Paul Graybeal with mandolin.
Photo courtesy of Mark Freed.
Types of Artistry
Instrument builder, mandolin player
Zionville, NC (Watauga County)
Paul Graybeal grew up in the Creston community in Ashe County where he was surrounded by traditional mountain music. Over the years he developed his instrument building and repairing skills and has produced almost 100 guitars, 50 mandolins, a number of dulcimers, a banjo, and many miniature instruments. Paul has played guitar since he was a young teenager and he now plays mandolin with the Dark Ridge Boys.
When Paul was growing up, Ashe County was a hotbed of mountain music. His father played fiddle and banjo, and Paul remembers music played at home and in the community. When he was fourteen, his parents gave him a Gene Autry Silvertone guitar. "Wildwood Flower," he remembers, was the first song he learned.
Through his work as a carpenter, Paul became a very skilled woodworker. Repairing instruments for local musicians was a natural step for him. In 1964, he decided to disassemble a guitar to figure out exactly how it was built. At that point, he started making instruments, starting with a guitar and mandolin. Using only hand tools, he built a flattop mandolin and guitar, but he had to set that aside in order to keep up with his other work.
Over the years, Paul worked on instruments as a hobby while he made his living in carpentry, sheet rock businesses, furniture factories and automobile factories. When he retired from carpentry about 18 years ago, he turned to building and repairing instruments full time. In 1968 he built guitar #8, in 1989 he was up to #18, and in 2005 he completed guitar #92.
Paul has also gained a reputation for building intricate miniature instruments. The miniatures are about six inches long, but they are exact replicas of full-sized instruments, including the bracing on the inside. His miniatures include a copy of Doc Watson's guitar, Ricky Skaggs' mandolin, Emmylou Harris' guitar, Bill Monroe's mandolin, James Monroe's guitar, and Rhonda Vincent's mandolin. He made a miniature Martin guitar that is on display in the Martin guitar museum in Pennsylvania.
Paul invites visitors to his shop outside his house in Zionville. He has helped interested woodworkers learn how to build instruments in his shop. He does repair work on most stringed instruments, and he continues to build instruments. He regularly presents his work at Merlefest and the Doc Watson Festival. He is available for orders or to present his work.