UP JUMPED SPRING No. 1

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Field Notes. A publication with no rules that shows you what’s happening at Northfield Instruments, and introduces you to some of the interesting people and things we come across in our travels. It will always include mandolins and music, because that’s woven into our DNA. But, let’s face it, there’s more to life than mandolins — like bonfires, and hot sauce...

Our Friend Nugget

BY ADRIAN BAGALE and DEREK SMITHMAY 26, 2016

In 2007 Kosuke Kyomori, Zhang Xi Sheng, and myself had already been working together in the musical instrument production business for quite a few years. We decided to form a new company making the best mandolins we could, not the most. Northfield was born. When we decided on the type of mandolin we wanted to make we took a look at the various options for samples that were on the market. We also went deep into photos and drawings and blueprints of original F5 mandolins. But ultimately it was our favorite modern day builders who we were to learn the most from.

There was one builder in particular that we really felt a connection to. Someone with a keen artistic sense that had been making some of the best sounding most beautiful instruments for decades. That person was Mike Kemnitzer. We had never met him but we knew that he was building the kind of mandolin we wanted to make.

When we were searching for ideas for the aesthetic direction of our instrument we scrolled through page after page on the online mandolin archive. We saw many inspiring instruments but we settled on a favorite. Nugget number 100. We printed out a picture of that mandolin and taped it to our workshop wall. Unanimously we decided that this was what we were going for.

A couple of years later Mike and I had a chance meeting at our favorite local music store, Elderly Instruments. Mike checked out our mandolins that were hanging on the wall and two days later called me. From that point on we've been talking and sharing information about mandolins.

Mike has been more than a friend, he's been a mentor and collaborator. For the last few years we've worked together on different projects. First we started with his tailpiece design and brought it into production for our own model as well as to supply him for his own instruments. A notable event for all of us was arranging a CAT scan of the one and only Griffith A5 Loar. Last fall he traveled with me to our Qingdao shop and spent two weeks learning, listening, and teaching about mandolins with our Qingdao team, my brother Peter, and myself. Of course, there was always time for campfires, barbeque, and plenty of the local beverages. It was a fantastic experience for all involved.

Mike and Kosuke have developed a stimulating relationship working on various drawings and different types of data interpretation gathered in their respective acoustic research. Mike has been a very valuable voice in our quest to pursue a higher level instrument. Our artist series mandolins comprise a lot of the information that Mike has been kind enough to share with us. Every time we have a newly exceptional instrument we try to drive four hours north to Central Lake and visit Nugget headquarters. We are very lucky to have him close by.

Our plan is to bring out the Nugget tailpiece in 2016 for direct sale as we are currently working on the tooling to increase production of this tailpiece. Other collaboration ideas are continually under discussion.

Mike has been working on a comprehensive research project involving the Lloyd Loar signed mandolins from the 1920s. This exceptional undertaking is truly a culmination of his painstaking years of effort and expertise. It is all very exciting for us to say the least.

In the Field

BY ADRIAN BAGALE and DEREK SMITHMAY 23, 2016

One of our favorite things to do here at Northfield is garden. We like to cultivate flowers and decorative plants but our preference is to grow food – greens, radishes, carrots and all that sort of thing. When we were ready to build our new workshop in Qingdao we bought a little more than 3 acres. We designed a building that looks akin to a midwestern middle school and turned the rest of the property back into agricultural land. We then proceeded to plant row after row of greens and vegetables that could be cooked in our kitchen for all of the staff. It made great practical sense and brought a fantastic energy to our property. Since then we've added a pavilion for our regular evening gatherings, a waterfall, a stocked pond, some chickens, some geese… start humming Old Macdonald. We built a small barn in the corner and hired two full-time farmers to keep up with our expanding project! We put in a campfire ring as the center piece for weekly if not nightly jam sessions. On the other side of the world from Michigan we do exactly the same things we do at home! 

That same enthusiasm for growing food and playing music exist here in Michigan with some of our friends. Meet Pooh Stevenson and Owosso Organics Farm. A beautiful place a short drive north east of Lansing. Pooh is a great mandolin player and owns some exceptional instruments that we've had the privilege to play and learn things from. We recently took a trip to visit Pooh, her husband Richard Bowie, and their daughters Cody and Taylor, to check out what they’ve got started in the ground and pick up some of their fantastic hot sauces and pepper crumbles. It’s a concerted family effort to keep Owosso Organics’ 6 acres of farmed land and 8 large greenhouses producing fantastic produce and flowers. It was a great trip capped off by a fantastic lunch, which is prepared daily for the small group of workers on the farm. We were also able to sit down and have a jam session with a few of our mandolin family instruments. Check out owossoorganics.com for more information on where you can find their products and for Pooh’s beautiful photography of the farm. We hope you enjoy some of the pictures and get a chance to visit them or one of the local farms in your area. It's spring time! We should all get outside and enjoy ourselves as much as possible. Mandolins are small and make great companions out in the field.

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In the Shop

ARCHTOP OCTAVE MANDOLIN
Check out our newest addition to the family. Your gateway to a whole new world of music.

AIRLOOM CASE
Made with a robust multi-ply fiberglass shell. Designed to protect your most prized possessions.

ARTIST SERIES
Simply put, the Artist Series mandolins are Northfield’s best yet.

OWOSSO ORGANICS HOT SAUCE
A must-have around the shop. Limited quantity, artisan hot sauce.
$8

"AFTER LIFE" T-SHIRT
For trees, this is the afterlife. 100% organic cotton shirt made by American Apparel in California.
$16.99

Parting Notes

GO AND PLAY

Top: Adrian with Pooh Stevenson of Owosso Organics. Bottom: Bonfire and cookout at our workshop in Qingdao, China.