View Full Version : My first try at bowlbacks

Dec-05-2004, 6:37pm
Howdy all,
Well, yep, I've been holed away for a while again, but for good reason. Here's the new baby, custom made for a girl in California:


Ok, ok, so everyone likes to chuckle a bit at the rabbit, some see it that way, I see making a customer very happy.. But in fact it's one of those Zen challenges, can you look past the rabbit and see the new moon arising? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif Anyway, just thought I'd show her off a bit before she leaves for her new home. There's a sound file (http://www.bfolk.com/jen20gallery/farewellmandolin2.mp3) of her too...
Standard mandolin scale... Big bowl, short neck. Engelmann, mahogany, maple, ebony, and satine rubane woods. Light strings. Needs a special little maple wrench to fine tune those strings, otherwise you're fingers'll be ruined for twiddling thumbs once and for all. Stays in tune real nice once there, I was surprised too... Those designs on the top are burned in...

Ya'all take care,


Dec-05-2004, 6:45pm
Way cool...I like the scalloped finger board extension, and the rabbit is a nice touch too http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dec-05-2004, 7:11pm
Looks great, Brian.

Baron Collins-Hill
Dec-05-2004, 7:20pm
looks great and sounds great too, nice and clean. that is one of the nicest new bowlbacks s=ive seen in a while and would love to see some more pics if possible.


Dec-05-2004, 7:49pm
Quite a nice job, Brian. Congrats! BTW - where do you find plans to build a bowl back? I'd be interested in seeing how they are constructed.

Brian (M)

Avi Ziv
Dec-05-2004, 7:55pm
Very nice! All you have to do now is make a fretless version and offer a mandolin-oud or mandoud.... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif


Dec-05-2004, 8:07pm
Howdy all,
Well, yep, I've been holed away for a while again, but for good reason. Here's the new baby, custom made for a girl in California:
Is her name Bunny? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Dec-05-2004, 10:02pm
Here's the back: http://www.bfolk.com/jen20gallery/images/jen20_2.jpg

This one didn't have any hard and fast plans, there was a general idea of what we wanted, I sketched it up, did some math for the rib slats and it came together as you see. Ribs were all bent on the same form in groups, then, bent and dry, each was taken and planed flat on it's soon to be joined face. Thin strips of maple were easy to bend wet, and each was attached to a slat, glued, and let to dry with its new mate. Then each slat was glued to the next, and surprisingly a bowl form was not even necessary as the very mathematical nature of the curve and the width of each slat actually pulled things into position as the next slat was glued into place. Extremely neat. Finally, the bowl complete, the endblocks were shaped and glued in. Next we needed something to reinforce the inside, traditionally paper was used. I used cloth. I painted a thin glue solution on the inside of the bowl, let that dry, then came after with the cloth, which had been strategically sliced to fit in there (a flat piece doesn't like to go into a curved 3D shape easily) and another glue solution, this time thicker, was painted over the cloth and it just dries in there perfectly with no need to hold it in place or anything. This of course shrinks slightly as it dries, giving a very nice hold on each slat joints all 'round. God I love the way Nature works. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Take care guys and gals, and thanks for the input.

Dec-05-2004, 10:40pm
Brian you are a special guy since they are very few luthiers in north America who seem to ever build bowlbacks. Daniel Larson is the only person I know of other than you.

Dec-06-2004, 12:34am
Nice sustain and tone! Great work!

Dec-06-2004, 2:54am
Bry, you just blow me away. What a fantastic axe. Please call me sometime soon. Maybe before Christmass?...Kerry Also I would love to see pics of the headstock. Did you carve a figure into it?

Dec-06-2004, 8:02pm

Here ya go. That's a two piece neck, a pinned joint much like a timber-framed (house) joint right at the nut, incredibly strong.

Dec-07-2004, 2:38pm
Excellent work Brian!

I am sure the customer is very hoppy, ......er, happy.


Dec-21-2004, 3:26pm
Hi, I hope this thread is not 'dead' as it were.... but I would be very interested in any pictures that help to explain how you built the bowl. I have been making flatbacks for a while, and would like to have a go at a bowlback, along more traditional Neapolitan lines perhaps, but have really been unable to resolve in my mind, the issues concerned with gluing up the ribs. Any help would be most useful, Dave
PS very nice looking instrument.

Dec-21-2004, 3:38pm
I would highly recommend the book Historical Lute Construction by Bob Lundberg. Bob was a great person and his book reflects that and his incredible skill. It outlines the process for constructing backs very well. It's available from the Guild of American Luthiers: www.luth.org/luteblrb.htm

Mike Buesseler
Dec-21-2004, 3:47pm
That is beautiful, Brian!

Looks like I picked the right guy to build me a mando...(Folks, he's making me a flattop octave mandolin. Can you imagine how these pics affect me?) http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

J. Mark Lane
Dec-21-2004, 4:25pm
Wow! Holy cow! I never lusted after a bowl-back unti this minute. That's beautiful. And I happen to love the wabbit. Is it considered tacky on this part of the board to talk about money? I'm just wondering how much damage something like that does?


Dec-21-2004, 5:21pm
I missed this thread first time around... beautiful work! I like bowl-backs other than the fact that they roll out from under you if you rest your arm on the top! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif Did you hand-form the tail piece out of sheet brass? Or do you have a cool source for that?

Nice work!

Paul Doubek

Dec-23-2004, 11:32am
I have seen the Lundberg book advertised, I'm sure its excellent, but you have no idea how many good books I have been recommended to get on one aspect or another. I thought I'd start with the expertise about on the net, and use the books as a fall back only where necessary, that way I have more spare cash for wood and stuff. Dave

Dec-23-2004, 11:40am
I completely understand, Dave--- just keep it in mind for when you have some spare change. I haven't built any bowls myself, so I can't offer any advice without talking out my... well, you know.

Dec-23-2004, 11:43am
lovely work, very impressive!

John Zimm
Dec-23-2004, 12:58pm
Hey Dave,

Maybe you've seen this, but this site about oud construction has a lot of pictures and advice: http://www.msocp.com/Jameel_OudConstruction.htm

Nice work on the bowl back OldTymer. #My bowl envy is getting worse.


Dec-23-2004, 5:37pm
Check out Buckley's link to the Oud construction. #there is a pretty neat heat bender solution there. #basically, a 200w light bulb in an aluminum tube. #i'm not a builder so i don't know if this would be appropriate for typical mando sides, etc. #BUT the fact that it is electric and NO OPEN FLAME, i think, would make it an attractive alternative.

Dec-23-2004, 6:18pm
Respected UK luthier David Van Edwards (http://www.vanedwards.co.uk/) has an excellent couple of electronic instruction manuals, one on the renaissance lute (http://www.vanedwards.co.uk/renlute.htm) and the other on the baroque lute (http://www.vanedwards.co.uk/course.htm). I believe the first lesson, of course, is building the form to assemble the bowl. Incredible as it seems, US luthier Dan Larson (http://www.daniellarson.com/mandolins/classical_mandolin/classical.htm) freehands his mandolin bowls!

Jim Garber
Dec-24-2004, 11:32am
I believe the first lesson, of course, is building the form to assemble the bowl. #Incredible as it seems, US luthier Dan Larson (http://www.daniellarson.com/mandolins/classical_mandolin/classical.htm) freehands his mandolin bowls!
Looking at that oud site, it almost makes more sense to me to not use a form. #This way you can actually see where the joints need to be. I wonder what Dan Larson's technique is and if it differs from others.

Here (http://www.bluesblast.com/lute.html) is a site that does use a form of sorts. More of an amateur's exploration as he builds, but instructive nonetheless. I like his mocking up the ribs with cardboard. Makes sense to me.