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Thread: Go Down Memory Lane

  1. #1

    Default Go Down Memory Lane

    I'd be very interested to hear from builders about your early evolution as a builder. How many mandolins did you build before you thought you had viable instruments to sell? Was the build quality parallel to the tone evolution?

    Just from building one, my experience was that I could probably build a mandolin whose tone I'd be happy with long before I mastered the aesthetics. Binding in particular, but inlay is also an entirely new skill set. How many of you had mentors?

    Do you ever have your early work back in your hands? I knew a violin builder say he could tell his early repair work. He thought he was a real hack when he was starting out. I have seen some nice work numbered in the teens and twenties, but most luthiers I've had the pleasure to talk to are their own worst critics.
    Silverangel A
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    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  2. #2

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    No mentor here (MandolinCafe folks, though!). Any work I wasn't sure I would look back on fondly, I didn't sell. I gave away up to my 14th instrument (there were a few guitars and lap steels in there as well, not all mandolins). Several of my first dozen instruments were impossible to really set up properly. Tone, confidence in the structure (enough to offer a lifetime warranty on the structure), and aesthetics pretty much tracked together. Get it structurally sound and playable, and someone will like the tone. Keep detailed records. I'm not a records guy, I am forced to keep an accurate calendar but that's the extent of the organization in my life. But data is important for building and improving, so making it a priority will help you get to consistent tonal results much quicker.
    There was one instrument I was going to run through a bandsaw, but a guy saw it on my wall, played it, and had to buy it, after declaring it to a group of "tasters" that it was psychotic. He recorded a bunch of tracks on his YouTube channel with it. Glad I saved it from the bandsaw!

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  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2003

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    I built 4 mandolins before I felt confident enough to start numbering them.. By the time I got to numbered 0003, my construction was solid enough that I wanted to try to improve on them.. I'm still trying.....

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  6. #4
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    I wanted to build F style mandolin since I was 13-14 but all I had was pocket knife and few household tools and no instruction whatsoever (I knew mandlins from few tapes ,VHS and some old worn copies of tabulature books) - back in the days we were behind the "iron curtain" so not much got in. It took me 5-6 years till I managed to gather enough information and skills (small carvings, repairs of badly broken instruments etc... and few badly failed attempts) I didn't know the scroll is glued to block and tried to bend ribs (all I had was some cutoff ash) to that small diameter of button using mothers' clothes iron and piece of steel tube or pot of boiling water. Never got further than that till a friend gave me S-M drawings and I was able to draw my own drawings especially when I gained access to internet at university when I was barely 18 (no one had that at home back then) and lucky enough to find mandolin cafe and many resources. I studied violin books and every picture of mandolin I could find on line (I still have few DVDs full of mandolin pic archives somewhere) and finally stepped into building my first instrument. I had to make my own tools as buying specialty tools from luthier suppliers would exceed whle family budget so it took me few years to finally finish it. And also some time to get digital pics posted on MC:
    The thread lost all the pics but I posted them here few years ago.
    I didn't want to sell that instrument but I got several offers from local guys and even over internet from abroad. I "sold" next pair of instrumet to US guy (MC member) who scammed me and refused to pay... But Scott T helped me (connected me to a US lawyer) to recover at least part of the money (took almost two years). So my first sold to actual paying customer was the fourth I built.
    Here it is:
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  8. #5
    Registered User
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    Feb 2011
    Conneaut Lake, PA

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    Adrian, such an interesting story. Thank you for that. I’m sorry you had such a negative experience early on. Seems like the lesson to be learned is customer pays first, then they get their instrument, not visa versa.

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  9. #6
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    Adrian great story! Hope "that guy" is not longer on this forum.
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  10. #7
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    I started "tinkering"and repairing out of curiosity. My first built instrument was a banjo. It turned out at least as good as I expected it to, and far and away better than my friends expected it to... so one friend decided to get me to build him a mandolin. I hadn't considered building a mandolin before that, but I accepted the commission and the challenge. So, my first mandolin was also my first order. Before I finished that first mandolin, I got a job at a well known instrument maker so I was gaining experience faster than I would have been just building the one mandolin. When it was done, I decided to build another (an "F" this time) under the name of my employer. It's surprising how well a maker's early instruments are accepted by the market when they have a well known name associated with high quality! I suspect it would still be easier to sell mandolins under that name than under my own name, but that is the way the market seems to work... but I digress...

    As I continued to make mandolins they gradually improved in looks and in sound. Each one I finished I thought was much better than the one before and I'd be proud of the new one and almost ashamed of the one before it. This went on probably for over 10 mandolins because I felt like my improvement was progressing so fast. Eventually, things sort of settled down and I wasn't feeling like each instrument was noticeably superior to the preceding one. When I see my early mandolins now they are actually better than I remember them. I feel that I have never completed a bad one, with one possible exception due to choice of materials. I still continually strive to learn and improve and assume that I can until my age starts to degrade my abilities.

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  12. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
    40.191N -74.2W

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Adrian great story! Hope "that guy" is not longer on this forum.
    I would be surprised that if Scott was involved that the scammer would still be a member here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #9
    Registered User tree's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    northern Virginia

    Default Re: Go Down Memory Lane

    I have played a Jacobson and I own a Hamlett and they both are superior mandolins to my '94 Gibson F5G in every way: fit, finish, functionality and (obviously this is highly subjective) tone.

    I'm not dissing Gibson or my F5G, I enjoy playing that instrument and I have no plans to divest myself of it. There is a world of mandolin tone out there, and I personally enjoy having choices, especially choices that function so beautifully. There are plenty of other builders whose instruments I would love to get my hands on as well.

    I especially appreciate the luthiers who are so unselfish with their time and expertise here!
    Clark Beavans

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