View Full Version : Anyone own/played a Foley mandolin?

Sep-23-2004, 7:43am
I have a pretty good mandolin for playing American fiddle tunes and bluegrass/newgrass type music. But with heavy gauge strings and a thick pick I find it very awkward to play trad up to speed. (Especially reels with all those single-note picked triplets....)

I fitted light strings to my old crafter and have been using a much thinner pick and now I'm getting somewhere. : ) I' thinking about getting a high quality mandolin specifically for playing trad. Joe Foley lives here in Dublin. Anyone play one of his mandolins? Does he only build flat top mandos, or does he build carved top mandos as well? Is there a work shop you can visit to try them out? What kind of prices do his mandos sell for? What wood does he use? Lots of questions, sorry. Thanks!

Sep-23-2004, 9:50am
I've played plenty of Joe's instruments and I've owned one of his bouzoukis for 12 years. He makes excellent instruments - loads of tone and volume. They also look great and are very reliable.

As far as I know he has made carved-top instruments in the past, but I don't know if he does it in general. All the instruments of his that I've ever seen have been flat-tops. I believe he's moved his workshop to somewhere in Churchtown or thereabouts since I was up with him last. I don't know if he has many instruments on his hands at any given time, as he makes to order, but you'd have to contact the man himself to find out.

I've seen different timbers in his instruments - rosewood, walnut, mahogany backs and sides, cedar and spruce tops. I don't recall seeing maple, but that doesn't mean he doesn't do it. I know that he'll discuss what you want with you and and build accordingly.

Price-wise, again, you'll have to talk to the man. I know that compared to many overseas builders he used to compare very favourably, but I'm sure rampaging inflation has taken its toll on his prices as with everyone else's.

Not sure I've really answered any of your questions. Your best bet is to talk to Joe himself - he's a nice guy.

steve V. johnson
Sep-23-2004, 10:11am
The most recent Foley zouk I saw was one made for Tony Davoren, and it was trimmed in lots of Wicklow sycamore, a gorgeous instrument. It was just new, Tony had only gotten it a couple of days before and he let me play it, and it was magnificent. I've played Eoin O'Neill's once, it's a real early one with a very small body, another splendid instrument.

I didn't know that Foley did other types of instruments, so if you contact him, please let us know what you find out?

All the best,


Sep-23-2004, 10:22am
I have played a flat-top Foley octave mandola and was very impressed with the tone, volume, playability, fit and finish.
It had a huge voice.

Sep-29-2004, 7:39am
A buddy in my session plays one and it's great. I also got to play with Joe last year in Dublin. There were about 3 of his Zouks present. Great instruments. I had my Lebeda F5 with me and he played a set or 2 on it. I asked him if he would make an F5 for me and he said he'd made (less than 5 but I forget the exact number...) a few already and would make one if I wanted to order by him. We didn't talk price or specifics there (my girlfriend was staring me down...). A Foley is definetly on my list of "must have" Zouks though. Hmmmm not dating that girl anymore...

Let us know what you find out...!


Oct-09-2004, 7:06am
I've been very impressed by Foley's mandolins - tone, volume, sustain, action, appearance. The only thing I've noticed that I didn't like is that the neck shape felt a bit uncomfortable - something that he would not doubt tailor to your needs (at a cost) if you asked.

Joe Foley uses quite a lot of Irish timber. I believe he capitalises on bad weather by harvesting fallen trees after storms.

Oct-11-2004, 3:08am
the neck shape felt a bit uncomfortable - something that he would not doubt tailor to your needs (at a cost) if you asked.
I bought my bouzouki from Joe "off the shelf" - he happened to have one ready when I rang him so I went and checked it out and bought it on the spot. I was pretty new to the bouzouki at the time, so I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted, but I knew I loved this instrument. It had a V-profile neck. It wasn't very accented but after a year of playing, I decided I'd be more comfortable with a rounder profile. So I rang Joe and he said he'd see what he could do. I brought it up to him and he reckoned he'd be able to bevel the back of the neck without compromising the strength. I left it with him, came back a week later and he had done the job (which included removing the finish and inlay from the back of the neck, reshaping and refinishing the neck). It was perfect. He also did a couple of little jobs like dressing the frets. I won't say how he charged me, but it was very little. It cost me more to go to Dublin on the train.

As I said previously, that was some years ago, and inflation has hit this country in a big way in that period, so I'm sure Joe has had to increase prices to survive. But, the point is, the bouzouki itself was a very reasonable price to begin with, and the neck job was ridiculously cheap. He didn't make that bouzouki for me, so it wasn't as though there was a flaw with the original neck that he was morally obliged to correct. If you order an instrument from Joe, he can make it to your specifications.

The neck didn't suffer any ill-effects from the reshaping either - it's still true as a die after 11 years.