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Thread: How to talk to a builder?

  1. #1
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default How to talk to a builder?

    First of all, Iím 68 years old, playing Irish Trad since the pandemic started. Still very much a beginner but determined to keep it up. I play a Northfield Calhoun and a 1980ís Washburn. Lately, Iím thinking of having a mandolin built by a well respected and very reasonably priced builder. I happened upon one of his instruments in a shop and casually played it. I was quite impressed but didnít really take notes because, well, Iím not really a very good player. But lately Iím thinking ď So What? , if not now, when?Ē
    So , sometime this year after I have completely set aside the funds, I think Iíll place an order. So, the Problem:
    How do builders make sense of the uneducated?
    I really like the tone of the Calhoun, which suggests a maple build
    I do have arthritis and think I prefer a radiused fret board.
    The U of the Calhoun neck, I think is a little thick, does that argue for a more V neck or a trimmer U? How do you develop a confident order. What else should I be considering so when the time comes to order I donít sound like a ninny? The mandolin Iím considering would be an A2 basic model

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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    If the U is too much you might think about a C shaped neck. I love my C shaped neck. A V can work too, if you can try each before you decide. Also play some mandolins. I like a radiused board, but can play flat. If it is a radius, I don't want too much. I like a very small radius. You may like more. Again play as many different mandolins and tell the builder what you are looking for. Most will be happy to talk and find out just what you are looking for. They will want to make you happy. Good luck and have fun.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    I’m not familiar with a C shape, any mass produced examples I might happen upon to try?

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    harvester of clams Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Getting the neck right is the best thing about a custom ordered instrument. If you have or can borrow an instrument with a profile you like, you can take measurements including using a profile gauge at a few places on the neck to duplicate that. I highly recommend this process and I have done that for custom ordered instruments. The builders are typically very accommodating as they want to please you.

    No point having a custom build that you find awkward to play.
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    Registered User Ed McGarrigle's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Okay, just proving I really don’t know what I’m talking about, turns out the Calhoun does have a C neck. So, I suppose the best I can do is try every mandolin I come across and take notes, esp re the neck as that is my biggest concern, esp as regards playability

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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    You can also measure your neck from the top of the fingerboard to the back of the neck. Do it in the first fret position and the 12th at least. I like a slimmer neck profile, you may like a deeper one. If you like the neck on your Calhoun measure it and have it made just like it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed McGarrigle View Post
    The U of the Calhoun neck, I think is a little thick, does that argue for a more V neck or a trimmer U?
    For the neck, you might consider a rounded V which takes the meat out of the shoulders but smooths over the point that can be a bother to some pickers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed McGarrigle View Post
    How do you develop a confident order. What else should I be considering so when the time comes to order I donít sound like a ninny? The mandolin Iím considering would be an A2 basic model
    Either you have a clear idea about what you want in an instrument or you trust in the builder to have a clear idea about what s/he does best.
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    It won't hurt to talk to your chosen builder while you still in this stage of figuring out just what it is you want, but it is easier for the builder (for me, at least) to work with someone who knows what he/she wants, as long as I consider it acceptable from design, structural and aesthetic standpoints.

    Alternately, find a builder who's work you like and leave it to him/her to build something you like.

    When you don't really know what you want, and/or your preferences are changing as you gain experience it might not be time for a custom build yet. It can be difficult for a builder to get a clear picture of how to proceed when the customer doesn't have a clear picture of how to proceed.

  9. #9
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed McGarrigle View Post
    Lately, Iím thinking of having a mandolin built by a well respected and very reasonably priced builder. I happened upon one of his instruments in a shop and casually played it. I was quite impressed but didnít really take notes because, well, Iím not really a very good player. But lately Iím thinking ď So What? , if not now, when?Ē
    If youíre a bit uncomfortable with the custom build process and looking for an A2, then this social group thread might interest you:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...cussionid=7741
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
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    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Ed, in your position I'd be inclined to spend a day at The Mandolin Store's new location in Lebanon, Ohio. (Based on your stated location, that looks like about six hours on the road.) Play everything, and maybe even take one home with you. By the end of your visit, you will have increased your mandolin knowledge database substantially, and have a much clearer idea of what you like and don't like. You may decide a custom-built instrument is unnecessary.

    And re: what John said above, the bane of any producer of a creative product is the customer or client who says, "I'm not sure what I want, but I'll know it when I see it." No good outcome can occur under those circumstances, whether it's a marketing campaign, a custom remodeling job, a piece of custom furniture, or a musical instrument. (I have been there on all of the above.) Clear, concise instructions, mutually understood and agreed upon, are absolutely fundamental to a successful project. The alternative is chaos.

    Best of luck with whatever path you choose. When in doubt, play more music.

  11. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to talk to a builder?

    Does this builder live anywhere near you? That would be a big help. This luthier could have some completed instruments that you can try out. Or you could ask if he/she has any owners of his/her mandolins near you? Maybe talk to this person about your concerns exactly as you are doing here. Hey, for all we know, this person might be reading this thread already. We can certainly advise you but the best thing would be to keep the conversation going with the builder. Good luck.
    Jim

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