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Thread: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

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    Mando Training Wheels kegcrowe's Avatar
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    Default How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    ok. opinions. Has anyone ordered a Mando build and been less than pleased or maybe just not as impressed with the sound as you thought you would be? Did it change over time to something you really like, did it just need a set up (and am I wrong as a newbie to think things like intonation should be close to perfect on arrival?), or did you send it back, especially if you couldn't articulate your (less than glowing) feelings about it? Did the overwhelming smell of new varnish temper your desire to hold it? And can a new Mando-player trust their gut feelings about something that they are not proficient at as yet?

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    Registered User Narayan Kersak's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    What did you do?
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Lots to discuss here. I myself have never had a mandolin built, but these days, with pretty much everyone not in a mandolin town resorting to buying via the net, the basic decision is the same. Educate yourself and take your chances. Undoubtedly there is more emotionally at stake if you commission a build.

    As far as a new player trusting yourself, as above, buying sight unseen is the same. Here's my story. Bought an Eastman to test the waters. Reasonably priced and well built, hard to go wrong. I kept going into my local store and playing instruments like Webers, Collings, and Northfield, which were all different but were all quite nicer than my Eastman. On the way out the door to buy a new Collings MT, I checked the classifieds and saw a Silverangel A that was a grand less than the MT I was going to buy. People seemed to like them, so I bought it instead. When it came, I found I liked its larger frets, and loved the tone.

    About a year later, I fell in love with scrolls. No good reason really, but now I paid real attention to F styles. Man, they were expensive. I finally commissioned myself to build my Arches kit . My thinking was, I was willing to bet that I could build a mandolin that was as good as what I could buy for the $1200 the kit, hardware, and case would cost me. So stringing it up was like getting a mandolin built for me, but with far greater emotional attachment, with no real clue what it would sound like. Players I like were very enthusiastic about it. Certainly I achieved my goal and more.

    Now I have mandolins at both extremes of the tonal pallet. Both have their uses. A year ago Collings mandolins did not impress me. Now they do. Experience has changed my view. So realize if you have an instrument built for you, it arrives and is all you have ever dreamed of, it may not be one, two or ten years down the line, and it may be hard to come to that realization and move on. Certainly I'm stuck with my first build forever. Never going to sell it. But it may someday be my beater. Time will tell.

    If I were to give you any advise, it would be to get yourself a used Weber, Collings, Silverangel, etc., so your ears get accustomed to a great tone. Then you will be in a position to know what you really want in a custom build. Just realize you might change as your playing evolves. That bluegrass chop you love today might not cut it for the jazz you play tomorrow. Plan B advise: play your Eastman for a year, while you play everything else you can get your hands on.

    Setup is another subject. Eastman does a pretty decent job. It can be better. Again experience dictates. I could not get clarity in the upper ranges of my SA after a particularly rainy spell last winter. Took it in for a pro to look at it. He handed it back and said I'd probably hate him because he raised the action a bit. Believe me, it was worth it. A beginner might never play that far up the neck. Mandolins are fickle in there setups. A shipment from two states away will probably need a setup to be really good. Once you play really good you won't want to go back to decent.
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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I have had that experience twice. Each time I was concerned about how much money had been spent and my lack of wow factor. My Weber has a Port Orford Cedar top and seemed to take several years to relax. My Ratliff is adi topped, and at two seems to have not changed in half a year. Both mandolins emerged as great sounding mandolins. Intonation is usually simply a bridge adjustment.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    To be totally honest, some people shouldn't take this plunge. Simply ordering a custom built instrument might not make you happy and I'm sure every custom builder would rather have a customer coming in with less misgivings than more. It takes some knowledge of the instrument so that when you hear or play a builders instrument it makes you want to own one. If you're not able to make that distinction you might want to go with something you can play first. If you start out with misgivings you'll probably never get past them.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    As the owner and player of the instrument, it is really only your opinion that matters. That said, additional information may help shape that opinion. My first suggestion would be to get it in the hands of an experienced player or two, and ask what they think. You may find a simple solution from listening to what they have to say. Your opinion may also change just from hearing them play it.

    After doing that, I would call the luthier who built it and have a heart-to-heart with her/him. This person spent many hours creating this instrument. He/she may have a solution to your problem, or may not, but why not seek their input? I am sure that, out of respect, you'd want to have this conversation before deciding to send it back anyway. The chances are, they really care about your satisfaction and together you can come to some arrangement.

    In any case, I hope you can solve this dilemma in a way that leaves you with an instrument you love. That is the hope of everyone involved, I am sure.

    Best wishes,

    Bob
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by kegcrowe View Post
    ok. opinions. Has anyone ordered a Mando build and been less than pleased or maybe just not as impressed with the sound as you thought you would be? Did it change over time to something you really like, did it just need a set up (and am I wrong as a newbie to think things like intonation should be close to perfect on arrival?), or did you send it back, especially if you couldn't articulate your (less than glowing) feelings about it? Did the overwhelming smell of new varnish temper your desire to hold it? And can a new Mando-player trust their gut feelings about something that they are not proficient at as yet?
    I would not even consider a commissioned build until you know what you like, body style, tone, style of build etc. I only had one mandolin a Vega bowl back before I commissioned my next and so far last mandolin. However I knew exactly what I wanted then picked a builder based on that. Tone wise it was perfect and exactly what I wanted. Aesthetics I had two little niggles that were not close enough for me to worry about. All in all I love it but like I said I knew exactly what I wanted before finding a builder and ordering.
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Don’t assume that the intonation can just be remedied by adjusting or relocating the bridge. There may indeed be an issue with the instrument. You might take it to a local luthier for an assessment. But, above all, be honest with the builder. You’ve probably paid a fair amount of money for the mandolin, and it should at least be functional.

    Years ago, a builder sent me a mandolin on approval. While the build quality was good overall, every single one of the frets needed to be reseated. Even after that, the mandolin still didn’t intonate, and after much discussion with the gentleman who does the work on my mandolins, we determined that the geometry of the neck, frets, etc. was just a bit off. Enough so that the mandolin was never in tune with itself (perfectly in tune with open strings, but fret a note and it went south).

    I had a friend who waited a year for a guitar, made by a very well known builder. When he got it, he could never get it “in tune”. Frustrated, he took it to a local luthier who took a look at it, and low and behold the frets were off, just a bit, but there was no way the guitar would intonate. The luthier told him “Send it back”. While the builder wasn’t happy, he took it back. While we were all a little shocked that this builder would produce something that could not intonate, it does happen.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    In complete honesty, I have had a number of mandolins custom built. Or to put it another way, i ordered directly from the builder. I guess i have simply been lucky but I have been pleased each time.

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I am more than satisfied with my one and only custom build. It has it all, the wood , fit and finish, set up with a clarity, volume and depth of tone that is all I could ask for. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    A year or so ago, Eddie Blevins built an octave mandolin for me. Not a big deal? Maybe and maybe not. While Eddie has an impeccable reputation regarding mandolins, he had never built an octave. Ongoing verbal and written conversations filled in those very small gaps of confidence. By the time he was halfway through everything was cool. There were no wisps of lingering doubt in the back of my mind.

    He even worked with me on the case. No one has a fitted case for octaves in their inventory, so we turned to Cedar Creek. I gave them the accouterments I wanted and Eddie furnished the dimensions of the octave. Cedar Creek delivered the case to Eddie. When he finished the instrument, he packed it in the custom case and shipped it to me,

    I could not be happier with the instrument. In spite of all of those admonitions above, I have nothing but good things to say about Eddie and his (and now my) octave mandolin.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    If you are interested in something other than the traditional, I recommend Sorensen Mandolins - Steve is a great guy to work with and has worked with me from the begging to the end. The thing is, his instruments look almost as good they sound!

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I've had my Girouard for about six months now - I loved it when it arrived and I love it even more now. Everything about it is awesome - there isn't a single thing that would make me wish "If only..." about it.
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    My only mandolin ordered from a builder is my Paul Shippey, it was far better than my expectations, without doubt one of the UK's best builders.

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    When my Dad passed away, I decided to put some of the money he left me into a one-off purchase (I knew I would never be able to buy more than one custom-made instrument). I ordered mine from a builder who, even now, seems to enjoy a sterling reputation, at least among Café forum members (far less so among builders with whom I have discussed this matter).

    When it arrived it was a different colour from that requested, and had other irritating problems that required fixing to make it playable. When I dug my heels in about the colour, he agreed to build me a new instrument, but asked that I be patient (because of a litany of personal troubles he and family members, plural, were suffering). I agreed to be patient.

    Three years later my new instrument arrived. Again in completely unplayable condition, with multiple flaws and with fixtures of different specifications from those ordered and paid for. At this point the builder told me he 'was done with this'. Apparently me being patient enough to wait three years for him to deliver what he had promised (which, in fact, he never did deliver) constituted unreasonableness on my part.

    Because I have spent more of my own money on it, it is now playable, albeit cosmetically far from perfect (and without a warranty, since the builder, remember, is 'done with it'.)

    And so my decision to mark the passing of my Dad blew up in my face and I am stuck with an instrument that will never make me feel good.

    Let the buyer beware.

  19. #16

    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Ron, that is a horrible story. A new instrument should arrive ready to be played, not ready to immediately go to a luthier to be made playable.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Ron, that is a horrible story. A new instrument should arrive ready to be played, not ready to immediately go to a luthier to be made playable.
    True, Mary. But that's what happened twice.

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    So sorry to hear about that Ron, that's appalling!
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    I've had my Girouard for about six months now - I loved it when it arrived and I love it even more now. Everything about it is awesome - there isn't a single thing that would make me wish "If only..." about it.
    I feel the same about my Girouard.
    Chris Cravens

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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I have ordered five custom builds and a sixth on order. Three I sent back and one of which was from a well known builder and I was very disappointed in it ! Workmanship and sound wise ! I won't mention the rejected builders but the two builders who I have ordered more than one from are Tom Ellis and Max Girouard ! Excellent sound and workmanship !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  27. #21

    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I have tried twice. First time was a popular economical builder, and I sent it back because of intonation issues. Second time was with a well known builder, and its a nice mandolin but it came with a few issues that have left me lukewarm about it.

    I probably won't commission a new build again. My experiences lead me to conclude that commissioned builds are best left for the very experienced, or for the collectors.

  28. #22
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Only ordered custom twice. First time mandolin was average at best and the builder didn’t listen to how I wanted the neck width and shape. It was much too large for me. I wound up trading it off. Second build was awesome. Instrument was beautiful and sounded amazing. Specs, color.....perfect. It also cost A LOT more than the first one. I’ve also bought a couple of new instruments directly from builders with success. It can be hit or miss. Choose your builder wisely!

  29. #23
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    I spent a fair amount of time playing a lot of different things making up my mind on what exactly I wanted and ended up custom ordering an instrument and was initially very pleased. After playing it a few days, I found a minor issue, discussed it with the builder, sent it back to him and had it back in the a week. I chalked it up to the builder simply overlooking the issue (luthiers are people prone to mistakes too). The builder was great about it and happily stood behind his work. I was very happy with it. After a few months passed, one of the higher frets popped out on the treble side. My presumption was that after some time acclimating to my environment, it just happened, no fault of the builder. I took it to Marty Jacobson and he had it all good in the matter of an hour. Now it's coming up on a year old and I just can't get enough of it.

    All of that being said, my custom build had a few minor issues, but the builder was very gracious with it and ready to act to fix it. I believe most builders are willing to stand behind their work. Even with set up work on new instruments, since there are often personal preferences involved, it never hurts to have a set up done even on a custom build if things don't feel exactly right.
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  30. #24
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    Default Re: How did you feel about your new build Mando?

    Quote Originally Posted by kegcrowe View Post
    ok. opinions. Has anyone ordered a Mando build and been less than pleased or maybe just not as impressed with the sound as you thought you would be? Did it change over time to something you really like, did it just need a set up (and am I wrong as a newbie to think things like intonation should be close to perfect on arrival?), or did you send it back, especially if you couldn't articulate your (less than glowing) feelings about it? Did the overwhelming smell of new varnish temper your desire to hold it? And can a new Mando-player trust their gut feelings about something that they are not proficient at as yet?
    If you aren't sure quite what you would want, after no longer being "thrilled" with my starter mandolin, I called The Mandolin Store (NFI) and told them what I was looking for in a mandolin, and they recommended two choices they thought I would be happy with. I couldn't choose, so I bought them both. 4 years later, I am still very happy with them both. You might want to try that. Then after playing what I call "medium grade mandolins" - Weber, Pava, Collings for awhile, you can decide if you want a custom build.

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