Exported from Japan under the "Acoustic World" distribution name, "The Iwamoto" mandolins are handmade in Tokyo by Takeshi Iwamoto. Iwamoto famously sent one his completed F5 mandolins to Sam Bush, who approved of its build quality and refined tone. There's a particular character and magic to hand-voiced mandolins built by independent luthiers, and Iwamoto has impressed many players with the tone, feel, fit, and finish of his instruments.
This Iwamoto F5 was made in 2017, and it is beginning to develop the nuanced tone of a played-in, mature mandolin. Its design pays homage to the 1922 relics—classic F-model design with a beautiful hand-carved scroll and of course the flowerpot inlay on the peghead. This Iwamoto features an Adirondack Spruce top and Adirondack Spruce tone bars. The back and sides are stunning Flamed Sugar Maple. It is a well-voiced instrument with thick tone and powerful bluegrass chop.
This 2017 Iwamoto has been played, but it finds us in nice condition all around. It shows some superficial play wear, but nothing too severe (see photos). The setup is excellent, and the radius fingerboard plays comfortably with each note ringing out clear and true. The nut measures 1-3/16", and the neck profile is a rounded V-shape. There is no stain on the back of the neck, so it feels fast, like a broken-in a speed neck.
In your hands, this Iwamoto feels like a proper F5. It packs plenty of volume when you need to cut through, but it sounds rich and complex with a more delicate touch. Handmade mandolins of this quality sell at ridiculous prices, but because Iwamoto isn't a widely-known luthier, his instruments can be had at reasonable prices. When you consider the level of workmanship, labor time, and the cost of the materials, this 2017 Iwamoto F5 seems like a no brainer. For any player looking to up their mandolin ante, this Iwamoto would be an excellent plunge into a handmade, boutique instrument without pushing the expense into the stratosphere.
This 2017 Iwamoto F5 includes a hardshell case, but the case has a little of a funky odor. Not nicotine, not mold, just kind of a weird plastic-y/plush smell. Fortunately, the mandolin hasn't picked up any of the smell.