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Thread: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

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    Default Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    *I just posted this on "Builders and Repair" but I'm not sure if that's the right place?*

    I'm a looooong time MandoCafe ghost, but I've just been hanging out in the corner making that one cup of coffee last since about 1997

    Being a bear of very little brain and limited dexterity, I've never had anything to contribute, so this will be my first post. Since I started playing, 21 years ago (you wouldn't know it if you heard me - my playing still has the youthful sheen of the clueless) I had a Tanglewood A-style forever, then picked up a 1939 Gibson A00 a little under 3 years ago.

    Now, the Gibson, I love. We met by accident in Forsyths (Manchester, UK) and I fell for the tone straight away: rich, mellow and dark. It's no looker and structurally it has seen better days - so we have this in common

    However, there are drawbacks: it's quite hard work to play at any kind of pace - and my left hand is in seriously bad shape (years of Judo, motorcycling and general clumsiness have filled it with fractures, scar tissue and arthritis). A couple of months' intense practice pre a Simon Mayor tutorial (5-stars for that, by the way, lovely chap and a great teacher. Plays alright, too) led me into a bout of tendonitis, just to top it off.

    Ouch.

    Also, the A00 ain't loud, and at the time I was playing in an ensemble alongside a very talented mandolinist who had the confidence to play her Kentucky F-style hard and I have to tell you, that is a *loud* mandolin. In a good way. (Also, it allowed me to hide behind her during the difficult bits )

    I've found plenty of value on here over the years, and had all my questions answered without even having to ask, until I came to this point -

    "What now? - I want a sweet, full sounding mandolin - not too bright - but loud enough to cut it in an orchestra without crippling my crumpled left mitt."

    To cut a long story less-long, I scoured the length of the country. I'm no connoisseur, but I have been moving in mandocircles for a long time and I know a good 'un when I find one. So I played hundreds of mandolins from 400 to 6000+ (for reference only at the top end, you understand ) (although, it's worth labouring the point that expensiver isn't always betterer. Trust your ears, and your fingertips, say I).

    Nothing hit the mark. A few came close, but they weren't *it*.

    I remembered meeting a mandolin maker named Paul Shippey very many years ago, who had just been setting out on his own. At the time, I tried a couple of his instruments and was very impressed, but as a penniless student, these were pipe dreams. I decided to look him up on th'directory and lo and behold he had a website and everything.

    I sent him an email and soon Gibson A00 and I were travelling by KTM to Weston-Super-Mare where I enjoyed an enormously warm welcome from Paul who had remained every bit as charming, sincere and personable as I had recollected.

    Paul listened to my tale, and suffered an audience with my Gibson, then had me try one of his own part-finished models to see what sort of sounds I could make with it.

    He was even polite enough to not visibly wince

    He kept the Gibson overnight for measurements (the neck profile is *just right* for me) and it turns out that it was within a whisker of his own pattern anyway. We talked woods, and of our shared love of all things British (nothing jingoistic, just gratitude for our heritage and resources), then off I dashed to my home in the hills of the Narth.

    A few weeks later, I wired Paul my deposit and told him to take his time as I would need a while to raise the full price of the instrument.

    As it happens, just about a year after out first meeting, I got en email from Paul asking what sort of a finish I would like! How exciting! I literally didn't sleep for 2 days. By way of return, I sent Paul a few photographs of various instruments with finishes I like, even though "helpfully" enough, they were all rather different to each other. I also said that I was going to leave the final decision to Paul's good judgement, and that I didn't want to see it until it was ready.

    Well, a few days ago I got back from Weston with my brand new Paul Shippey A5, and I am happy to report that the brief has been more than matched

    What Paul has managed by craft and intuition is absolutely tremendous. The look, sound and feel of this mandolin could not be closer to what I wanted, despite my garbled and unintelligible descriptions. The quality of the finish and the detailing is immense - and it even smells fantastic!

    As for the sound? - it's everything I could want. Rings like a bell, sustain for days, rich harmonics through the length of the perfectly-intonated fingerboard and so, so responsive.
    Most amazingly, though, it opens up most when I play like me. By that, I mean that I can knock out a bluegrass lick or a Celtic reel and (tonally) it sounds just great, but when I start to play my repertoire, my way (I lean towards airs, classical and jazz standards), that's when it really starts to sing.

    It's like magic.

    5 days in and apart from the strings taking a beating, my left hand feels fine (relatively). I've had to learn to relax my Gibson Death-Grip, but the tendonitis seems to be at low ebb despite the many sleepless hours I've spent like admiring my new precious, like a grotesquely oversized Gollum

    In short, this mandolin has given my playing a new lease of life, and extended the expiry date of my moribund left-mitt. It's crazy to think that for the same money as I could pay in a shop for a Chinese factory instrument - or a third of the price of a US-made one-trick bluegrass cannon - I've got a handmade instrument, carved and tuned back and top, in beautiful British woods, that sounds like me and fits like I grew up with it.

    I can honestly say that I would not change even the smallest detail of my Shippey A5. Despite being a brute, I have played Monteleones, D'Aquistos and even a Loar F5 (at the late lamented Mandolin Bros as-was). I've played Eastmans, Capeks, Breedloves and a host of other fantastic factory-and-artisan made instruments.

    Would I swap my Shippey A5 for any of them, as an instrument? - no.
    And if that don't make it the Best Mandolin In The World, then what would? - only if I learned to play it properly!

    I may yet get up the nerve to post some videos so you can hear it (in which case - no judging! I'm shy!).

    For now you can see in instrument in question here:
    http://shippeymandolins.tumblr.com
    https://www.facebook.com/shippeymandolins/
    http://paulshippey.co.uk

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  3. #2
    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Welcome and I hope you have many years pleasure from your new mandolin. Great to see another local (to me) member of the cafe too, whereabouts do you live in Lancashire? I go to some sessions in Manchester so if you wanted to come to one and show off your new mando that could be cool?
    cheers,
    Paul

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    Registered User Al Trujillo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Congratulations on your new love affair. You are also a great writer...I truly enjoyed your post here. Arthritis and other injuries (like crushing boards during Tae Kwon-Do training) have made it easier to focus on airs, waltz' and similar songs that don't require busting my knuckles. Hope you continue to enjoy your new Shippey and good health to you!

    PS: Paul Shippey posted two pictures of recent builds on his Facebook page...wondering if the A5 he has finish pictures of is yours? -Beautiful!
    Last edited by Al Trujillo; Dec-04-2016 at 12:41pm.

  5. #4
    Registered User Uncle Choppy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Great to hear from you LHB and what a wonderful story regarding the Shippey!
    They seem to be highly regarded instruments. I played an early one many years ago but didn't have the money for it at the time - pity.
    Oh, and from your description, you sound like you're a much more accomplished player than me!

    Nice to hear another local-ish voice on here (I'm just on the edge of Merseyside) and the lack of shops with any kind of decent mandolins is frustrating.

    I look forward to some videos/recordings of the Shippey!

    Cheers, Brendan

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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Hi Al - thank you very much for your kind words, I feel genuinely uplifted by them and by the overwhelmingly warm response I have received here on the Mandolin Cafe It feels odd, after all these years of lurking

    I'm proud to say that the A5 on Paul Shippey's Facebook page is indeed mine (I appear there as Simon D'Olin) and although Paul is apparently as talented with a lens as he is with a set of carving chisels (if that is indeed what he uses - I have no idea, really!) the pictures don't do it a full justice. But then, neither does my playing: Selah (as former Colorodoan Dr HS Thompson used to say).

    Wishing you also good health and a happy life. Yours in budo, LHB.

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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Hi Brendan - thanks for taking time to read my rambly post, and for being so kind about it! You would have to be a better player than me - just statistically, it would be hard not to be! I've not heard a Lebeda mandolin so you're one up on me there, too, and the Oakwood Bouzouki sounds intriguing, too!

    You're right about the lack of access to decent mandolins: we've got Forsyths, Hobgoblin (Manchester) and the always-helpful Music Room over in Cleckheaton. Otherwise, one has to get the travelling shoes on. On the other hand, for a biker like myself, that's all the excuse I need - although I'd say the Shippey will have me sat at home for a l o n g while yet!

    Wishing you health and happiness and that you're not too disappointed when you finally hear what I'm doing with the Shippey!

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    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    LHB, I enjoyed your story. You are a gifted writer. The outcome is so good to hear. Congratulations on that custom built Shippey!
    2017 Collings MT (Gloss Top, Ivory Top Binding, Wide Nut)
    1999 Ratliff R-5 (F-5 Model)
    Two Old Gibson A Mandolins passed down through my wife's family. These are the mandolins that got me started on mandolin in 1982. Then I didn't touch it again until 2013.

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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    I do not honestly know what kind of finish I'd choose if I had a mandolin made. I like whatever finish is on the one I'm playing. I like worn old Gibsons, beautiful new Collings sun bursts, clear, black top, pumpkin, blue, and pretty much anything else. I like bound and inlayed, and no inlay satin beauties.

    How can you possibly choose?

    Enjoy many years with your new friend.

  10. #9
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Congrats on your new instrument. I wish you many years of happiness with your new musical partner. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    I had the pleasure of playing a couple of Paul Shippey's mandolins belonging to a Cafe member during a visit he made to my home some months ago & they were superb. Both were loud,resonant & had a beautiful tone. Not my style for Bluegrass obviously,but if i ventured out into the Celtic / Folk music scene,i can't imagine any 'better' sounding mandolins, & the workmanship was as good as any i've ever seen,
    Ivan
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  12. #11

    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    A good story well told. I hope you get some video clips made so that we can hear that A5.

    Oh, and I really hope the bad case of emoticonitis gets better soon. My eyes are still hurting (smiley emoticon would normally go here).

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    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    @lflngpicker, br1ck, usuallypickin and Ivan - thanks for the support and well-wishes, guys, which are earnestly reciprocated.

    @Ron McMillan - thank you for your encouragement, which I take as high praise coming from a proper writer. You're absolutely right about the emoticonitis, too - no question about it. I don't know if it's just over-exuberance on my first post, or if I'm trying to textually compensate for my real-life monotone voice and unusually still face. I'm also a fiend for bold print and italics, however, so if it weren't one thing, it'd be t'other.

    Tedious, me.

    I checked out your website, Ron, and you seem to be an accomplished expert in the field of "Life and How To Live It". I'm going to get myself a copy of "Bangkok Cowboy" pending your recruitment as my full-time guru, so be warned! With warmest wishes from the (cold) old country - LBH

  14. #13

    Default Re: Paul Shippey and The Best Mandolin in The World (Again)

    Quote Originally Posted by Left Hand Blind View Post
    I checked out your website, Ron, and you seem to be an accomplished expert in the field of "Life and How To Live It". I'm going to get myself a copy of "Bangkok Cowboy" pending your recruitment as my full-time guru, so be warned! With warmest wishes from the (cold) old country - LBH
    I genuinely enjoyed your story, and am glad to hear you're thinking of getting one of my books. Consider me recruited Oops, there goes an emoticon.

    And I'm serious about hoping you put up some clips of the new A5.

    ron
    Last edited by Ron McMillan; Dec-05-2016 at 1:34pm. Reason: added a line

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