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Thread: Mandolin Builders output?

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin Builders output?

    I was wondering about the relative numbers of mandolins a builder may make in a career. Has anyone compiled a list of their output? I noticed a builder such as the highly regarded McClanahan, who has mandolins with serial numbers (?)in the 750s. Is it possible he made that many? Was wondering what others were able to make in their careers. Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    As a first-timer it took me 18 months to build my first mandolin... So for 750 that would take me about 1,125 years.

    I've read that there were something like 300 Loar F5s made. But that seems low to me?

    Anecdotally, I have looked around at other professional builders websites and things and seen figures in the area of one dozen per year, I think--give or take. Assuming someone spends a career's length of 45 years or so then something in the neighborhood of 500 would see right.

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  4. #3
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Quote Originally Posted by putnamm View Post
    ... I've read that there were something like 300 Loar F5s made. ...
    Yes, but Loar's team was not only making mandolins. It's probably more appropriate to count all the instruments that Loar signed during his time at Gibson to get a more comparable number.

    And, keep in mind that his department was a team, not a single person-shop as many if not most of today's boutique mandolin builders are.

    I don't know if there is documentation that suggests that Loar actually built any mandolins with his own hands while at Gibson.
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I started building in 1999 It took me two years to build my first mandolin. June #1 put me on the map and as of now I have built 85 mandolins and 25 guitars over the past 20 years. Like most other builders a lot of restoration and repair work in between the builds. The most I have completed in one year was 12 but have settled in to building an average of 8. Repair work cuts into building time.
    Walter Johnson
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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I think I'm a relatively slow builder, averaging 10-12 a year. Before kids it was 15, but if I can get 40 hours in these days it's a good week . Not that I'm complaining.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Gilchrist is in 700s now and he's been building since 1980 or so. I find it hard to believe that McClanahan serial number reflects the # of instruments he's built.
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  12. #7

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I was hanging out with Will Kimble in his shop today. He is up to 275.

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    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Two prolific luthiers:

    1. Antonio Stradivari. Surviving examples: at least 602 instruments. Estimated total production: 1116 instruments.
    These numbers do not include instruments with a Niccolo Amati label that were at least partially built by Strad while he was working for Amati.
    These instruments were completely built using only very simple hand tools and slow drying oil varnish.

    2. John D'Angelico. 1164 guitars with carved tops and backs. 44 mandolins with serial numbers, plus an undetermined number of mandolins without serial numbers. An older estimate by George Gruhn was a total of 300 to 350 mandolins, but that estimate might be a bit high.

    The numbers on Stradivari were compiled by W. Henry Hill in 1902. Those who might debate them should bear in mind that, at that time Hill wrote his book, the number of existing Strads with a 1709 label was 21 violins, 1 'cello. Strad was 65 years old in 1709.
    Last edited by rcc56; Feb-11-2020 at 12:59am.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    One should also think that they were noto working alone but had workshop with aprentices. In times of stradivari that was typically whole family pluse several aprentices and journeymen all working together, sometimes 10-15 people. They also made cases, bows and accessories that modern makers simply buy.
    I don't know much about D'angelico but he likely had a few hands to help with that.
    Gilchrist has quite thought out machinery and jigs to speed up his process and few helpers as well.
    Ellis is also in similar high numbers but he's got his CNC's and co workers...
    Adrian

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Stradivari ran a small production shop with many workers, family, and apprentices in the old world tradition; he did not work alone. He also lived a very long life was still producing instruments at the age of 95!

    D'Angelico had full time help from Jimmy DiSerio and Jimmy D'Aquisto. Both of the D'As died at age 59.

    Yearly output can be challenging to describe to an outsider. Many builders also do restoration and repair work with an ebb and flow between the two. Some years more new instruments get built; other years very important historical restorations can take up a tremendous amount of time resulting in lower new build output.

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    Registered User barry k's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I have been building 27 years and I have built over 165 instruments. I asked him one time how he based his serial numbers, he wouldnt answer me ??

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Quote Originally Posted by barry k View Post
    I have been building 27 years and I have built over 165 instruments. I asked him one time how he based his serial numbers, he wouldnt answer me ??
    Who? McClanahan? Perhaps he just started numbering with 700... Common practice. Many makers or factories use fancy numbering systems containing encoded date and year so the resulting number is in 5or more digits...
    Adrian

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  24. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    My 595 over 30 years has been made possible by: no adult supervision M-F, location so far up the creek even the Episcopalians are handling snakes up here, and enough 'mental health' instruments to avoid groundhogs day syndrome. At the end of the day, as my hero Jethro would say, I've made enough money to last the rest of my life, as long as I die by next Tuesday!
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  26. #14

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Hey guys....
    I love the cafe but I hardly ever get on here. I just seen the responses to the initial question of why my number system is so high?

    I began my Luthier career at 18 years old doing my own repair work. I eventually went you work at the Gibson Custom shop and I worked there for 10 years. When I went out on my own, I wanted my number system to reflect my experiance as a Luthier rather than starting off with #1. In that way people would know and trust my level of knowledge in my craft.

    I worked 95% of the time in the Carve Top department at Gibson. It was a team of 4 of us in that department. We kept a log book on every Carve Top we built that stretched back even before my tenure there. Ive been gone 11 years now but during my time there I built somewhere around 740 to 750 guitar bodies and just about that many necks. I like even numbers so I went with starting my number system at 700.

    It goes much deeper than that but that atleast answers your initial question. I pray all is well with each of you. God Bless

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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Thanks for your explanation which makes total sense to me. And you build great mandolins.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I started my first mandolin in 1986 or 1987, finished it in '88.
    I've worked full time for a small manufacturer, worked part time for the same manufacturer (13 years total), built a shop, moved and built another shop, done repairs and restorations, built guitars etc. in the years between then and now.
    My mandolin serial numbers are separate from my guitar numbers and separate from instruments that I have built under other names. I think my most recent number is #044. That means I've only built a total of 53 mandolins (and mandolin family) working alone the past 32 years.

  30. #17
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Audrey Ratliff has made over 1100 instruments, one man shop, although he did have some workers for a time.
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    Registered User J.Sloan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    Let's not forget the late great R.L. Givens, who according to Greg Boyd's website, built over 700 mandolins in a 30 year span.

  32. #19
    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I started building in 2007. The first mandolin took over a year. After that, I set a goal of one to two instruments a year - part time work. During the 13 years, I have designed one new mandolin and substantially modified the designs (plans) of two mandolins and an Irish bouzouki. A variety of A models, F models, Campfires, Suitcase, a guitar design, etc. Also, I researched the Griffith Loar and designed and built my interpretation of it. Those projects took a good bit of time to plan and build, partly because I documented them to be able to repeat the build if someone wants one. In short, I have rarely built the same instrument twice. Plus, I spend more time doing repairs, fret work, and setups on mandolins, guitars and basses than I do building. Early on there was the question whether to have clear serial numbers, whether they should apply to different instruments or just count consecutive builds, and whether to count builds that are not fully completed for sale for whatever reason. After a few attempts, I settled on clear serial numbers for consecutive, completed builds. My last serial number is 18, completed in 2018. That's pretty much on target for part time work.

  33. #20
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I am up to #259, but that includes around 30 guitars and 3 OMs, plus a few mandolas. I am averaging about 15 instruments a year now.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
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  34. #21

    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    So where do all these instruments go? I don't know a single person that owns a custom instrument. Thank god I don't make to many, I've made 3 F5's in the last 15-20 years. My walls would be covered. I have a fiddle, A-style mandolin and Dread on my benches right now. My wife promises after I finish the painting the kitchen cabinets in our new home, she will not ask for any more home repairs for a while. I sure would love to get to my 4th mandolin. Numbering, I haven't even placed a label in them. But, I'm finally getting close to retirement and those numbers should start adding up faster and my wall will be covered with them.
    Richard Hutchings

  35. #22
    Registered User artdeco's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I'm up to 27 acoustics, with serial numbers starting at one. The first five were throwaways.

  36. #23
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    Default Re: Mandolin Builders output?

    I started my first one in 2007 and am about halfway through number 4 now, thus my rate is around 4 per 14 years, or 0.286 mandolins per year. This probably exceeds the rate I can sell them.

    I'm hand carving the back now and just remembered that while I was carving the last one I was definitely going to farm out the next one to a CNC operator. Oh well, maybe I need to double my pace so I won't have so much time to forget.
    -Newtonamic

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