Has anyone here built a mandolin? As a mandolin player I'd really like to build one for myself and see if I can get it to sound just the way I want. I figure I have enough skill with prior woodworking (not a lot, mind you) that I would rather make one from scratch that buy one of the kits and just do a little finish carving and french polishing. Has anyone undertaken this on this forum before? It's a shame I play such a finicky instrument, as I'm sure this will lead to heartbreak when I try to build one, but nonetheless I think I want to have a go at it. Can anyone recommend a particularly good set of plans and how-to's? Probably an A-model, certainly no need to put myself through the agony of trying to carve a scroll only to ruin a prefectly good piece of tonewood.
Lots of interesting info at this site.
Originally Posted by John Leatherman
I teaching myself how to play a mandolin and I've learned a ton of information from the helpful folks on Mandolin Cafe'. Great mando forum with a LOT of great info.
I've built a couple. There's a lot going on in arch top mandolin design. Flattops are straight-forward and easy to make. They are generally very loud and heavy in personality. A Martin A-4 style makes a good second mandolin because it's still basically a flat top but you have to start dealing with down-bearing variables and a neck/body geometry that's a little harder to grasp.
It's hard to find exactly the right "scantlings" on the first couple iterations, but this is true of all instruments. Naively-made and beginner instruments are always too thick here and there. Frets have to be cut precisely on a serious instrument, but that's just a matter of accurate marking-out and figuring out the trick to it ( make a cutoff box. You can't saw fret slots perfectly enough free hand ).
To "find the sound you want" requires evolution once you see the light. Depending on how accurately and repeatably you can work, it might be possible to get into the game after 3 or 4 instruments. It works to build the occasional batch of something in order to experiment with a single variable. To know how far to go with things, you have to go past that point, which takes time, patience, and after a while, considerable confidence in order to hang in there while that fantastic-sounding ultra light fiddle snaps itself in two in the middle of a song.
If some of us who have made this journey seem quite self-assured in our wood working, it's for good reason. Highly recommended.
I was a musical instrument maker for many years(still am). I've made the F5 mandolin style as well as the A style,and violins. The F5 type is more complex to make than a violin,actually,so beware. If I wanted to build an arch top,I'd start with a less complex form without the scroll,fancy headstock,etc. of the F5. There is a lot of binding on those,too,which complicates things.
A -5 Style instrument does involve carving but one of the easier carves if you decide to proceed. Lot's of help available and parts are available for anything that you felt were beyond your skill level. Obtain a good set of plans or templates and this will go a long way towards your build.
Let us know if we can help.
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I suppose I could start with a flat-top, although I am a Bluegrass player and I've owned several flat-top mandolins and never been particularly attached to their sound. I was thinking A-5 (carved A-model with f-holes). It seems that a lot of people start with the StewMac plans?
Yes I have built 3 ... A style definitely easiest. F4 & F5 significantly more difficult.
I recommend this site for tons of knowledge ... http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/forum.php
If you want a real education and an unbelievable experience in building ... go to a Roger Siminoff Lutherie camp ... http://www.siminoff.net/luthierie_camp/index.html
Mine is the photo essay he references ... it was amazing and Roger is the world's leading authority on the F5.