Prologue: The Topshelf Luthiers Series
Every single note strummed on any single string is a symphony of talent, care, and love harmonized by a chorus of backstage players. Music, like so many already know, is a community; not just the relationship between musicians and audience, but spanning the entire constellation of makers and artisans who see their own craft bloom from behind the scenes of great performances. At Calton Cases, these unsung heroes can often be the loudest voice in the room, if you choose to listen. So starting today, in our Top Shelf Luthier series, we’re turning the spotlight on the luthiers, those exceptional artisans who bridge the gateway from amazing musicians to musical icons. In each of these entries, we’ll highlight the greatest in craftsmanship, style, tone and artistry to fully celebrate those who make music posible and take musicians to impossible heights. To open this series on a high note, we’re excited to take a deeper look at Tom Ellis and the talented team at Ellis Mandolins.
To understand Ellis Mandolins’ unique approach to instruments, you need look no further than their poignant masthead on their website:
“With a master’s touch and an artist’s eye for detail, Tom Ellis uses his over 40 years of experience in instrument building to create heirloom quality works of art.“
To Tom Ellis’, luthiery is an art. From his decadent pearl inlays to luxurious materials and designs – the experience of an Ellis mandolin starts with your eyes. But to hear it played, the rich and melodic notes of an F5 strummed by sentimental hands; it becomes a full body experience. He is considered one of the best living mandolin luthiers in the world; a moniker well-earned by the musicians he encounters along the way.
He’s a powerful creator in the mandolin-making community and his attention to detail has led him to building an incredible testament to luthiery, in the form of Ellis Mandolins.
The Ellis Mandolin Family
According to their website: Tom Ellis grew up near Houston and enjoyed woodworking in his teens – mostly building surfboards. Surprisingly, he didn’t build his first mandolin until 1972, but once he finished this first instrument, he knew he was in love, and in quick succession, retired from surfboard creation and packed up for the live music capital of the world: Austin, Tx.
Soon after, Tom was joined by an exceptional cast of Mandolin makers, all gifted with exceptional skills and abilities all their own.
Pava Knezevic, with her own astounding talents and care, provides delicate and precise assembly and finishing skills to the Ellis Mandolin brand. She has since used these skills to carry on her own brand of exceptional mandolin making at the widely-revered Pava Mandolins.
Meanwhile, with a cast of talented artisans like Christian McAdams, Mary Melena, and Josh Luttrell, all of whom are managed by the supremely talented Cathy Pelosi – Ellis Mandolins collectively are an unstoppable force for premium craftsmanship in the field of mandolin making.
The Ellis Process
Craftsmanship, the revered pedigree of the Ellis tradition, starts at the roots. More specifically it begins with his penchant for wood pairing and selection. The premium grade woods featured all along Ellis Mandolins’ catalogue are typically a combination of Adirondack red spruce and sugar maple siding. These fine foundations all harmonize deliciously as a buffet of sight and sumptuous sound in their assembly. These, alongside the precision pearl inlay are blended delicately with the hot hide glue construction. Finally, every piece caps off with a beautiful french polish finish and Ellis tradition inlay. The result is decadence, and the sensation of its play is unlike any other mandolins on the market.
The Maestros Behind the Musicians
Ellis Mandolins have earned their prodigious reputation through their dedication to quality and the burgeoning skill incumbent of their incredible operation. But that’s not just an opinion we hold here at Calton – Tom Ellis was praised by David Grisman in Frets Magazine as one of the top 5 mandolin builders of our time. Meanwhile, iconic musicians that are faithfully Ellis mandolin players include Ricky Skaggs, Steve Smith, Billy Bright, Baron Collins-Hill, Jordan Ramsey, Dan Bui, & Tricia Ann Eaves.
For all this, Ellis Mandolins are mandolins we at Calton Cases proudly provide cases for and are thrilled to celebrate today in our Top Shelf Luthier Series. To find out more about the amazing work at Ellis Mandolins, visit their site at https://www.ellismandolins.com/ or to have a case customized for your own Ellis Mandolin, visit our mandolin design section here: https://www.calton-cases.com/shop/mandolin-cases/