IF KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN, IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF the modern mandolin, and Lloyd Loar its greatest architect, then surely that standard is upheld today by Stephen Gilchrist, an incredible luthier from Warrnambool, Australia. Steve built his first mandolin in 1976, working from photographs of Gibson instruments. In 1980 he moved to Nashville to work for George Gruhn, the noted vintage-instrument scholar and dealer. By the time he returned to Australia in 1982, Steve had assimilated a vast amount of first-hand knowledge through observing and repairing hundreds of original instruments. His mandolin designs have been essentially very faithful to the Loar-period precepts, although he has successfully experimented with an X-bracing pattern and earlier-era dimensions for his pickguards and peghead contours ("F-5s with F-4 sensibilities"). This Model 5 mandolin was custom made for David Grisman, and is a replica of a 1923 F-5. The details of carving, inlay, and finish (spirit varnish) are, if anything, finer than on the originals. Of today’s mandolin builders, Steve is probably the most prolific, having built some 280-odd instruments to date.
(from Tone Poems CD booklet , used by permission)
Photography by Eric Harger