Plectra: steps to make your own two pointed Roman plectrum of a piece of 'tortoise shell' celluloid

The long Roman or Embergher-Ranieri plectrum and the Neapolitan plectrum


The Lenzner 'Consort' bronce string set

For quality mandolins manufactured in the Embergher-, Calace- and Vinaccia firm during the last years of the 19th- up to the 2nd half of the 20th century, it is recommended to string them with a light- or medium-light gauge string set. Not only this is the best way to capture the beautiful sound of these instruments, but also to protect the sound tables of these instruments against to much pressure caused by modern strings. All too often sunken or even split sound tables are seen on the finest mandolins, simply caused because of thoughtless acting.  

Best is to string the instruments with a set as close as possible to the original ones manufactured by Roman and Neapolitan string makers of the time. It's interesting that the Embergher atelier in Arpino manufactured an own brand of strings which were sold in the Embergher shop in Rome. From preserved sets for mandolin, mandoliola, mandola and mandoloncello we know that the 1st and 2nd courses were manufactured of plain steel and that the 3rd and 4th pair a steel core with a bronce round wound and polished wire winding and, important, the exact thicknesses.

Lenzner 'Consort'-strings

One should also be aware that the clear and vibrant sound of these strings is what the luthiers of the time had in mind for their instruments.

Today, fine quality Bronce wound strings are difficult to find and it is because of this that that the search was made for an existing string company where they were willing to make strings to our specifications. Therefore quite a number of different brands of string sets were examined. Finally the bronce round wound strings of the German Lenzner firm were chosen to be the best for our purpose. Their strings come closest to the original Roman (and Neapolitan) strings of the time.

The Lenzner firm was established in 1900 and has a long tradition in string making. Today they produce all kinds of quality strings for plucked and bowed instruments, including polished bronce round wound strings for the mandolin family. Moreover they have experienced specialists who, when requested, make strings on special demand. Through the contact with guitar and mandolin maker/restorer Hendrik van den Broek who, with his connections in the world of string making, it became possible to ask the specialists of the Lenzner firm to develop string suitable for high quality Italian mandolins.

Knowing the problems mandolin orchestras have with unbalanced and therefore false plain steel a'-strings (because of pitch, length and thickness), the question to them was whether it was possible to add in the bronze set a light wound second-string pair. Strings that would stay tuned and would match in sound and tension with the other courses. Eventually a light flat wound 2nd string pair was added to the bronze set and after trying several samples we can now say that with the Lenzner 'Consort' strings für historische Qualitäts- Mandolinen, the Lenzner Musiksaiten firm produces an excellent set of polished round-wound strings.

When these strings are used it is important to know that there is no need for compensation under the a' string-pair on the bridge, like there is on the original bridges of the Roman instruments made by for instance De Santis, Maldura, Embergher, Egildo or Olivieri. It is therefore advised to make a copy of the original bridge without the compensation under the a'-string pair.

above: an original bridge below: a bridge, uncompensated at the a-string

The letter of the director of the Lenzner Musiksaiten firm in which the Lenzner "Consort Saiten" string-set is announced as the official name for this string-set for historical quality mandolins.

We are very happy that this round-wound string set, named after Mandolin Chamber Orchestra 'Het CONSORT', is developed and pleased that it is available for all those mandolinists who like to hear the clear sound of their original Italian mandolin.

All the strings of the Lenzner firm can be ordered through Hendrik van den Broek 'String Instruments'music shop:


The string sets best to use for the mandolins under discussions here, are the bronze Medium-light- and the ones made at our request and specifications - the lighter bronce Lenzner "Consort" string set.

The thicknesses of the Lenzner Medium- and the Lenzner "Consort" string sets are:


Lenzner Medium:

E = 0.26(5 mm.

A = 0.35(5) mm.

D = 0.60 mm.

G = 0.84 mm.


Lenzner 'Consort':

E = 0.25(5) mm.

A = 0.36(5) mm.

D = 0.53 mm.

G = 0.80 mm.


As an alternative set the CALACE Dogal Bronze Carbon-steel set RW92B DOLCE (with plain 2nd strings) could be used. The thicknesses of these strings are measured in millimetres:



E = 0.25 mm.

A = 0.35(5) mm.

D = 0.61 mm.

G = 0 87 mm.

how strings are attached to the tuning device of the higher Embergher mandolin models

All Embergher instruments of the Mandolin family have tuning mechanisms that are placed to both, left and right, sides on the head of the instrument. These so-called 'Roman' tuning mechanisms are very similar to those seen on the modern Spanish (or Classical) guitar. The lower-end instruments of the Embergher Mandolin family, types like the Tipo A and B for students, and the Models No.1, No.2 and No.3 for Orchestra use, have a hole in the metal rod in the slotted head to pull the string through. By turning the button the string is winded up to the required pitch.

The higher-end instruments of the Embergher Mandolin family, the Model No.4 (Orchestra), No.5, No.5bis, and No.6 for Soloists and the Artistic Models No.7 and No.8, are standard equipped with a so-called 'string fastener'. This is an ingenious little 'hook' that is fitted in the string-hole of the tuning mechanism. The string-end needs to have been bent to a loop just a little bit (a few millimetres) over the length of the hook and twisted back three to five times. After the string loop is placed over the hook, tying up the string can begin. By winding up the string the twisted part will fasten itself immediately and tuning up to pitch follows. With this little hook it only takes about two minutes to change a string.                                                                                                                                                                                      Something that can be of great importance to the soloist/concert mandolinist.

I hope the photos speak for themselves.   


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