Sorry this is will be a long post but I think a great post. Been thinking about it for two weeks.
I have been playing for a couple of months now, learning from tapes and videos. I have a Eastman 605 that was voodooed by steve perry. I bought from a person in New Jersey and I am the third owner. It sounds great. (I thought) I decided to get an instructor that could help me with a few issues that I needed help with. He liked my mandolin but thought the action was high so He told me of the best guy to do the work. Dan Kalchek of Kalchek Guitars. I called and he said bring it over.
He liked it, but also thought the actiuon was high and that the fret board wasn't flat and that the strings were very wrong. But it sounded good but could be better.
He spent an hour with me talking about my mandolin and about his shop. I thought this was my chnace to ask a pro and someone who really knows his stuff about who or what was the best Mandolin that he likes! It is his answer that is the great adivce....
He started to talk about mandoilns and guitars and how it is a marriage of woods that make a great instrument. It is a marriage of woods, finish, strings and everything all being correct at the same time that makes a great insrtument, Not who made it. He looked around his shop (which had 15 guitars each one more beautiful than the next) and walked over and grabbed one off the wall and said let me play you something...Wow, he is good....The sound was pure and the tone was excellence in every way. I don't have the words to write just how perfect he played and how beauitiful this guitar sounded. The instrument was well used and missing some finish around the pick guard. This guitar didn't look nearly as awesome as so many other on the wall. Well, he played and I listened...When he finished he said" If my home was on fire and I got my family out and then my dog, I would run back into the fire to get this guitar! I own several guitars and some that cost 30,000 or more but this is the only one that I would grab. It cost $300 and I had set it up as my camp guitar and thought if anything happened to it... that would be ok.
Well, it has nothing going for it. The supports are going the wrong way and the woods are nothing special, the finish is worn and like I said nothing going for it yet some how it is perfect and I would risk everything for it." So when you ask WHO makes the best... it really has very little to do with it. It is a marriage of woods, skill and a little luck. Go out and play some and listen for the one that talks to you. You will know it when you play it. It will feel right and sound right to you and you will feel it deep down inside. You will know it when you find it."
I left with that in my head. He talked about our local maker Nugget mandoilns and others but his advice was clear, go out and find the one that is right for you and don't pay much attention to the name on the mandolin.
I went back to pick up my mandolin in a couple of weeks and he had so much to say about it. He leveled the fret board, did a full fret dressing, had to adjust the truss rod, he said it was very loose and needed major adjusting, lowered the action to 1 mm and put on a set of elixir strings and polished and oiled the instrument. It looked great! he played me a song and all I could do was smile, That came out of my Mandoiln. After getting home I played it and it is a new intrument. The sound was totally different and if I could hear it (new ear and all) that really had to be good.
Dan sets up and repairs most of the Interlochen Arts Academy instructors and students insrtruments as well as John Wunch and Don Julin (who plays eastmans) instruments. Everyone who I talk to says he is the best! So I think his advice was awesome and his work on my mandoiln was amazing.
Get a pro-set up on that used instrument you will be impressed and when MAS sets in (and it will) don't just buy a name, find the one that talks to you!
Have a great day, thanks for reading- Shawn