September 16, 2002

A. L. Smart "long neck" two point, oval hole mandolin
(another A. Stern and A.L.Smart collaboration)

(Click on photos for the full page photo tour)

After I received my 2 point Florentine f-hole mandolin from Lawrence Smart in July of 2000, I decided to order another 2 point, this time an oval hole. I had been looking for a round hole mandolin for a few years, having previously owned various Gibson A models, but eventually trading up. I had tried an old teens F2 even a 1924 Virzi F4, but had grown accustomed to the longer F5 type neck. A custom mandolin was the required and I never considered anyone but Lawrence to build it. My first collaboration with him was great fun for both of us. He openly welcomed my input and the first instrument came out fabulous. Lawrence is a talented musician, playing fiddle, mandolin, and guitar and his instruments have incredible tone.

I was interested in some details from D'Aquisto and D'Angelico mandolins that I had seen in photos. So, in collaboration with Lawrence, I designed a headstock, and binding details, and with inspiration from D'Aquisto made the treble side point asymmetric, for up the neck playing, like a jazz guitar body. The pickguard shape and cutout also are inspired by D'Aquisto, but the quilted big leaf maple was all Lawrence! As is the carving and x-bracing, which is his specialty. The dimensions of the instrument are similar to his other A models. Smart instruments are known for their complex tone and they have incredible sustain. He is also known for using beautiful wood. I asked for aesthetic design details but left the important part up to the master. The pickguard quilted maple matches the sides and back. The one piece back is an unbelievable piece of Big Leaf maple, a photo only suggests the beauty. The deeply quilted pattern is like a hologram, varying as you look from different angles. The black face allows a view through to the englemann spruce grain pattern and isn't totally black, it has a golden quality shining through in the right light. The top plate is from the same board as my first mandolin. I used silver Waverlies for tuners and a Gilchrist hinged tailpiece like I had used on the Florentine f-hole 2 point. The blocks in the fretboard match the tuner buttons, and the blocks transition into the oval hole rosette.

Playability is fantastic, I love the long neck, and the tone is fabulous, especially considering it is a new instrument. It plays cleanly & clearly way up the neck and is very balanced. Lawrence Smart is an incredibly talented luthier, he builds using wood from right around his home in McCall, Idaho. His client list includes Mike Marshall and John Reischmann who play his mandolas, Matt Flinner has a bouzouki, Nick Forster owns both a mandolin and a mandola, and Ben Winship plays a Smart mandolin. Peter Mix has a mandolin and Paul Ebersman has both a mandolin and an octave mandolin in the next batch. I saw them under construction on my recent visit to McCall.

I would not hesitate to recommend him to anyone looking for a special instrument. Lawrence is great person to do business with.

Thanks Lawrence, for building the oval hole instrument of my dreams!

Arthur Stern

Arthur Stern , A.L.Smart oval hole two point, Idaho, 9-15-02