Located in nearby Dolores, Colorado—just over an hour’s drive from Telluride—master luthier Bobby Wintringham of San Juan Mandolins has garnered a strong reputation for building high-quality and great-sounding mandolin family instruments the old way. Using only the finest tone woods, Bobby starts each San Juan mandolin by hand carving the top and back plates and then tuning and shaping traditional tone bars to maximize the tonal potential of the instrument. Although many builders have moved away from this old-world approach, the result is fine, complex sound and individuality within each instrument.
This 2004 San Juan H-5 Mandola (#2-18) is an excellent example of Bobby’s work. It features a Red Spruce top and gorgeous Flame Maple back, sides and neck. Its design is essentially a traditional F-style Mandola with a 16-3/8″ scale length that helps drive the top. Its tone is powerful and warm with nice sustain. It cuts like an F-style mandolin, but it’s darker and woodier sounding. This one has a stripped “speed neck” and radius fingerboard, so it’s very playable and inviting to mandolin players who may not be as familiar with a mandola. Gold-plated Schaller tuning machines keep this Mandola properly in tune, and a custom-made Fishman saddle transducer pickup keeps this one ready for any stage. As for aesthetics, Bobby’s meticulous French polish spirit varnish finish shows off the impressive figuring in the tone woods and the Maple binding around the body, fingerboard and peghead overlay. The abalone rose inlay on the headstock completes a look that is as unmistakable as this mandola’s sound. It is an impressive instrument from an impressive builder.
This 2004 San Juan H-5 Mandola includes a custom-made, form-fitting Calton case. This mandola is consigned to Telluride Music Co. from the personal collection of Drew Emmitt from Leftover Salmon and Emmitt/Nershi Band.