PDA

View Full Version : Stefan Sobell mandolins and other instruments



kmmando
Nov-11-2013, 9:06am
Stefan Sobell's beautiful luthiery - small bodied 4 course mandolin 1983, European spruce and Indian rosewood, mahogany neck & 4 course octave mandolin 1993, European spruce and Brazilian rosewood, mahogany neck. Hard to believe is 30 years since I got the wee mandolin from Stefan - its defined much of my life.

109262 109263 109264

Paul Brett
Nov-11-2013, 1:52pm
I've only ever had a few minutes with any Sobel instrument but I've never put one down and not said to myself "one day." last one I heard was an OM at a session in Cork and I could make it out over the 10 + instrument there. Not for loudness but the instrument "rung" out over the others.

kmmando
Nov-19-2013, 8:32am
Anyone else got a Sobell mandolin they can show us?

red7flag
Nov-19-2013, 5:10pm
A few years ago at IBMA , Stan Werblen, Owner of Elderly Music, showed my a used Sobell, about 6 yrs old. I fell in love with that instrument. Like PGB said, I said to myself, "One day". I have regretted not pulling the trigger on that instrument ever since. I found myself checking reputable dealers for one about a week ago. "One day..."

liestman
Nov-19-2013, 6:26pm
Kevin, here is my 77. Back then he did not designate as large or small bodied, but it is humongous. And wonderful. I love the 1 3/8" wide nut (that is not a typo by the way). Rings till next Sunday and has a truly unique sound. Rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck, cedar top. It came with a blue, angular, fiberglass case made by a gentleman near to Stefan's house. This one was made at Turf House in Steel, before the move to The Old School.

109596

kmmando
Nov-24-2013, 3:43pm
Great to see this, thanks! It looks and is probably identical to the one my brother in law Tim Jones got fairly recently in Scotland, second hand. I'll dig out pix - Tim may have some to hand. Mine is a wee bit younger 1983 and a completely different design, a radical rethink from your one, and in a red case! I'll post some pix.
cheers
Kevin

BBarton
Nov-24-2013, 4:13pm
Remember John, if you ever want to part with it, you know who to call first...! I'd still like to get one someday.

liestman
Nov-24-2013, 5:37pm
Bruce, of course you will be invited to my wake and can pick it up at that time! :grin:

Seriously, of all the mandolins that have come into my family over the years, this is the only one I have never had the slightest notion to swap out.

kmmando
Nov-25-2013, 11:58am
Some comparisons of these two early period Stefan Sobell mandolins.
10983310983410983510983610983710983810983910984010 9841109842

kmmando
Nov-25-2013, 12:00pm
The earlier and larger one is a 1978, and mine is 1983 ....

kmmando
Nov-26-2013, 12:44pm
Here's a demo of my Sobell mandolin, for interest. Several different tempos ....


https://vimeo.com/80387050

kmmando
Nov-29-2013, 11:16am
Anyone else got a Sobell mandolin? Or are they that rare?

John Kinn
Nov-29-2013, 12:29pm
Wonderful sound! Out of my price range, I'm afraid.

Jim McCullough
Nov-29-2013, 4:52pm
I'm waiting for a phone call from Daniel Brauchli in Tasmania, telling me to come and pick up my new mandolin, which could be the twin of the above Sobells. Daniel's mandolins are by far the best sounding that I've ever played - plenty of volume, lovely balance over all four courses and amazing sustain.

liestman
Nov-29-2013, 5:33pm
Anyone else got a Sobell mandolin? Or are they that rare?

It seems like in the US they are pretty rare. In 30 years of running around with mine, I have only come across two or three "in the wild". His citterns and such are more common here, but the mandolins are very rare it seems.

kmmando
Nov-30-2013, 4:51am
Could you upload a picture or two, John? It would be interesting to see yours? When did you buy it? And was it new?
Cheers, Kevin Macleod

liestman
Nov-30-2013, 9:12am
Here you go Kevin. The first one I posted up above does not do it justice. It is a 77, per Stefan's assessment when I visited him. The tailpieces were made by his son back then. It was made at Turf House, before the move to the Old School. Cedar top, rosewood back and sides, mahogany neck. I bought it used in 83 from a store that I don't think appreciated it. It has the classic cracks between the end of the fretboard and the soundhole on both sides that all or most of them from that era have. They do not affect the sound at all. There is an original arch shaped brace that stops the cracks from going further. The case was made by a neighbor of Stefan's, Bill Flatman, who made them in the 70's and early 80's. Blue fiberglass that is lined with genuine Papa Smurf hide. My friends call it a Darth Vader case, because of the angles I guess, but I like the Smurf connection better.

109982109983109984109985109986109987

JeffD
Nov-30-2013, 11:59pm
I loved this one.

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/album.php?albumid=10&attachmentid=52109

Jim Abrams
Dec-01-2013, 2:14am
Here's a photo of my Sobell mandolin, which I purchased directly from Stefan back in 1976, also from Turf House in Steel. I believe this instrument was the first mandolin he sent to the United States. It originally came shipped in a black "coffin case," really a shipping crate, which I used until I had a Harptone case made for it. I loved this mandolin but sold it to a friend about five months ago due to a persistent problem with focal dystonia in my picking hand.

I learned about Stefan's instruments from Jay Unger. I took lessons from Jay, who was a friend of Dave Richardson of the Boys of the Lough. That's how I found out about Stefan's beautiful instruments. When I sold the mandolin back in July, the instrument was in great shape and it really hurt to let it go. Finally, I met my wife a few years after I bought the Sobell mandolin. It turns out she's from the same area110011 in northeast England as Stefan. Both the mandolin and marriage are still going strong.

kmmando
Dec-01-2013, 12:10pm
Guys that's brilliant, great tales too and the Dave Richardson/BOTL connection was a major part of the Sobells becoming well known. Thanks for posting these most interesting images and comments.

Kevin Macleod

kmmando
Dec-02-2013, 10:33am
Stefan in 1995 with my newly made octave manolin in Brazilian rosewood, spruce soundboard and mahogany neck. I still have her, gorgeous big sound. 110027

https://vimeo.com/57475436

https://vimeo.com/69306245

Chris Oliver
Dec-02-2013, 11:15am
Those are some beautiful Sobell mandolins. They inspired me to create a few myself. Here is a 'similar to Sobell' I just completed though with a carved top. :grin:


110030

kmmando
Dec-02-2013, 11:42am
Just seen this thread on a "long necked" Sobell mandolin ... interesting!

http://www.sobellinstruments.com/en-gb/news2013.aspx

PseudoCelt
Dec-02-2013, 2:22pm
Looks like it's gone now, but there was a great-looking archtop guitar-bodied bouzouki for sale on Sobell's site recently.

Patrick

PseudoCelt
Dec-02-2013, 2:33pm
Here's another less common Sobell variant: a 5-string banjo-cittern/banjola-type thing. I think he's made 4 or 5 of these, none of which belong to me, unfortunately.

ptritz
Dec-02-2013, 8:46pm
Just seen this thread on a "long necked" Sobell mandolin ... interesting!

http://www.sobellinstruments.com/en-gb/news2013.aspx

Interesting indeed! It's the same concept as the instrument that Nick Apolonio built for me a couple years ago - 19.25" scale, tuned DAEB. I usually just call it a long-scale mandola, but I suppose "long-necked mandolin" is just as logical. I'd love to hear what this one of Sobell's sounds like.

kmmando
Dec-03-2013, 8:43am
Wow those 5 stringers are extraordinary - I had no idea such a thing had been made! I wonder what they sound like?
Stefan did make Appalachian dulcimers at one point .... Cheers! Kevin

Jim Abrams
Dec-03-2013, 12:41pm
I wrote to Stefan last night about his 5-string banjo-citterns. He said he's built about six over the years. Stefan writes that Martin Simpson has one and recorded a track with it on one of his albums. Stefan couldn't recall which album it is but it's out there on one of Simpson's albums; if anyone knows which one it is I'd love to know.

I am considering ordering one of Stefan's banjo-citterns. When I sold my Sobell mandolin last July, which I had with me as a faithful companion for nearly forty years, I bought a 5-string banjo. As mentioned in a previous post, I developed focal dystonia in my picking hand which made it impossible to hold a flat pick. But I can play with a thumb pick and fingerpicks, hence the banjo. I'd love to have another Sobell instrument and the banjo-cittern could be a very nice way to go.

By the way, I sold my Sobell to Charley Rappaport. So, it's in very good hands and will have a new life with a professional mandolinist.

kmmando
Dec-07-2013, 7:04pm
Fascinating, any more Sobells out there? Must be some .....

Dagger Gordon
Dec-08-2013, 12:36pm
Gold Tone have made a 5 string banjo/ cittern. There is one that has been sitting in a shop in Inverness for a while.

Some of Gold Tone's stuff isn't bad actually, although hardly in Sobell's class.

http://www.goldtone.com/products/details/w/instrument/80/Banjola

gw16
Feb-01-2014, 2:00pm
I've also got one of Stefan's early builds and nothing else I've ever heard comes close. Incredible instrument. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I could get a flight case for it? Calton and Hoffee don't have molds big enough for it unfortunately.

Cheers,
Glenn

danb
Feb-01-2014, 2:07pm
I foolishly parted with my 10-string mandola some years ago, and found another almost just like it some years later. Still love it, it's a frequently reached-for instrument!

jasona
Feb-07-2014, 12:38pm
I got a chance to pick some on a Sobel mandolin at the 12th Fret in Toronto when it was on sale. Still wish I had enough to get it at the time. It rang like a cathedral. Wide neck though

gw16
Mar-13-2014, 12:17pm
Here is a low quality pic of my Sobell which I absolutely love. I scooped it off Ebay thanks to a post from the Cafe Facebook notification and pulled the trigger instantly (a Sobell was always my dream instrument.) It showed up smothered in a million layers of bubble wrap with a "caution - Mandolin has no case" warning written all over the box. See Stefan's warning below in an e-mail I'll cut and paste but the good news is, it's incredible. I hate the fingerboard extension - Stefan said it was a replacement but I can actually see a joint when I examined it carefully, it was just added on to the existing fingerboard. At least if it's ever pinched it would be easily identified!

Hello Glenn, this is clearly one of my very early mandolins with a replacement fingerboard. It will have been built between 1975 and 1980, probably closer to 1975. Apart from the fingerboard it looks original, including the tuners. It’s built from Western Red Cedar and Indian rosewood. These early mandolins (and citterns of the same era) were ground-breaking in their way, but I knew much less about construction than I do now. I hope you have the opportunity to examine it carefully before committing yourself, as some have not survived well.
Best wishes,
Stefan Sobell

116707

kmmando
Jun-06-2014, 9:24am
Here's the small bodied European spruce/Indian rosewood Stefan Sobell mandolin sound .....


https://vimeo.com/96949364


https://vimeo.com/96946215

Steve-o
Jun-06-2014, 3:07pm
I don't see a link Kevin.

usqebach
Jun-07-2014, 10:10am
Great playing, Kevin. I really enjoyed that.

In what part of town is the Folk Club? I lived in Edinburgh in '90-'91, but I was a musically clueless grad student at the time and don't remember getting out. I do remember a great weekly session in a hotel bar around Haymarket. They called it a "chukter's" (or highlander's) bar I think.

Mike Anderson
Jun-07-2014, 10:42am
Really glad this thread was revived, fantastic pics!

Good a time as any to note there's a Sobell 10-string for sale (http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=97635&sid=1d16375284cbd744c7d9019e861b3aca) at the Chiff & Fipple used instruments exchange, don't know if it was ever posted here.

Dagger Gordon
Jun-08-2014, 2:20am
Good a time as any to note there's a Sobell 10-string for sale (http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=97635&sid=1d16375284cbd744c7d9019e861b3aca) at the Chiff & Fipple used instruments exchange, don't know if it was ever posted here.

This 10-string in California is of quite a lot of interest to me, actually.

When I went to see Stefan 30 years ago with a view to ordering a mandolin (I already had an 8 string cittern, as it was called at the time) I had no plans to get a 10 stringer. However, he had just made a 10 string mandolin for someone in California which I tried, and decided there and then to order one myself. The rest, as they say, is history. Probably the best buy I ever made in my life!

Still sounds as good as ever.

It seems very likely to me that this is the very same mandolin which I tried all those years ago and set me on my 10 string way
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR4M22Vrfrg

Mike Anderson
Jun-08-2014, 3:17pm
This 10-string in California is of quite a lot of interest to me, actually.

When I went to see Stefan 30 years ago with a view to ordering a mandolin (I already had an 8 string cittern, as it was called at the time) I had no plans to get a 10 stringer. However, he had just made a 10 string mandolin for someone in California which I tried, and decided there and then to order one myself. The rest, as they say, is history. Probably the best buy I ever made in my life!

Still sounds as good as ever.

It seems very likely to me that this is the very same mandolin which I tried all those years ago and set me on my 10 string way
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR4M22Vrfrg

That's a great story Dagger, and a great video too!! Wonderful playing, great transition from a jig to a slip jig and back to a jig.

I'll tell you, if I won the Lotto I'd buy that Sobell in a heartbeat. Don't know what his new maple instruments go for, but that one grabs me.

kmmando
Jun-19-2014, 11:51am
Just for Sobell overkill .... rauch picking and poor video mike, but it has the sound ...


https://vimeo.com/98546851

Mike Harding
Jun-20-2014, 7:53am
I've also got one of Stefan's early builds and nothing else I've ever heard comes close. Incredible instrument. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I could get a flight case for it? Calton and Hoffee don't have molds big enough for it unfortunately.

Cheers,
Glenn

Pegasus - based in Southern Scotland have just made a great case for me based on their Gibson F2/4/5 standard - as good as a Carlton and half the price.

Mike Harding
Jun-20-2014, 8:03am
120733

This is my 26 yr old Sobell - still playing brilliantly - just been serviced by Stefan - all she needed was a wee tweak to the neck and a little buffing of the frets. An amazing machine. I also have a birds eye maple new build from Stefan which is just superb.

Colin Lindsay
Jun-20-2014, 9:18am
This is my Sobell Octave Mandola, bought through a small-ad in Gumtree of all places. Iíve never seen another for sale and to find one six miles from me was too much of a fortunate coincidence to allow it to escape. It was also at an amazingly low price and I consider it a great bargain - the seller knew the value of it but wanted it to go to a home where it would get played more often. Itís about 20 years old and came in a nice tight-fitting case - in which it stays when not being used. All my other instruments hang around my study walls; this one doesnít. Itís mint and if it ever gets marked Iíll cry. The tone is superb, not as forgiving as my Fylde but a real quality sound.

120735

Dagger Gordon
Jun-20-2014, 9:18am
120733

This is my 26 yr old Sobell - still playing brilliantly - just been serviced by Stefan - all she needed was a wee tweak to the neck and a little buffing of the frets. An amazing machine. I also have a birds eye maple new build from Stefan which is just superb.
Hi Mike,

Good to see you here. These old Sobells are just terrific!

kmmando
Sep-01-2014, 10:21am
123335

kmmando
Sep-01-2014, 10:22am
123336123337

kmmando
Sep-01-2014, 10:27am
123342123343

123344123338123341123339123340


Last week. rather bizarrely, I spotted both these Sobells in Achiltibuie at different sessions I was at. The unusual sunburst one is a 1998 maple version, spruce top, and the other is all maple and 1978 belongs to Mikey Austin from Orkney.

A really great sound from the Orcadian one, and a larger body. Well used too, and it played superbly well.

I had no idea Stefan Sobell was making maple bodied mandolins in 1978. It was almost identical to my brother in law Tim Jones's 1978 one seen earlier in this thread.

Teejay
Sep-03-2014, 1:58pm
When I was talking to Mikey he told me that he had specifically asked Stefan to make him a maple bodied mandolin with a spruce top as that was what his fiddle was made from. It's likely that this instrument is unique.

He turned up at the Summer Isles Festival last weekend with the Sobell and his home crafted tenor banjo - which he had named a Killer after comments passed at a session where someone else had produced a banjo.

I was really sorry I hadn't got my own Sobell to hand for comparison as dimensionally the 2 mandolins appeared identical but the quality of sound was very different - still loads of tone and ring but more direct and less complex - fascinating.

Tim

Jim Bevan
Sep-03-2014, 2:55pm
Here's my 10-string.

The guy I bought it from (almost a year ago) said it's 30 years old -- any way to tell?
It says "The Old School" on the label inside.

DaveL35
Sep-04-2014, 9:05am
Here's another example - date unknown, but it's another early one from the Turf House era. I bought it about 15 years ago.

123442123443

Here's a link to a SoundCloud track with a couple of tunes played on it:
https://soundcloud.com/#dave-lees-1/durrow-reel-virginia-reel

JeffD
Sep-04-2014, 9:42am
Looking over all the instruments it strikes me that the Sobell bouzouki I had has a fixed bridge, not a floating bridge and tail piece. http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/album.php?albumid=10&attachmentid=52109 I would have purchased that in the late 1980s, maybe 1989, in Edinburgh.

Was mine unique in that respect, or was that characteristic of Stefan's earlier construction?

I several years ago I sold that bouzouki to a fellow cafť member, and as far as I know it has been all set up and is being played and enjoyed.

PseudoCelt
Sep-05-2014, 7:26am
Was yours a flat-top? There seem to be a small number of flattops with fixed bridges around - Andy Irvine had one. Just a couple of days ago, Stefan Sobell posted the following on his website (http://www.sobellguitars.com/news-page/), along with a picture of a new flattop bouzouki:

I last built a flat-top bouzouki in around 1985, when I made one for Andy Irvine, of Patrick Street and many other bands. Just a little after this I built him two guitar-bouzoukis....

I don't think that the fixed bridge instruments are particularly characteristic of Sobell's earlier work. He seems to have started off with carved tops and floating bridges. Maybe they represent a direction he pursued for a while, then gave up? Perhaps the flattop, fixed bridge bouzoukis evolved into his guitar-bodied bouzoukis?

Patrick

PseudoCelt
Sep-05-2014, 7:45am
Here's my 10-string.

The guy I bought it from (almost a year ago) said it's 30 years old -- any way to tell?
It says "The Old School" on the label inside.
Here's some rough dating info from Sobell's website:

"Carol MComb has sent pictures of her early cittern, asking me to date it. The label gives no date but it gives my present Old School workshop address along with my home telephone number at the time, a short lived combination.

I transferred my workshop from my home to the Old School in very late 1979, beginning work there at the start of 1980. In these pre-internet days, the telephone was vital, so I used an extension from my home phone even though this was one and a half miles away. This meant customers could contact me on the number Iíd been using for several years.

However, the system didnít work well. My ability to make and receive calls depended on the correct option at the home phone. When Liz used the phone she pressed the button for a different option, and then had to press the extension option when finished. Time and time again this didnít happen, leaving me no contact with either home or the outside world. Short of going home myself, my only option was to call home from the nearby call box and ask a completely unrepentant Liz to press the appropriate button.

There was a further problem in that the extension line quality deteriorated drastically, giving more hiss than voice, especially in wet weather. Telephone company engineers were unable to find and fix the problem. For many years after I found myself shouting into telephones because of this.

For the next year the telephone company wanted to quadruple the cost of the extension, so I had a separate phone (with my current 567 number) installed. Thus simultaneously relieving pressure on my throat, wallet and marriage.

Only when engineers checked the line some time later did we find the cause of the poor sound quality. The line had been peppered with shot, piercing the insulation without breaking the wire. Clearly hunters shooting rabbits had found birds sitting on the line an irresistible target.

So all instruments with an Old School Label and a Slaley 338 telephone number were built in 1980 or very early 1981."

From this, it looks like the earliest Old School labels were probably early 1980. If there's a phone number, you might be able to narrow it down a bit further.

Patrick

JeffD
Sep-05-2014, 7:50am
Was yours a flat-top? There seem to be a small number of flattops with fixed bridges around - Andy Irvine had one.

Yes. That would explain it. I sold it, but I still miss it.

BBarton
Sep-05-2014, 8:51am
Great thread, and great photos Kevin! I just missed a very nice maple-bodied version with spruce top that Charles Johnson had listed on the Cafe a while ago -- I was near the top of the list, but it sold pretty quickly! Anyone here get that one? I'm still looking...

kmmando
Sep-19-2014, 11:13am
Dave Richardson of The Boys of the Lough on a Sobell mandolin.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8mNRWhkxWE

Michael Wolf
Sep-27-2014, 1:21am
Hereīs a Sobell bouzouki used in Asturian music.

Tejedor

kmmando
Oct-17-2014, 6:02pm
A few snaps from Mosaiks concert last night, with Rens Van der Zelm's Sobell mandolin and Andy Irvine's guitar bouzouki and mandola? A superb concert.

125034125035125030125031125036125032125033

Steve-o
Oct-17-2014, 6:46pm
I can't open the attachment Kevin.

Dave Hanson
Oct-18-2014, 2:15am
invalid attachment message.

Dave H

kmmando
Oct-18-2014, 6:01am
125041

kmmando
Oct-18-2014, 7:08am
invalid attachment message.

Dave H

Thanks, I can see that. Broadband hassles here.

kmmando
Oct-18-2014, 7:14am
125043

kmmando
Oct-18-2014, 7:21am
Struggling to get the images her for some reason .... here's my own Sobell at a recent gig, for what its worth.

https://vimeo.com/108711519

Michael Wolf
Oct-18-2014, 1:06pm
Beautiful set Kevin. Would you mind to tell the names of the tunes?

kmmando
Oct-23-2014, 3:49pm
Yes, Miss Susan Cooper, Calum Donaldson, and The Bonnie Isle of Whalsay.

First two are by Ronnie Cooper, and the third is traditional.

They may well be on the web tune sites.

best wishes, Kevin

Michael Wolf
Oct-24-2014, 10:15am
Thanks for this, Kevin.

Some more music with a Sobell mandolin:

Rob Sharer
Nov-12-2014, 11:13am
Hi all,

I have no connection to the sale, but a friend of mine in Ireland has brought to my attention this Sobell Octave Mandolin on Ebay....

http://www.ebay.ie/itm/Stefan-Sobell-Octave-Mandolin-/191404247065

...which appears to be in excellent condition and isn't attracting too much attention. I can't personally vouch for the instrument, but I can vouch for the fellow that's selling it, who is himself an excellent builder of mandolins and bouzoukis.

I hope this will be of some value to someone here!

Cheers,
Rob

BBarton
Nov-30-2014, 2:40pm
After playing a friend's Sobell mandolin (pictured early in this thread), I've been wanting one. 'Missed one earlier this year, but landed one just recently, and it's a keeper -- a spruce/birdseye maple (which is what I wanted), large-bodied model from '02 with its OHSC. I haven't had a chance to play it a lot yet, but from the little I have so far I'm really pleased with it!! Don't have a suitable photo to post right now, but it looks just about the same as the one featured in the mandolin section on Stefan's website. Now, back to the tunes...

BBarton
Jan-19-2015, 2:48pm
The new toy!! 'Finally got a chance to provide images of my "new" 2002 spruce/maple Sobell mandolin (composite photo from photos taken by Andy Marshall, used with permission). Lovely instrument, and I'm having lots of fun with it!

129160

liestman
Jan-19-2015, 4:37pm
Yeah, but does it chop and play like butta? (Just kidding - welcome to my favorite club! I can't wait to try it out next time we are in the same state!)

BBarton
Jan-19-2015, 9:59pm
Indeed John, one of these years!!