I wanted to post this last night... but had trouble getting the pictures small enough to post. Here's some thoughts so far...
Around this time last summer I was getting a pretty bad case of MAS.
I decided I wanted to find a luthier who could build a quality F-style mandolin around $3K.
After searching the internet and help from asking Mandolin Cafe go-ers, I decided around Labor Day that I'd place an order with Ben Wilcox. I put the deposit down in October.
Ben mentioned it might take a few months longer than usual because of the Varnish, but I figured it'd be worth it. Oh... believe me... it was worth it.
BRW FT-MS #33, June 23rd, 2004 -Red Spruce top w/tone bar bracing. Red Maple back, sides, and (U-shape) neck. Classic fingerboard shape, radiused fingerboard, scooped extension. 5-ply pinstripe bindings. Loar bridge, gold hardware; Schaller Tuners, Price Tailpiece. Ebony pickguard.
(BRW 1st ever)Oil Varnish finish.
Bobelock case included.
Ben was great to communicate with all along the way. I play Bluegrass with some friends around Atlanta (FAR from professional - I just started playing 2 years ago) and he helped me design the mandolin in order to get the sound I'd like.
UPS (Finally!) dropped it off today (make that 'yesterday'...). I've been playin' in 15 minute bursts all night - and I can definately say the sound and construction have exceeded my (high) expectations!
In an e-mail the day he sent it, Ben said he thought it "needs a little waking up on the bass side but that's how they are every time. It has a very good voice already though. If you plan on some Monroe-ing it's ready! The varnish came out pretty good.... It's ridiculously shiny for a varnish but it will dull out slowly over time. The colors just look soooo good (if i do say so myself)."
He's totally right! The color is wonderful! The photos here make it look darker than it actually is on the edges... it's amazing.
And... oh... the sound. THE SOUND! Glory be... it really has great projection. The D string is particularly strong.. it's kind of like if you've ever done archery and you really just NAIL a release... the sound comes shooting outta this thing - straight and true. It is a beautiful thing.
I've been testing out the woody sound of #33 tonight on stuff like "Bill Cheatum", "Old Joe Clark", "John Hardy", "Wheel Hoss", "Lonesome Road Blues" (GDTRFB as we Deadheads know it), and "Cripple Creek". I've been able to get some nice chopping sounds (subtle extras on the upstroke) with this mando that I just couldn't hear on the one I've been playing. I know people have said they sound just gets better... but I can't imagine how! (Well... I mean on the intellectual level I can... but for the sake of enthusiasm... you know what I mean.)
Anyway... here's some pictures.
Thank you Mandolin Cafe for helping cure my MAS (although I know I can relapse at any time if I'm not careful), and if you are thinking about working with a Luthier to hand-craft a mandolin - GO FOR IT! This process has been very rewarding.