Mando News 2008 by Tim Reddy

With the emphasis in the Triggs shop during the 2008 year changing to more production time dedicated to mandolins, Jim and Ryan Triggs are cranking out the F-5’s. The archtop guitar production will be cut back significantly to only 5 instruments total for the year. By year’s end the Triggs team plans on finishing ten to twelve mandolins. Also several flat top guitars will be completed soon as the guys get ready for the fall festival season.

Jim and Ryan have been involved with the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas for seven years now. In the beginning they built an F-5 mandolin and donated it to be used as one of the mandolin contest prizes. Three years ago festival promoter Bob Redford offered them a move to be able to make a flat top guitar for the International Fingerstyle Guitar Contest. They have been supplying the festival a flat top guitar annually as a contest prize. Last year the guitar they made got chosen by the second place winner Tim Thompson.

Jim and Ryan will be displaying several flat top guitars at the Walnut Valley Festival in their booth. They will be located next to the Flatpick Guitar Magazine booth under the grandstand at the festival. The festival crowd and guitar players in general will be in for a treat as there will be several J Triggs guitars for sale in the booth. Due to high demand for Triggs instruments, generally they don’t have guitars for sale, only display. One guitar they will have to sell is pretty much a copy of a guitar they made for Alan Jackson nearly fifteen years ago. Another will be a mahogany D-18 copy similar to the one Jim Fish plays in Byron Berline’s Band.

Many pickers also know of J Triggs mandolins and Jim and Ryan hope to have a couple of nice F-5’s to show the mandolin players. Unless these mandolins sell prior to the festival, they plan on having two traditional Loar style F-5’s in a lacquer gloss finish. Another may be available in a satin finish. All will have nickel hardware and flower pots inlayed in the peghead. As only flat top guitars can be displayed in their booth, you will have to ask to see one of the F-5’s if you want to play one.

After the Walnut Valley Festival in September, their next festival will be the OIBF festival in Guthrie Oklahoma. This festival is hosted by Jim and Ryan’s good friend, Byron Berline the first full weekend in October. Under the craft tent you will find the Triggs booth probably next to Byron’s Double Stop Fiddle Shop booth.

The orders for custom built F-5 mandolins are finally coming in as word travels fast that mandolin production is up in the Triggs shop. “It took a few months to switch from making mostly archtop guitars back to mandolins. We continue to take on custom archtop guitar orders but the delivery date is well into the year 2009,” Jim mentions.

The custom orders they have been receiving have mostly been generated by word of mouth, the Triggs new dedicated mandolin web site that Ryan built and of course posts on the Mandolin Cafe. Several custom orders can be attributed to the Mandolin Cafe site including an F-5 order from Mike Bromley. Mike, a resident of Canada is a notable geologist and works in the oil industry in Libya. He will be flying to Kansas in August to pick up his custom ordered F-5. His custom Triggs is patterned after Sam Bush’s F-5 and it has a wider neck profile with the block inlays.

Jim recently completed a custom built blonde F-5 for his long time friend Chris Hillman. Chris and Herb Pederson played in the Kansas City area in July and the mandolin got finished just in time to be hand delivered. Chris played the F-5 Jim made for Bobby Clark several years ago and wanted one of similar tone quality. It is a beautiful instrument with tortoise binding and can be seen in photos on the Triggs Mandolin website.

Many mandolins are in the works for fall 2008 completion and delivery. Anyone who custom orders a mandolin at this point will have a choice of several pre-carved backs. All the components for Triggs mandolins are hand done in their shop. Due to the internet and digital photography, emailing the selected woods on a custom instruments can make a client well aware of what their instrument will look like prior to the assembly process. Many custom features that J Triggs offers have no up-charges, as many builders drive up the cost of an instrument charging extra for small details. Every mandolin is built one at a time so making the small changes is really not a problem.

Generally if an F-5 is built in the Triggs shop and is not a custom order, it will be manufactured to the specifications of a 1923 Loar. Most will have the traditional walnut tobacco color however some may have the orange glow of a 1928 Fern. Either can be custom ordered with no up-charge. 

What’s new in store? Mandolas for one. Molds will be completed in the next few months for instruments that may be finished as early as the spring of 2009. It’s been years since the Triggs shop has made a mandola. In the past Jim has made mandolas for Byron Berline, Roland White and Dan Crary to name a few.

 A project that Jim has had in the back of his mind for several years will begin a trial period next spring. Jim describes a new concept, “Mike Marshall and Josh Pinkham stayed with us four years ago when they played for Mandofest here in Lawrence. Late one night Mike and I had a conversation about mandolins. It seems Chris Thile and he were on a mission to find an instrument that was louder but could have that same in the pocket tone. Our late night chat has always had a place in the back of my mind and I still think about it frequently. Our conversation lead to a prototype of an archtop guitar that Ryan and I built last year. Many of the dynamic changes we implemented could be adapted to the mandolin family. We plan on making a first mandolin prototype this winter with these new ideas that I’ve been kicking around. Part of the plan is a new shape that will also give more access to the player on the higher frets in the cutaway area. A guitar that we built which initially proved many theories to us was sent to Twentieth Century Guitar Magazine for review. The publisher, Larry Acunto liked it so much, he bought it. He also agreed not to mention many of the design elements involved in the construction of the guitar in their review. I feel a new look along with added volume will excite many of the hot pickers out there, including Mike Marshall. He will probably be one of the first notable players I plan on showing the new design to first.”