View Full Version : Your worst building error
Please. Someone tell a worse story than this to make me feel better.
I bought two pre-slotted, 17" fretboards to build two custom 5 string instruments. After some time of fiddling with the setup, which is a very long and frustrating story, I have discovered that the scale is actually 18" and not 17". AARGH Apparently, either the boards are wrong or the manufacturer allows for a zero fret. I am guessing the latter. So, now one becomes a short octave and I guess I either build a new neck or take the board off and put a new one on.
I think I'm going back to standard 13.875" scale instruments.
On #3 I invented myself a new neck joint. I then went on to do what is still the most succesful stain job and finish that I have managed, a (if I do say so myself) very nice looking blueburst type thing, that brought out the one-piece curly maple back to it's best advantage.
The mistake? This neck joint absolutely required two dowels to hold the neck in place, but i FORGOT them. Two weeks after first tune-up, the neck tore out of its socket, messing the finish up in umpteen ways. I made up brand new curse words at that point. I couldn't stand going back to rework it, so I set the neck back in place with one drop of glue, tightened the tuners only enough to make the strings sit straight and called it a wall hanger.
There is a figured walnut e-mando setting in the corner by my workbench under a pile of scrap. It was going to be a through neck 5 string but I used 4 string measurements for the neck proper but a 5 string headstock, ebony board Paua shell vine - all finished & buffed out before I noticed. Someday I'll deal with it when I quit fumeing.
My worst building error? That would have to be starting to do it in the first place instead of getting a real job... with benefits, retirement...
On a smaller scale, probably the time I sanded through into the truss rod in the mandolin neck. I think that one is still hanging on the wall where I was working then. (The real error was setting the rod too deep.)
my latest...........after final sanding ,noticeing a small split in the recurve just above the scroll that runs ninty degrees from the grain ...this is a really great piece of fir ...if you press on the highest part of the scroll you can see the split flex slightly.....maybe i can seal it with super glue....ain't going to scrap it yet....
I carved a top way too thin, but for kicks decided to proceed and see just how long a it would last. #Well, it lasted the better part of a year, and took the temp/humidity changes of Telluride night jams to completely implode a 2" section under the tailpiece right in the recurve when I returned home. #It was a good lesson for me, and allowed me the chance to remove the old top and put a new one on. #The thin top was one of the woofiest sounding mandolins I've ever heard, and the chop could be heard for miles! but the high's were thin and the lows were muddy... #I loved it while I had it! #Then again, I'll never do THAT again! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif
It seems that no matter how badly you do there is some way out f the mess. It may be a LONG way around but there is a way. On one of my early mandolins I finally got it done with the 4th back. Learning about humidity or the lack thereof was an educational experience. There have been some frustrations along the way, but it has taught me that the materials don't care what happens, so it is up to me to coax and cajole them to the desired result. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif
Twice now, I've attached and cut an ebony headstock overlay without cutting out a hole in it for the truss rod. Not too bad I guess, but I had to guestimate where the hole should be and cut it with my Dremel. Speaking of overlay, on my first mando I attached the ebony veneer and glued in my pearl headstock logo *before* drilling the tuner holes. I did what I thought was right- clamped a piece of wood to the headstock to prevent tear-out, and drilled the holes from the back with a hand drill. The tear out was so bad that I had to glue in the pieces that ripped out of the edges of the holes.
As with Sunburst I too was sanding away at my neck and all of a sudden I could see my trus rod.
Another time sawing out the shape of the plates I forgot that backs have a button. I caught my error midway through the cut which was still too late. Jd
My worst? Lol, where do I start.
I'd have to narrow it down to building my first instrument with Titebond 2, not the red bottle. Not good.
Hanging in a special place where I can't help but see them are a AAA curly left handed back w/out scroll button.
A red spruce top where I was using a router to start the edges and went way too thin,
A carbon fiber reinforcement neck with the bar on display under the nut.
Another neck thats too narrow (3 course 6 string?)
A completed quilted F-5 w/ too much recurve between bridge and tailpeice (sounded great for almost 2 years before it inploded)
I am proud to display my learning curve as I have a long history of learning things the hard way.
I once cut out a top, got about 3/4 of the way through final graduation, and realized I had a left hand top. This was not for a left hand mandolin.
Scott Carey and Geoff B Geoff, How thin did you carve?
# # just curious.
# I also cut out 2 backs without heel buttons. A quick scarf joint fixed them. I had a bad collet it the router on my homemade duplicarver let loose slowly enough that didn't notice until it was tooooo late. I'm sure I could come up with more but its just too depressing.David
I have a gorgeous piece of maple that, unless someone orders a lefty F model, will be an A model one day. It's about the flashiest chunk I had too.
where do I begin....
Latest: after gluing on my bound, inlaid headplate, discovering that I had glued my sideline veneers on black-white instead of white-black. THEN, after removing the headplate and veneers, gluing the new veneers back on the very same way I did the first time.:laugh:
Using the drill press to rough out the inside of a top and the stop slipped. Drilled right through. Awkkkkkkkkk!
man you guys are idiots #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif
of course you know I've done about everything posted here already. You've actually reminded me of some things that I have tried to forget....thanks.
Ahhh that explains it... mandolins are built by idiots!
( I guess I'll never be ordering one from any of you- better start building my own...)
I am in the right place!
On a harp-mando (i know, i know "what the heck is that?") I glued the headstock veneer on the back side of the sub-bass string headstock. That was right after gluing the built-up heel on the wrong side, so it pointed the wrong way. I am staying with symmetrical instruments from now on...
The worst would be building a neck all the way to final sanding of the peghead, inlays and all, then getting the dovetail angle wrong by about 5 degrees. (of course, now the dovetail always comes first on square stock).
Probably the most maddening was assuming that the opposite edge surfaces were parallel on a 2X4, and then proceed to build a neck holding fixture to cut the F style peghead and dovetail on two necks, install trusses and veneer, the binding, etc, then install one of the necks on a body, and finally string it up in the white before realizing when setting up the bridge and strings that the fretboard surface wasn't quite perfectly plum to the body and the bridge had to be cranked up a bit on one side. Nothing catastrophic, mechanically, but very, very maddening when it wasn't supposed to come out like that. The REAL irritation came while trying to figure out WHY!
In fact, I think I scratched my head for two days before I figured out where the problem was.
the thin part that imploded (2" long, along the recurve, underneath the tailpiece) was ~.030" thick. #It was englemann as well! #It got that thin from trusting a router and my intuition too much. #oh well! #It does make me wonder, though... how thin is too thin? #Of course it would depend on a million things, but I imagine there is a ballpark figure for each species of top wood... # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif # http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
I was using a jig/form to route the first 1.25 of the perimeter down to .225 w/ the cheapest of my 3 routers.
A crapsman w/ the plastic locking ring, when the lock ring loosened it slipped down till the rim was about .090.
Of course I didn't realize this until I made it around to where I started and there was a somewhat difference in elevation, good times!
Incidentally the AAA curly lefty back w/out button was to be a righty.
It may not have been my worst, but memorable. Using the CNC ShopBot, I put in a very nice piece of quilted maple and then loaded a file made to cut the Top of an F5 style. Computers do what you tell them to. Anybody want a really good deal on a quilted maple top? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
Dale...we actually experimented with a Maple top mandolin. We did two. One with a spruce back and one with a maple back. The guy who was chosen to follow Charlie came out of the electic plant so when he arrived at OAI he assumed all buyers would want flame top mandolins. He did not understand why we would bury that wonderful figured maple on the back of an instrument. While the Maple top was not quite the same as a "real" mandolin, it was not bad. Ok, it was only tolerable http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif .
I've carved through in to a trussrod......
13th fret marker inlays anyone?
My 2 faves...profiling a fretboard so the shortest frets ended up on the narrow end somehow...and starting to gouge out the edge on the WRONG SIDE of a top plate, thereby destroying it in seconds...oops.
Jeez Joe..."THAT" followed Charlie!?! Who's idea was that to put him in charge...let me guess... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif
I've just bought a mando via E-bay and, yup, it has a thirteenth fret marker http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Confused the hell out of me as I was trying to sort it's intonation.
All the best
I guess a picture is worth 1000 words.
The biggest culprit is thinning edges too much, but there's also just plain too thin, bad runout, rim too thin, neck too thin, too much slop in the pantograph resulting in too much wood removed, wood too ugly, etc.
At least I have lots of plates to do finish practice on.
By the way, this is a 7 year collection, but I'm enbarrassed as to how recently it's been added to.
Worst of all is I have complete instruments I could add to this pile.
Wow, JIm...you need one of these! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
HANS!!! that was my nightmare last night! Please don't post that again! I have had to do that once and it's very depressing! My biggest problems are necks. I have broken a few necks in half after getting them close but in reality they are not saveable. I now will have nightmares of throwing instruments in a fireplace (again) and not get over it!
What's even more depressing to me is to have that stuff hanging around...
After seeing Hans's bon fire, a thought comes to mind:
Instrument building is like writing novels - We only let the public see our very best effort. Everything else gets deleted.
I'm a big fan of the mandolin, so whenever opportunity presents itself, I make a big mandolin fan. Before air conditioning, luthiers used to sit on the porch using one of these to prevent personal global warming while listening to the bluegrass on that ol'tube radio. Red spruce is my preferred fanwood.
If y'all will scoop the Florida you can reduce that pesky chin click! Or... It's a cross of Forrest Gump's ping pong Padlle and WSM's mando just before refinishing... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
When I did a lot of repairs, clean-out time was my favorite! Time to put the little apprentice to work.
Bill!!so that's what happened to Old Scrappy,my favorite mando which I sent you for tweeking years ago. You told me it was carried off by a band of marauding banjo pickers! I wish now I'd never known.
Guys I am feeling so much better now ! Maybe I need to get back in the garage and finish what I started 2 years ago http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif
I thought you guys were all a bunch of idiots, until I realized I didn't "get" the 13th fret marker comment!
I always wondered how many mando's guitars ect. have 8th fret, 13th fret dots? (Of course I am not that stupid, I always count and double count before drilling that 4th fret dot hole!) man what a bunch of morons! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Jim Hillburn, impressive stack of high figure firewood,it should make a beautiful flame once ablaze!
i cut the profile of the F5 peghead on a really nice 3 piece neck...roughed it down close to size ...then noticed that the scroll was on the wrong side...with all the other mistakes i've made while building, i am about to put the binding on my first lefty....can't waste all that time these good parts .......keith
It happened this afternoon...... built a flame maple A model rim on an inside mould with my best wood. Rim was an exact fit to the completed top and back. I had "temporarily" glued the neck and tail blocks to the mould using a thin hide glue....plan was to tap the blocks free of the mould and there was the perfect rim. Well I tapped the headblock free of the mould, but the tailblock wouldn't shift and I "tapped" it too hard...result was two perfect vertical cracks either side of the tailblock.......ever had that feeling that it's just not your day........?
That's alright, I glued the first lap of B/W binding on an F5 pickguard with the black (instead of white on the inside Saturday. This is now a "Custom" guard
Probably my biggest shortcoming is lack of good taste...
I bookmatched a piece of spruce for a top plate that had been hanging around for about ten years. The edges mated nicely, but the wood had oxidized over the years, and now I have a dark stripe that draws attention to the joint.
well, I routed a binding channel way too deep on my IV kit (didn't take the time to practice with the router) and went almost through the lining. I'm very new to building, and am SURE I'll make much worse mistakes!
You should always glue up freshly cut/jointed surfaces. It makes for a better bond.
Making sound plate too thin I have done this twice, I have a international violin "A" model kit the top I can see the light through area's in the recurve zones, well it just sits under my bench, mabey I can fill it up with foam and hook up a piazo electric hook up, make a electric mandolin..................Dennis in Az
Did someone say fret markers?
My #1. The original intention was to have two at the 12th, in the normal manner. I lost count somehow and put two at the 10th. What to do? Three at the 12th, of course! I've actually become fond enough of the look that I have done the 10-2 12-3 on all my mandos.
I'll join you in that club....
Ok you guys with your burning plates are scaring me... or would be if hadn't already accumulated 4 or 5 plates in the two years I've been doing this stuff http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
Not mandolin related (I haven't made one...yet!) but I do make cow horn blast horns or trumpets.
You have to drill a hole in the end to blow in, so using a wire to locate the end of the natural hollow in the horn, you work out the angle to drill in and meet the tip of that natural hollow.
Or you could get it wrong and drill out the side of the horn and through the tip of your finger with an 8mm wood bit.
I had a piping gig 4 days later too so the hospital superglued me up rather than using stitches, the show must go on!
I superglue my cuts in the shop all of the time. I lost count of how many gigs I didn't have to cancel on because of that little bottle of jet. I've also patched up some pretty serious damage on expeditions with it over the years when I knew it would be a long time before I got folks out to a good medical clinic. In a lot of less developed countries you can buy #medicinal grade at your local market over the counter.
Sadly it reqired medically cleaning up, the rancid inside of a cows head not being the most hygienic thing, and wood bits not leaving a very neat hole (should have used HSS...) so self supergluing wasn't an option! But yes, medical grade superglue is a wonderful thing. Leaves much less of a scar too.
Superglue makes a useful temporary callous if you have accidentally sanded yours off on the belt sander...
One time I strung up an A style that I had built and had ready to play. I only had one little brass screw I thought I'd use for the tailpiece until I ordered better screws. I strung it all the way up to standard
pitch(without an end pin) then put it in the case to take it to a jam. Little did i know the brass screw had too much elbow grease and had cracked at the head.
I started tuning it over and over through 2 songs then BAM!!! the tailpiece whipped my left hand like a sling shot while I was tuning her and son did it hurt. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif
Theres a lot of tension in these things.
Knew a guy who left his bodhran on the parcel shelf of his car on a hot day. It exploded and broke the back windscreen...shame...(well shame about the windscreen).