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Thread: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

  1. #26

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin


    I hope you all are safe and well!

    As I am still working mostly in evenings, I use limited time to work on my project, rather to take too much pictures. So, I would say, more shop, less talk.

    Anyway, there was some progress, but also some mistakes.

    Since the last post, I made a 45ish degree chamfer all around the body. And there lies a first mistake, as I didn't count on tailpiece requiring a square edge. So, I had to glue in a piece of mahogany and re-create a square edge for tailpiece to lean onto.

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    Next I drilled the cavities for pickup and control plate. For pickup I went with dual rail humbucker (Peacemaker from Warman Guitars) and Telecaster control plate (volume, tone and 3-way switch). Needless to say, my heart sunk to my ankles when I started to drill the holes in the body, especially for the control plate, as I had to go 1-3/8" deep for the 3-way switch on the 1-9/16" thick body. I was just waiting fot the tip of the Forstner bit to show up on the back. Fortunatelly, it hasn't.

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    And a test, to see how all fits together:

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    Next, I glued in the neck. Since I was a bit worried about the strenght of the joint, due to the small neck pocket and small glueing surface area, I opted for the extra strong, 90 min epoxy glue.

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    And finally, glued up and sanded all the way to P320, ready to be oiled:

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    Here is the picture of the control plate, ready to be installed in the near future:

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    I opted for 3 way switch to have serial/split/parallel options for the single humbucker pickup.

    Next in the plan is to oil the mandolin with several layers of Danish oil, finalize the scratch plate with pickup and to start working on bridge and nut.

    Hope I will have more updates soon.

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  2. #27

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all,

    just a few notes and pictures of the progress over the last few weeks!

    I went with 3 layers of Rustins Danish oil, followed by a coat of wallnut wax. First layer of Danish oil was rubbed in with cloth, as long as the wood didn't take in more oil and after few minutes I wiped off the excess oil. Second layer was rubbed in with 400 grit sanding fleece and third with 600 grit sanding fleece. After third layer, I left it around 24 hours to fully dry, before rubbing in the wax.

    Pickup and control cavities were shielded with self-adhesive copper tape and I created 2 ground points, one in pickup cavity, one in control cavity, by screwing in two small screws and connecting them with a wire. From the control cavity ground point I ran a wire, grounding the tailpiece.

    The dual rail humbucker pickup is wired to the 3-way switch so that I have 3 voices from a single humbucker, series, split and parallel. I did the screwdriver test to see if everything is wired correctly, and so far so good.

    The pickguard is made out of aircraft grade 2 mm plywood, stained with a light mahogany stain and finished with wallnut wax. It turned out more reddish than brownish, but it adds a nice contrast to the top of the instrument.

    Only thing that remains is to make a bridge and a nut and put the strings on. Bridge will be made out of ebony, nut from the camel bone and strings will be Jim Dunlop Americana nickel would 11-40.

    Here are some pictures:

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ID:	206649 - sanded to 320 grit and ready for oil

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  4. #28
    Registered User BillWilliams's Avatar
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    Sep 2022
    Barreiro, Portugal

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Looking really great now, Rob.
    Exciting time - I imagine you are keen to string it up and hear how it sounds.

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  6. #29

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi Bill,

    yes, I was anxious to put the strings on and play it. Bear in mind that I have never held or played a mandolin before, nor acoustic, nor electric.

    After making a compensated bridge out of ebony and spalted maple, I put on the strings, tuned the instrument and played a few notes. To my untrained and unexpierienced ear it sounds fantastic. It amazes me that I managed to build a fully functional instrument without any prior knowledge. Of course, info that I got from this forum helped a lot.

    After putting on the strings, some rookie errors have been highlighted.

    1. Headstock - Headstock is too thick for the ukulele tuners that I installed, so I am getting only one full would under the luthier's knot on the 40 size G string
    2. Nut - it pays out to have a nice set of nut files, I just got 10, 13, 24 and 35, which are too thin for the strings I have (11/40 nickel wound Dunlops)
    3. Frets - I installed frets with 0.025" crown height, so I had to make the fretboard really flat before installing the frets, as any subsequent fret leveling would be tough

    After filing the slots on the nut, strings were too wide for the slots and I managed to break both E strings while re-tuning. They are stuck in the nut slot and they break at the post. I will simply go with the appropriate string gauges for the nut files that I have. This shoold also mitigate the problem of the too thick headstock.

    After playing each string at each fret I got some fret buzz, mainly on the first fret of the G string. Second fret is a bit too high, so I will gove it a love tap with the hammer. Also, smaller string gauges could overcome this.

    Neck was fully straight, without any relief, so I loosen the nut on the one-way truss rod, re-tuned and left it over night. In the morning the nut was tight again and I saw some relief on the neck.

    Today is the new day and there is still much to play on the nut, to get everything perfectly balanced.

    I will play a bit over the next few days and post a video on the weekend!


  7. #30

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    It took a freakishly long time to put something together, worth listening to.

    By all means, I am an amateur mandolin player, still running through few basic chords and scales.

    What you will hear was recorded and mixed on Fostex DMT-8 multitrack recorder, directly to Input 1 (with pre-amp). Volume and tone on mandolin were at both at 10 and pickup was in parallel humbucker mode. I recorded three tracks in total, track 1 - melody, track 2 - chords, track 3 - "bass" line on G string. Track 1 was panned to 10 o'clock, track 2 was panned to 2 o'clock and track 3 was kept on 12 o'clock. Volume faders on the DMT-8 are marked with 0 to 10 scale, rather than dB scale, so volume for track 1 was on 8, track 2 was on 6 and track 3 was on 7 for the final mixdown. Track 1 and 2 have EQ boost around 5 dB at 10 kHz and around 5 dB at 600 Hz, while track 3 has around 3 dB boost at 2 kHz and 5 dB boost at 100 Hz (all approximately). There were no effects applied during the recording, mixdown nor mastering step.

    Final stereo mixdown was recorded onto the Zoom H4N Pro and resulting 2 tracks were imported to Cubase on my Mac Mini for final export. Export was done to 44.1 kHz/16 bit wav format and uploaded to Soundcloud.

    Here is the link:

    What I tried to make was some version of the Knocking on Heaven's Door, due to the easy enough chord progression for an amateur player.

    Let me know how the mandolin sounds!

    Cheers, Rob

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