I just couldn't get her tuned, though. It looked like the truss rod needed some adjusting: Although the neck appeared to be straight, the strings were touching the neck in such a way that certain notes couldn't be played, even after having adjusted the bridge a bit. I'm fine with stringing an instrument, and mucking around with the bridge, but adjusting the truss rod and tone bars is a little bit out of my league. So I did some sleuthing.
Luthiers, master instrument makers, are few and far between. I couldn't find any in this area. Sure, there are any number of local places that would happily do a mandolin set-up for me, but most of them specialize in guitars (and frankly, can't even do those right). Zack's old guitar teacher suggested I call Tony, of Tony's stringed instrument repair. I did. I phoned Tony,* who was happy to help!
I picked up some really awesome strings at a local music store and headed to Tony's. It was difficult to find-- a tiny house on a fairly busy road. There were a couple of old cars in front. It looked like any other residence that had seen better days. Had I found the right place?
I knocked. An older black gentleman, in shorts, shirt and a baseball cap answered the door. He looked like the kind of guy you'd see livin' and singin' the blues on Beale street, but his voice was very gentle and sweet, and I recognized it immediately. Here was Tony! The room behind him was dark. As my eyes adjusted, I saw that it was filled, literally filled, with instruments of all kinds. Mandolins, guitars and basses covered the walls and tables.
<geek analogy> You know when Luke went to Dagobah, and how when he started training with Yoda we all just knew this guy was the master who could give Luke the guidance he so badly needed? Well, I just knew this guy was the Yoda of stringed instrument set-up. </geek analogy>
He looked at it, tried to play it a bit, and asked if I wanted it to have a nice low action, but with all the notes working. Yes, I replied, I'd love for all the notes to work! He told me it would take him at least a couple of hours, and that he'd try to have it for me tomorrow.
Tony promised that I'd be extremely pleased, and I don't doubt him one bit. If anybody can decipher the mysterious relationship between the bridge, the adjustable fretboard, the truss rod and the dual tone bars of this magical instrument, it's this guy.
Giddy, we are.
* Hearing his voice, I imagined him to be a young Italian guy. I usually do that, don't you? Imagine what a person might look like based on his or her voice? I'm almost always completely wrong. I bet if his name were Phillipe or David or Singh I'd probably have imagined something completely different. I'm always surprised and a bit humbled when faced by my own erroneous preconceptions.