Friday, 25 February 2011

Paul Hathway Octave Mandola

Over the last couple of years I've played many different octave mandolas. Finally, I've found one which is head, shoulders and at least trunk above the rest. It's made by Paul Hathway.

Paul lives in Wanstead, where he builds the most beautiful stringed instruments; I went to see him. He made me welcome, gave me a coffee and showed me his shop, which occupies part of the upstairs at his house. Around the wall hang dozens of different instruments; it's crammed, and fabulous. Paul had placed several mandolas on a worktop, of different woods and finishes, and invited me to try them out. He left me on my own to play, so I didn't feel self-conscious while I fumbled to get round them for the first time.

Across the landing is Paul's workshop. After a lovely time with each mandola, I stuck my head round his door. Inside, hanging round the wall were half-completed guitars, mandolas, bouzoukis, some just skeletons, while Paul worked on them. I waved my chosen instrument and beamed; he smiled back.

Paul's mandolas are almost completely undecorated, and they aren't serially-numbered. He's not into that sort of thing. But compared with others of its type, my Hathway has astonishingly better action, tone, sustain and intonation - it rings out, and doesn't bite your fingers off.

It's also practical. The edge between top and sides is curved so it doesn't dig into your forearm, and it comes already fitted with a strap-peg in the heel.
It's comfortable to hold and well-balanced on the strap. The pick-up battery is accessible, located in a box with a pop-up top let into the back of the instrument. I so enjoy playing it; thanks, Paul.

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