Donaldson
Brad Donaldson F5, 1994. $2,400.
I've owned this handmade F5 for 19 years, but I'm moving on to a different mandolin as my main axe and looking to thin the herd a little.
     During the 1990s and early 2000s Brad Donaldson, a Seattle-area luthier, was building a good reputation in the Pacific Northwest and selling mandolins in the $3-4K range. He retired from his day job and relocated to Cannon Beach, Oregon, where he eventually did set up a shop and restart his luthiery business — but as far as I can tell, he now builds ukuleles exclusively.
     I played a bunch of Brad's mandolins back when he was actively building them, and this one remains my favorite. The serial number is MF-59. It has a very attractive reddish sunburst finish and is in good condition, with small nicks and scratches from a lot of gigging, but no major issues. I almost always had Brad work on it when it needed anything — he cut off the fretboard extension and rebound the end, refretted it, and replaced the original 2-piece tailpiece with a 1-piece cast one by Gary Price. It has a "blended Fishman" pickup system: a Fishman piezo bridge and a Crown GLM100 microphone, wired to a stereo jack attached to the pickguard. If you have a dual-source preamp, you can blend both signals to get outstanding plugged-in tone.
     Back and sides are flamed maple; neck is birdseye. It has a reverse truss rod, meaning the adjustment screw is located under the fretboard. The top is either Sitka or Engelmann spruce, I forget which. It doesn't have classic bluegrass tone, perhaps due in part to the choice of top wood — it's a little sweeter and softer than your typical bluegrass cannon. But it would be an excellent choice for other types of music, including Celtic, folk or even classical.
     Comes with a hardshell case, armrest, and Tone-Gard. I will leave the pickup installed if you want it, but will also throw in the original bridge saddle should you wish to change it back. The pickup requires a stereo cable, which can be hard to find, so I'll include one of those as well, along with instructions. Can throw in a strap if you like.
     Possible extras include a Calton case, or a cover for a standard shaped case, by Small Dog or Colorado Case Co. Prices for those items would be in addition to the cost of the mandolin.
     See more photos, or for more information. $2,400 plus shipping. 48-hour approval period.