View Full Version : beginner and a kit

Feb-01-2004, 12:30am
I noticed the mandolin kits mentioned here and the thought of trying to build a mandolin has been kinda bouncing around my head. I probably would have bought a kit aready, except they are expensive ! At least to my stressed out wallet, most of them costing more than I payed for my Mandolin.

Now I know I'll want to upgrade my mando eventually (I have my first, A Kentucky 150S) and I could justify buying the kit if I thought that realistically it would be an upgrade. How hard is it to build a decent Mando from the kits? I'm interested in an "A" style, and probably a round or oval hole, but I don't know if that would make it any easier.

I have done some model building and such (the model air planes from balsa wood), but most of my carpentry work has been more on repairing walls, house framing, hanging doors, building dog houses, etc. NOT fine furniture. What are the chances I could build a decent enough Mando on my first shot to make it worth the money?

Besides the kit, what kind of tools and such would I need to buy? It seems the kits I saw were about $400, assuming $100-200 for tools, glue, paint, etc (reasonable?) would the finish product likely be worth $600?

Are some kits better for rank beginners, or if the first attempts are generally rough, are there cheaper kits available?

Feb-01-2004, 3:41am
Whether your kit mandolin would be worth $600 or more really depends on how well you put it all together. A big factor in the equation is how well you can graduate the plates, carve the tone bars, tune the top and execute the bindings and finish. If you get that right, you should have a very good sounding instrument. Since the kits are all machined to fit, things should go together pretty well.

As for tools, you will need chisels, gouges, maybe some finger planes, a router table, a Dremel tool and base, sandpaper, a coping saw or jig saw, at least a hand drill, finishing materials, various adhesives, and a bunch of clamps. Seems like there is always another tool or accesory to purchase once you get going.

My advice is this: if you have an interest in building and are passionate about it, do the kit. If all you are looking for is a better mandolin, save your money and just buy a better instrument. In other words, if you only plan to build one, you may be better off just buying an instrument. If, on the other hand, you envision making a number of mandolins in the future, the kit will get you started down the road.

Feb-03-2004, 12:12am
Crawdad has made some excellent points. #Many people with some woodworking experience may want to start with just a set of plans. #Some with little or no experience may opt to go with a kit which will either give way to a full blown building addiction or give one a wake up call. Tools can be a big factor to consider. #There are many kits on the market.
Whichever route you plan to take, you will find a vast storehouse of people here ready and willing to share their knowledge with you.


Feb-03-2004, 11:08am
OK, Keeping in mind ZERO experience with building, and that $200 is a lot of money to me, much less the $600 I think might be a more accurate cost.

If I want to try my hand at building, would it be better to start with something else, like a dulcimer, and see how it goes? Or is the skill set enough different that it wouldn't tell me much?

I definately would be looking at a kit which ever way I go. I saw Mountain dulcimer kits locally for about $100 which is definately cheaper than I've seem Mandolin kits for.

Crawdad mentioned that the qualoty of the finished instrument would depend on how well I "graduate the plates, carve the tone bars, tune the top and execute the bindings and finish". Finish I think I can handle. Can't be worse that painting motorcycles. The other stuff is all greek (I assume explained in the instructions in the kit or I'd have to buy a book for), how difficult is that stuff to do? Will it take a couple kits to learn it, or by following instructions and being careful can I reasonably expect to do a good job the first go round?

I know I won't end up with a $2000 instrument, but if I have a good chance of ending up with a substantial upgrade over my Kentucky 150 it would be a lot easier to justify the expense to my wife.

Feb-03-2004, 11:59am
In the post before yours, Don, (Luthier) left his website address. Take a look at that. Perfect kit to start with--no plates to carve, etc. His is a very nice kit and would need few tools to build--easily getting you under your budget. Everybody who builds one seems to love it and has good results. As a bonus, he offers his advice and expertise with each kit. He will help you through it.

Even if you just build once, you should have a great mandolin you can be proud of.

Feb-05-2004, 12:27am
Im going to put in a plug for Don's kit. I built one of his last summer. I had no woodworking skills, except for maybe using a saw and drill press in middle school atleast 8 years ago. The great thing about his kit is that Don is included. You can email or call him with any questions you have as you build the kit. He is very fast in responding. I emailed him many times, always returned with great information. All the tools i need for this kit were some chisels, files, exacto knife, small hand plane, dremel, drill press, clamps, jig saw and glue. What i got out of it was an excellent sounding oval flat top mandolin. Im hoping to make a second mandolin, possibly from the siminoff kit, coming up this summer after my spring semester at PSU.