Harp Mandolin - Custom "Tonedevil" design

Made by Anthony James Powell

Sold August 30, 2007

Those of you who are familiar with Idaho's Dave and Tone Powell - better known as the duo Rex James - will easily recognize Tone's work.  Organic, earthy and a little bit funky, with unique designs that are executed with plain, bare-bones workmanship - intended to make music with a home-grown feel.  The lack of appointments is intentional, and coincidentally keeps the price extremely affordable.  Now you too can own a true harp mandolin!  By that I mean not just a hollow-arm "psuedo" harp mando (like the Dyer and most Knutsens), but the real thing - invented around 1910 by Chris Knutsen. 

Tone says that this is "one of the first four instruments I ever built out of the wood salvaged from the house in Sandpoint. I didn't actually finish it until recently."  He adds that the harp strings "can be tuned as needed and can support any gauge string from .010" to .056"." 

This instrument is very sturdily built and braced, yet puts out a lot of volume.  More importantly, the tone is balanced.  Taking just the normal mandolin portion, it sounds much better than the weak and wimpy F-style knockoffs sold for twice this price.  High E to low G are extremely uniform and can be pretty or punchy.  The sub-basses, like all the true harp mandolins I've had the pleasure to play, are not over-powering and sound like nothing anyone has ever heard. 

The very cool custom crafted bridge, unique tailpieces, and headstock veneers are made from purpleheart and padauk.  Asked about the bridge, Tone says, "harp mandolins seem to be very Celtic - the tail could be a serpentine-like reference, like a Viking ship of Celtic design."

The neck tuners are inexpensive 14-1 tuners, while the sub-bass tuners are mini Gotoh (higher end) tuners.  The subtle finish, which gives the instrument a natural appearance, consists of two light coats of Formby's Tung Oil.

There is one small sanding defect in the middle of the back.  Sorry, no case included.

See Tone's brother Dave demonstrate the Tonedevil!


  • Mahogany top, back, sides & neck
  • Purpleheart and padauk accents
  • 14-1/8" scale
  • No case
  • Price: $798 (cash or check discount price $775).  Email to place a hold or obtain payment terms and conditions.
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