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Thread: Discussions with my builder...advice please

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    Default Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Well, tomorrow is the big day. Meeting with Steve Boeh to have him start building my mandolin. Looking for advice on questions to ask him. What makes you life easier while working with your customers? Looking for a F5 style build. Nothing fancy, just a honest mans working instrument.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Do you trust your builder? If so, have the conversation with him, rather than seeking a bunch of disparate opinions here. If a customer were to come to me with a bunch of advice/opinion from some builders from an internet forum, many of whom I had never met, I would feel like the customer did not fully trust my judgement, &/or knowledge, &/or abilities, to build him/her a mandolin that (s)he would be satisfied with. Has your builder built any "workingman's F5" mandolins before? And if so, have you played any and would you be satisfied with one like one of them? If you haven't seen/played any of his instruments, maybe you haven't done enough homework in choosing a builder. Otoh, if you have played some and liked what you played, you don't really need any advice from us. You probably have heard the adage, "Too many cooks spoil the stew."

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Sorry it came off like that. I do trust him and I will be able to play his mandos tomorrow to see what I like. Guess I phrased my question wrong.

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    Andrew C. Jerman
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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    I don't think it came off wrong. If you were going to spend several thousand dollars with a home re-modeler you would want to ask questions so that you trust you are choosing the right guy. Why wouldn't you do the same here. Personally, I would want to walk away from the meeting feeling comfortable with the guy I choose to give my money to, so you have to know what types of questions are going to help you reach that conclusion. Its different for different people. I'm not caught up on certain wood species but there are some that want a Loar replica and wont settle for anything less. If it were me, I'd first describe to him what I am looking for and ask if he thinks he can build it. I don't care two hoots about how he gets to the end as long as its what I'm expecting, so I have to be clear about my expectations. Make sure you address the terms. Ask about deposits, payment terms, is there an approval period, time frame for production. What happens if I'm not happy. Do I get a refund or do you build another. You can even ask for references. Does he want you to be a part of the build or just leave him alone and let him do his thing? Will he keep you posted on the progress including progress photos. Is there a charge for progress photos. What type of warranty? These are things that I'd ask if I didn't know the builder. Don't ask questions just for the sake of asking questions. Just my opinion.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    A good conversation, assuming you've already had a few before you hired him for the commission, you want to talk about the sound you're after, and playability concerns (neck shape, board radius, fretwire. You can have a talk about cosmetic desires too in terms of tailpiece and inlays and colors. Trust him with the wood selection and handling and with achieving your sonic desires. Chances are, if you want more than a spec instrument, he'll have plenty of questions for you too.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Thanks! That's what I was looking for.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    I was assuming that you had already chosen your builder. If not, I would certainly agree with what Jamie suggested, and part, but not all, of what Andrew suggested. I would be wary of any builder who would charge for progress photos. They take very little time with a point-and-shoot digital camera. It only takes minutes to compress the file, add it to an e-mail, and send it on to the customer. What I was referring to in my first post was bringing a luthier a to-do list from a "committee" of other luthiers from some internet forum...things like "So-and-so says that you should use a zero-fret" and etc.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Yeah, I would never give a luthier a to do list. I want to tell them what I'm looking for, then stand back and let the artist to his work. Progress photos would be great only because I find the building process fascinating, not to look over their should and nit pick. Thanks for all the helpful tips everyone.

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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Know what you want - in terms of sound, appearance, playablility (fretboard width string spacing etc) - then let the builder get on with the details to meet those goals.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    It also depends how much latitude he is willing to give to a build; there is a difference between someone who offers semi-set "models" and a full-custom builder. I can't agree at all with the idea that "He should build to suit himself and that you should like it", especially when you are the one paying the bill. One important feature is fret size; some people only want big, some people only want small; they can make a huge difference in the single and double note response of an instrument, I would personally never be happy with standard small-size frets, some people will have nothing else. This is player's concern, a builder that doesn't really play will have no big preference on the matter. A fretboard's radius (if it has any at all) will need to be specified, and also whether it is a compound radius, and the bridge saddle radius has to be matched to it. The bridge should be of the highest quality, like a Cumberland Acoustic, this can be unbelievably crucial to the final sonic result. Some things like back binding and peghead binding are discretionary and can be entirely dispensed with (if a builder was willing) and can potentially save lots of both time and money for more important aspects like highest-quality wood selection, custom or traditional (or a combination of both) inlay and varnish or lacquer finishes. Neck dimensions, width and string spacing at the nut and saddle can make a huge difference in the instrument's playing feel. You have one shot in a case like this to get it all right, and it pays to be informed and think long and hard about these various aspects which will have a strong impact on the final result.
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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Ya well me thinks you should be using a zero fret anyways regardless of what so and so says.


    Besides all of that, me work with a "please fill out this forum first" approach , you know , multiple choice, check off the boxes, woods, sound quality "feel of the instrument" The min. me hear, I want and Om, F5 or whatever, well me send them to buddy down the street. Me don't do knock offs.

    So best to research and find out what the builder do best first. Then if thats what spins your wheels, collect all your ideas and suggestions and present them as "I would like .... or I want....or what about this.... as apposed to Bill the loofer said this and Jo the carpenter suggested that.

    Oh and congratulations on commissioning your first build.
    may it be all that you hoped for.


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    Default Re: Discussions with my builder...advice please

    Steve was great to talk to and I'm sure I will be getting the mandolin I want. Now comes the wait. Thanks everyone for your help!

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