I've been creeping up Hans' waitlist the last 18 months, and accepted his invitation to fly into Minneapolis and spend some time going over details. Hans met me at the airport and after talking and sampling mandolins, all afternoon, he and his wonderful spouse, Maureen and I went to dinner.
Besides the all-day lesson on Hans' take on mandolin construction, he had an array of his mandolins ready for sampling. A veritable banquet of eye candy, all laid out on a table. They were a West Virginia Red Spruce F, West Virginia A, an Italian Spruce F, 2 German Spruce F's, and 2 blackface oval holes. One of the ovals was the one featured on the cover of mandolin magazine. There was probably another one or two that I don't remember. We had our own mandolin tasting, with Hans playing and plucking strings so I could get get an upclose sampling of each. Some of them were fairly new, others a couple of years old. I then had the chance to play them all while Hans did some shop work. Given how I play, I feel sorry for Scott Tichnor as Hans was working on his neck.
After more discussion with Hans I decided on the Italian spruce. Hans then went over what I liked about the Rigel I had brought along and after lots of discussion and measurements we settled on neck dimension, profile, fret size and radius. You can't believe how patient Hans was with some of my hare-brained questions.
Now the fun began...if all of this wasn't already one of the most interesting and enjoyable musical afternoons I had already had...We got to pick the actual wood for the mandolin. What a hoot to select, with Hans' expert advice, the exact pieces of top and tonewood, all with conversation about grain preferences, color, specific density of the individual wood, etc. It was fun watching Hans tap-tone the various pieces.
When we were thru, Hans, Maureen and I had a chance to go out for dinner at a great restaurant. One of the highlights of the evening was Maureen delving into her extensive musical background for an impromtu concert of old-time bluegrass, country and bluegrass songs. With Maureen accompanying herself on guitar, she amazed me with her beatiful voice and musicology knowledge of the kind of tunes you don't hear very often any more.
Not only do I want to thank Hans and Maureen for their hospitality, I thought it was an interesting demonstration of why people buy from small, talented builders. When its completed, my mandolin will have all of the accumulated knowledge Hans can put into building it, with the wood and features that most suit me. I don't think I've met a nicer couple anywhere, and its awesome to think how much talent resides in that home.
If you are thinking about a custom mandolin, the stories you may have heard about the sound and quality of the Brentrups are the real deal. It would be impossible to find someone nicer than Hans and Maureen.