Mandolin, the making of mine.

Posted: September 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hello Everyone,
Since my return from the US in August I have spent days visiting Sarande, Albania and Parga, Greece with my wife’s cousin and husband. We had a great time, and then we spent a couple of days with some friends of ours visiting their relatives and ancestral homes from the States, paling around Shkoder for 2 days, so I have been busy since my return.
The mandolin project has been going quite well and as with anything I learned a great deal about how to make a better one next time! At the onset of this I didn’t want this project to take up my entire shop, but it did and so I decided to make this a timed project rather than one that would be longer than necessary. I dreamed of making a really fine mandolin like the one I drew and pictured in my mind but available materials didn’t allow for what I started out to do happen. Am happy with my finished product? Of course!

What kind of wood did I use? Well I think it is some kind of pine for the neck, head and sides along with 4mm luan for the front and back panels. The materials aren’t ideal, but are working so far. I was unable to bend the wood pieces that I cut for the sides. The pieces continued to feather after I bent them and I believe would continue to feather until it failed completely later.

So I changed my shape to a hexagon. Of course when I made the hexagon I forgot to account for the additional loss of material so the sound box is slightly smaller than I wanted, but it doesn’t seem to have resulted in a higher pitched sound so I am very happy about that.

Original back

Original back

Original design and shape

Original design and shape

Hexagon box glued and clamped

Hexagon box glued and clamped

Wood used for most with my trusty saw

Wood used for most with my trusty saw

Chiseling out the head

Chiseling out the head

The back of the head. I left it a bit thicker because of the soft wood used.

The back of the head. I left it a bit thicker because of the soft wood used.

As you can see from the pictures I didn’t use anything more sophisticated than a sanding disc attached to my  115mm grinder, homemade table saw and hand tools . When I changed the shape of the sound box I also made the decision to reduce the side heights from 3” to about 2”.

The back became the front. Added brace in middle

The back became the front. Added brace in middle

Cutting the holes

Cutting the holes

Attaching the neck and body

Attaching the neck and body

I didn’t bother with slotting in a piece of steel for a strongback in the neck as I don’t see any of the old instruments in museums with that, but I did add a short reinforce on the back and I have seen that on many instruments over the years. So there you have it. The pictures are self-explanatory and hopefully I have filled in the blanks enough for a full picture of I made my mandolin.

Putting the back on

Putting the back on

 

It is all together except for the fret board

It is all together except for the fret board

 

Back showing the short support

Back showing the short support

Shape of the head - almost done

Shape of the head – almost done

 

Primary color

Primary color

Nut and Bridge

Nut and Bridge

It proved to be very difficult obtaining the tuner set, strings and a couple of fine imitation nut and bridge inserts. The inserts I found to be way to short even for a Mandolin so I have no idea how they were supposed to be for a guitar, maybe in China. I picked these up while I was in the States for the ABANA Conference in Delaware. Which by the way was a great event with something for all areas of interest.

The hardest part was measuring out and setting the frets, other than that it was pretty straight forward. I do have have a pretty good inventory of skills as I was making and repairing furniture and other structures for most of my adult life. Still it is my first real attempt at making a musical instrument so that makes me a beginner all over again. I finished my mandolin and guess what I discovered that I have too much space between the frets and strings. How the heck did I miscalculate that!!!!??? Stuff like that happens from time to time. I chose to cut into the nut and bridge deeper rather than bother raising the frets, though I like the look of a raised fret. I saw some on a couple of Eastern Instruments, but I was basing my mine off of the flat mandolin, so I stayed with that theme. Next time!

Finished

Finished

I used an electronic tuner to tune it the other night and will check it again with the electronic tuner as I don’t seem to be able to pick up the nuances between flat and sharp. I was able to get the G & D strings in the flat side of the electronic tuner by ear. Now the fun really begins!

Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoyed my musical side trip.

See ya at the Forge!!!!

Websites I found useful are:
http://www.fretboard.com
http://liutaiomottola.com/formulae/fret.htm
http://www.mandolincafe.com
http://www.bluestemstrings.com
http://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator

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