View Full Version : Where to start
I'm new to the cafe and mandolins in general. I was just wondering where would be a good place to start learning about lutherie and mandolin making specifically. I probably don't have the money to really start into the practice just yet, but I would love to start learning the theory at least.
I was just wondering where would be a good place to start learning about lutherie and mandolin making specifically.
You've found it. Browse around a bit and I'm sure you'll find way more than you ever thought you'd want to know.
Welcome to the Café, Jeremy. This forum is a great place to start. Another lutherie related site that some of the builders (I'm not one) refer to is the MIMF (http://www.mimf.com/) or Musical Instrument Makers Forum. We have some incredibly talented, top-shelf and hobbiest builders who share ideas and methods pretty freely. I hope you'll find your visit welcoming and educational.
You could get some reading material. Depending upon the style of mandolin you are interested in you could get. John Troughton's The Mandolin Manual (http://www.amazon.com/Mandolin-Manual-Craft-Science-Mandola/dp/1861264968), Roger Siminoff's Ultimate Bluegrass Construction Manual (http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Bluegrass-Mandolin-Construction-Manual/dp/0634062859/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206408840&sr=1-1), Graham McDonald's The Bouzouki Book (http://www.mcdonaldstrings.com/zookbook.html) and Robert Benedetto's Making an Archtop Guitar. (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Archtop-Guitar-Robert-Benedetto/dp/1574240005)
Then as Mark has said read up on things here, then read some more, then ask questions.
Another good resource is The Musical Instrument Maker's Forum. (http://mimf.com/cgi-bin/WebX)
Oh, I've been reading quite a lot here at the cafe already. I've been reading most of what comes into this forum especially over the last couple months. As for Siminoff's book, Amazon has both Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual and Constructing a Bluegrass Mandolin. Which would be better? Do they both overlap a fair bit? I'm interested in eventually constructing a simple (as much as possible) A style carved top. If all goes well or even if all goes horribly wrong and I learn a lot, maybe I would tackle an F or a two point. I'm a student at the moment with another year and a half to go so I probably couldn't afford to start now what with materials and equipment. I have seen a lot of low cost self-made equipment rigs here at the cafe, but I imagine there are just some things you have to spring for. What I have right now are time and curiosity, so I'll work with what I can.
When you say "student", what sort of school do you go to? Every college/university I've ever studied at has had an art department wood shop and/or a physics department machine shop with all the basic power tools you might want to use. I'd made 3 mandolins and a lap steel guitar by the time I graduated college. I can recall a few folks in your sort of situation who have gone with the IV kit, which is less than $100 and gives you insight into the process and a nice basic a-style mandolin in short order without the need for too many tool purchases. No time like the present!
Here is a link to the International Violin kit (http://www.internationalviolin.com/item_detail.aspx?ItemCode=MK1) with the Siminoff book. #You can use what's there and only buy, sandpapers, a goose neck scraper, some spool clamps, some titebond glue, and maybe throw in a $20 Sears random orbital sander to put it together.
edit: another choice is the Stew Mac Campfire Pancake Mandolin kit (http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Kits/Mandolin_Kits/Campfire_Mandolin_Kit.html). Which is a little less prebuilt than the IV kit.
You want the new edition of the Siminoff book.
I have no idea what kind of access I have to the university machine or wood shops. I suppose I could look into it easily enough. Also, the IV kit looks simple enough, and it's inexpensive. I know I'm not getting a world class instrument, but how is the quality on those kits? Are the StewMac kits better? Does it just depend how much care you put into it? Should I go ahead and get the newer version of Siminoff's book since the one with the IV kit is the old one? Sorry so many questions, but as long as someone keeps answering them, I'll keep asking.
Good Questions, I'd like to know too http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Me also please .I would also bre gratful if anyone could suggest a really good mandola kit.
People seem generally pleased with how their IV kits turn out. If you use the search button in the upper right corner on the cafe webpage and search "IV kit" you'll get at least a hundred threads addressing your questions and many you haven't asked (yet). In my experience, even if you technically aren't supposed to have access to the shop, if you tell the person running the place that you're building a musical instrument, they may bend the rules for you, and always go out of their way to help you. I've even been offered free wood (nice birdseye maple) by one woodshop guy who said he'd rather see it made into an mandolin than have some art student get their hands on it. It never hurts to ask.
If you consider the IV kit, opt for the kit without the abridged Siminoff book and buy his 'new' book to learn from. I really enjoyed building my IV kit and I have a nice sounding mandolin out of the project. It's a good way to get your feet wet and come what may, you won't spend much money for a very worthwhile experience.
I have been searching through the board with the search button. I found a lot on the IV kits. I was wondering what kind of modifications or upgrades would be most needed for the IV kit. I've seen that the tuners and bridge aren't very good. I already ordered the new Siminoff book. I still have to look into the wood shop.
No modifications are necessary. You could just put it together and string it up. Applying the finish might be a good choice but other than that it is up to you. As you can see from the other threads, many mods have been performed. The most common is the shaping of the peg head to something personal.
You won't need the woodshop for the IV project DrJBone, out of the box, most of the hard stuff is already done.
QUOTE: JEStanek - You can use what's there and only buy, sandpapers, a goose neck scraper, some spool clamps, some titebond glue, and maybe throw in a $20 Sears random orbital sander to put it together.
That's about all you'll need. I didn't spring for an orbital sander and got by just fine. A coping saw helps with shaping the headstock.
If you feel up to it you could buy some bone nut blanks from Stew mac and slot your own nut... Same with a better bridge.... Who am I to give advice, my kit still sits in parts in my basement 2 years later.
Do a search for Campfire and see one that another member built. His turned out pretty good too!
I was playing at a jam and someone called me off to the side and asked me to record some mandolin on a project that he was working on in his recording studio. He said that all he needed was some chop and background fill, and some turn-arounds so I accepted. The studio was intimating with all of the banks of equipment and the little soundproof room but it was fun and a new experience. I played my IV"A" for the session and was amazed at how it sounded. Like most of the comments by those who have built one, they are loud and the tone is good after you put some play time on it. I had only heard it at jams or miked with the group that I play with. I was quite happy with the tone and clarity that I heard when we played back the songs that we recorded. He can change the sound some with the board but what he played back was unaltered and he said that he saw no reason to alter it. It was a good experience and I couldn't be happier with my mandolin, even if it is a kit. The bridge ain't ebony. It's some kind of hardwood,dyed to look like ebony. The nut is plastic. The tuners are cheap. Neither of mine are upgraded except for the nut on one of them. The plastic one split after a year or so and I replaced it with bone.
Well, I think I'm going to get an IV A kit sometime in May after I've had time to read the Siminoff book and mull things over (and make some money). I already have a blank ebony bridge, and I will probably get a bone nut. I don't know if I'll upgrade the tuners or not. They seem to add substantially to the total price, but they are probably worth it. I do like to stay in tune. Thanks for all the help. I'm sure I will need it again in the not too distant future.