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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

One more thing

I have been helping my daughter make a cookie tin banjo today - great fun! Also, my lovely wife bought me the Robert Benedetto archtop guitar making book for Christmas - another project methinks...

Binding Ledges

I cut the ledges for the ebony bindings using the little dremmel tool that came from Stew Mac. Unfortunately, it was a bit more brutal than I thought it would be, and was not quite as accurate as I had hoped. However, my homemade scraper (old bit of saw blade in a beech housing) came to the rescue and I reasonably happy with end result.

I will try and put the bindings in before the new year.

Here's the belly in place...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

It looks like a mandolin

Its nearly midnight, but the belly is on and trimmed and sanded and I'm mighty pleased with progress.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Gluing on the belly

I took a last look at the inside and then stuck the belly on with Titebond glue. I feel that this bit is quite important in how the mandolin will sound so I am keeping my fingers crossed until tomorrow morning...

Monday, December 13, 2004

a sound attempt

Herewith an attempt at a short recording made with the solid-body mandola. Not exactly rock and roll I know, and it took a while for me to figure out how to do it. The recording was...

made using the line-out from my little amp plugged directly into the line-in on a computer
transferred as a .wav file to another computer on a floppy disk
burnt onto a CD
ripped back into an MP3
and finally FTP'd


Sunday, December 12, 2004

The inside was varnished (one coat of a water soluble varnish). Before this I stuck in my label (a snail, because it's taking so long to make) which was drawn in indian ink.

Friday, November 26, 2004


I've just this minute completed the fitting of the belly, and it's ready to glue on. I had one moment of panic when the masking tape I used to hold it temporarly in place tore a few fibres out of it, but since there is still a final sanding to come it will not be a problem. I will have to watch it later, though, when fitting the bindings. I now have to prepare my makers label and stick it in before the 'lid' finally goes on.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Madeleine Peyroux

Just heard Madeleine Peyroux singing on the radio this evening - nothing to do with mandolins, but I thought she was fabulous.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The belly linings

I fitted these yesterday (see below), fixed on with my collection of sawn-off clothes pegs! I'm still a bit peeved that the neck is a degree or so out of true, but I'll learn for next time - don't trust red cotton....

Fitting the belly linings

Sunday, October 31, 2004

body and neck

I have eyed up the work so far and it seems to be OK, especially from the front. The view from the back looks a little crooked, but epoxy glue is strong stuff so I have to accept the result whatever. On the whole though, I'm pretty pleased. I have just finished off the body/neck joint with some wedges which force the ribs against the grooves in the neck heel - tomorrow evening I will clean it up and think about the belly (the mandolin's, not mine).

Saturday, October 30, 2004


Sober & wide awake - I glued the neck to the body - let's hope it's on straight

Friday, October 29, 2004

It feels like I'm more than halfway there

I have now trimmed (very carefully) the base of the heel where the neck attaches to the back & ribs. I've cramped it up and it seems to fit. Next comes the gluing, and I can't afford to make any mistakes, so I will wait until I am not tired, and I have not had a couple of glasses of wine (tricky!).

Ready to attach the neck to the body. The red thread is to check alignment

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The neck & the Body

The neck slots are now cut & it fits inside tyhe body...not glued (or even fitted exactly) but it feels like progress.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

the gap

Well, I've sorted out the gap under the peghead. It was only a fraction of a mm wide so I filled it with Zap-a-gap (cyanoacrylate glue) after a quick sand it looks fine...phew.

I have now drilled the holes for the tuning machines (which I haven't bought yet so I hope they fit!)

My birthday present - some useful tools...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


It's my birthday today...and I'm delighted to report my lovely Missus has kitted me out with some great tools - photos to follow I expect. And my Sis bought me a book on Inlay Techniques : The Art of Inlay: Contemporary Design and Technique by Larry Robinson. :)

Friday, October 08, 2004

The peghead veneer

Disaster...well, not too much of a disaster. I have just glued on the peghead veneer (see below) and there's a small gap on one side. Perfection is no longer achievable. Oh well. I now have to decide between filling the gap with some epoxy mixed with some ebony dust, or binding in a fillet. I'll let you know...

gluing on the peghead

Saturday, October 02, 2004

the neck roughed out

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Another one

I should confess at this point that while working on my mandolin I made a second one (or should that be a first one?). I had bought the fretwire from StewMac and a really nice ebony fretboard and I was worried that I would make a hash of installing the frets, so some practice was called for. I got the idea for the solid body mandola from a company called Risa, and the cheap pickup arrangement (£1) from Dennis Havlena's page. The body is oak (an old drawer front) as is the fretboard. the bridge is beech and the tuning machines are half a cheap mandolin set (£9). The strings are the 1st 3rd 4th & 5th from a classical guitar. It all worked out quite nicely, and I'm quite proud of the finished instrument. Pic & maybe soundfile (ha- I can't play yet) later.

the fretboard - with brass inlay dots (pieces of an old brass screw!

The pickup hidden under the bridge

solid body mandola

Some photos

So here are some photos of progress on acoustic No 1. so far. I am currently working on the neck, so the dates on this post are about current.

the neck starts to take shape

the fret board - slotted with mother of pearl dots

starting on the neck - cutting the truss rod slot

gluing the back to the ribs

My home-made wood bending iron. I made this from a length of scaffolding pole stuffed with wire mesh, a blowtorch and some scraps of wood. The wood for bending gets soaked for 15 minutes, and then is bent over the hot (it sizzles) pipe. After a bit of practice (and a couple of breaks when going too fast) it turned out to be easier that I thought it would.

the back with the tone bars glued in place

ready to mark out the ribs (side)

finished belly

gluing on the tone bars

close up of the back

the back

Monday, September 27, 2004

Making a start on the belly - spruce wood ready to plane to thickness and join.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


I have decided not to worry that the starting materials, the raw ingredients for my obsession, are going to cost more that the finished article could be sold for. That line of thinking is for business-minded individuals only, and when it comes to my mandolin such rules cannot apply. However...for the record, here is my current inventory (I've still got more to add later..):

Mould Base, free, a kind gift from Pete Lemon
Quadrant, about £2 from B & Q and from

Touchstone Tonewoods
Spruce wood for the belly, £8.95
Ebony veneer 600 x 100 x 2mm for the peghead, £6.
Lining wood, willow£4.00
Ebony binding: 4 off 800 x 5 x 2mm £5.60
Ebony fingerboard £5.95
Back & ribs wood (european maple) cost £22

Craft Supplies
Neck wood Sycamore 76mm x 76mm x 610mm, £7.15

Saturday, September 25, 2004 Books: The Mandolin Manual: The Art, Craft and Science of the Mandolin and Mandola

Jumping about in time is going to happen, I'm just going to have to live with it. I ended up buying the following book (fantastic): Books: The Mandolin Manual: The Art, Craft and Science of the Mandolin and Mandola: "The Mandolin Manual: The Art, Craft and Science of the Mandolin and Mandola
John Troughton " Order Date: 17 Jul 2003

I tried to get one called Contructing a Bluegrass Mandolin by Roger Siminoff but Amazon cancelled my order.

So the fates ended up deciding what sort of mandolin I would make (of which more anon or maybe previously)

The mould

Opening Thoughts

I've been trying to remember when my mandolin obsession began. Perhaps around the Spring of 2003. And I been wondering where this obsession came from? Up to that point I didn't even know what a mandolin sounded like. It is true that I have wide musical tastes, so I have probably listened to one at sometime or another. Maybe in a Vivaldi concerto, or perhaps in the 'O Brother where art thou?' soundtrack. I have even wondered if it just that the word which rolls off the tongue so nicely. Anyhow, I made the decision to make one. A proper, decent, well-made one. And I will assemble my thoughts here as the project progresses...