In the three decades since building his first mandolin, Paul Duff has focused on applying the skills he has developed to his one true passion; the mandolin family of instruments produced by Gibson in the 1920s.
Paul’s love of bluegrass music drew him to the F5 mandolin that Bill Monroe played and as a result, the first mandolin that he built was an F5 copy. His attention has since broadened to include other instruments from the ‘Loar Period’ and he now offers mandolas, mandocellos and archtop guitars.
As a hands-on kind of builder Paul doesn’t use a CNC carving machine but does have a hand operated pantograph router that allows him to focus on the all-important task of hand carving the top and back plates. Pearl and abalone inlays are cut by hand while the sunburst finishes are applied by hand using French polish.
Believing that the development of the eye and ear are crucial to honing his skills, Paul realizes that it takes years to gain an understanding of how an instrument should look and sound. ‘Perhaps another thirty years at the bench and I’ll be well on the way to getting my head around it,’ he says.
Gibson built its first L-5 with a cut-away in 1939, by which time the model had a 17-inch wide Advanced body size. Paul Duff has imagined what a 16-inch cutaway L-5 might have looked like with this guitar.