Rural Missouri - May 2012 - (Page 22)
Paul Crouse builds one-of-a-kind mandolins at his h
by Kyle Spradley
mous with bluegrass music. Pioneers
such as Bill Monroe and
the Blue Sky Boys put Kentucky
and the Carolinas on the forefront
of bluegrass mandolins.
Now, a luthier from Milan is
putting Missouri on the mandolin
For nearly 25 years, Paul
Crouse has been a familiar face at
North Central Missouri Electric
Cooperative. But his hobby of
has made the Crouse name
equally well known in the bluegrass
When Paul started at the coop
as an apprentice lineman, he
always had a knack for building
and construction. It was a request
from a friend that got him into
the mandolin-making business.
Paul Crouse poses with one of his handcrafted F-5 mandolins he makes at his home in Milan.
“A late friend of mine one day was talking about
wanting to buy a mandolin, but he couldn’t afford
it,” says Paul. “I told him, ‘Why not let me build you
one?’ He kind of laughed at the thought of the idea,
but I guess that was more of an incentive for me.”
Two decades later, and now operations manager at
the co-op, Paul has made nearly 30 mandolins that
have found homes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and
in the hands of several musicians across Missouri.
Paul admits that his fi rst instrument wasn’t pretty,
but nowadays the inlay and intricate carving work
he hard-hitting and
high-pitched sound of
a curvaceous, wooden
mandolin is synony-
he does stands with the best.
“I ruined a whole set of
wood on that fi rst try,” jokes
Paul. “But I had nothing to go
by but a blueprint for a mandolin
I bought from Stewart
MacDonald, a manufacturer
There are several types
of mandolins being created
today, but Paul specializes
in the F-style. The “Fs” are
known for their sensuous
curves and how little effort it
takes to play them while sitting
down. The decorative,
curved scroll highlights one
side of the oval-shaped body.
Two points on the opposite
side add character.
Two distinctive F-shaped
soundholes on top of the
body set this style apart from
the similar and ever-popular
A-style mandolin, where a circular
soundhole is cut into the
middle of the body.
Paul does make an occa-
sional A-style mandolin, but prefers the louder,
brighter sound of an F.
“I also make what I call an FA-5,” says Paul. “It’s
kind of a combination of an F- and A-style. It has
more of a teardrop shape with the F-holes, but no
points on the side.”
Above: Paul Crouse uses a fi nger plane to shape the
top, or soundboard, of a mandolin. Paul will spend
several hours planing the spruce wood soundboard for
the right thickness and arch shape to produce quality
tones. Right: A close-up look at a Crouse mandolin’s
pearl inlay on the headstock reveals the intricate work
that Paul puts into his wooden mandolins.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2012
Rural Missouri - May 2012
Table of Contents
Missouri snapshots contest
Curbing copper theft
Out of the Way Eats
The mandolin man
Knight for hire
Hearth and Home
The kid with the electric car
Rural Missouri - May 2012
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