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Thread: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

  1. #26

    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    I stuffed up the finish, sanded it down to start again and the top ended up too thin and it wouldn't stay in tune for very long.

  2. #27
    Registered User briankwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    [QUOTE=Jim Hilburn;My favorite is to cut out and shape the neck, then cut in the truss rod slot.[/QUOTE]

    That's another example of a procedure of his that doesn't make sense to me. I was following directions closely and didn't realize until too late that he had us cut the neck taper before cutting the truss rod groove. In order to cut a centered groove on the table saw I glued tapered shims back on the the neck and then knocked them off when I was done.

  3. #28
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    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    With my first mandolin, I tried to build without a thickness gage.. Of course I got to thick on the bass and too thin on the trebble... It cracked.. learned how to replace a top right off the bat...
    kterry

  4. #29
    Registered User Ben Vierra's Avatar
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    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    Disclaimer: Those who have responded so far are all much more experienced and successful mandolin makers than I am. The archtop world is also heavily represented. My perspective is that of a hobbyist who enjoys building something basic and playable, and has never been much interested in carved-top instruments.

    1. How did you prepare for the project (knowing it would be a challenge and likely to be more of a learning and hobby experience than result in a fine-sounding, good-playing instrument?)

    I had just built an acoustic guitar using Cumpiano and Natelson's Guitarmaking text. Looking for information on mandolins, I found John Troughton's The Mandolin Manual. My first few mandolins could be seen as Troughton-style flat-tops with X-bracing learned from my one guitar experience. Raided my father's wood collection. Obtained a billet of western redcedar from a logger neighbor for two dimes and a pie, or was it two pies and a dime? Brought home a chunk of white spruce firewood from a time in Alaska. Enthusiastically decided I should build five of these things at once to maximize the learning. After all, I had just built a guitar, and guitars are like five times the size of a mandolin, right?

    2. What pitfalls did you run into?
    Made just about all the same mistakes on all five initial mandolins. Neck angles and therefore bridge heights were . . . haphazard. Therefore a couple of these mandolins developed sunken tops after not very long.

    3. In hindsight, what do you think you "coulda/shoulda" done differently?
    Started with just one, maybe two. Think about process improvements earlier.

    4. Did you keep going, or scrap that first mando and start over?
    Kept going.

    5. If you made more than one attempt to build a good mando, how did those previous mistakes inform your subsequent efforts?
    One lesson I've learned is that X-bracing is not magical for mandolins. Starting with a flattop guitar, this idea stuck in my thinking for quite some time.

    Second, I decided to try a bent/canted top based on the sunken-flattop experience. This isn't much harder, and I like the results much more.

    Third, I discovered a tendency in myself to get into a frenzied rush to finish when the end seems in sight. This is exactly the wrong approach, and leads to poor detail-work that will be apparent for the life of the instrument.

    6. What ultimately became of that first mando or first few build attempts? Where is it now?
    I kept one of these for myself and gifted the others to family and friends for the cost of the hardware. I played mine for a couple years while I built its successor, then sold it to a friend who happened to be a graduate student in economics. He took principled offense at my pricing scheme and insisted on paying more.

    I still see two of the five initial mandolins with some frequency, as they're in the homes of close family members. I make sure to pick them up and play on them when I have a chance. For beginner efforts, they still seem okay. They're far from ideal, but I'm not embarrassed by their playability or tone.

  5. #30

    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    If you used the same materials today, I'd bet that it would be a pretty successful mandolin.
    I would love to. It'd have to be a keeper, though, since I'd have to sell it for $10,000 + cost of materials to get even $25/hour - before taxes.

  6. #31
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    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    I had told myself I would someday build an F mandolin in 1972. The first one took most of 1979 and finished in spring of 1980. I'm also probably the only one who can claim Nugget did the finish on #1.
    In preparation I re-finished my old Gibson oval (bad idea but not as frowned on in those days), built a couple of cases and also inlayed "The Gibson" on that same old mandolin.
    I ended up in Austin in 1976, and by 77 had the Siminoff book. I bought Sears power tools. Tried cutting a scroll into a headblock with a sabre saw. Doesn't work. Austin wasn't a good place to procure wood but I found a Vitali's catalog and ordered a viola set of plates. Wish I had met Tom Ellis.
    Moved back to Boulder, set up a shop in a bedroom of a rental, had a friend with a cabinet shop and managed to get er done. Will power is a strong thing.

  7. #32
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    Default Re: What did you goof up when building your first mandolin?

    I also did this to it.
    But back to the original question, I used the Siminoff binding rout Dremel cutter and didn't get it nearly deep enough so it's painfully thin in most places.
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