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Thread: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

  1. #1

    Default Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    International Violin F5 Mandolin Kit- A Review

    After finally finishing my kit, I thought that I would send some thoughts along to anyone else who might be contemplating purchasing this kit from International Violin. Please note that this was my experience and it might be different for other people.

    Cost:

    The most obvious thing about this kit when compared to all the other F5 kits out there is the cost. Considerably cheaper then anything out there to my knowledge and the higher end kits are twice the cost or more. LMI makes a similar priced kit but is much more like a scratch build. If you don't have any experience and want to get your feet wet, the IV F5 kit is the best bang for the buck.

    Quality of Materials:

    With the IV F5 kit, here is the weak point. This kit is produced and assembled in China. The wood is variable. My neck had good figure but the back and sides were very uneven. There seemed to be no effort to bookmatch the two maple back plates. One side had figure, the other didn't, the sides were equally mismatched. Glue joints on the body and kerfing were sloppy. I had to fill and re-clamp in places.

    The spruce top was two pieces of Spruce a and also not matched. Not the end of the world but made up my mind from the beginning to use a darker stain/sunburst to hide it.

    The neck came with a fairly large nick in it about the 7th fret. I thought that it would steam out and it didn't. That being said, Ken at IV said that he would replace it for me but I thought that it would steam out and was too excited to start to send it back and wait for another. The neck also is completely fretted with binding, truss rod and truss rod cover.

    The neck to body joint is the Siminoff joint. It seemed to fit well. Even though Ken at IV said that they had sent the Siminoff book to China as a guide to what they wanted, the extension of the fretboard over the body was not an f5 type, but appeared to be more like an F4. Not the end of the world and actually easier to build for the beginner like me.

    The headstock is at final thickness and is not set up for an Ebony or Rosewood overlay. To put one on, it is necessary to sand/plane down the wood about 1/16. A hassle but doable.

    The tuners were HORRIBLE. I can't even express how bad. I hurt my hands trying to put strings on when it was finished. I oiled them hoping that it would help but it didn't. I plan to replace them ASAP. They really cut corners here.

    The nut and corner points were plastic and I threw them out and immediately replaced them with bone.

    My biggest gripe with the kit was the body binding material. It was even more horrible then the tuners if that was possible. The back binding was a single strip and don't get me started about the top. Two channels, a purfling channel with three individual strips and a binding channel with one. Trying to glue these four at once was a sloppy nightmare. That wasn't the worst part of it, it was brittle and tended to break when bending in hot water. Even being careful. I had to replace the back binding when it broke repeatedly on me. I was able to get the top binding done BUT it turned out to be filled with microscopic fractures so that after I put the sunburst on, I tried to scrape it off and all the fracture lines filled up with color. It looked horrible. I had no trouble with scraping the binding that I got from Siminoff. If you do get this kit, DO NOT USE THE SUPPLIED binding, buy good quality from someone else (Siminoffr, Stewmac, lmi). Even if it means that you need to re-route the top, it is worth it.

    Bottom line:

    I was amazed and stunned to find that when I assembled the finished kit and set it up correctly, it sounded great. I guess that is the most important thing. For my first F5 kit, I would still get this one but I throw out the tuners and all body bindings. I love playing it but still get bummed when I look at the discolored binding. Oh well, live and learn.

  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    A question:
    Does the neck come drilled for tuners?
    If not, Is it possible that your drilled holes are "off" a little?
    If the tuners turn easily when not installed, then are difficult to turn when installed, it is sometimes not the fault of the tuner but it is poorly spaced or poorly aligned tuner holes in the head stock.
    If the neck was supplied with tuner holes drilled, the holes might be poorly positioned, so it still might be alignment rather than the tuners themselves.

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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    The kit was not just good, but----excellent in my opinion. The back was bookmatched, the spruce top was, if not bookmatched, so close so as to be un-noticable. The neck was a bit plain but some of my luthier buddies tell me that one may, in fact, desire a plain jane piece as it is likely to be stronger. I wanted other than the binding provided by the kit and so did not have aggravation you describe. The scroll was done very nicely and the alignment of neck and body was excellent. I finished the mando as a blonde and get positive comments from others when played. What an easy project!!!!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    The peghead had the holes drilled and the posts seemed to fit nicely without friction and the neck in my case was nicely figured. I guess that the quality of the kits differ considerably. The one thing in common was that the finished product plays quite well with excellent tone.

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    Registered User Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    Are you relating figured wood to quality? Figured wood is higher priced and to many (most?) is prettier but it does not make for a higher quality instrument in and of itself.
    Bill Snyder

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    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    Great review. Stuart did you already post picture of your finished kit in another thread? I seem to think yes and I thought it had what looked to be Ping tuners? You might just have a bad set. I've used them for restoration of entry level mandolins and mostly they seem to work OK?
    Bernie
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    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    Congrats on completing the kit Stuart. I have enjoyed following your threads and I appreciate the review.

    Scott

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    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    Quote Originally Posted by StuartGold View Post
    International Violin F5 Mandolin Kit- A Review



    The headstock is at final thickness and is not set up for an Ebony or Rosewood overlay. To put one on, it is necessary to sand/plane down the wood about 1/16”. A hassle but doable.

    Just out of interest, how thick was the headstock Stuart?
    The more I learn, the less I know.

    Peter Jenner
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    To be honest, I don't remember I didn't measure it. I just put the tuners through the holes and realized that if I didn't thin it down, I wouldn't have enough clearance after I added the ebony veneer for the string holes in the tuner posts. I took off about 1/8" of an inch and stained the back of the peghead to mimic ebony.

  10. #10
    Resonate globally Pete Jenner's Avatar
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    Default Re: Final Review of the International Violin F5 kit

    Ok thanks.
    The more I learn, the less I know.

    Peter Jenner
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