surface areas can be difficult when applying a French polish – especially with an obstruction. In this case the nut was in the way of a smooth stroke across the headstock.

The only option I had was to wipe away from […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Back

(Prev: 15th Fret Marker)

Again, French polish on the back, but far easier to apply – nothing’s in the way!

The box in the background of the picture is the pumice stone, the small glass jar holds the mixed shellac and the small plastic container keeps the “rubber” moist when not in use.

(Next: Headstock)

Mandolin Build: 15th Fret Marker

(Prev: French Polish Side)

This was a tricky little area to construct …

Normally, the 15th fret marker has no trim – it’s just a white line of plastic. Of course, I wanted to be different!

So, I added a piece of rosewood trim in front of the 15th fret marker to complete the look of the rosewood […]