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Thread: European Mandolin Builders

  1. #1
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    Default European Mandolin Builders

    Greetings Cafe,

    Wondering if you could help me out just with some information to satisfy an itch regarding this crazy little instrument I have fallen in love with. We all talk about handmade, hand carved, USA made Mandos, but I was wondering if there are any European builders that semi-mass produce mandolins. It seems that all I have seen talk of are Pac-Rim instruments and American made like Gibson, Weber, Collings. As I type this I am going through the "builder" list, but just curious about an instrument with such a "European" history not hearing much other than European players posting every now and again on these forums. Is there a "European" The Gibson? A German competitor to Kentucky? I apologize if this is addressed elsewhere, I will continue to search here and on the Google Box!

    regards,
    Skylar

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Quote Originally Posted by Mshusn View Post
    ...Is there a "European" The Gibson? A German competitor to Kentucky?...
    Not really. The German manufacturers Framus and Hofner produce(d) mandolins, as did Levin in Sweden, with varying degrees of success and acceptance. You'll find mandolins with the Hohner label, but they're Asian-made. There are some fine mandolin builders in the Czech Republic, such as Lebeda, Capek, Kristufek (Krishot Mandolins), Holubek, Prucha, and Furch (Stonebridge Mandolins). Not a "Gibson," smaller shops, but very well-respected.

    There are a variety of small-shop luthiers in the British Isles, with Stefan Sobell being one of the best-known. Fylde, Oakwood, and Moon also make mandolin-family instruments. No "semi-mass production" of which I'm aware. Joe Foley in Dublin has a great rep for large-mandolin and bouzouki building.

    As for student instruments, if you go to Romania you'll find Hora, which produces a variety of mandolins, mandolas, octaves, and bouzoukis. I believe these have been sold in the UK under the Troubador name. These instruments are not of the carved-top, F-model, "standard American mandolin" type, but run to the "Celtic" styles -- flat or canted tops, oval rather than f-holes, etc.

    There are, of course, long-established and respected Italian mandolin builders, who specialize almost exclusively in the bowl-back styles.

    As with the US, European manufacturers have been led by lower labor costs, to outsource much of their work to Asia. You'll find Gibson-clone F-5 style mandolins sold under the Hofner and Hohner labels, but they're Chinese-made.

    Also, mandolin-like instruments such as the bandurria and laud are still being built in Spain and Portugal.

    I'm not aware of any French mandolin builders at present, though I've seen "one-ofs" from French luthiers.

    As in most of the world, the low-to-mid-range mandolin market in Europe is dominated by Asian imports. Indigenous mandolin production focuses at the higher end, with the exception of the Hora line of Celtic-influenced models. At least this is what I've gleaned from looking at what seems to be sold, played and discussed on the Cafe and among those I know.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

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  4. #3
    Registered User Gerry Hastie's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    FlatBush mandolins made in Denmark are an addition to the above list. Boy are they loud!
    GerryHastie

    "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
    - Albert Schweitzer

  5. #4
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    If you go to the top of the page, click on Builders
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/builders.html

    there, and write in which country..
    You can access more names.
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  6. #5
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Mandroid I have definitely gone through the builder list, was just hoping to get some conversation started! To that end,thanks for the great reply and wonderful information!

  7. #6
    Mandolin enthusiast Susanne's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Hastie View Post
    FlatBush mandolins made in Denmark are an addition to the above list. Boy are they loud!
    I have one. It cured me from the MAS. I'll never want another mandolin. Seriously!

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  9. #7
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Let's not forget several quality builders out of the Czech Republic. Capek, Lebeda, Krishot, Janish and those are just the ones I'm familiar with. I still have fond thoughts for a Krishot I played a few years ago loaned to me to take for a test drive.
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Collings MT
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Kentucky KM-950
    Harley Benton A style (Current campfire tool)

  10. #8

    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    I've got an old Framus Graciella 6/41, which has great sound for what it is. I bought it because I had one of their electric guitars, and I was pretty impressed with the quality. Made in West Germany, which shows it's age!

  11. #9

    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Lots of great builders in the UK.

    Visit, www.mandolin.org.uk and look at the builders list.

    Dave H
    Eastman 615 mandolin
    Eastman 615 mandola
    2011 Weber Bitteroot A5
    2012 Weber Bitteroot F5
    Eastman MD 915V
    Gibson F9
    2016 Capek ' Bob ' standard scale tenor banjo
    Ibanez Artist 5 string
    2001 Paul Shippey oval hole

  12. #10
    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Quote Originally Posted by Gerry Hastie View Post
    FlatBush mandolins made in Denmark are an addition to the above list. Boy are they loud!
    Not just loud, they sound good too!

    Spencer

  13. #11
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    I own a Czech builder, Lebeda, F5, and a British made Hodson Djangolin. (David died s few years ago,
    so no new ones)
    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

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  15. #12
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    A friend of mine has a very early Hodson Djangolin - in fact he was talking of selling it a couple of weeks ago. The problem is that it's probably the worst mandolin I've ever come across in terms of sound and playability.

  16. #13
    Stop the chop!
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders


  17. #14
    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
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    Default Re: European Mandolin Builders

    Thomas Fredholm of Gothenburg Sweden is primarily a guitar builder, but the past couple of years I have seen him with a mandolin(s?) he has made at some Swedish bluegrass festivals. He said he was starting out and experimenting with mandolin building, and his first attempts were pretty good. I don't know if he is going further with mandolins, or will go back to guitars exclusively, didn't get a chance to talk with him at Grenna this year. If he continues with them I am guessing they will be quality instruments, and not cheap.

    Spencer

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