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Thread: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

  1. #1
    Registered User Rick Crenshaw's Avatar
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    Default Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    With all the press on the other thread, let's hear a shout out to the men and women who are building today some of the best mandolins ever made... this IS the current Golden Age of Lutherie.


    I'll start. I have had two custom build experiences. Both with the same builder... both mandolins are lifetime keepers and superb instruments... more than I dreamed possible. Very positive experience with both. Unbelievable $/tone value.

    A happy customer X2.
    Rick in Memphis

  2. #2

    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    There Don of Red Diamond in the south , Michael Heiden in the north. In the wild West Ellis is kicking uo steam.

    As far as guitar let's remember the man who has been building 50 years Roy Noble.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I had a custom A-model built by Michigan luthier Paul Newson last year and it was an outstanding experience: great communication, frequent photo updates, and the instrument was exactly to my specs and delivered on schedule. He's a great builder and a great guy who loves all things mando!

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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I don't know if this qualifies as a "custom build" but in 1992 I asked Randy Wood to build me an F 5. After waiting about 9-10 months I was able to pick it up. It is everything anyone could want in an mandolin and it still amazes me with what is in it. Every now and then I get some of that out.

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    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Nice! I just last week received a mahogany/ad dreadnaught guitar from Terry Whipple, luthier to Robert Bowlin. The instrument is outstanding and the ongoing discussions on delivery time and details were very accurate and relaxed.

    I've had my Michael Heiden mandolin since 2005. Michael was always gracious and informative. During a visit to the Chilliwack BG fest Michael showed me the wood he had chosen. He asked me what I like & didn't like about the instrument I was playing at the time. He voiced the instrument flawlessly.
    It was his first, and to date only, lefty and it has great balance and tone.
    It was the mandolin that extinguished the flames of MAS.

    As a lefty....it almost always a custom order. Among the bigger guys, the team at Collings has made me a number of very fine guitars since 2000. I can't say enough good things about the people and the company.

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    Mandol'Aisne Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I had an excellent experience with Gary Vessel. I recommend him without reservation. Great mando, done on time, all expectations exceeded

    I have also had a guitar custom made by Hank Mauel of Auburn, CA. Great guy, marvelous guitar, completed exactly when he said it would be.

    Odd how complaints appear to be given more weight on the Internet than praise.

    Daniel

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    Registered User Rick Crenshaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I didn't intend to create this as a way to praise individual builders, but since others are naming their luthiers, I will too. I've got two Daley mandolins and there are five Daley mandolins in Memphis among four players... and we all know each other. It is not a coincidence that we own Daleys.
    Rick in Memphis

  8. #8

    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    VERY positive experiences with Ben Wilcox from BRW, Don Paine from POMEROY. Also Ken Ratcliff from SILVER ANGEL.

    Wouldn't hesitate to deal with any of them.

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    Registered User trevor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I work with over thirty US and Canadian guitar and mandolin luthiers. I get a few late deliveries but generally have great experiences. I have never had a really bad one.
    Trevor
    Formerly of The Acoustic Music Co (TAMCO) Brighton England now retired.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I have had one completed custom build, that went great... with John Monteleone... I waitedd over two years for the build, but I was satisfied in all ways.... wonderful instrument.

    I am currently going through a build with Bob Altman, and I can't speak highly enough of him. He is a top of the line person, great to work with, great to discuss instrument. He is willing to accomodate, and improve upon... just a wonderful experience... I have NO reservations working with him, even in the light of all that has gone down in the past several days.
    John D

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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I haven't had a custom build experience with a mandolin (although both of my mandolins were bought directly from their builders, and each was a great experience and a great mandolin, just not made specially for me!) but I've got two parlour guitars which I commissioned as custom builds, and both have been good experiences and resulted in great instruments.

    Fliss

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Awaiting my third instrument from Andrew Jerman (we made a little deal a few months ago). Everything is going well. The two instruments finished so far have proven satisfactory in every imaginable way, and the latest one is coming along nicely.

    On the other hand, I bought an incomplete mandola as a kit from Luthier A, who decided to quit his job and move to China. Gave it to Luthier B, who builds great guitars at giveaway prices when he's sober but hadn't really done a mandolin before. He made some progress but used epoxy on the dovetail neck joint! Ouch! Then I guess he decided not to be sober any more, so I got the mandola back and now it's with Luthier C, who's known more as a repairman than a luthier. Hoping he finishes it this year. It is behind schedule, but he's had to undo some of Luthier B's work, and has been through some personal difficulties. On the positive side, he doesn't call me names when I ask for a status update.

    If I had it to do over again: [1] I would not involve Luthier B at all. I was trying to save money and he quoted me a really cheap rate, but sometimes you get exactly what you pay for. [2] I would take a class and learn to put the darn thing together myself. I'm sure most luthiers would rather work on their own stuff than finish someone else's partially built instrument.

    Luthier C's scope of work does not include a finish job, so I may actually have to go to a fourth party to get that done.
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    Registered User chasray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I've had excellent experiences with Jonathan Mann, Ken Ratcliff (silverangel) and the Sound to Earth people. Highly recommend each of them.

  14. #14
    Ben Beran Dfyngravity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Let see,

    My first custom build was with Don MacRostie of Red Diamond mandolins. Don is a great guy who really knows his stuff. I was in high school at the time and he was very generous to me and was a pleasure to work with. My mandolin was somewhat custom and he delivered exactly what I wanted and sooner than he had said which was great. I hope to work with him in the future again sometime. He builds a fantastic mandolin, I really want to play one of his replicas!!.

    My second custom build was with Jon Mann. It was a 5 stringer electric that was a one-off custom PRS McCarty design. Again, here is a another builder who is just a great guy. Jon was really enthusiastic about the build and went to great lengths to make sure everything was perfect on that mandolin. I believe that build may have inspired one of his now popular design...?

    My next experience is with Dr. Dave Cohen, who lives just about 5 mins down the road from my house (how sweet is that!!!!). I originally went to see him for two reasons. First was to get my bridge fitted to my top and secondly was to get some insight on mandolin construction. Dr. Cohen is one of the finest guys you will ever meet. He offered a wealth of info to me and showed me his way of building. This is something he could have just said, no I don't have time, but he graciously took his time and explained a lot of process to me. Thanks so much Dr. Cohen!!! Well, like I said, I went to to have some work down and talk mandolins....low and behold I fell in love with his mandolins and a few months later I bought his "Sleek Black Beauty".....yeah, you know the one Ted reviewed over on his site Jazzmando. Dr. Cohen is just one cool dude who knows A LOT about the mandolin and acoustics. I highly recommend anything that he builds.

    Then there is Steve Holst. As we speak Steve is finishing up my third custom built mandolin. About 4 years ago I contacted Steve about this build and he was thrilled. Again, this is a one-off build, totally custom and out of the ordinary. Steve never hesitated and was genuinely excited about the build. Right before the build got underway I had some unexpected things come up and couldn't afford to start the build so I had to put it off. Well, I started to save up again and a little over a year ago I contacted Steve again and again he was thrilled. Basically I wanted him to build me a mandolin with the body shape of his jazz guitars. You can see pictures here in the post a pic section of the cafe. This has been truly a custom mandolin. Steve and I have been bouncing ideas back and forth the whole build. Which has been great and every time he sends me a new picture update I am like a kid in the candy store. It shouldn't be much longer. Anyways, just as the other builders I have dealt with, Steve is no exception....he is another great guy to work with who is extremely passionate about his work and goes the extra mile to make your dream instrument come true.

    So if you are in the market for a custom acoustic I can highly recommend Steve Holst, Dr. Cohen, or Don MacRostie. If you need and e-mando, there is only one builder you need to look at and that's Jon Mann (he also builds some fine acoutic mandolins too).

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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I had a positive experience with Stephen Owsley Smith.

    I also purchase used, but unplayed, instruments by Hans and Ben Wilcox. Hans a great guy and a real hoot to chat with, I would like to bug him all the time but I think it is best to leave these guys their space. I also went to meet Ben in Ostrander, Ohio and had a good visit to his shop while he did some treaking to the setup on the BRW for me. I happily paid him more than what he requested for his time. That was a positive experience.

    Being friends with both Mike Kemnitzer and Paul Newson I have a little understanding of the difficulties that builders inherit. Not an easy game of "make a lot of money while at home."

    It still is the Golden Age and I hope it stays that way, but in these economic times, tough for players and builders alike, I feel an greater need for community where no ones livelihood becomes smeared.
    Bill

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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Good experiences from John Arnold (guitar), Charles Jean Horner(fiddle), J.W. Green (fiddle), and Noel Booth(banjo). None of them required a deposit and I paid cash. All are considered very close friends.

  17. #17

    Smile Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    In august of 2009, I called Ken Ratcliff of Silver Angel mandolins and got on his waiting list. One month later he e-mailed that he was ready to start. We spent hours on the phone, going over every detail [ and this was for an " econo" model] . Two days after Christmas, I had the mandolin, on time and at the price agreed upon. Not only was the mandolin exactly what I hoped it would be, I now consider Ken a freind, even though we've never met. Getting to work with a builder is an incredible learning experience, and I feel a greater connection to this instrument than I would have otherwise.

  18. #18
    Registered User Steve-o's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    My two custom builds were both very positive experiences: Andy Poe was a gem to work with and offered many artistic ideas. I trusted his lead on the creative aspects and also emphasized that I was in no hurry and did not want him to feel rushed. Howard Morris was also a gracious builder who took little more than a month to build and deliver his product.

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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I'll chime in here for Don Paine. He was very good at communicating with me, and I can be pretty overbearing after I have money committed. He was never more than three weeks off, from the start time to the finish time. I was very happy with the process. If I had the itch fo a Pomeroy, I would not hesitate to work with Don again.

    I'll add that I also had my Weber Fern custom built, with things like a different than standard top wood, very specific neck, and a one-piece back. It took four or five months and Weber was in touch with me all the way.

    I know it's not as sexy to talk about a "company" being easy to work with, but I think it's important to honor the bigger operations if they do things with class and sophistocstion. I can attest that Weber does both.
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    Registered User Mark Gibbs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I first met Wyatt Wilkie when he was living 30 miles from me in Crescent City CA. That was in 2006. He had been building mandolins for many years and i got to play several of them, all unique and sounded great. I was not shopping for a mando at the time as i had been playing my 1976 Givens F-5 sense it was new. Well i lost touch with Wyatt and tracked him down via the internet last spring to find him as the Master Craftsman at Benedetto guitars. Wyatt was building one of a kind arch tops for Bob B. and had completed 70 arch tops in 2 years. Talk about production. 70 one of a kind arch tops in 2 years, WOW. These guitars sell in excess of 40k. So we rekindled a friendship and he tells me he is still making mandolins and has 3 on the bench soon to be finished. Well at this point I'm really not looking to replace my Givens but i figure with his history of mandolin building and his years under Bob Benedetto I'd have him send me one of his mandolins. For me a keeper mandolin is all about the sound first. Well i strummed the open strings once and it was sold. After a short time i decided to have him build me another mando like the first but with exotic maples and exotic hardware. I understand that mando will be finished soon.

    Wyatt has left Benedetto Guitars and opened up his own shop is his home province of Vancouver B.C. In a few short months he has 12 mandolins and 5 archtop guitars on the bench almost compleated. His web sight is under construction soon to be online.

    All that to say this. This was my first time dealing with a custom builder and i have no regrets or complaints. Our numerous correspondences have been professional and courteous. I'll attach some photos.
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  21. #21
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Bravo, Rick! A really thoughtful move.

    Mick
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    Registered User steve V. johnson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I haven't had a mandolin built for me, but I've seen a lot of custom mandolins that I do like.

    I have had a guitar built for me by John Greven in 1978 and Phil Crump built a bouzouki for me in 2001. I love them both and I had a great time working with both luthiers.

    I've spoken with several builders about my ideas for a custom mandolin, and as soon as I can afford to commission one, I certainly will.

    I've owned a good number of used custom-made instruments and I enjoyed them all, on the whole a lot more than the off-the-shelf ones I've had.

    Come to think of it, I've met quite a few mandolin-family luthiers and there's only one whom I wouldn't consider working with for a custom instrument.

    Custom is the way to go.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I've been lucky enough to commission three full-custom instruments, all guitars, but the process and the pros/cons are similar to the world of mandolins:

    * A baritone steel string acoustic from Harvey Leach
    * A K-250 semihollow archtop electric from Steve Holst
    * A classical/crossover nylon string guitar from Steve Holst

    Also two semi-custom instruments:

    * A Santa Cruz guitar with wood supplied through Steve Swan's shop
    * A Breedlove mandola (Radim Zenkl acoustic-electric four string), ordered through Mandolin Brothers shop.

    I've been very happy with all these instruments, and I have to say that the most satisfying ones are those where I had email conversations with the independent luthiers (Leach and Holst), where I felt like it was something of a collaborative process, and not just buying a standard model.

    P.S. I'll second Ben's comment about how Steve Holst is enthusiastic about projects that are a little out of the ordinary. Both my orders were based on his standard models, but the K-250 had a wider neck, shorter scale, and RMC hex pickups. The nylon string guitar had a slightly smaller-than-classical nut width, and a shorter scale.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    I had a positive build experience with Austin Clark. The mandolin was beautiful and arrived during the estimated time frame. Austin made suggestions to help me out when I wasn't sure of something and sent pictures of the progress.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Post here if you've had a POSITIVE custom build experience

    Professor Bussman has built me two really fine instruments, starting and finishing each ahead of schedule. I especially liked the email and phone communications, his photos of the instruments in progress, and the consideration of various single malt scotch whiskeys as models for the coloration of the back and sides. I would love to see his shop one day: I have this mental image of a pink adobe building with little more than a bench inside, and a couple of espadrilles tacked to the wall with planes and chisels jammed in them. On second thought, I want to keep that image.
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