Photo © Jason Lugo

A young couple spends a romantic evening of their honeymoon floating down an Italian waterway in a Gondola…

A group of family and friends gathers around a campfire enjoying marshmallows on the fire and dancing to Bluegrass music…

A congregation of a hometown church expresses their faith through praise music…

Photo © Jason Lugo

The abalone rose inlay at the end of the fretboard is a signature feature on a Ron Cole mandolin.

While these three scenes may all seem strikingly different, one of Southern Idaho’s hidden gems knows exactly what these treasured memories have in common – a mandolin. Music aficionados all around the country might recognize it too, especially if the musician in the scene is playing a Ron Cole mandolin.

Known and endorsed by many musicians around the country, Filer resident Ron Cole meticulously handcrafts the beautiful instruments. And while the attention to detail (the mother of pearl and abalone inlays, the hand carved wood) makes these instruments works of art, anyone who has heard the sound will tell you that is what makes a Cole Mandolin one of the best.

While the abalone rose on each piece is Ron’s trademark, the tone of the instrument is what has people from all across the country calling Ron for one of their own.

Photo © Jason Lugo

Ron Cole is a mandolin master craftsman.

It all began in the early 1980s when Ron and a friend found a book on mandolin making. They decided to give it a whirl, and although the friend gave up on his project, Ron finished the piece and then went on to make two more. The third mandolin Ron made was sold to a friend in Weiser, and through word of mouth and a stellar reputation among music lovers everywhere, the luthier is still handcrafting mandolins today.

In a meticulous process that takes about 5-8 weeks from start to finish, Ron uses only the best materials, determined through years of trial and error.  Traveling to the McCall area to cut his own Mountain Spruce for parts of the mandolin, and then spending hours in the workshop he built behind his home, Ron puts his heart and soul into these intricately detailed instruments.

Photo © Jason LugoRon says he has received orders from as far away as Maine, and says that once people have heard the tone of a Cole mandolin, “they want to replicate that tone.” Selling between $3,600 and $6,000, each handcrafted mandolin comes with a fiberglass Bobelo case, and of course, the famous Cole sound.

Born in Wisconsin, Ron has made a life in Southern Idaho with his wife Barbara, where they both perform in the Assembly of God worship band.  Having played piano and accordion as a youngster, Ron says music eventually got pushed to the back burner as girls, and especially sports, became more important in his teenage years. Ron spent years working in the construction industry doing painting and decorating, learning skills that he says came in handy when he began crafting mandolins. The attention to detail and craftsmanship are obviously attributed to a man who is comfortable creating beauty.

If you or the musician in your life is looking for a unique, lovingly crafted mandolin, visit Ron’s website at www.handcraftedmandolins.com or give him a call at 208-326-5224.

About the author

Christie Lewis - Magic Valley native Christie Lewis enjoys exploring all that living in Southern Idaho has to offer with her husband and two daughters. A graduate of Twin Falls High School and former CSI and ISU student, Christie has enjoyed writing since she penned her first humor memoir as a young child.

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2 comments

Loved the article about you its very nice but they didnt say enough about what an amazing musician you are!!!!
Love u! Pammy

Hey Ron its great to see that you are still making beautiful mandolins and I know how great they sound. I have given your name to someone here in Maleny that makes instruments as well and I was telling him about how beautiful your mandolins were and how great they sounded. Hope all is going well for you and Barb.
Cheers
Deb Lynde