I'm finishing up 4 of this batch, trying to get them finished and played a bit before the WinterGrass festival in Bellevue, Washington at the end of February. Two with sitka spruce tops and two with redwood. The redwood tops are from one piece of wood, one with "f" holes and the other with an oval hole. These two instruments are matched pretty closely so we can compare these two styles of mandolin. Of course the oval has a different bracing, with an X brace. We'll see how they sound.
X-Brace on Redwood, ready to trim
Update: We are having a great time at Wintergrass 2014. At the last minute, John Bear showed up and he and Ren helped me get three mandolins ready for the weekend. I brought one with a sitka top and two redwood topped mandolins. One with "f" holes and one with an oval hole, both redwood tops cut from the same piece of wood. The last one was strung up right in the booth on Thursday night and all are settling in nicely. It's has been so dramatic how much they change in those first few hours of playing. I love being able to sit back and listen to my instruments being played by all these very different players. I can really hear how each instrument and wood type projects out into the room.
This year at Wintergrass in Bellevue, Washington was the first time I've put my instruments out there for the public to see, play and comment on. I learned a lot from the other builders and musicians, and played some good tunes with old and new friends who stopped by the booth. As you can see in this post from Mandolin Cafe, the general feeling was very positive as a big variety of musicians, young and old, beginner to pro, picked up and played these new mandolins. The big surprise for me was the Douglas Fir "Firewood" topped mandolin I brought. At first I wasn't so sure it would sing out like the other ones, but after just a little playing it started to come alive with a real voice of it's own. We got to see some music at Wintergrass as well as hanging out in the booth.
On the top of my list was the sublime evening concert by the David Grisman Sextet. I must note all the amazing musicians... Jim Kerwin on bass. His solid rhythmic foundation, beautiful tone and clear, story-telling solos are a joy to hear. George Marsh on percussion, laying it down, right in the pocket, making it look so cool and easy with just enough emotional enhancement to let the others shine. Grant Gordy on guitar, focusing his eyes and energy directly on the band leader, playing off and around David Grisman's clear stage directions while exploring his own territory clearly and individually. Mike Barnett on some of the most expressive fiddle you can hear anywhere. Matt Eakle with a smooth, round, tone on his flute that expressed joy in every note. And between those beautiful notes, sending out the good vibes in all directions. I hope people realize just how clean and tight these guys are and it's all because of the great song writing, arranging and leadership of David Grisman. This is craftsmanship at it's highest level.... I love this band.