Rural Missouri - May 2012 - (Page 22)

The Mand 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 map. T For nearly 25 years, Paul Crouse has been a familiar face at North Central Missouri Electric Cooperative. But his hobby of handcrafting woodenmandolins has made the Crouse name equally well known in the bluegrass world. 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 from Ohio.” 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. 22 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2012

Rural Missouri - May 2012
Table of Contents
Moonshine mystique
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
News Briefs
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - May 2012