a Soli Deo Gloria mandolin

Soli Deo Gloria Handcrafted Mandolins
mandolin maker Steve Krigbaum at work building a mandolin

about Soli Deo Gloria mandolin photo gallery

Soli Deo Gloria Mandolins, fine handcrafted mandolins built by Steve Krigbaum in the traditional style of a vintage Lloyd Loar mandolin. Each instrument is a hand-carved mandolin built with the care that only an individual luthier can give. Many of the tools, methods and materials used by Steve to produce hand built mandolins would be familiar to the craftsmen employed in the 1920's to build Gibson mandolins.

Traditional Mandolin Woods

I like the sound and look of vintage mandolins, both A5 and F5 mandolins, so I use traditional woods. I like spruce for tops and figured maple for the neck, sides, and back. In general that is.

There are many different kinds of spruce - Red Spruce, Sitka Spruce, Engelmann Spruce -- each with a different feel as I work it and a different tone when played. Red Spruce is a harder wood, and harder to find, but it can produce a powerful instrument. My wood supplier currently favors a very pretty Sitka spruce ("wide grained wood like you see in the Gibson A's") that I am looking forward to trying.

Figured maple might be Balkan Maple (beautiful flame), Big Leaf Maple (sometimes quilted), or European maple (flame/fiddle-back) -- there are a number of beautiful maple varieties used in fine instruments including handcrafted mandolins.

Hand Carved Arch Top Mandolins

My first memory of hand carving wood goes back many years to when I was a toddler in my great-grandfather's shop. Pop was working on Gram's fiddle and he dragged his toolbox over to the workbench so I could stand on it to "help." He gave me a piece of spruce and a plane to keep me busy. I still remember the smell and the feel of fresh plane curls.

Pop's toolbox lives in my workshop and I use that same plane for rough carving tops and backs today. Pop would probably appreciate the smaller spoon bottom planes I use to finish the recurve, graduate the arch, or shape the scroll of an F style mandolin. I do work carefully to measurements taken from vintage mandolins, but I find hand working allows me to feel the wood - how soft or hard is it? how stiff or flexible? -- all are important to the final voice of the instrument.

Individually Voiced Mandolins

Again you could say I am a traditionalist, or just old fashioned. I use methods unchanged since Stradivarius- tap tuning and flexing to individually tune the plates of each instrument. I have some more modern technology as well, but tap tuning and flexing are the basics. I hand split vertical grained spruce for tone bars and shape them individually. By paying close attention to my wood as I carve, and to the tap tone and flexibility of a plate I work to bring out the best voice in each instrument. No two Soli Deo Gloria Mandolins will sound exactly alike. I like to hear good tone, volume, and balance in a new mandolin -- and they only get richer sounding and more beautiful as the wood continues to age and they are loved and played.

Hand Cut Inlay

The peg head of a Soli Deo Gloria mandolin is shaped in a traditional style -- like other A5 or F5 mandolins, but the inlay is original. Each shell inlay is individually hand cut -- no two alike. In our garden there are large dragonflies, some a bright solid blue or brilliant red, some a beautiful powder blue and black pattern which flit around from spring till frost. These are the inspiration for some of our mother of pearl and abalone inlays.

Hand Applied Finishes

At this time my preference is either a traditional nitrocellulose lacquer or spirit varnish finish. These finishes are applied by hand with care taken to keep them thin so as not to dampen the tone and volume of the mandolin. In a very real way the wood tells me what finish to use.

Quality Details

While no two Soli Deo Gloria mandolins will be exactly the same, it is my intention to always invest the time and handwork to include the details you expect in a quality handcrafted mandolin: triple bound binding (ivoroid/black/ivoroid) on the front, back and peg-head, or perhaps a "July 9" binding (triple bound on the side) like on Bill Monroe's famous F5 mandolin; an ebony fingerboard, either radiused or flat, with position markers; and quality hardware. I like the traditional mandolin defined by Lloyd Loar and will not vary far from it, but I can't imagine building each instrument just like the last one (don't tell the bluegrass traditionalists, but there is quilted maple in my wood stash.)


Each unsold instrument will be pictured in our mandolin gallery "available for sale" with a detailed description.

E-mail us to arrange to purchase or trial an instrument. I hand-build only a few instruments at a time and will post each as soon as it is available. If you would like to be notified by e-mail when a new instrument is available, let us know. We won't sell or share your e-mail address and we will only contact you when there is a new instrument to preview.

~Steve Krigbaum

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Photographs by Dave Harmon and Will Krigbaum