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Left Handed Stringed Instruments by the Lefty Luthier

There are approximately 40 million left handed people in the United States, more than populate any individual state, but there are few stringed musical instruments designed and built specifically for this sector of our population. The majority of the so-called left handed stringed instruments simply have the string nut and bridge reversed to accommodate the various string diameters with little or no regard for the actual physiological differences of the individual or forces involved. For example, on an acoustic guitar the bracing array is designed to both resist string tension and the directional force of string attack. Simply reversing the bridge does not address the greater dynamic loads of the heavy bass strings or compensate for the downward force of pick strikes and many so-called left-handed instruments, particularly guitars, have no structural compensation for opposite hand play or correct orientation of the tone bars.


At the Lefty Luthier, I build custom stringed instruments to specifically address the unique requirements of left-handed players. My custom left handed mandolin, violin and left handed guitar families of instruments are designed and constructed from the beginning with the left-handed player in mind. Of course I also build a complete line of standard right handed instruments but few, if any other, custom luthiers have either the interest or capability of addressing the unique needs of the lefty sector of the population. The only departure from this pure left handed commitment is the conversion of vintage/collector item instruments to opposite hand play. There is actually a substantial demand for the conversion of Epiphone 1964 Texan guitars from right to left hand play due to the fame of Paul McCartney's old crossover guitar.

Custom Left Handed Mandolins


On the mandolin family: Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello, the differences are more subtle than for guitars but perhaps more critical to proper acoustic response and playability. Due to their small size, the mandolin's sound quality is particularly sensitive to tiny changes in structure.












These photos of the inside of a left-handed F5 mandolin soundboard illustrate both what is common and what is unique about left-handed instruments. The photo on the left appears identical to a traditional right-handed instrument save for which sides have the scroll and points but that would be incorrect. The actual contour of the top is adjusted to address the differing loads imposed by the direction of pick strikes and vibratory loading of the bass and treble strings. The photo in the middle shows the tone bars installed and adjusted for proper resonant frequencies. The backlit photo on the right shows subtle but highly important changes in thickness to properly respond to both proper tuning and the directional pick strike forces. Notice in particular that on the treble side (point side) that the thickness just above the center of the F-hole is slightly greater than on the bass side. The bass bar side has been adjusted to a primary resonance of 203 Hz and the treble side to 228 Hz. These slight differences in resonance across the top have a significant effect on both the tonal qualities of the instrument and add to long-term stability of the instrument.

When a Virzi is installed, note that it is off-center relative to the instrument axis favoring the bass side. Again, this slight variation plays a major role in generating the correct acoustic response.

When the top is finished, there is little evidence of the internal differences but play a Custom Lefty instrument and you will immediately hear the difference. Listen to the left handed mandolin below.


Hear what this mandolin sounds like


The A-Style Mandolin

The custom left handed A-style has subtle, but important, differences from the standard right handed ones. Slight variations in soundboard countour and cross bracing improve bass and treble response over one that is built ambidextrous or specifically right handed.

Custom Left Handed Mandolas

The above instrument is a left  handed mandola, the mandolin's big brother. I have built 20 to this design, most finished in the classic Cremona Sunburst manner, and several in solid colors. I have also built several in the A-style.

Custom Left Handed Boomers

The unique instrument shown below is Lefty's own design called the Boomer Eagle. The Boomer family of arch topped instruments bridge the gap between the mandolin and banjo. This instrument has its' own unique sound but anyone who can play a banjo will love this instrument. This particular Boomer is tuned like a banjo but has a more resonant, woody sound. A humbucker buried in the fretboard gives great flexability to the acoustic output. The original designed eagle peghead is composed of a padauk body, ebony wing and marble head with a red laser eye that can turned on or off with a hidden switch. The tuning machines are nickel Waverly banjo and the bridge and tailpiece are fossil ivory. This instrument as shown sold for $4,100.


A Boomer Blade with a custom peghead, fretboard and sound holes. This Boomer is tuned like a mandola with the 5th string set to E5 like a mandolin. This gives this instrument a very wide range of sound.

Hear what this Boomer sounds like

Custom Left Handed Guitars

This is my standard left handed 000 cutaway guitar. This particular guitar and a seccond identical twin have flawless (34 lpi) Sitka Spruce soundboards tuned for steel strings with my standard bracing plus a K&K internal pickup mounted to the underside of the Rosewood bridge. The backboard and rim are master grade Brazilian Rosewood.  The binding is very white maple with 3 mm Paoa abalone perfling front and back. The neck is Spanish Cedar with a heavy carbon fiber spline. The fingerboard is Indian Rosewood with stainlesss steel frets. The tuning machines are nickel Grovers and the pins and a neck heel end pin are tortoise shell with pearl dots. The rosette is Paoa abalone with pearl music notes inlayed surrounded by green/black/white herringbone. This guitar sold for $4,500. When connected to an amplifier in a studio setting and played by a master, not me, it sounds like this.


Solid Body Guitars

I build all of my solid body guitars to the exact specification of the customer. Generally no two are alike but all are built with master grade materials and the finest quality electronics available.


 The solid body guitar shown above is a typical example of true custom building. The eagle peghead, that I pioneered on the Boomer was stretched to accomodate 6 tuning machines. This guitar body was constructed from old growth white pine with curly maple and ebony veneers. The tuners are Schaller in black and the maple neck is fitted with an adjustable truss rod accessed under the maple cover on the peghead. It is fitted with Railhammer humbuckers wired using dual/parallel electronics format with both individual volume and tone control connected to the Fishman output jack via a 3-way switch. The tuning machines are Schaller and the fretboard has synthetic ruby markers.

 A Souped Up Telly

This is a standard Telecaster style guitar with Railhammer humbuckers. The body is Swamp Ash and the neck and fretboard are Sugar Maple.  The finish is opaque white lacquer with an acrylic overcoat to minimize chipping.