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Thread: Inlay questions

  1. #1
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Inlay questions

    All right, friends: The question is: at what point do I begin finish vis a vis completing inlay work?

    My status: I've spent most of the last week cutting cavities for my multiple inlays in the Saga kit that I'm building. (Yes, lipstick on a pig, I know.) I have rough sanded (60 grit down to 120), but not applied sanding sealer or any finish at all. In fact, I'm pausing before attaching the neck and before gluing on the back.

    My question: So now I can do one of two things. (1) Complete the inlay, gluing the pieces and filling the multiple "oops" spaces, then start the finish or (2) complete the finish, then complete the inlay. I see problems with each. Suggestions?

    I guess I should add that the lipstick is all over the pig: top, back, headstock and fretboard. If that makes a difference in your answer.

  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Inlay before finish. Ideally, everything filled and level and sanded before finish, but there are usually some pits to fill during the finish process.

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Lipstick or not, a properly built kit is capable of producing a sound matching mandolins that costs ten times that of a kit.

  4. #4
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Actually, Macjansson, it's seeing the ones you and others have produced out of kits that has convinced me to spend an inordinate amount of time on this Saga kit.

    I thought your x-bracing was interesting. A nice solution to the problem of bracing under a thin bridge: I wish I'd thought of it. I came up with a modified radial bracing (think rays of the sun) which everyone here will undoubtedly crucify me for. But I kept seeing people talk about their Saga tops collapsing and--given the amount of effort I've put into tarting this thing up--I wanted to prevent that. I'm not convinced that the "tone bars" really help the tone, or that moderate amounts of additional bracing actually hurt it. I will no doubt be educated by experience, shortly.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Quote Originally Posted by belbein View Post
    But I kept seeing people talk about their Saga tops collapsing
    Can you point me to ANY thread where someone has mentioned this? I have read almost every thread in the Builder's section for over 8 years now and I normally have a great memory for things like this but I don't remember anyone mentioning problems with the Saga (IV) kits tops collapsing.
    I admit though that I could have missed a mention of it but if it is a common problem I would have thought I would remember it.
    Bill Snyder
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    I'm with Bill on this--I have never heard about a kit having a problem with a collapsing top. I have built one IV kit and I am completely confident in its strength and playability---no hint of any collapse.

    I also agree with Mac Jansson---when one puts in the time and skill generally, a good outcome can be expected. Not all of us have the disposable income to invest in an expensive instrument and a kit is a wonderful way to gain valuable building experience and a valuable product.

  7. #7
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Can I point out any thread where people talked about it? Ummmm ...

    OK, let me apologize in advance. This is going to sound snarky, though it is not meant to be.

    The answer is: Yes. But I'd have to retrace my steps to find it. I've been all over the internet, looking here and there and everywhere. I didn't keep track of where I was looking or what I saw. But somewhere in my travels I found at least two people who said that their Saga tops collapsed after a number of years. Given the effort I'm putting into this sucker, I didn't want to take the chance of implosion, even after a few years, so I took precautions.

    I couldn't think of a way to respond to the other points, so I'm just going to leave them alone, other than to say "Thank you for your input." Which I mean sincerely.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Inlay questions

    I built one of these kits over 7 years ago and there is no sign of the top collapsing. ANY kit can have the top collapse if the person doing the work removes too much material. It may or may not be a short coming of the kit.
    Good luck. I hope you end up with the volume and tone that you are hoping for.
    Bill Snyder
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Bill!
    My thoughts exactly, anyone can remove to much material from the top. Maybe kits are more prone to this problem as they're often put together by amateur luthiers like myself. In retrospect I'm convinced that I made the top of my first mandolin to thin.
    I don't see any reason to over brace the kits as I imagine that would leave the top to stiff. I often x brace my kits for the simple reason I prefer not to have to spend years trying to get the instrument to open up.

    The first mandolin I bought was a Fender and it had no bracing.

  10. #10
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Can you tell me what you mean be "opening up"? And what the relationship is to cross-bracing?

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    X-braced mandolins are more or less concidered to have a "finished" sound from the start. Tone bar mandolins are the same way concidered to require a period of playing and gaining better and better sound with time.
    Tone bars are also strongly associated with bluegrass mandolins.

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    These kits come roughly carved and you don't have all that many options if you want to make any changes. The thing is it's solid carved wood and following the instructions in the "Blugrass Mandolin Book" regarding thickness etc. you end up with an excellent instrument. The second one I made was fantastic and I almost regret selling it. I sold it cheap because I knew it would get some serious local exposure. I now have more orders because of that. It's not top of the line but you can easily make an instrument matching the mid price range. I can only compare to a "The Loar" I used to own.

  13. #13
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Macjansson: What kind of kits did you buy & build? And where did you sell them? I never thought of building them for sale.

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    THe SAGA kit can be put together just as it comes from the factory, with no (or little) attempt at further graduation of the top. As such it will sound fine.... and will not collapse. The probrom with collapse is certainly when folks try to enhance the tone by further carving or modifying the top beyond factory specifications. The instructions which come with the kit suggest that further graduation can be done and that is where people overdo it and the top collapses. In my opinion it is a fine kit for the beginning builder. I am quite happy with the two I built. I fussed with the graduation of both and am happy I did. The kit does allow leeway for modification. I would highly recommend the SAGA kit for the beginning builder.
    Bart McNeil

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    I buy the kits from international violin and the top and back are roughly shaped with what looks like a hand tools and in need of graduation. It's the same with the back. The pieces a pre carved but not necessarily close to optimal thickness. I sell the mandolins because, 1. I can't have mandolins lying about just around all over the apartment. 2. I need money to buy another kit and preferably also another tool. Eventually I'll be able to switch to stemac or siminoff f-kits.
    It's just fun to build and I plan to build from scratch some time. Right now I stick to only build flat tops when I build from scratch.

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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    I've done 14 or 16 of these kits for friends,kids,etc. One opened up at the seam near the tailblock while still in the white and was an easy fix. One fell from a jury rigged hook and split partially down the top,also an easy fix but required some finish rework. One came back from a test drive with a mysterious " spontaneous" split,also fixable but not saleable,so I still have it. I find the tops thin enough at the crown of the dome to be fine with a little finish sanding. I work the recurve down to around 100 thousandths strong except near tail where I leave it a little thicker in the area between the bridge location and the block. The rest is finish sanding and scroll shaping. The back is a bit thinner all around. I have been happy with the sound of all of them except one which is as good as any instrument I have ever made. I'm hanging on to that one.
    Jim

  17. #17

    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Jim, you mention a scroll. I don't know of any f-style kits made by Saga. Am I wrong (would not be the first time)? I know that the f-style kits and I believe the a-style kits w/o hole offered by International Violin are sourced from someone other than Saga.
    Bill Snyder
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Bill, I think you're right about it being different suppliers for the different kits.
    Regarding the inlay initially asked about in this thread I feel it's not a question of lipstick on a pig. It depends of the result of the kit. If it sounds good and looks good some inlay will further inhance the value of the instrument. Inlay is tricky and if it's done properly usually also apriciated by the player. My experience is that if it's to much inlay it's usually considered tacky and it's hard to get paid for it.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Hey,Bill,

    Most of the kits I use are from International Violin. I regard them as essentially the same as the Saga kits although the F styles may be supplied by a different manufacturer.
    Jim

  20. #20
    Are we there yet..... bigskygirl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Wow, Belbein, you are really jumping in with both feet.....inlays.....very nice.

    I too saw the comment about the top caving in but the poster said he thought he made the top too thin. I did not shape mine too much during my build tho'. so far it's staying in tune well and it's really fun to play. My guitar teacher helped me learn a song but I usually just pick it up and strumm a bit. I do need to work on the nut tho' - the action there is so high it's frustrating and I don't get much intonation past the 14th fret but it's not like I ever play there anyway.

    Keep us posted, I can't wait to see yours. Right now I'm working on a Saga Les Paul kit - painting it white seemed like a good idea at the time..... I've just painted the headstock black and going to give the body one more coat and then I'm done.

    Eastman MD-315

  21. #21
    Registered User belbein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Just a FYI: I was talking to International Violin back when I was looking for instructions for the Saga kit. I asked if the IV kits are the same as Saga kits. The woman I talked to was quite definite (one might even say "incensed") at the idea, and fairly demanded to know where I'd heard that. I responded with my customary, "I dunno, heard it someplace..."

    It's interesting. In banjo circles, everyone wants to tell you a story about their particular banjo. In mandolin building circles, everyone seems to demand to know "where'd you hear that?" :-)

  22. #22

    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Well Ken Wise from International Violin is where I heard that the a-style kit with f holes they sell is a Saga kit. It is also where I heard (read) that the other mandolins where not.
    Bill Snyder
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    Default Re: Inlay questions

    Mr Wise would now. He's great to deal with and he has helped me out several times.

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