View Full Version : My new (to me) Ratcliff '96 Silver Eagle/Angel

D C Blood
Nov-08-2008, 1:23pm
Yesterday I made the long drive from Nashville, Tn up to Lansing, Michigan to Elderly Instruments. I saw on their website they had a Ken Ratcliff masterpiece with the painting and carving. I've wanted one of these ever since I started seeing them around at his booth at IBMA and SPBGMA. So I haggled out a trade for my wonderful '83 model Charles Horner. I loved my Horner and it sounded wonderful, but the dreaded MAS had reared its ugly head...hopefully here are some photos...It sounds even better than it looks...:whistling:

D C Blood
Nov-08-2008, 1:28pm
A few more photos...:)

Nov-08-2008, 1:59pm
Very nice looking mandolin! How does the tone compare with the Horner?

D C Blood
Nov-08-2008, 5:30pm
Like comparing the old apples and oranges...The Horner was loud, with a great "pop", but kind of weak on the treble side. The Ratcliff seems to be loud, with more of a woody tone. A real good "deep-throated" growly sort of chop. More of a Monroe sound. I hated to get rid of the Horner, but MAS will surely get you every time...If the sole reason for the Ratcliff was the ornamentation, then you could get by with one of those Chinese or Vietnamese things off EBay. I've never heard a bad Ratcliff...:confused:

Mark Walker
Nov-09-2008, 8:30am
DC - great looking mandolin. Having had two Silver Angels (still have #231 of course) I've followed Ken's work for some time. I see you've got one of his unique 'three-hole' models there - with a additional cut-out in the top just ahead of where the neck joins into the body and under the strings.
I've never seen one with that cut-out pattern; most I've seen had a diamond-shaped cutout.

Very cool! And that relief carving detail is just incredible! Glad you like it; it's certainly a unique predecessor to his current wonderful Silver Angels!

Enjoy! :)

- Mark

Mark Walker
Nov-09-2008, 9:51am
DC - are the frets at the very end of the fretboard extension real, or are they faux frets? Both of my angels had/have the fretboard abbreviated, so I have no 'extension' or 'peninsula' on them.

Just curious! That sure is a SWEET mandolin!

John Malayter
Nov-09-2008, 10:53am
I had a distressed finished F5 Ratcliff for a short time. It too sounded fantastic, very thick and very very woofy. I don't think I've ever heard a louder mandolin, it was very traditional looking and didn't have the picture but a very good instrument. There are a lot of people out there including me that say they've never heard a bad Ratcliff.

I however traded it on a one of Gibson F5, I have to admit the Gibby doesn't sound anything like the Rat. Not better or worse, just different.


D C Blood
Nov-09-2008, 8:09pm
Mark...the high frets are real, and they even work!! (not that I'll ever need them;) )... I also have never heard a bad Ratcliff...Mine was back when Ken still called it Silver Eagle Mandolins, but I'm referring to it as a Silver Eagle/Angel...I love it, and the little extra hole is neat and it may help the projection a bit.:mandosmiley:

D C Blood
Nov-11-2008, 7:22am
One more bit on my Silver Eagle/Angel...I wrote Ken about it and got the following info...German spruce top, Kentucky maple back, sides, and neck...X-braced, and her name is "Cynthia"...I love her...:grin:

Big Joe
Nov-11-2008, 8:11pm
DC brought the mandolin into the shop today. We each took our turn taking it around the block. It sounds great and play decent. It is the best one I've played from that era. Ken did a great job and it is in like new condition. We have a Silver Angel on the way to the shop for sale. It will be brand new and we should have it in a few days.

Nov-12-2008, 9:53am
Hey there DC
Congrats on your new Silver Angel. I think Ken is a wonderful and very talented luthier. Ken built one for me in Oct of 06 and I just can't say enough good things about it. Mine is #253 and it is very loud and also very deep and woody in tone. Ken gives you a lot of mandolin for your money and I quite frankly have not heard any better sounding mandolins anywhere, also Ken will work with you any way you want. I had the opportunity to visit Ken and Laura right after he finished building my mandolin (was still in the white, hadn't applied the finish yet) and Ken is as good a carpenter as he is a luthier because his house is fantastic. So enjoy your mandolin and keep on pickin'

Nov-12-2008, 11:49pm

Congrats on the Silver Angel. I'm glad a fellow Tennessean secured the Silver Angel from Elderly. I am the proud owner of SA #257 (I have carving on the back but no art work). This was the first of Ken's latest mandos to feature X-bracing. Its a Hoss! I also have a Gibson F5G and there is not comparison in terms of the woody sound. The Gibson sounds good, but it doesn't the dry woody woof the SA has. That SA you got has got to be the most extraordinary work Ken has ever done with the painting and carving.