View Full Version : My field trip to Hans Brentrup's shop

Aug-03-2004, 12:15am
My head is still spinning from the good time I had visiting Hans at his home. I flew in Friday and spent a whole day Sat with Hans, sampling mandolins and deciding what mine will be like. He and his wife were such great hosts, and I had such a great time trying out some wonderful mandolins -- I did more playing in one day than I usually have a chance to do in a couple of weeks!

He had several F-styles to try; a German spruce, and Italian, an older Red spruce w/European maple back, and a brand new Red Spruce with a one-piece flat sawn hard maple back. That one was literally one day old, barely strung up in time for me to try it out, still needing several more applications of varnish. I could only play it for a few minutes at a time so as not to damage the soft varnish (but it ended up with a few war wounds anyway... nothing he can't sand out). We also went over to Rob Coleman's house, who graciously allowed me to try out two more Brentrups (an Italian and a Red spruce), a Gibson MM, and his Loar, which completely floored me despite my ill-conceived hope that I would not fall in love with such a pricey piece.

I'll post my take on the tonal differences of the instruments later as I have time, but suffice it to say it was very, very, hard to decide which top wood to go for. I think I drove Hans nuts going back and forth, but I did decide on... drumroll... West Virginia Red Spruce top with a one-piece hard maple back, just like the brand new one I tried out (only with a slightly wetter sound, remember, Hans?). For such a brand-spankin' new mando, it was unreal... I could feel it come alive in my hands... such potential!

Anyway, here are some of the pictures. Thanks, Hans and Maureen, for the hospitality.

Below, Hans hard at work, being seranaded by myself (not pictured).

Edited: Oops, I got Rob's name goofed up... sorry.

Aug-03-2004, 12:30am
Three mandolins from left: Red Spruce, German, Italian.

Aug-03-2004, 12:32am
Backs of the Red, German, Italian.

Aug-03-2004, 12:36am
The slab sawn one piece hard maple back on the new Red Spruce model. Mine will have a sister piece to this one. There was something about the pairing of the hard maple back with the red spruce that really seemed to click.

Aug-03-2004, 12:49am
The wood pile. Mostly Italian and German spruce; the Red is in another bin. Some of the pieces are marked with the word "wow." I thought it was maybe an abbreviation, but no, it literally means "wow, what a piece of wood", and also denotes they are being saved for his own mandolins. We went through his pile of red spruce, which he had not yet had the chance to mark up. We shuffled through a bunch of them, and he found one that looked really nice, and when I picked it up and ran my hands across the wood I could hear it reproducing vibrations all over the length of the piece, as if in stereo. When you tapped it, it rang clear as a bell with terrific sustain. "I want this one!!" I said, and now it's mine, although I sort of got the feeling he wished he had put a "wow" on it first. He who hesitates....

Edited: Hans says the "wow" indicates extreme cosmetic beauty, and most of those are indeed for sale. He's just keeping three boards for himself. What a generous guy.

Aug-03-2004, 12:52am
My wood I picked out... doesn't look like much yet. The red spruce is from the '91 vintage.

Aug-03-2004, 6:15am
I had a similar experience early this Spring. Hans met me at the airport and we spent the day discussing mandolins, trying out 10 of them that he had in the shop, and ended the day picking the wood for the top and back.
Hans does this all the time, and yet is so generous and relaxed about the process, you'd think it was the first time.
Maureen joined us for dinner and is a real gem. After dinner I learned just how accomplished a guitar player she is as she accompanied herself on some wonderful folk-oldtimey songs. We had a mini-jam with Hans doing a little mandoling backup as well.Maureen is good enough to start playing-out again as she used to, and I'd certainly buy a CD if she ever decided to put one out.
As I might have mentioned a while ago in another thread, they are a very talented couple and super people to boot.
Hans is finishing up my V23, varnishing and sanding. Probably ready sometime in September.

Aug-03-2004, 7:58am
Great photos.. Brentrup mandolins are the real deal.

Keith Newell
Aug-03-2004, 8:43pm
Im not kidding at all when I say this but I drooled a little when I saw the wood-pile. Im still having to make "make-up points" with my wife when she wanted to see the bill for the last batch of wood I bought. That stuff there would pretty much make me a single man.

Aug-03-2004, 10:11pm
I know what you mean about the wood pile. I could have slept on it.

Speaking of drool, here's a pic of me sampling Rob's Loar.

Aug-03-2004, 10:16pm
A shot of half of the shop. A good thing to have: the downdraft sanding table in the left corner.

Aug-10-2004, 5:30pm
WOW! That one piece back is spectacular! If I owned a mando like that, I'd have to play it sideways to show off the back. No matter how nice the top looks, the back would be really hard to beat. What a piece of wood! I can see why you claimed the sister piece. I especially like the sunburst showing the curl all the way out to the side. Really pretty!

Aug-12-2004, 5:28pm
AZ, I was really struck by figure in that back. It was too nice to pass up, definitely. It should be done by the end of the year, so come on by and see it when it's done... if you're profile is right, we're practically neighbors.