Why hand made mandolins?

At the Acoustic Music Company I am often asked how hand made instruments differ from similarly priced mandolins made by the 'famous names'.

Wood selection; small quantities of the best woods can be hand selected for their tonal and visual qualities by a luthier making a few mandolins a year. Imagine selecting the best 1% of the woods the big makers use and only rejecting that, this is what the small makers are able to do, and by visiting suppliers that only have small quantities of wood available - and building up long term relationships with them - woods can be obtained that are effectively not available to the big names..

Wood use; even in the highest quality tonewoods there are minor variations, even in wood from the same part of the same tree. The individual craftsman can allocate woods with the desired weight, density and flexibility to the appropriate instrument.

Tuning; tops (soundboards) are tap tuned (held loosely and tapped to hear the tone) then thickness and bracing is adjusted by very small amounts to achieve the desired tonal characteristics. I have often watched luthiers shave a few thousandths of an inch off a brace and remark how much the tone has improved.

In mass production this attention to detail is not possible. Add to this the personal involvement of the luthier with their name on the instrument and I believe that these are the best mandolins available. They are works of art both acoustically and aesthetically. 

I keep over 50 mandolin family instruments from mid range models to those made by the world's finest mandolin luthiers; mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, bouzouki, mandocello and mandobass. For an explanation of the different mandolin family members see the Mandolin Family Explained page on this website.