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Thread: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

  1. #1
    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    I recently purchased a used Ellis A5 and fell in love with the tone of it. Because of an old left hand injury, I needed to get the neck reshaped to make it work for me. I contacted Ellis Mandolins to see if there was room between the back of the neck and trussrod to do some reshaping, and Tom Ellis invited me to pay a visit to the shop so he could do the work for me.

    I found some cheap Southwest tickets to Austin, and arrived there on a Monday morning in the middle of July. Tom gave me a tour of the shop (an amazing place) and then sat down with the mandolin and a file and started working on it.

    To keep me occupied while he worked, he brought out an assortment of incredible mandolins for me to sample while he worked. A couple Pava A5s, a Pava oval, his personal Ellis F5 with the heron/crane inlay, a old Nugget A5. a 25 Gibson F5. Needless to say, I was in mando heaven. My personal favorite was Tomís own Ellis. What a voice! I had never played a Pava before, and they were a real treat. One of the Pavas was the brown-face A5 thatís at the Music Emporium. A great mandolin. Pava was at NAMM in Nashville so I didnít get to meet her.

    Later that afternoon, I got to play the reworked neck and Tom fine-tuned the shape for me. I played it again for an hour or so to make sure it was going to work while Tom attended to shop details. Then he stained it and put a coat of TruOil on it. So much nicer than the speed neck look. If you look closely, you can see that works been done, but you won't see it from a couple feet away.

    The next morning he put another coat of TruOil on and then it was off to Fiddlerís Green.
    What a cool shop that is. The standouts for me were the Passernig mandola that is everything a mandola should be. A great C string. Tone everywhere. The Pava F5 they have there kicks some serious buttóloud with great tone everywhere. The Collings MF5 is very punchy and loud with great midrange. The Pono octaves were really nice. The National was LOUD! I found the Kentucky KM900 to be the best of the importsóloud and barky but a little one-dimensional after hearing the Austin makers.

    Tuesday night Tom invited some great players over and we had one of the best jams Iíve been in for a long time. Got to meet Mark Seale and play his Gilchrist F5 and Monteleone A style. Just a fantastic time with some exceptional music being played by everyone. Caught the cheap red-eye flight out early Wednesday morning.

    All I can say is Tom Ellis gives world-class customer service, and he has the most thoughtful approach to building of anyone Iíve been around. Every detail has been thought out to the furthest degree. It was so inspiring just being around the shop and the staff he has. Every one was so friendly and nice.

    The shop was filled with rough-carved mandolin tops and backs, rough-carved necks, headstock overlays with inlays, jigs for everything. A top, back, and neck may sit there for 6-12 months before being used. If the wood is going to do anything funky, itís going to show up before it ever gets used. Sap pockets and defects will show up during the rough carving so there's never a hold up because of a defect in tops or backs. There's plenty to choose from.

    My only regret is not being able to talk Tom out of his personal Ellis F5, but then a lot of mandolin players in Austin are after that mandolin. #400 with the hummingbird inlay was sent to the finisher before I got there, so I didnít get to see that one in person. I did get to see the bluebonnet inlay.

    Iím thrilled with this Ellis A5 I have and the neck is a dream to play now. Iíll post some videos of it sometime soon. I didnít shoot a bunch of pictures in the shop. I was just so happy to be there and to have a world-class luthier treating me like I was the most important mandolin player in the world. I smile every time I play this Ellis mandolin.

    I keep telling myself I donít need an Ellis F5, but thereís less and less conviction in those words.

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    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
    http://www.HillbillyChamberMusic.com

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Hey Don, I was there! Great playing with you and Mark. Hope you can get back this way some time.

    Tim

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  5. #3
    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Hi Tim, that was so much fun. Loved to hear you play and sing. I hope to visit again. Such a wonderful time.
    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
    http://www.HillbillyChamberMusic.com

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    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    I did find a couple pics from the visit. Pava badge they gave out at NAMM, a couple of the vintage Gibson, and a couple of backs I found in the stash.

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    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
    http://www.HillbillyChamberMusic.com

  7. #5

    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Thanks for posting this,Don. It was way back in 1993/94,I think,when I visited Tom's shop. I think he had made a few mandolins by that time;but was
    mostly making banjos. Hope I have that correct. He said he was not making any mandolins then.

    He made a new nut for the Gilchrist
    I had then. He made it look so easy! Very personable man;gracious with his time and knowledge. Good sense of humor as I recall.

    #339 sure looks fine. Great job!

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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Fabulous and inspiring write-up, thank you.

    Anyone know if the Hummingbird inlay mandolin is headed for a store?
    Dense and slow, but stubborn.

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Great write up!

    Thanks for sharing.
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5 Mandolin
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Girouard A Mandola
    Leo Posch D-18

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    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Tom claimed the hummingbird for his own. It's #400 and it's also his 40th year in business. He deserves it. One of the best folks you'll ever meet. The one with the heron inlay is Tom's personal mandolin and it's got it all.

    I also got to see the new Collings cases made for Ellis. And those tuner buttons. Spectacular!

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    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Of course, and thanks for including the photo of it, along with the legendary heron.
    Dense and slow, but stubborn.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    I just missed you guys. I was in Austin and San Antonio for work that week. I got into Austin late that night though. Looks like a good time!

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    The more i read of Tom's work,the more i have to regard him as one of the top 5 builders in the world. I was an 'Ellis fan' years before i ever even held a mandolin. I saw the pics. & read the story of Ricky Skaggs' Ellis F5 in the old 'Frets' magazineHow could you not marvel at such a wonderful piece of craftsmanship.

    I'm very fortunate to own an Ellis "A" style De Luxe & it's an incredible mandolin in every respect.

    Congrats. on your new mandolin Don - enjoy it !,
    Ivan
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    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Hi Don. Congrats on the great man'lin and thanks for letting us enjoy your trip to Ellis thru this excellent thread. Looking forward to hearing you pick it on YouTube.

    How's the finger doing these days? And did Tom profile the neck similar to the Girouard shape you like so much? Lastly, i'm more than a little curious about the fretboard width at the nut.

    Ivan, thanks for sharing the pics of that incredible wood!

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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    And a great time was had by all! Man, what a fun jam that was and, you're absolutely right, Tom is a great luthier and a wonderful human being. While Tom's work is super consistent, I think you got a great one with your A5. I really enjoyed the end of the night, playing yours, Tom's personal F, and the '25 up against my pair. All great instruments in their own right and all different enough to suit tastes. Hope to cross tunes again with you soon!

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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Thank you for sharing!

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    Registered User ellisppi's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Don, thanks for the nice write-up. It was great having you, and I hope to see you again. That pick was a real treat, one of the best I've had here, and that says something! I have some great pickin buddies (Gray Sky Boys) were on youtube in low fidelity, but we ALL got a fiddle treat by Mark and Andy from Chicago, the best fiddlin this house has seen and we been pickin here for 40 years. Thanks for not mentioning the complimentary massage you got too. Keep texting sunsets!
    Tom H. Ellis
    Ellis Mandolins
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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    I hadn't had a MAS flare-up in years until I read this thread. Thanks, I think.

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    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Dan, the nut width is 1 1/8". My finger is doing fine as long as I don't play any deep V or chunky necks. That will cause some pain. Tom just took a little off the V on the neck and rounded it a bit. It's a bit slimmer than my Heiden now and plays great.

    Tom, I guess the title should have been "Visit to the Ellis Shop and Spa" but I was trying to keep my post focused on mandolins. Thanks again for everything--it was a nice mini vacation.

    Eric, you're welcome.
    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
    http://www.HillbillyChamberMusic.com

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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Geez,I didn't get a massage with my visit...

    I remember Tom packing up the family to go to one of their favorite sunset-viewing places. Sounds like a fine family activity!

    That Skaggs Ellis mando is a beauty.

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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    From V7 above - " That Skaggs Ellis mando is a beauty.". In all honesty,i've yet to see an Ellis mandolin of either style that was less than beautiful. Some may be more 'flamboyant',some less,but ALL of them are superb in their own way. My own is pretty subdued as far as 'looks' are concerned,but when i play it,that when the 'real' beauty begins. I played it for aound 7 hours yesterday,both serious picking & then a few hours 'noodling',working bits out & straightening out a few 'kinks',which really means that i simply couldn't put it down,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  30. #20
    Registered User Don Grieser's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Here's a little sound clip, with a couple breaks on East Virginia Blues. As usual, recorded with a Kodak Zi8 video camera and recorded with the built-in mic. No EQ or any processing except normalizing the clip.

    Last edited by Don Grieser; Aug-18-2017 at 5:13pm.
    the billyhawks http://www.thebillyhawks.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
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    Default Re: Ellis A5 #339-15 and a Visit to the Ellis Shop

    Nice Don, glad that worked out so you can keep playing!
    John A. Karsemeyer

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