published Friday, August 12th, 2011

Cake pan instruments target country/bluegrass musicians

Barry and Lanny Smith of Appalachian Instruments in McDonald, Tenn., make "Pandolin" instruments, a hybrid between a banjo and a mandolin.
Barry and Lanny Smith of Appalachian Instruments in McDonald, Tenn., make "Pandolin" instruments, a hybrid between a banjo and a mandolin.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

• What: Custom acoustic instruments

• Company: Appalachian Instruments

• Address: 130 Bridgewater Drive, McDonald, Tenn.

• Website:

• Telephone: 423-314-3753 or 423-991-0028

• Owners: Barry and Lanny Smith

• What's special: Appalachian Instruments crafts handmade hybrid banjos and mandolins incorporating metal cake pans that offer an unusual sound specifically targeted to bluegrass musicians, said co-owner Lanny Smith. "It's got this old Appalachian 'twiney' sound," he said. "It's hand-crafted in the USA; that's right on the back of the instrument."

• The origin story: Smith, 75, a lifelong woodworker, spent years building spec homes before the real estate market turned. Deciding to leave the industry, he consulted about the next step with his son, Barry, a bass musician who manages two Atlanta music stores. After deciding to focus on making instruments, the Smiths worked on designs with local luthier Bruce Bennett of J. Backlund Design in 2010. The design was finalized six months ago, and the company should be open officially later this month, Smith said.

• How long does it take to make: Two to three days, from carving the wood to assembly.

• Where it's sold: Appalachian Instruments is on schedule to begin sales later this month. In the meantime, interested customers can contact the company by phone, Smith said.

• Cost: $395 (Panjo)-$495 (Pandalyn).

• Expansions planned: Smith said the company is in talks with several touring country artists in search of endorsements to aid in marketing. Eventually, he said the hope is to expand into the production of accessories, such as gig bags and strings.

• Lessons of the trade: "[Starting a business] takes a lot of patience, perseverance and discipline. That's true with any business," Smith said. "If people think they can put their feet on the desk, start a business and watch everyone around them, that's not going to work."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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