One of the best practitioners in the art of mandolin and guitar construction today is Ray Dearstone, who has been making mandolins and guitars for over eighteen years. Ray's approach to building these instruments is not radical. He adheres to time-proven methods, with great respect for the classic designs. Ray builds mandolins, archtop guitars, and violins in the traditional way, applying great skill to carefully hand-carve the arched top and back, a process that tunes the instrument's body to its most resonant pitch. This critical step is required to deliver volume and tonal complexity. It is one of the main reasons that the mandolin, archtop guitar and violin, have never adapted well to mass production or assembly line methods. Machine precision alone cannot create a great sounding instrument. Variations in wood density and flexibility require minute adjustments in the arching graduations that are best achieved by skillfully applied hand methods. Carving the top and back graduation is the true test for a luthier and it is here where Ray Dearstone's skills really shine. His mandolins and guitars possess a deep, woody tone, with a pronounced bass timbre that retains, amazingly, a sparkling bell-like brightness in the higher treble range. Ray's growing reputation, however, doesn't rest only with making an instrument with great tone. What is most striking is the consistent quality of tone from one of Ray's instruments to the next. He has been able to develop a tonal signature that takes into account the individual characteristics of each piece of wood to create a remarkably complex acoustic chamber capable of producing rich musical tones. This consistency is very important to buyers of custom-made instruments.
From an article by Tony Bolin
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