Mendel, Joe Learn More +
My gut tells me it’s not a thing most people take much time to think about,
their biography, their story. Certainly, I have not, but the exercise of pulling
this together is illuminating, and so I recommend that you take a moment
to pull together some words that tell your story. You might discover
Looking back, I find two interests that trace back to my youth that, through
my persistence, ultimately came together as the foundation for my work
crafting instruments. My interest in the playing the drums while attending
grade school was as non-productive as my first efforts with a cross-cut
saw. Many of us learn throughout life that persistence is the key – we are
compelled by certain interests and must confront that a great deal of work
is required to master them.
Through my youth, piano lessons were a part of life. The Beatles
appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was the moment that I became
certain the guitar would be how I would make music in the future. As soon
as my sister lost interest in her guitar, it became mine and piano lessons
changed to guitar lessons.
My grade school efforts making sawdust matured in my teens and I built a
progression of projects. A checkerboard or a table can easily not earn a
second glance by those passing by, but if you’ve made them from raw
lumber, they are very meaningful, no matter their imperfections.
My interests in guitar and woodworking intersected when a repairman
suggested I learn about a supplier to the instrument building trade,
Stewart MacDonald. A workplace friend reacquainted me with the
bluegrass music that I had first experienced in guitar lessons and inspired
me to build dulcimers and mandolins from kits. My skills impressed others
to the degree they would ask me to work on their instruments.
Life brought me to a challenging time, the unanticipated end of my
everyday traditional manufacturing work for General Motors. But with the
support of my wife, I travelled to South Plains College Texas to attend a
luthier program to learn the craft. That education provided me the
foundation to apprentice and then take on repair work from multiple retail
music stores for more than a decade.
My acquaintance, with Joe Carr, a teacher at SPC and writer and editor
for Mel Bay invited me to interview mandolin and ukulele builders for their
internet publications. The success of that project led to a request to build
an octave mandolin for Joe, beginning my transition from repairing the
work of others to crafting my own instruments.
Hearing music created by award winning musicians performing using
instruments I have designed and built from materials I selected is an
experience I would never have imagined in the days of my youth, but the
persistent work over a lifetime has brought me there many times over. A
friend tells me the old saying goes “By the work, one knows the
workman”, and believes it to be true of my instruments. I’d be grateful for