Last week, 19 June 2013, I went to Gdansk in Poland together with my wife. The primary reason for going to Gdansk was to visit Mayones Guitars and Basses. I live in Stockholm, Sweden, so the trip to Gdansk isn’t too far. It is about an hour’s flight from Skavsta airport, south of Stockholm.
Me in front of the Mayones office building
Initially when I was investigating how to get there I looked at all the main airlines, which wanted € 200-300 / US$ 250-400 / £170-250 per person to get there and back from Stockholm, mostly via Berlin. Not really ok, as I could get a decent bass for that. But then I found the Hungarian low cost airline Wizzair, which wanted € 45 / US$ 60 / £ 38 per person. More reasonable, however, don’t fly far with them if you are tall. I don’t think I have ever been seated in a more cramped space. I am 190 cm / 6.2 feet, which of course doesn’t help in these type of situations.
A small showcase corner at the Mayones reception
I had been communicating with Michael Gabryelczyk, at Mayones before going. Mike works as marketing and artist manager, and he was very supportive regarding my visit and helpful when we got there. We took a taxi from the airport and we got to Mayones’ workshops just after lunch. The workshop is on an industrial estate that has some of that slightly unkempt look to it. Mayones are in a few low-slung unassuming buildings, which are quite easy to find as it is marked quite clearly with signs.
When we arrived, one of the first things that we noticed was that the whole Mayones outfit has a very relaxed attitude. They don’t seem to get a ton of visitors and they don’t really have a showroom as such. Mike had warned me about this beforehand. Essentially all their basses go straight from the workshop to the resellers and customers. You can’t go to Mayones’ workshops and expect to test a particular bass that you are looking for. They have a few basses at the reception area, but not what I have been looking to buy myself, but I knew that before I travelled.
Mayones reception area with signed pictures from Mayones endorsees
Mayones is a family business with the mother and two brothers running it. It was started in 1982, when Poland was still behind the Iron Curtain and it was very hard to get hold of any type of electric guitars in Poland. So the family setup a guitar business in their garage. Mayones moved to the current facilities in the ‘90s and have been expanding them gradually ever since. Today the company have about 30 employees of which 25 are luthiers working at one stage or another in the workshop. Five people work with sales, marketing and administration.
Mack Konczak, who works with international resellers and distributors, showed us around the workshops. First we went to the main wood storage where the wood is kept, sometimes for years, to dry out. From there we walked passed the paint shop, which didn’t have many guitars in process, on towards the wood workshop, which is currently being expanded to deal with the current surge of orders which Mayones is having. (When I say guitar I am using it interchangeably for guitars and basses. Although they make more guitars than basses.) At the same time the wood workshop is being used to make instruments, so you can imagine that it was a bit hectic in there. The workshop isn’t laid out in exact sequence of how the work happens, so in this walkthrough you may see some things out of order compared to how you may expect the work to progress.
Body materials for guitars and basses
We go to the area where all the instruments are worked on, being fretted, assembled and more. It is a bit overwhelming stepping into a guitar workshop with hundreds of guitars and basses being worked on. Everywhere you look there are bodies or necks hanging, lying or stacked. Every piece I looked at I was trying to figure out what type of guitar or bass it would become. Apart from some minor items which today are produced in a CNC machine, essentially all wooden parts of the guitars at Mayones are handcrafted.
Guitars and basses waiting for some luthier love
This year, Mack and Mike told me, they are expecting to make something between 1500 and 2000 guitars. Essentially every guitar is pre-ordered. Business has picked up significantly this year and they are expanding the woodworking part of the workshop to be able to handle all the orders.
The majority of the guitars are sold more or less equally in Japan, the USA and in Europe. You don’t see that many Mayones basses for sale on the second hand market, the odd Jabba 5 and a few Be in the UK and in France as far as I can see. But maybe that isn’t very surprising. Mike told us that nearly every bass is customized for the customer, not many are sold “stock” as described on their website. And when you order a customized bass for € 2000 / US$ 2600 / £ 1700 or more, you probably aren’t going to go sell it on the secondhand market that quickly.
We saw the room where the guitars hang to dry after painting. I think they called it Bahamas or Bermuda or something such, as it was often very warm there. Here, like in all areas of the workshop, there were some guitar bodies that have been hanging around for years. These were made as test or for expectations of orders that didn’t pan out or some other reasons. I’d love to hang out a bit longer one day and actually go through these in detail. You could get some real lovely things made out of these bodies hanging around.
Exotic wood storage
A smaller section of the workshop was where the luthiers that produce the custom shop guitars are crafted.
Mayones Custom Shop
Finally we got to the quality-testing department, where a luthier sat and test played a Jabba 5 just as we were walking through.
Mayones Quality Testing
I asked about their choice of hardware and electronics. Most of what they use are their own branded hardware. You can order other components if you want, but essentially they said that the flexibility they get from having their own mics and hardware allows them to respond quickly to changes. And as they make small series they feel that flexibility is necessary. I believe both hardware and electronics are made in Poland.
As part of the entrance and reception area Mayones have a small test room with a few guitar and bass amps. It was small enough that you have to watch how you turn with a bass or you’ll knock the headstock in the wall. I got to lay my hands on one of the Be Gothic 4s and also a Jabba Classic 4, which was on its way to Japan. I don’t really get on with Jazz basses for some reason (mic layout and the way I hold my right hand) so I can’t really tell much if they are any good to play. Even though most interest was shown on the forums about the Jabba 5s. Although others say they are really nice players.
Mayones Jabba 4
But the Be Gothic 4 which I tried was very nice. Both were lighter than I expected and had a similar neck profile compared to what I am most comfortable with (late 70s and mid 80s Ibanez Musician and Roadstar basses). The room and amplifier setup, Aguilar, and time available, wasn’t such that I really could get a good assessment of how they actually sound, so not much help there from me.
Mayones Be 4
If you order a Mayones bass today it has something like a 20-24 week lead time before it is finished. Which is fairly normal in the custom built guitar world. They build guitars in batches, for efficiency, so if you are lucky there is a Patriot 4 (my favorite), or whatever your preference is, sitting on the shelf from a previous batch, which can turned around quicker than that. But after the Musikmesse guitar show in Germany and the NAMM Show in the US this year business has really picked up. Thereby the expansion of the workshop that is ongoing and the longer lead times than they have had before.
A big thank you goes out to Mack Konczak and Michael Gabryelczyk and the rest of the Mayones crew, who made our visit to the Mayones guitar and bass workshop a real treat. And for the reader, I hope that this has given you guys and gals a little bit of what you were looking for regarding Mayoness basses.
We also spent the rest of the day and the evening in Gdansk, which is a lovely looking old European Hanseatic League city, but that is another story.
One place, which does have a few Mayones basses in stock, is Bass Direct in Warwick, UK. Check them out at: http://www.bassdirect.co.uk/
More photographs can be found in a Flickr set from the visit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bjelkeman/sets/72157634340399354/