Here is a short description of my custom built Lawrence Smart Florentine mandolin, instrument #169.
The top is honey colored blonde Engelmann spruce from Idaho. The back, sides and neck are a dark brown sunburst, quarter-sawn maple, from the northeastern United States. It has a very tastefully done French polish spirit varnish finish. This technique of finish results in a nice balance between flat and gloss. The neck is “three-piece” with an ebony strip down the center. The triple binding of black/white/black is beautiful against the background of the blonde top. The instrument is fitted with Waverly tuners, ebony buttons, a slim ebony pick-guard, and a Gary Price tailpiece.
Playability is excellent. There is a compound radius to the fret-board, like a cut from a cone having a tighter radius near the nut and almost flat at the end. This makes the neck mechanically fast and an easy instrument to play. The varnish is hard enough to give a slick surface to slide on when changing position. My preference is for a rounded neck profile but Lawrence will make the profile exactly as you want it.
The sound is outstanding. I had a voice in mind that emphasizes a clear and focused fundamental with a woody punchy tone to be used mostly in bluegrass music. I also asked Lawrence for a strong bass so that on tunes with an extended bass run you can be heard clearly without having to overdrive the strings. He really pegged the tonal qualities of the sound. Volume is huge, so with a moderate input from the player you are able to get a big sound. At the same time it sounds sweet and soft when played with a light stroke. Chop is great, with the percussive brush of a snare and the “pop” of the chord tone at the same time. All strings are nicely balanced in volume and quality is maintained all of the way up the neck.
Lawrence has been building mandolins for about 20 years, and over this time has honed his skills to be considered one of the best builders today. This reputation comes from working closely with the musician to build an instrument that fully expresses that person's skill. Being a musician himself on fiddle, mandolin and guitar, to Lawrence building instruments is “all about the music” and making instruments musicians will love to play.
Lawrence has really hit his stride, check out his instruments.