I got a fine octave mando from SOS about 6-8 years ago. His wait when I ordered was "about 3 years," and it took about 3.5 years to get it. The most amazing thing was that it sounded 30 years old right out of the case - a very mature sound. I couldn't believe it. It has a beautiful golden Koa back and sides with cedar top. The sides are not much higher than a regular mando. Workmanship is outstanding.
He was very easy to reach by phone back then. He had just purchased the property on the Big Island and was thinking he would summer in Taos and winter in Hawaii. Tough to do that and make mandos at the same time! He also was breaking up with his wife, and I know from some lengthy conversations we had that it was really hard on him.
He was living AND working in a school bus parked on some land somewhere out of Taos at the time. He really was excited about moving to the South Kona Coast - where he would have access to fine Koa wood, but the breakup was depressing him. Next time I go to Kona, I should see if I can find him.
I hate to be needy here but I'm getting eye strain from trying to get a better look at the neck inlay from your pictures Dirk. I haven't wanted to see anything this bad since I was a young man obsessed with the fairer sex's anatomy. Unfortunately Mr. Smiths elven craft have turned me into a shameless voyeur, hopelessly smitten.
I haven't been able to find a working link to a web site featuring his work.
I used to maintain Steve's website back in the day, I was thinking I might modify my mandolin archive code so I can display some pictures of steve's instruments. I've got some photos in my collection but I'd really like to get more from folks here if possible.
Here's a fun treat I found just today- this is Terry Woods playing a Steve mandolin in a recording session. Right at the end you can see the mandolin really clearly, it's like a mini-version of Roger's old Dragon zook!
Lovely Dirk. If you don't bring it to ZoukFest, you will be in big trouble.
Steve not only makes great instruments, but his inlay is phenomenal. He designed a fantastic grizzly bear for the four course zouk he made for me. When I got my five course zouk from Tony Sutherland, I wanted a polar bear inlay and Tony suggested that Steve design the inlay. So Steve designed and cut out the inlay and then sent the pieces to Tony to install. So, now the two instruments are nicely related.
If someone can explain to me how to insert an image into a message, I can post pictures of both.
I just got back in from a nice afternoon session of fiddle music with a bunch of folks down at the local pub, where Bill brought his Smith octave mandolin for us to check out. Whatever wait you have, whatever you are paying, they are worth it.
Alec Finn has one made by Steve, the "Hawk bouzouki", made in 2005, a three course DAD tuned instrument, which Alec bought off Steve when Finn was tutoring at the Taos Zoukfest that year. It's currently in Oranmore, Ireland, seen here to the left of a pre-war Gibson Mandocello Alec recorded with on De Danann's "Star Spangled Molly" album, a personal favourite of mine.
I've more detailed pictures somewhere .... er ...
Whose SOS mandolin was I playing at that Festival, Dan? Wonder where it is now - it was sweet.
There are only a few other builders working in that same quality range. Nigel Forster, Stefan's former longtime sidekick, is making instruments on his own and he is a very serious craftsperson with a core of Sobell in his instruments, albeit with some different and sometimes unusual design or aesthetic concepts. Fletcher Brock has been making superb citterns etc for some years although he's shifted his priority to F5 mandolins. Also, John Stump of Portland, OR who made some of the very finest instruments of the type, as played by Stanley Greenthal and Gary Haggerty, is considering getting back into the game.
Originally Posted by steve V. johnson
So... soon there will be 'room at the top,' so to speak, with Mr Smith and Mr Sobell no longer taking orders.
Who's next on folks' 'best zouk/om builder' lists?
I think that was Roger's mandolin. I had the mandola from Matts, Roger on his Dragon Zouk, Alec on the Hawk. Somewhere I still have that video actually..
Yep, Dan and Kevin, that was my SOS mando. It is now in the hands of Kieron Seamons in Shanghai. Last I heard he loves it.
Me? I am over the moon about my one year old Keith Newell mando. Man, Keith has it going on!
ZoukFest World Music Camp: http://zoukfest.com
ZoukFest 2010: June 6-12th, 2010
on the University of NM Main Campus
in Albuquerque, New Mexico