The F5 mandolin and H5 mandola have many similarities and many differences. Regarding their similarities, they are both four-course instruments, they both have f-holes, and they both have carved soundboards and backboards with fancy scrolls and body points.
As to differences, aside from their obvious size and tuning characteristics, there are numerous features that make these instruments stand separately from a design standpoint. (And, while there have been chat site discussions that you can build an H5 replica by “scaling up F5 drawings 15%,” there are many physical differences between these two instruments that don’t equate if the F5 is merely scaled up.)
Body: The H5 body is similarly shaped to that of the F5, but the scroll is a bit more bulbous and the instrument is somewhat rounder than the F5. The lower body point of the H5 is also proportionally smaller than that on the F5.
f-holes: The f-holes of the H5 are angled in a bit more than those on the F5 and they are actually slightly smaller in size than the F5′s f-holes enabling the body to be tuned to a C.
Fretboard: The H5′s fretboard joins the body at the 13th fret whereas the fretboard of the F5 joins the body at the 15th fret (the F4 joins at the 12th fret). And, of course, the H5 fretboard has a longer scale (15-1/2″ vs the mandolin’s 13-15/16″ string scale) and is, therefore, slightly wider.
Peghead: While the H5 peghead (above, left) and F5 are similar in shape, the H5′s peghead is somewhat wider, and proportioned differently. And, of course, it’s wider at the nut. The H5 used the same machines as the F5, and the rows of posts on the H5 are set further apart than those on the F5.
Thoughts on wood selection: This photo shows the comparative size and shape of the F5 mandolin (left) and the H5 mandola. Note the wide-grain Sitka spruce on the mandola – a great choice to enhance bass response from this instrument. Both instruments were built by luthier Gail Hester using our ProSeries Drawings. (Photo courtesy of Gail Hester.)
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