View Full Version : Mandolins in progress

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Darryl Wolfe
Jul-22-2003, 11:05am
I started to put this on "mandolin backs"...but why not just show some thing in progress

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-22-2003, 11:06am
Another shot

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-22-2003, 11:08am
Red spruce tops

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-22-2003, 11:16am
No. 1 along with "Lloyd". Lloyd is the one with a neck!!

Jul-22-2003, 12:20pm
You making mandos now Daryl?

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-22-2003, 1:10pm
Certainly trying to. Let's not say "making" until some are done. I have done two dobros and about 6 "Fender" electrics from scratch though


Mike Handley
Jul-22-2003, 1:18pm
Not a mando, but a lap steel, 25" Dobro scale. Shouldn't every instrument have a scroll?

Mike Handley
Jul-22-2003, 1:19pm
Full view:

Jul-22-2003, 8:10pm
Now that looks truly bizzare (and I mean that in a good way).

Mike Handley
Jul-22-2003, 8:45pm
Ummm .. Thanks?!

Keep your instruments in your cases. This is what happens when cousins marry.

Magnus Geijer
Jul-22-2003, 9:44pm
My #1, first stringing up tonight, and no imploding tops or anything. I'd say I have about four million work hours left on this thing, but I just couldn't help stringing it up when I realized it was possible.


J. Wiens
Jul-22-2003, 10:56pm
My latest two F-5 s prior to fench polishing..Western bigleaf maple on the left and Michigan Red on the right......Jamie

J. Wiens
Jul-22-2003, 11:02pm
The bigleaf one getting french polished.......Jamie

Jul-22-2003, 11:41pm

Michael Lewis
Jul-23-2003, 12:19am
Good looking stuff guys!

That red maple has a sort of wiggly figure that I like (Darryl and Jamie). I have a bunch of big leaf that has similar figure and I can make 1 piece backs with much of it. I got it for making archtop guitars mostly, but there is enough short stuff to make a dozen mandos, it will be fun going through this wood.

Darryl Wolfe
Jul-23-2003, 6:44am
Jamie...really nice looking work..keep it up

Jul-23-2003, 7:14am
Very nice work gentleman.....you've got me thinking about trying to build.

Jul-23-2003, 8:19am
Very nice stuf..

Jul-23-2003, 8:59am
I play steel and Must have a mando styled steel like that, Awsome Idea!!!! when, how much, that is the freaking coolest!!!! nice work!!

Mike Handley
Jul-23-2003, 10:21am

I've been itching to build a mando for a couple of years, but I know I need to build my woodworking skills. I've carved a couple of top plates out of scrap pine for practice, and I've done re-frets, refinishes, and some major repairs on cheap instruments. I play Dobro, too and I go the idea of making a lap steel because it seemed like one of the easiest stringed instruments to make. I bought Tele hardware and pickups and planned to just build it up on a 2 X 6 slab. As I was making a full scale drawing, I got to thinking that I wanted to give a little shape to the body, like the old Oahu models. Then, I ran across my plexiglass mando template, and set it on top of the drawing. I was just going to use the shape without a scroll, but one thing has led to another, and I figured that I'll just go ahead and give it everything I've got.

The headstock inlay is actually 1/16" maple. (I'm cheap) I actually found that flamed maple for the body at Home Depot. (I'm really cheap) I'm going to use more 1/16" mahogany, maple and cherry to do a vine inlay on the fretboard. (Did I mention I'm cheap?) I figure I'll be done by the end of August, making this a three month project, working evenings and weekends. I'm having a ball and it's coming out better than I expected.

This is instrument #1. When I'm done, I'll have to decide what I'm going to do next. CAUTION: Building is addictive! I've got about $200 in material and supplies. (We won't count that drill press!) I didn't plan on making this to sell, and I haven't kept track of the hours. Even at minimum wage, I'll bet I couldn't make and sell another to get much of a profit. You can buy a new Gold Tone lap steel for less than $400 - but ... it doesn't have a scroll!

Thanks for the encouragement. Someday I'll make a REAL instrument.

Jul-23-2003, 10:58am
REAL NICE! good to hear man, I have a few steels and one pedal steel, ( Roy Smeck, no-name oldie supro?, a morrell 8, and a Sho-Bud) But that one would be awsome to play out with. The Finish is real nice too.
Keep on building!!

oldwave maker
Jul-23-2003, 4:40pm
Sharons guitar shaped octave, Rays 2 point with mesquite burl martin bowlback style peghead, on a bed of fresh creamy delicious engelmann tops, in the 103 degree shade the ol black walnut

Kent Barnes
Jul-23-2003, 10:59pm
Here's my first attempt at building: #Harlan #1 waiting on my lacquer order to arrive so it can shine!


Jul-24-2003, 12:26am
First attempt? very very nice.

Jul-24-2003, 9:02am
I'm with you MandoMonster, this stuff kills me. I can't even nail two boards together. I am absolutely floored by the talent out there when it comes to building an instrument as difficult as a floretine style mandolin. This is just another factor that makes being a mando-head great!

Jul-24-2003, 9:13pm
Lordy Lordy, fine herd folks.


Jul-24-2003, 9:30pm

Very nice #1 there! I like!

Jul-24-2003, 11:09pm
Nice work indeed,fellows.
Here is my current project.Still working out the details.I plan on building two like this and two with rounded points.

Jul-25-2003, 1:37pm
#3 in the white and # 2 to keep company.


Magnus Geijer
Jul-25-2003, 3:28pm

I honestly don't know what to compare the tone to. It's loud and mellow to the point of missing som clarity in the treble. I attribute some of this to my desperately bodged quickjob of a bridge though, so the jury is still out, somewhat. Need to take it apart and get back to working on it or I'll never finish it now, so bridge adjustment/replacement will have to wait until the rest is finished.

McMando: Thanks!


Jul-25-2003, 7:14pm
Thanks Guys, Always great to see new instruments in different stages of being.

Kyswede, excellent looking #1 and real cool sound holes. I love Fs but it's nice to see something different.

Jamie and Oldwavemaker what can I say? Only in North America.

Jul-28-2003, 11:34pm
Just finished, heading to NYC

J. Wiens
Jul-29-2003, 1:06am
Wild stuff!! Looks great..........Jamie

oldwave maker
Aug-08-2003, 9:55am
Red or yellow? the 'ripe' with biteaways on the upper bout, larger seeds, f style peghead, in the white has a bit nasal chop, irritatingly screaming up the e string, not as sweet as the 'sweet', not as juicy as the 'juicy', but hey, its early in the melon season here, and these hot nights make for ideal growing conditions!

oldwave maker
Aug-08-2003, 9:58am
the 'ripe' peghead detail, mammoth tusk nut (thanks leon)

oldwave maker
Aug-08-2003, 10:02am
the 'ripe' bridge detail, inspired by Red's experiments, rainbow gardens roller rink salvaged rock maple topped with fossil walrus tusk (thanks Kurt), drilling the holes brought out a bit fatter tone to the low end

Aug-08-2003, 10:24pm

Pleaseeeeees bring it to Wintergrass!!!


Aug-09-2003, 2:26pm
Here are two of my latest. The one on the right was just strung up two days ago and is still in the white. It has a Western Red Cedar top and rock maple back and sides. The one beside it is a Stew-Mac kit that I finished a while back. It's opening up quite nicely and is turning into a loud cannon. The cedar one has a very cool tone so far. Bright and loud but very thunky lows. Can't wait to get a finish on her.

John Jesseph
Aug-10-2003, 11:58am
Just got done leveling the linings and boring the truss rod pocket. Will lay out the dovetail after lunch, cut it today or tomorrow.

Skip Kelley
Aug-10-2003, 12:06pm
Here is the back of 007 in the white.

Aug-11-2003, 9:55am
old wave,

aren't mammoth's hard to come by these days?

(Is that really mammoth tusk for a nut?)


Aug-12-2003, 7:19pm
Not being a builder myself, I still thought you might like to see my Schwab under construction (October ETA). Ready for gloss coats to be applied.
Picture of Front

Aug-12-2003, 7:21pm
And back

Aug-14-2003, 6:16am
Just finished, heading to NYC
I really like the pickguard on this one! very classy!

Sep-03-2003, 10:01pm
Here is my work in progress at this point.Been working kinda slow.Trying to get in as much summer fun as I can before it's gone.Anyway,I call it my "S" style.At this pace I should be done next year!

J. Wiens
Sep-04-2003, 2:09am
Very Slick Resonant! Love the sensual peaks and curves. That peghead is similar to one I drew up a few years ago but never used. Keep us posted............Jamie

oldwave maker
Sep-05-2003, 9:24am
Starting the building cycle once again, this weeks wood bending: 2 octaves, 2 f5s, a C#, a mandola, 10 a's, all maple except for 1 mesquite rim.

Sep-05-2003, 10:12am
that 's' style looks great. what a unique design. i have a builder right now making what he calls his p2 design mandolin, originally designed for his citerns, so i love something a little different. he is working on it now, and i will post as he sends me pictures.

Magnus Geijer
Sep-12-2003, 5:54am
Getting very close now. Tru-Oil has been a miracle to work with for me.



Sep-12-2003, 7:49am
wow magnus cool sound holes
I like alternate sound hole shapes.
I'm a big fan od DAquisto etc so good work let us know how she sounds...


J. Wiens
Sep-12-2003, 8:10am
Looks great Magnus!.....Jamie

Sep-12-2003, 11:34am
Jamie, how about some pictures of your current work in progress? http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jim Hilburn
Sep-13-2003, 4:12pm
Looks like an ad for Quik-Grip clamps.All this to glue on an ebony overlay on the back of the peghead.

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-16-2003, 1:55pm
Three of the six A-models and two F's I have in progress


Sep-16-2003, 3:07pm
darryl, for some reason your pictures never come up on my computer. I wonder what I'm doing wrong?

Sep-16-2003, 8:45pm
hey folks- really interesting stuff. i am not a builder, but am lucky enough to be working with a luthier (doug dieter) who posts up pics for me as he goes along in the building process. it has been extremely cool watching my instrument in the making (though the waiting is killing me).
thought folks might have interest. i am getting the first of what he calls the p2 design mandolin, modeled after his p2 cittern.


Sep-16-2003, 8:50pm
sorry- in case it wasn't clear, the link i gave is where you can find pics.

Sep-16-2003, 10:15pm
darryl, for some reason your pictures never come up on my computer. I wonder what I'm doing wrong?
His pictures usually lights my firewall up, I think he hosts his own pics. Or something, I don't know why I get the same problem.

Darryl Wolfe
Sep-17-2003, 7:19am
All, #See if this link works on your browser. #If not it is a firewall issue in your internet security. #You should see a directory full of all the pictures I have posted



My Webpage (ftp.f5journal.com/pic_day)

Marty Jacobson
Sep-24-2003, 12:12pm

Modified GA-inspired F in progress; a bit more aerodynamic and obnoxiously retro than Monteleone's classic original.

Marty Jacobson
Sep-24-2003, 12:16pm
And a concept for a custom celtic mandolin... still in the works, and this is a few revisions back. But I think it gets the idea across... Cheers!

Sep-24-2003, 11:51pm
nice stuff!

Keith Newell
Sep-27-2003, 8:54pm
Maybe another future lil Golden Delicious? Not sure what color yet.
Keith Newell

Sep-28-2003, 9:52pm
go for the gold . the last one was goooooooooorgeous.

Sep-30-2003, 11:47pm
Final Product http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif JD

Sep-30-2003, 11:59pm
http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif STARTING Scroll and F Holes... http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif JD

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-01-2003, 9:18am
Five of the six A's and one of two F's

Scotti Adams
Oct-01-2003, 9:31am
..Daryl..thats some mighty fine lookin wood..have you got any pics of a completed F5 of yours?

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-01-2003, 9:39am
I hate to admit that I haven't gotten there yet. I'm close, but having trouble with the neck. That's why I backed off and did this..and am now going to fit all of the necks, including the troublesome F5. Will post some pics of the body and overlay (well maybe I won't post the overlay..Gibson may think I sawed it off of a Loar)

Here's the body (2 years ago...I move real fast)

Scotti Adams
Oct-01-2003, 9:40am
..looks real good ...so far....:0).....cant wait to see the final product...thanks!

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-01-2003, 9:45am
Two more

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-01-2003, 9:46am

Oct-01-2003, 3:54pm
The Scottish.
European Maple and Spruce.
Cocobolo bindings.
For Sale.

Oct-01-2003, 3:57pm
The Scottish.
Back plate.

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-01-2003, 6:25pm
Looks fab..keep up the good work

Oct-01-2003, 6:26pm
John, that's some scroll! I like it.

Oct-04-2003, 1:03pm

John was kind enough to send me the Scottish to check out and I am blown away by it. Volume, punch, tone city, the thing pretty much plays itself and looks like a museum quality work of art. I was really impressed by one of his previous efforts but this one leaves it in the dust!

I'll say it here so I can be among the first to climb firmly on the bandwagon. You may not have heard a lot about John at this point in time but if he keeps turning out instruments like this, that will change *very* soon! Hey kids -- keep your eyes (and ears) on this guy!!!!


Disclaimer ... I have no financial interest in John or his mandolins besides being on the waiting list for one ... can't wait http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Jim Hilburn
Oct-05-2003, 4:15pm
Here's a new look I'm trying. This instrument will be amber-honey-blonde with all black highlights ,tailpiece cover ,tuner buttons ,etc.

Jim Hilburn
Oct-05-2003, 4:19pm
Wow ,that came out big! I think Scott's increased the allowable size. Here's another angle. I inked in the loops and dot on my name. I have to engrave and ink that yet.

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-06-2003, 12:00pm
My now defunct peghead overlay/inlay

Oct-06-2003, 12:56pm
Defunct? I would think you fall into the "grandfather" clause in legal terms since you did this years ago before
the new copy laws were made public to you. You can always have two peghead overlays. One for the privacy of your
own pleasure, pop it out and put on your second one for
public appearances with the "Wolfe" logo at the top. Make
it so it's as easy as changing a pickguard.

Magnus Geijer
Oct-06-2003, 9:33pm
Doing my best to get in over my head here.
#2 (poplar with mahogany blocks)
#3 and #4 (curly maple)

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-07-2003, 9:17am
Looks like my shop..just a little dust and spider webs missing

Oct-07-2003, 10:12am
check it out.
the binding is on the body and it looks maaaaaaaaaavelous.
thinking of leaving it natural as it looks so nice.

John Bertotti
Oct-07-2003, 12:13pm
Mandoluthier1 The Scottish looks great! How do you keep the maple so white? Is this one of your deflection tuned models? If so the review states much about your process. Innovative and incredible, I wonder whats next on your R&D journey. John

Oct-07-2003, 2:47pm
Jim Hilburn

Your new inlay is such nicer and more artistic than the so called gibson "flowerpot" that any buyer/customer would opt for it, in my opinion. Don't look back and regret not ever doing the old flowerpot, which to me, was nothing special to begin with. Your mandos show real craftsmanship.
Mike in OR

Oct-13-2003, 2:16pm
I don't have pictures but I do have a mandolin in progress.

Sim Daley (www.simdaley.com) is building his Standard model for me. Its similar to the F5G as far as binding, inlays, etc...

Sim invited me up to check it out while its "in the white" before he finishes it. I went up to his shop in Nashville (actually Goodlettsville) from Memphis and gave it a test drive Saturday morning.

Its a fantastic mandolin. Great chop, awesome low end (which is what I was really after), great tone and volume.

Sim couldn't be easier to work with and has made sure that the mandolin winds up being just what I want.

Also had a great time jamming with Sim and his wife Missy later that day at a festival in Ridge Top, TN.

It was really a great Saturday - I'll try to post pics as soon as I get it.

John Gay

Oct-18-2003, 12:59pm
getting toward the home stretch-check it out!


Oct-18-2003, 11:21pm
Thought you would like to see my method of cutting the mandolin neck dovetail. This photo shows the modified cutters for my three cutter moulding block used on my saw bench.

Oct-18-2003, 11:31pm
Here is the neck jig. The jig is used both ends to cut both neck shoulders. This is not my invention, it can be attributed Don Macrostie, as he demonstrates it on his Making a mandolin video set.

Oct-18-2003, 11:40pm
Here are a couple of test pieces. I`ve made the body routing jig and the neck in the foreground is the right size but has a little too much taper. I can rectify this by reducing the layers of masking tape on the jig. The curve of the neck shoulders are spot on. I had to creep up on the profile in three grinding sessions making tests after each grinding.

Chris Baird
Oct-19-2003, 4:03pm
bobz, Where did you get the cutters and how much $?

Oct-19-2003, 10:02pm
Hi Chris,
The cutters came with the moulding block set, ( they were originally straight rebating cutters ), but I`ve reground them myself. I purchased this cutter block about 15 years ago when I was building furniture but never used it because I had a two cutter block with many more profiles, so I kept using that instead. I now have a use for this block after all these years, and the three knife block is better for cutting across the endgrain of a mando neck.
Incidently, we can`t buy a block like this in the UK anymore because of EU ruling that does`nt allow moulding blocks to be mounted on saw benches, deeming it an unsafe practice. Sawbenches sold in this country now have too short an arbor to mount a block.

Bob Deacon

Oct-20-2003, 8:45pm

Oct-20-2003, 8:46pm
sorry, forgot to write- probable rosette for my mando- rosewood with maple and sunray inlays made of recycled ivory keys.

Oct-21-2003, 10:28am
can't seem to get pic posted- you can check out rosette at:

oldwave maker
Oct-21-2003, 3:55pm
heres what happened to those bent sides in the sept 5 pic:
sweet 16!

Albert Whiting
Oct-21-2003, 5:39pm
my mandolin "The Scot" # 7 . it will be finished this week.

Albert Whiting
Oct-21-2003, 5:40pm
the front

Albert Whiting
Oct-21-2003, 5:42pm
peghead inlay

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-27-2003, 9:10am
a little progress over the weekend...no I didn't use my planer on them

Jim Hilburn
Oct-27-2003, 2:33pm
My hat's off to Bill B. and Daryl. I have enough trouble trying to do these one at a time.
I'm on the verge of finishing the binding on my latest ,and here's a couple of shots.

Jim Hilburn
Oct-27-2003, 2:35pm
One more miter to go!

Oct-27-2003, 2:50pm
final rosette design

Oct-30-2003, 11:22pm
Jim Hillburn

I must say I`m impressed with your work Jim, very tidy neat construction. It looks like you`ve applied some finish on the mando back prior to doing the binding.

I`m building my very first mandolins, ( I`m building two F5s ). I glued the S rib to the neck block seperately because there was too much light showing through when cramped in the outside mould. I used a strip of cork floor tile which really pressed the rib to the neck block with no light showing through. Looking forward to the best part, the plate carving.

Oct-30-2003, 11:28pm
And here is one of the completed rib assemblies.

oldwave maker
Oct-31-2003, 10:53am
Bob- I cut thin wedges from leftover spruce to wedge the sidewood against the block during glueup.
Jim- this severe MBS is what happens when a luthier is left at home with no adult supervision!
this week: home alone necking.....

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-31-2003, 10:59am
A nice $51 mando neck off ebay put to good use

Darryl Wolfe
Oct-31-2003, 11:01am
a little more

Jim Hilburn
Oct-31-2003, 11:06am
Bill ,I hope those fingerboards aren't glued on yet.
Bob thanks for the encouragement. It looks as though your going to do well in the mando world.
There's nothing but bare wood with a little construction grunge on the mando.

Oct-31-2003, 2:04pm
Wow...that is one of the most beautiful back and sides I have ever seen on an insturment!

Oct-31-2003, 6:23pm
it absolutely amazes me that you guys actually MAKE mandolins... wow... :D

Nov-01-2003, 11:55pm
http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif Arrrrggggghhhhh. I`ve made a mistake when machine planing one of my two curly maple mando backs. I surfaced the bottoms and then jointed the gluing edges. I then ran them through my thicknesser to bring them down a shade over 5/8" because I can`t run them through my planer after joining, ( too wide for my thicknesser ). I thicknessed one side of a set the wrong way round. They`re now not book matched. Nothing I can do about it now I`m afraid. Please tell me it`s not too bad.

I wonder if you guys can help me with some info ?
What is a popular fingerboard radius for a mandolin ?
Any tips about finishing inside the body scroll. I normally spray my instruments with an airbrush and compressor, but it will be mid winter here in the UK by the time I`m ready to finish my two mando`s so I`ll most probably use brushing lacquer. Any info, tips, tricks etc would be most appreciated.

Magnus Geijer
Nov-02-2003, 11:04am
I wouldn't worry about the non-bookmatch thing at all. Looks like you've got some very nice looking wood there in its own right. Seems to me the most commonly mentioned radius for mandolins is about 12", but you might want to get some second opinions on that.


Nov-02-2003, 11:03pm
Thankyou Magnus

It`s not that bad after all. I squared up the ends on a miter saw and the grain of the maple is almost vertical. The only thing is the curly figuring will be at a slight tilt on the finished instrument instead of a slight herring bone pattern. I can live with that. http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Well I have a 12" radius sanding block, so I`ve got that base covered. I have the adjustable radius block on back order from Luthiers Mercantile. With this tool it`s possible to easily sand a compound radius because it`s 13 1/2" long so it will cover the complete mando fingerboard.
Hope that arrives when I have need of it.

oldwave maker
Nov-12-2003, 9:17am
Still home alone, still no adult supervision! 3 on left have board hideglued on, 6 on right have them pinned with g string cutoffs in #60 drillhole. 12"radius except flat for blackie, in the background the alligator juniper body and birdseye neck of a lektrik geetar Im donating to the silver city blues festival

Darryl Wolfe
Nov-12-2003, 9:19am
Great lookin' stuff buss

Nov-12-2003, 5:29pm

Your style and use of amber stains is what prompted me to buy two other mandos but I have to admit I love your use of flamed/curly, fancy woods! Your "whiskey before mando" has always been a favorite!!!!!

Steve Stahl
Nov-25-2003, 4:39pm
I will try to post a picture of three red spruce tops that are in various stages of the carving process. This first picture is of a top with the steps carved with a Wagner Safe-T-planer. The red spruce billets came from Spruce (Bruce Harvie).

Steve Stahl
Nov-25-2003, 4:42pm
The next step is to start the recurve and general shaping with finger planes.

Steve Stahl
Nov-25-2003, 4:43pm
And the final shaping is done with scrapers and micro-mesh.

Kent Barnes
Nov-25-2003, 4:57pm
Steve, What are the numbers on the stair-stepped top? Is that in inches (.20-.65) ?? I did a similar process with my first mando, but didn't take as many "steps". I like the way you did it!

Steve Stahl
Nov-26-2003, 8:50am
That's right KayBee, the numbers are hundredths of an inch. I also did fewer steps on my first attempt (0.10" intervals), although I would do each step removing 0.05" increments. I found it was much easier to control the Wagner Safe-T-planer than I thought it would be, so I did the next two using 0.05" steps.

Nov-27-2003, 1:00am
nut is set up and bridge set up, intonation is next, and the custom case is on it's way.........
i am getting miiiiiiiiiiiiiiighty excited!!!!!
mantra: i am patient, i am patient, i am patient


Keith Newell
Nov-27-2003, 2:31am
Mighty fine looking mando there Ira, you have to let us know how it sounds when you get it (like I thought you wouldnt hehe).

Nov-27-2003, 8:03am
keith, i generally am a tad shy about sharing my feelings, and certainly am loathe to sprinkle the board with my joy in playing, and about my soon-to-be new instrument. but if you insist.............. http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif


Nov-28-2003, 12:30am
Here`s a picture of one of my first mandolin tops.

Nov-28-2003, 12:34am
And one of the tops completed. I`ve started carving one of the backs and my fingers are sore using the small Ibex plane for the recurve.

Nov-28-2003, 12:48am
I thought you guys might be interested in my home made carving plane design. The large one in the background is for carving archtop guitars. It`s ideal for the rough carving stage as it removes thick heavy shavings. I then switch to the Ibex Sloane plane for refining. You don`t have to spend mega bucks to get into luthiery, there`s lots of tools you can make yourself.

Nov-28-2003, 1:07am
And a top view.

Jim Hilburn
Nov-28-2003, 1:50pm
I started into the buffing process this morning ,and it's not even noon ,and I'm spent. My carpel tunnels have collapsed ,and my elbow ran out of grease.
So I thought I'd take some photo's of the progress ,and I might as well share them.
This is my take on the black top. But I went blonde everywhere else instead of sunburst. I found that when I take photo's of sunbursts ,I'm always trying to get the reflections out of the shot ,but I found on a blackie ,the reflection is the star of the show. In this pic ,you can see my wifes upright bass in the top.

Jim Hilburn
Nov-28-2003, 1:55pm
After 2 weeks of having this one look like a bowling ball ,it's pretty exciting to see it with the shine.

Jim Hilburn
Nov-28-2003, 1:57pm
And here's what the back looks like. When I get it strung up next week ,I'll post some more.

Chris Baird
Nov-28-2003, 2:22pm
Very nice Jim. What do you use to make the top black?

Jim Hilburn
Nov-28-2003, 2:58pm
A Sharpie....
No ,I used Valspar tinting colors in lamp black. Its a pigment ,not a dye ,meaning it's a solid color. The difference is bigger particles held in suspension ,while stain is smaller particles in solution..I think.
It mixes into lacquer ,and sprays on nicely. Then there are several clear coats on top.

Michael Lewis
Nov-29-2003, 12:37am
That's very attractive, Jim. Nice job.

Nov-29-2003, 4:06am
Wow, what an instrument! I love the black top (and the way you photographed the reflection btw), and I really like the binding, the black and white really stand beautiful against the color of the wood!

Nov-29-2003, 10:24pm

That is truly an exceptional looking mandolin. I am not one to usually really like blacktops but this has singlehandedly changed my heart. What a beauty. I actually just love the wood (and the color of) the back. i suppose it has a happy and anxious owner waiting for it?


Nov-30-2003, 12:03am
i love the contrast of the blonde with the black and white binding- stunning work!

Jim Hilburn
Nov-30-2003, 6:04pm
I installed the machines today ,so I have to add this pic.
Levin ,this one is destined for Cairo ,the one in Egypt.

Nov-30-2003, 7:47pm
Gads that's beautiful, Jim. One of the ones I'm finishing is going to be a blackface as well, reenforced inspiration by you (once again&#33http://mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif. I love the black edge on the top of the headstock to match the points, very cool and tasteful in the extreme. Did you use a maple headblock to accomodate the blond open scroll?

Nov-30-2003, 8:31pm
Beautiful !!

Jim Hilburn
Nov-30-2003, 10:14pm
Hi ,Zeke.
I think your mostly only able to see the maple top in the scroll in these pictures ,but I did use basswood for the blockset so you didn't see mahogany down in there. Tomorrow ,I'm going to be trying to match the color down in all the scrolls. There's polishing compound and lacquer overspray in there now ,so I will go in there with kerosene and get all that out I can and then make some tinted lacquer with retarder to make it more hand-paintable and see if I can make it look alright.

oldwave maker
Dec-01-2003, 11:40am
Another blackie, off to florida after polishing compound removal, the top was sealed with a thin coat of shellac, then 1 thin coat mowhawk black lacquer in the can, just enough to blackout, binding scraped, 5 clear, sandback w/220, 2 thin clear to fill the 220 scratches, rubout a couple of weeks later.

Dec-15-2003, 12:37pm
Here are some pics of my latest. Almost done. Just have to put the frets in and make the nut. Drill the tuning peg holes, final sand, and finish. So close I can taste it. This may be my Christmas present to myself. ;)

Dec-15-2003, 2:29pm
i love the shape of the headstock.

Dec-15-2003, 2:42pm
Thanks Ira. I wanted to do something different than a snakehead but incorporate some esthetics that a snakehead has. The curl on the top of the peghead, for instance. I like bigger pegheads though.

Also, I saw that you got your mando. Must be all smiles around your house http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif It looks great! Enjoy.

Kent Barnes
Dec-17-2003, 11:03pm
Harlan #2 is underway. #Here are a few pictures.
Wish me luck!!

Dec-18-2003, 3:50pm
Here is a nice pair......

Dec-18-2003, 3:51pm
Here is the front view....

oldwave maker
Dec-19-2003, 3:08pm
Thanks to mr hilburn for the blackie rubout tips!

oldwave maker
Dec-19-2003, 3:12pm
And thanks to mr harvie for providing the raw material for the next whiskey before breakfast!

Dec-19-2003, 7:08pm
Good Heavens! Who would have ever thought so little whiskey could go so far? I'm glad to see the color continues, and I have no doubt the incredible tone and playability will follow.

Michael Lewis
Dec-20-2003, 2:12am
Very cool Bill. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif

oldwave maker
Dec-20-2003, 5:16pm
Last ovalhole back for the year, super lightweight quilt also from Bruce Spruce

Dec-20-2003, 7:15pm
Whew! Bill, that quilt back is breathtaking!


Jim Hilburn
Dec-20-2003, 10:08pm
It's also a great example of the positive-negative aspect of bookmatched wood. you can see that what's light on one half is dark on the other.
That blackface photo AND the mandolin should both be in an art museum.

Dec-20-2003, 10:57pm
I remember that tree...

Dec-21-2003, 7:30pm
Bill...beautiful work. I have only had the good fortune of playing one of your mandolins(David Long's) but really was impressed with it. Old world tone to die for.

oldwave maker
Dec-23-2003, 10:04am
Seasons greeting to all mandonuts, gotta love those hollidaze colors!

Dec-23-2003, 11:51am
That's some fine, flamey rind!

RI Jim
Dec-23-2003, 7:43pm
Finally crawled out of the cellar long enough to post some pictures here.... I didn't take these and i think they might be enitrely way too big, but here goes:

RI Jim
Dec-23-2003, 7:47pm
A HUGE thanks to John Garrity, Spruce, Daryl, Jim Hilburn,and Michael Lewis. When the humidity got too high , you all came through with tips and info to keep the mind moving !

RI Jim
Dec-23-2003, 7:55pm
I might be biased, but this design makes the traditonal Gibson look dated. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

RI Jim
Dec-23-2003, 7:58pm
Finally, that sexy scroll !

Dec-24-2003, 1:18am
Here is a shot of the "S" model Silhouette with stain and sealer coat.I'm waiting for the humidity to get right before I spray it with lacquer.Can't wait!

Dec-24-2003, 1:21am
And the back

Dec-27-2003, 11:18am
While not from scratch, I've been overly enjoying building this Stew-Mac A kit. For the most part all the pices just seemed to go together without much fuss, and its definately a good way to ease into building, without knowing much woodworking skills (as I still don't have!)

Here's a pic of its first stringing up. Without much first hand experience with "real" mandos, I have to say that it just sounds better than what I'm used to.

Edit: oops, forgot to add: My building process is on my website, at http://www.obfus.com/gallery/mandolin

Dec-27-2003, 9:44pm
resonant- love that s style. truly unique!

Dec-27-2003, 10:52pm
You did great! Looks really nice, kit or no kit!!!!! I like the light color.

Dec-28-2003, 1:37am
Here are some pics of my a style that I just strung up. I haven't decided on the color that I want to do yet. I really would like to recreate that whiskey before mando color if I can. Mr. Bussman seems to get that beautiful amber tint to his mandos. Anyhow, here goes...

Dec-28-2003, 1:39am
Another pic of the back...

Dec-28-2003, 1:54am
Better pic of the top

oldwave maker
Dec-28-2003, 12:30pm
Mandoryan- I use stew-mac vintage amber (and maybe a microdrop of medium brown or red mahogany )colortone in alcohol airbrushed directly on the wood, then a yellow or amber shellac 1.5 lb cut sealer coat, then nitro with more of the colortone (3-6 drops per 16 oz nitro)mixed in, helps to experiment on scrap or maple pickguards, good luck, nice looking mando!

Dec-29-2003, 5:50pm
Thanks Bill for the advice and the compliment! I really appreciate it.

Kent Barnes
Jan-14-2004, 9:07pm
Harlan #2 is well under way. #Here are a couple of pictures of the progress so far.

The second goes so much faster than the first. #I just have to remember to take my time and not get rushed and sloppy!

Bob DeVellis
Jan-15-2004, 9:50am
This whole thread is really remarkable. I'm totally blown away by the creativity and artistry of the people putting together mandolins, from those with the courage, skill, and patience to build their first kit to the pros who keep pushing the boundaries of mandolin aesthetics. My hat's off to all of you.

Keith Newell
Jan-16-2004, 12:33am
hmmm, I cant attach an image

Keith Newell
Jan-16-2004, 12:45am
Well, its almost done. Just a few coats of varnish to seal in stain, nothing polished out yet. Top is one piece Sitka from Bruce Harvie at Orcas Island Tonewoods. The sides, neck and back (one piece also) is Big leaf maple from John Griffon at Old Standard Woods. The wierd spot on the back is a reflection or something because its not in the finish.
Keith Newell

Keith Newell
Jan-16-2004, 12:46am

Keith Newell
Jan-16-2004, 12:47am

Keith Newell
Jan-16-2004, 12:48am
Neck joint profile.

Mike Handley
Jan-20-2004, 11:56am
How about an 'F-Paul?'

Jim Hilburn
Jan-20-2004, 5:28pm
What can I say? It's the initials of the guy who's getting it. Hope I don't hear from a barrister.

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-21-2004, 9:05am
Jim, just a gentle suggestion (if you didn't know or even care) Stew-mac fingerboard blanks (it looks like one) do not have the fingerboard extension cut in the right place with respect to the frets.

There's nothing wrong about it, just if you want it to look like the way Gibson did it, they are way off.

I fretted and bound 2 of them before I noticed it. I'll certainly use them, but not on the "clone" of my Loar

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-21-2004, 9:08am
Great work..I love the triple binding on the face

Jim Hilburn
Jan-21-2004, 9:47am
Thanks ,Darryl ,but I make my own ,and I'm actually trying to keep the whole thing shorter than an actual Loar-style.
I did get in trouble with an order from a classical player. He said he played things up to the 24th fret. I never thought anyone ever played up there.

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-21-2004, 9:50am
Thanks Jim, I figured you had a good answer..'just needed to go there "in case"

I really like the look of that piece of spruce..should be a Hoss

Jan-21-2004, 6:58pm
What I found wrong with the Stew mac F5 kit is the neck. The neck is a 1/2" longer than a Loar. So it looks like the added length ends up between the the nut and the tip of the headstock. Major Bummer

Jim Hilburn
Jan-22-2004, 6:02pm
How do you clamp those pesky point protectors on ,anyway? Well ,here's one way.

Jan-22-2004, 11:07pm
And here`s another way of glueing those point protectors. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Jim Hilburn
Jan-22-2004, 11:52pm
I like it. You could use those clamps even with the plates on. I've been doing the flaired point thing ,even though I guess the Loars never had it. Thats why I wait till it's binding time

Magnus Geijer
Jan-23-2004, 12:39am
Doesn't get any easier than doing it like this.

Magnus Geijer
Jan-23-2004, 12:41am
Of course, you end up with rims that aren't exactly Loar specs.

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-23-2004, 8:12am
What I found wrong with the Stew mac F5 kit is the neck. The neck is a 1/2" longer than a Loar. So it looks like the added length ends up between the the nut and the tip of the headstock. Major Bummer

Yep..and then I turned around and bought one without the peghead cut...ended up throwing both away

Jan-23-2004, 9:09am
Re corner protectors:
Did you notice the picture David Mclaughlin posted of the "dovetail" of the corner protector into the binding? It's in the Loar picture of the day thread. Ever since he pointed that detail out to me about 12 or 13 years ago, I quit trying to clamp them. I put the binding on first, cut the "dovetail", cut the protector to fit, and when I push the protector into its place, it's clamped! For the duration!

Jan-26-2004, 3:25pm
Here's my next one. Claro walnut f5. Coming up will be a Brazilian Rosewood. All will be natural.

Magnus Geijer
Feb-04-2004, 3:27pm
My first two-piece back beginning to look like what it's supposed to.

oldwave maker
Feb-04-2004, 3:42pm
Fresh experiment with super lightweight mottled redwood top from Spruce, adirondack tonebars, texas mesquite sides/1pc back, mahogany neck, red henry bridge, bison femur nut, arizona ironwood peghead veneer/fretboard/fingerrest- lively and loud, not used to the redwood tone yet.

oldwave maker
Feb-04-2004, 3:48pm
peghead detail of the redwood mesquite experiment-arizona ironwood burl peghead veneer, flowerpot made from catlinite (pipestone) from the az mine. I'm not suing anyone who uses this flowerpot design, tho I might sue myself.....

Feb-04-2004, 4:26pm
oldwave maker...I love your fresh and sometimes humorous approach to building and hope to one day own a custom oval-holed A from ya when finances permit. I love the Flower pot, I'd say from 20' it wouldn't look like the Gibson's either. Nice job once again!!!!

Feb-04-2004, 7:36pm
Very cool Bill! How is the sound with the mesquite back? I'm curious how that wood combination would affect the tone. Very tasteful and neat as always.

Jim Hilburn
Feb-05-2004, 1:07pm
Here's #29 ready to go to the spray booth.

Darryl Wolfe
Feb-05-2004, 1:12pm
Very nice Jim...I think you're ready to give the big boys a run from what I see.

Feb-05-2004, 3:06pm
Very nice Jim. What number is that one? You're definetely doing top notch work!

Kent Barnes
Feb-08-2004, 5:46pm
I finally got some quality "sawdust" time today. #Here's the back of Harlan #2. #This piece of maple is nicer that I first thought!

Jim Hilburn
Feb-09-2004, 4:14pm
After the warm reception I got for my blacktop, I've decided to attempt some other color statements that you don't see everyday. I decided to make a blonde with sky blue binding. Let me know how you like it.

Darryl Wolfe
Feb-09-2004, 4:44pm
I'll bite. It's 3M blue masking/striping tape right?

Jim Hilburn
Feb-09-2004, 4:58pm

Kevin K
Feb-09-2004, 4:59pm
Will this one be a black face as well???

Jim Hilburn
Feb-09-2004, 5:22pm
No ,back to sunburst's for a while.

Darryl Wolfe
Feb-10-2004, 10:15am
Jim, I've never bothered masking the binding. I guess that stuff works well/saves time? (or you wouldn't go to the trouble)

Kevin K
Feb-10-2004, 12:35pm
No ,back to sunburst's for a while.

Shucks, hoping to see another black one soon.

Jim Hilburn
Feb-10-2004, 2:11pm
In '81 ,I sat in Nuggets shop and watched him go from an i.t.w. mandolin to the first coats of lacquer (back when he did lacquer) in about 8 hours. He taped off everything.
Now since I shot the above photo ,I got up this morning and the tape around the scroll had contracted and was on the wood ,so I just took it off the scroll.I try different things ,but it's easy to tape off the sides ,and not too hard to do the face on the big sweeping stretches. In the tight turns you have to stretch the tape to the contour, but it still has wrinkles and will get more bleed than the rest.
Now,I sprayed the color this morning ,and I still have to scrape up to the inside line on the whole thing even after taping.But thats mostly just to get a real sharp line and theres a lot less work than having to scrape stain off the whole thing. I'm always quoting Bob Bennedetto ,but he said he tapes what is easier than scraping and leaves the rest.

Gavin Baird
Feb-10-2004, 2:38pm
I tried the auto body plastic tape with the same problems you describe. As I mentioned on an earlier post, I now use regular masking tape. You have to get the best quality. That is the one with the best adhesive and the thinest material. I then apply the tape to a vinyl drafting board cover and using a sharp scalpel blade, cut the tape into 1/16" wide strips for going around the scroll. To build up the width I overlap the next course. On the body I cut the tape to the desired width and apply using my magnifying glasses. To insure a fine line apply a very thin coating of lacquer to the edge you want defined. Once this is done the colour finish can be applied. When going to clear coating a very thin coat of lacquer is sprayed around the tape perimeter. Remove the tape touch up where necessary and continue clear coating. I believe the secret to good masking is a fresh cut edge on the tape and the correct width for doing curves..Since I use only wood bindings[Holly] this is the only way I have found that works well...G

Feb-22-2004, 3:33am
Finally got some lacquer on my mando!
My spray equipment is very low tech. I've got a little orange peel going on.But I can sand it back as I apply coats and the final polishing out will be fine.Hope to get some better equipment one day!

Feb-22-2004, 3:40am
You can see the orange peel good in this pic.
The same happened on my last two mandos,but polished out fine.

Chris Baird
Feb-22-2004, 10:44am
Don't be afraid to experiment with you spray setup, even a cheap gun can usually produce a fair coat.

Feb-22-2004, 1:00pm
RE taping bindings:
I only know one person who can mask bindings with tape faster than scraping them.
I was taught finish work by Kim Breedlove who told me: "don't bother trying to mask the bindings. I've tried that, and scraping them is much faster after you learn how".

When I finally got to quit working in the finish room at the company I used to work for, (after 6 years straight of finishing every instrument that came through http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif) ), I was replaced by Mark Dalton. He had been running an auto body shop and had worked there since he was in his early teens when it was his dad's shop. I showed him how to stain an instrument and clean the bindings, but he thought he could mask them faster and easier,....and he was right. He had so much experience with tape and so little with a scraper that it worked better for him.
I still scrape mine. After 6 years of doing it almost daily you can get pretty fast and accurate!

Feb-23-2004, 4:19pm
Here's the rear of a 2-pt oval hole built by Pavel Sucek. The lacquer has just finished drying.

Feb-23-2004, 4:21pm
And a frontal shot of the same

Feb-23-2004, 7:14pm
Well....i'm not very objective but, i love the organic vibe Mr. Sucek has presented with your mandolin. i can't wait to see the report on how this little Two point sounds. Congrats.

Feb-24-2004, 10:43am
Thanks! Maybe we'll get some more photos once he's buffed out the lacquer. Somebody should be posting photos of his new 2-pt f-hole mando too.

Dru Lee Parsec
Feb-24-2004, 12:21pm
I just started mine. Here's the fretboard. I decided to use progressivly smaller abalone dots as i went up higher on the fretboard. I like the proportions better that way. Some of the fret dots I've seen look pretty crowded onthe higher frets.


Feb-27-2004, 9:12am

I noticed Jim and Sunburst both got to learn a bit from some well know luthiers, Ive been thinking bout going to school for lutherie but apprenticeship seems to be the better deal.
Does any body know some real good luthiers around North East Texas I could talk to?


Feb-27-2004, 3:09pm
After 2 weeks of having this one look like a bowling ball ,it's pretty exciting to see it with the shine.
Jim I saw your pix of that black topped beauty you did in '02'. Have you posted any pictures of the way you do that double black binding that shows on the top and sides? You and Jamie Weins do the best binding I've seen yet! -Pat Harrell

Feb-27-2004, 5:19pm
Thanks! Maybe we'll get some more photos once he's buffed out the lacquer. #Somebody should be posting photos of his new 2-pt f-hole mando too.
Here are some pics of my Pavel Sucek f-hole 2-point in progress.

Delivery is scheduled for next week. Can't wait.

Feb-27-2004, 5:20pm
Sucek two-point f-hole back

Chris Baird
Mar-10-2004, 7:03pm
Here is an Arches A drying in the sun. This is a new varnish recipe, I hope it dries.

Skip Kelley
Mar-10-2004, 7:55pm
Chris, thats a beautiful mandolin. Nice flame and I love the recurve in the back.

Mar-15-2004, 7:30pm
a month ago , a week ago Today....almost there! 3-15

Magnus Geijer
Mar-19-2004, 4:19pm
Geijer #2 getting closer. Man, this stuff is addictive.

Keith Newell
Mar-20-2004, 3:53pm
Ready to bind the top. This is a custom one for somebody that wanted a curl without the button on the end of the scroll.

Keith Newell
Mar-20-2004, 3:55pm
The holes are to lighten it a bit. I use the thinned hide glue and gauze around the f holes, thats what the shinny stuff is.

Jim Hilburn
Mar-27-2004, 6:30pm
Here's my next one in the process of getting inlay.

oldwave maker
Mar-27-2004, 6:51pm
mo' ovalholes: rosewood, mahogany, quilted maple, mesquite, the rosewood and mahogany have nearly identical (4 pages of a bookmatch!) engelmann tops braced and voiced the same, as per customer request.

Mar-27-2004, 9:54pm
This is the latest addition to the MANN clan. curly redwood tops, quilted mahogany backs and sides. one piece neck/neck block.

Mar-27-2004, 10:38pm
oldwave, those look nice. Living in Texas, and in Abilene in particular (got to be the mesquite capital of the world), I've wondered if mesquite would sound any good as an instrument. How does it sound compared to the other woods you have there? It's certainly pretty wood.

Mar-28-2004, 5:35pm
Hello fellow Abilener. What are you talking about mesquite in Abilene? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif


Jim Hilburn
Apr-09-2004, 1:29pm
Hi, all you Abilene guys. I was born there, but moved out west when I was 8.
Here's what it looks like as the binding is going on.

Jim Hilburn
Apr-09-2004, 1:33pm
I like to do frets at the same time as the binding because it's something to do as the glue is drying.
I've bought a lot of the Stew-Mac specialty tools for fretting, but if you are interested in getting into using a press, be aware.. Stew-Mac sells this same press for $100. I got mine at Harborfreight for $20.

Apr-09-2004, 10:48pm
Like you Jim, I was able to purchase a press machine from a company here in the UK. It cost 18, a lot cheaper than StewMac. I have`nt used it yet. What radius do you apply to your fingerboards ? I was thinking of a 10" radius for mine.

Apr-09-2004, 10:59pm
Here`s a handy little tool I made to cut a binding line in the body scroll. The cutter is made from an old jigsaw blade which happened to be just the right thickness for the reverse binding I`m doing on one of my mandos. To mark for .090" binding, I add a .020" and .030" feeler gauge between the cutter and the body of the tool.

Apr-09-2004, 11:04pm
Here it is being used.

Apr-09-2004, 11:15pm
Here`s how I`m getting on with binding. I`m having to use a diffrent glue to what you use over there in the states. It`s called Bostik All Purpose, and it does the job but it`s really messy to work with. The sqeeze out does`nt wipe away with a tissue like Weld On, although I can wipe some off with a rag. It sticks and builds up on my fingers and I`m biting off glue from my fingers at the end of a glue up.

Apr-09-2004, 11:21pm
The other mando I`m making is getting a reverse binding.

Jim, What is that blue tubular thing on your workbench ?

Jim Hilburn
Apr-10-2004, 8:52am
Nice work, bob.
The blue tube is the main cross piece of the Terrco duplicator. I remove the extensions that hold the router and guide when not in use so I have more bench space.

Apr-12-2004, 5:47pm
Here's my latest claro walnut,red spruce,with curly maple and ebony binding and one coat of shellac

Apr-12-2004, 5:48pm
Here's ashot of the side

Apr-12-2004, 6:38pm
Nice!! Show us more.