The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Mandolin Heaven

Those who read my post Blistering Fingertips will know that I’m rather excited about the fact that I’ve started playing the mandolin again, and that one of the things I discovered at the Folk Night was that my old mandolin was rather quiet, and not particularly up to the job. So I decided to buy myself a new one.

The following day we went into Dumfries to see the selections of mandolins the music shop had in stock. Fylde MandolinThey ranged from around £80 to £140, but sounded a bit tinny for my liking. The shop did, however, have one for £300 (approx $550), which was certainly a cut above the rest. As it was the only one, I was reluctant to buy it: it was more expensive than the others and I wondered what other £300 mandolins might sound like. So we headed out to a large music shop I know about 10 miles from Carlisle.

This music shop had more mandolins, but they were all priced between £50 and £150, and none of them took my fancy. I asked if they had any out the back and was told that they had a Fylde Touchstone Mandolin in their Newcastle branch, which they could get sent over. Fylde are hand made instruments and are considerably more expensive (about £600). The thought of trying one out, to see whether the extra price really could be justified, appealed so I said bring it over. However, they couldn’t get it across for a few days, they would let me know when it was in.

Having run my own business, I’m always amazed when salesmen don’t seem to recogniseFylde Logo that I’m giving all the buying signs and ought to be able to close the deal with me on the spot. Worse than that, the guy I spoke to then went on holiday and nobody bothered asking for the mandolin to be shipped across. By the end of last week, when I phoned up, no one knew anything about it. I was to be called back again, but wasn’t, and so it went on.

So I took things into my own hands and tracked down Fylde Guitars, discovering that they were based in Penrith, only about 20 miles down the road from Carlisle.

Anyway, to cut to the point, I was out there yesterday and have bought myself a Fylde Single Fylde Mandolin Close-upMalt Touchstone Mandolin. The Single Malt version is actually made:

“…from timbers reclaimed from the Scotch Whisky trade. The top is built up from sections of Oregon pine from a washback vessel from the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye. This vessel held hot spirit continually for around forty years before the timber came to Fylde. The back and sides are quartered oak from salvaged single malt Whisky casks, which have been soaked in maturing alcohol first in America or Spain, then in Scotland, for perhaps ten years before reaching our workshop. The neck and fingerboard are made from sections of both timbers. These timbers seem to suit mandolins remarkably well, adding a deep and mature nature to the sound.”

It is the most beautiful mandolin I have ever seen and it sounds divine. It is another couple of hundred pounds more than the normal Touchstone mandolin, but it is worth it. I know I’ve spent far more money than I intended, but it feels like I went out to buy a Ford Escort and have ended up with an Aston Martin DB9.

My fingertips are getting sore again as I can’t put the thing down. In fact, I think I'll just have another wee go...

25 comments

Mary said...

as a fellow mandolin player i can relate to your search for an instrument that really suits you. i think fylde makes great stuff. we don't get much of it here in the US, but i've played a few of their zouks and octaves. i like the looks of the one you selected. play it in good health.

Kim Ayres said...

Hi Mary - welcome to my ramblings.

My next dream, when/if I can afford it is to get one of their guitars. They also do a Single Malt Whisky guitar, which I saw at their workshop and it was gorgeous. I had a quick go and it sang beautifully.

One day!

Dr Maroon said...

For as long as I can remember I have always loved things that were made well. There’s a name for that, that I can't remember. Does it smell nice? Does it feel great? It looks beautiful. The sound will be down to you.
As a philosopher you will be familiar with Bacon’s dictum so you should be at ease that you paid more for the better one. Well done. The considered life in action.

Kim Ayres said...

It looks good, feels great and if I spill whisky on it, it shouldn't do any harm!

Gyrobo said...

I've never learned how to play a musical intrument. Strange, since it runs in my family. Just remember to get it insured.

--==/ Don't stop breathing! \==--

BStrong said...

Kim,
What a beautiful instrument. The sound quality and your satisfaction should make you feel at ease for slightly going over budget. Just don't play near any candles or to close to cigarettes.

Build up those calluses

Enjoy,
B

Kim Ayres said...

Gyrobo - sometimes when it runs in the family you end up rebelling against it. My mother used to play the piano and tried to teach me. I hated it and dropped it as soon as I could. I didn't take up the guitar until a few years later.

BStrong - these fingers are starting to toughen up a bit, but I'll find out tomorrow night when there's a folk session in a neighbouring town that I intend to go along to

Ramana Siddharth said...

reading u write about the mandolin is like reading something someone has written about his/her sweetheart!u seem 2 have got a disigner mandolin!made of vantage wood where wine was stored..hmmm,sounds exotic!hey maybe u must record stuff u play in ur mandolin and put them up in audioblogs...so that we can hear u!

Asher Hunter said...

You definitely have it right ... spending £150 on something you don't like and will never really be happy with is a waste of good money. Spending £600 on something you love and cherish is a wise investment.

Gyrobo said...

Actually, no one tried to get me to play an instrument. I guess it was assumed that since everyone in my family loved playing some kind of instrument, that I would eventually find one I liked. Never did. Shame, though. Would've been fun to know how to play music.

Kim Ayres said...

Siddharth - maybe one day, but at the moment I'm certainly not good enough.

Asher - my thoughts exactly!

Gyrobo - it's never too late to start, you just have to want to enough!

Jeff said...

What a wonderful story and I can so relate to the sales people that have not been trained to see the obvious signs that a buyer is ready to wrap up the deal.

The picture of your new mandolin are very beautiful and to know how and what it is made of makes for a remarkable story and discussion peice.

Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to visit one of my favorite places again and enjoy a fine cigar and a nice single malt and hear that mandolin.

Kim Ayres said...

Just let me know any time that you're likely to be in this part of the world Jeff!

Gyrobo said...

My problem is that I never really WANT anything enough to actually go out and DO something about it. That's why I spend all my time blogging instead of learning something new.

Although, I AM working on a computer game in my free time. I hope to have it finished by January. That's my New Years resolution. And it's something I WANT very much.

Kim Ayres said...

Then pursue your passion Gyrobo!

Andraste said...

Good for you! I have two guitars and a drum kit sitting in my basement, collecting dust, going all warped and out of tune...though to be fair, they're all cheapies I found in local pawn shops or cobbled together from used instruments. But an instrument like this mandolin of which you speak...I would treasure that!

About once a week, when I listen to some really great music, I think "I should get the guitar/drums out and get them fixed up, start playing again. Of course, I get busy with other things and the feeling passes.

Kim Ayres said...

Start a band up Andraste!

Andraste said...

Tried a few times to do just that in my youth. Finally realized that I don't have the discipline for rehearsing, setting up gigs, TUNING the bloody stuff...alas.

Though I do have some musical friends who are not busy in bands of their own right now. Perhaps a stupid cover band for parties and a residency at the local...

First step, get an intonation adjustment on that Fender MusicMaster, some new strings...oh, and an amp...

Wait, this is already costing $$!!

Kim Ayres said...

What price a few pennies Andraste? You're the same age as me, which means you'll be periodically wondering what happened to those lost dreams of your youth. Start a punk revival and spit on the audience - you'll feel much better for it ;)

Stella said...

Kim, sounds like you're in love!!! I don't play any instrument, only the puter keyboard, and have great admiration for anyone who can. Enjoy

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Stella. Are you ever going to develop a blog of your own?

Stella said...

Dunno about developing a blog - seems like a huge commitment. I think I would get bored and neglect it. Maybe I'm just lazy, or scared nobody would read it, or scared somebody would read it!

Kim Ayres said...

Well, at least update your profile and allow others to see it. It would be interesting to know whether you are a one-legged teenage athlete, a mother, a waitress, a doctor, unemployed, self-employed, or a transvestite pensioner.

You don't have to use real names of people and places if you fear being identified.

But if you need any help, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. you can get mine from my blogger profile if you want.

Stella said...

LOL Kim - you make me sound SO interesting! Nothing mysterious or dramatic about me. Have just set up a blog but think I might need help, especially with links etc.

Kim Ayres said...

Excellent! I'll come over and comment on your blog soon!

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