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Thread: No Power Tool Mandolin

  1. #26
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    This is a question which goes across so many fields.
    I have had the discussion with regard to cooking and as far as I’m concerned, if Escoffier had a Cuisinart, he would surely have used one! But, a brigade of minions to beat panade for Gougere, grate cheese, et al, can get the job done.
    Having done all those projects by hand prior to the acquisition of the Cuisinart, I prefer the electric assistant, thank you very much.
    So the answer to a lot of it is, yes you surely can but, if you can make the project less sweat driven, why wouldn’t you?
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  3. #27
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I don't see why building your own mandolin without power tools would be bad. It would be rewarding. Building for a living, well you do have to eat.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  5. #28
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    I've seen it being done with guitars, and violins, but not arch-top mandolins. I suppose it would be sort of like a mix between the two.
    My workshop is too small for powertools all I have is handdrill (pretty sloppy one) and old Dremel knock-off which I rarely use, mostly just for cutting pieces of tubing for sanding sticks and such.
    I've made several of F-5's with 95% or more handtools - I visited my friend to use his bandsaw for cutting body blocks and rough cutting neck contours - that's all, on some I used his router for binding channels. I could cut the scroll blocks reasonably well in three or four layers glued together but it vwould be very hard (though not impossible) to do in one piece with hand saw.
    To pass the complete information I even made many of my tools - I made my thumbplanes, few gouges, many of the jigs and thickness calipers, knives, bending iron etc... On latest builds I used spruce that I split and dried and maple that we brought right from the forest (but had it cut into wedge pieces at local saw mill).
    Adrian

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  7. #29

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Turn off the internet, sell your computer and phone; you'll have plenty of $$$ to buy some tools and whole lot more free time to build a nice mandolin!

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  9. #30
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    Turn off the internet, sell your computer and phone; you'll have plenty of $$$ to buy some tools and whole lot more free time to build a nice mandolin!
    Sorry, but I live in a household with other people, and I am a high school student, so that is most definitely not an option. Also, my phone was $15 and I am using a school computer to post this so don't give me that crap.

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  11. #31

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    shop tools at school?

  12. #32
    CP Mandolins
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    What sort of character are you after? If you are aiming for a mando that would pass for something from a factory or professional workshop I can see it would be a challenge and satisfying if you succeed. The joy of 'hand-made' instruments though is that they reflect the individual character of the builder. I make violin-style mandolins, and do use power tools for roughing out, but every thing is finished with scrapers etc. and very thin finishes used so that the 'workings' are shown.Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #33
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Just wondering, would it be ok to not put finish on a mandolin? I don't know why, but I find wood's natural shade attractive.

  15. #34
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Sure, you can opt not to put a finish on, but what do you do when it gets sweatstained and dirty?
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

  16. #35

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    Sorry, but I live in a household with other people, and I am a high school student, so that is most definitely not an option. Also, my phone was $15 and I am using a school computer to post this so don't give me that crap.
    I made my first guitar when I was 12, as a high school freshman, while living in a household with other people, without a computer, with no personal power tools, without a phone, then played it in a band for four years and later sold it for $450....so I'll comfortably give you a TON of crap every chance I get!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  18. #36
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    I made my first guitar when I was 12, as a high school freshman, while living in a household with other people, without a computer, with no personal power tools, without a phone, then played it in a band for four years and later sold it for $450....so I'll comfortably give you a TON of crap every chance I get!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    No personal power tools. So using only hand tools? Or like a school woodshop? Because I don't have that either. I was annoyed because you told me to sell stuff for power tools when I don't have stuff worth that much.

  19. #37
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    Just wondering, would it be ok to not put finish on a mandolin? I don't know why, but I find wood's natural shade attractive.
    An unfinished instrument will be prone to cracking. You might want to check out French polished shellac or violin maker's oil varnish, or a combination of the two.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The fellow who made the joke about Strad's workmanship apparently has not seen one of his instruments. When I saw an early Strad at Fred Oster's shop some years ago, the beauty and quality of the craftsmanship literally jumped out at me. I had never seen an instrument where the quality of the work was so obvious from a yard away before, nor have I seen anything like it since. Now I understand-- it wasn't magic varnish, it wasn't salt water, it wasn't "little ice age" lumber, it was the worker. Fred offered to let me play it, but I'm a poor violinist and I didn't want to insult the instrument. The very late Strads are a bit sloppy, but he worked until he was 93 and his vision and his hands were going.

    I suspect that Strad wouldn't have minded a belt sander, bandsaw, and drill press, or for that matter, 5 or 6 grits of store-bought sandpaper. But he and his colleagues didn't need them.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    If you don't have space or budget for power tools, you will need a good curved-bottom violin maker's plane, a purfling cutter, and several good quality scrapers. You can by the individual blades for the plane from a violin supplier and make the plane body yourself if you want. The factory made planes are somewhat pricey.

    There are several good books on violin making. Ed. Heron-Allen's 19th century work is not only useful, it's also a good look into the history of the craft. H.S. Wake's "Technique of Violin Making" is easy reading in modern English, also centered mostly around building with hand tools. The carving and bending techniques are the same that would be used for hand building a mandolin.

    Good violin suppliers are International Violin Company, Metropolitan Music, and Howard Core. The first two might have somewhat softer prices.

    I believe using hand tools can be good for building character and patience. It can also be a bit stressful to the joints. I worked strictly with hand tools except for an electric drill for years, also due to space and limited budget. I now have a belt sander and a drill press. The belt sander gets a lot of use, and I would rather not do without it. I know how to work without it, though. The drill press is more accurate than my hands. But I can get away without it, too. A bandsaw would be nice, but I don't have to have it. I still have space limitations, and I'm naturally frugal.

    The Larson Brothers did not get power into their shop until at least 1920. They built hundreds of instruments without power tools.

    Have at it and have fun.
    Last edited by rcc56; Feb-15-2018 at 11:51pm.

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  21. #38

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    ... I live in a household with other people, and I am a high school student, ... Also, my phone was $15 and I am using a school computer to post this...
    I understand.

    Many people won't, though. A common erroneous assumption is that anyone on the internet has some fancy broadband connection and oodles of money for new computers, and that anyone who has a cellphone is enjoying a 'luxury' item and paying boatloads of money for the phone. Clearly neither of those things is necessarily the case, but many people don't realize that.

    I once spent well over a year using the Lynx text-only browser on a landline phone from home to do a free dial in (*not* dial-up, those are two different things) to the nearest rural library phone system to tie in with the library's network (when they still used to offer that call-from-home service) to read internet message boards using no pictures, no Javascript etc. It worked (steep learning curve for me, but it was manageable after an oldschool computer-geek friend showed me how to use it), and it was free, and that combined with other cost-cutting measures allowed me to pay off some medical bills. Rather than paying for the then-best home internet which at that time was still 28k dial-up and still high priced at the time.

    Also, I don't know what the high schools are like where you're at, but there can be vast differences between different school districts. Some have a wide variety of excellent classes available, some have almost nothing beyond the basics.

    Some people still seem unaware of such differences, they assume that all high school students have access to all the good classes - including things like wood-shop.

    In my rural school district, the local school-tax levies had failed to pass (that district's local taxpayers didn't want to, or couldn't afford to, pay more property taxes to fund schools which many adults regarded as already doing a lousy job of educating the kids) so the school admins got revenge on the parents by eliminating *all* of the following useful classes: wood shop, metal shop, auto shop, basic electronics, drafting (they called it "engineering drawing"), architectural drawing, and of course art & music classes. All gone. The only thing they didn't eliminate was football because the parents would have had the admins' hides if football disappeared. But artsy stuff, and practical stuff that would help the kids to get a job someday, gone.

    I hope your schools aren't that under-featured, but my point is - for those who don't already know (judging by some of the comments) - schools can vary greatly by region. In the example I cited above, a couple hours' drive away was a far different school district which offered all sorts of wondrous things that our school district *never* had even during its best times, such as orchestra, many types of different art and vocational classes... a world apart from what we had in our district during the exact same years.

    So anyway, I can appreciate your wish to build stuff with tools that are obtainable, and that can be used in a normal room without having to have a whole shop.

    At first, reading this thread, I don't think anyone knew what your motivations were. Could have been anything, even possibly a dislike of technology and fear/hatred of machines (I have relatives like that, they made it through the 1930s Great Depression when the saying was "machines put men out of work") or some other such motivation.

    But since you've clarified what your reasons are, I would hope that the woodworkers here would continue to offer useful advice as to how to proceed with your plans.

    If I may, one thing I would advise, is that wherever you set up your mandolin-building operations, make sure you have adequate cross-ventilation when doing stuff with finishes, glues, solvents, etc. Not only for your own safety, but so that the other people in the house don't complain. That was an issue one place where we used to live, my man was doing automotive body-work & painting in a below-the-house garage, and the *very* strong fumes came up through the walls into the entire rest of the house (via gaps around plumbing, wiring etc). You don't want to be breathing a bunch of solvent fumes etc, not good for the central nervous system.

  22. #39
    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Just throwing this out there for OP in case he hasn't considered it. While it may not be as fulfilling, there are solid wood mandolin kits available for about $115.00. A lot of the heavy-lifting is already done, but there is still a lot of room left for you to work on your mandolin building chops. It's a great way to start (especially if you do not have access to power tools).
    The other thing to think about is that you can also spend a not-insignificant amount of money on the hand tools you'll need to build from scratch. Bookmatching the tops and back will probably require you to buy a long jack plane and build a shooting board. You'll also need a lot of clamps. If you don't have a bandsaw you'll need a coping saw. You'll need chisels. A hand drill of some type and drill bits. For fretting you'll need a hammer, wire snips, and files. You'll need special gauged files for the nut. If you're building from scratch you'll have to bend the sides yourself--without a commercial side bender you'll need to build some apparatus for that, which will probably require a torch of some sort.
    I built a guitar from scratch after high school, thinking I would end up with something nice for pretty cheap. After buying tools and parts, and building all of the necessary jigs, I could have bought a nice used D-28.
    In contrast, I put together one of those $115 mandolin kits this past summer for the purpose of practicing my French polishing skills. For that kit, I think you could get away with having some clamps, a coping saw, sand paper, and whatever you need for finishing. It will allow you to learn how to fit kerfed lining, fit the neck, glue the back and top on the rims, install the tonebars, fit the bridge, finish the instrument, and properly set up the instrument. There's still a lot of room for customization to make it your own. Just a thought.

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  24. #40
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    Just throwing this out there for OP in case he hasn't considered it. While it may not be as fulfilling, there are solid wood mandolin kits available for about $115.00. A lot of the heavy-lifting is already done, but there is still a lot of room left for you to work on your mandolin building chops. It's a great way to start (especially if you do not have access to power tools).
    The other thing to think about is that you can also spend a not-insignificant amount of money on the hand tools you'll need to build from scratch. Bookmatching the tops and back will probably require you to buy a long jack plane and build a shooting board. You'll also need a lot of clamps. If you don't have a bandsaw you'll need a coping saw. You'll need chisels. A hand drill of some type and drill bits. For fretting you'll need a hammer, wire snips, and files. You'll need special gauged files for the nut. If you're building from scratch you'll have to bend the sides yourself--without a commercial side bender you'll need to build some apparatus for that, which will probably require a torch of some sort.
    I built a guitar from scratch after high school, thinking I would end up with something nice for pretty cheap. After buying tools and parts, and building all of the necessary jigs, I could have bought a nice used D-28.
    In contrast, I put together one of those $115 mandolin kits this past summer for the purpose of practicing my French polishing skills. For that kit, I think you could get away with having some clamps, a coping saw, sand paper, and whatever you need for finishing. It will allow you to learn how to fit kerfed lining, fit the neck, glue the back and top on the rims, install the tonebars, fit the bridge, finish the instrument, and properly set up the instrument. There's still a lot of room for customization to make it your own. Just a thought.
    Thanks, but I'm not really interested in that. I want to build my own mandolin from blocks of wood to a beautiful instrument.

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  26. #41
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    Just wondering, would it be ok to not put finish on a mandolin? I don't know why, but I find wood's natural shade attractive.
    I love the look of natural wood too and don't like to hide it. I also wouldn't want it to get all discolored by skin oils and other things that might come in contact with it. A clear protective finish takes care of that.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  27. #42
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    Anybody here done this before? Got any tips or such? Any pictures? Maybe talk about how you went about it? Thanks.
    I would recommend getting a couple books....

    The Mandolin Project by Graham McDonald

    And

    The Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manuel by Roger Siminoff

    With these two or either one, you will find all of the information, plans, and plenty of photos needed to build your first archtop mandolin. I would highly recommend starting off with an A style mandolin...the forms are easier to make, only two internal blocks, bending sides is a breeze, no point protectors, no scroll to carve and bind, and much easier headstock design.

    You will just have to substitute the "hand" tool version of any "power" tool you see in the books. I don't know what hand tools you have, but I can tell you that you will become very frustrated with cheap basic hand tools. Virtually every step of the way you will find yourself in need for a tool that is a little more than just basic. And good quality hand tools are not cheap by any stretch.

    Here is a basic list of what you will need, beyond a proper workbench:

    1. Sharpening Station- this can be as basic as a small flat piece of granite and various grits of sandpaper. Your tools need to be beyond razor sharp!

    2. Card scraper and a burnishing tool

    3. A nice gouge...or several with different sweeps, especially if you don't have and/or don't plan on getting any small finger planes.

    4. Handsaws- Tenon saw (I'd recommend a Japanese Dozuki), Coping Saw

    5. Chisels

    6. Hobby knife with interchangeable blades or pocket knife

    7. Clamps, clamps, clamps, and more clamps.

    8. Some sort of bending setup- cheapest is a metal pipe and torch

    9. Pencils

    10. Sandpaper and sanding blocks

    11. A square and straight edge that is dead straight

    12. Hand drill

    13. Rasps

    14. Files

    15. A couple different size rules....12 and 24"

    16. Thickness calipers- small handheld calipers and a deep throat thickness gauge for measuring top and back plate thickness/ graduations

    17. Finger and Palm Planes

    18. A vise

    There is probably a bit I am leaving off but this is a pretty good start. I would get the books and read them several times through and just figure out what you need to do to get each step done. Take your time with each step. If you find that you don't have the proper tool, don't simply make due with what you have. Get on here and ask questions....you will find that most builders on here are more than willing to share how they do it and give you multiple ways of getting through each step.

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  29. #43
    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...96#post1633096
    Little more info on what he wants to do to make his mando.

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  31. #44
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    How would I make a mould for the mandolin without having any power tools?

  32. #45
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Yes, well. Ambition and lofty goals can be good things, but it sounds to me like you may be biting off just a bit more than you can chew.

    Maybe you should ramp up to this enormous effort before you go, by learning how to cut, plane, and bookmatch tops and backs, bend sides, cut and install kerfing, install binding (without using a router!), carve and graduate thickness, apply finish, and so on, all on some practice pieces of wood?

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  34. #46
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    How would I make a mould for the mandolin without having any power tools?
    Very slowly. I'm not being a smart alec. You can take out some of the wood with a carpenter's hand saw and keyhole saw, next you'll have to rough cut it oversize with a saw that can cut a curve, then work it down to final shape with rasps and shaped sanding blocks. And you'll need to figure a way to get the finished surface square. A lot of work.

    Depending on the mandolin's shape, it may be possible to build with an inside mold, which is easier to make. It is possible to build without a mold, but you would have less control over the symmetry of the instrument.

    You might want to consider borrowing a hand-held electric jig saw to rough it out.

  35. #47
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Can somebody please tell me the circumference of your F5 mandolin body? I don't know how big my sides should be, because I haven't printed out my plans yet.

  36. #48
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Irving Sloane's guitar building books show a lot of how things are done with hand tools.

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  38. #49
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Hez PaniniWar... It took you 47 posts to reveal you want to build F-5 and so far you never mentioned what is your background - What (hand) tools do you have and how well you can work with them. Just that you WANT to build beautiful instruments from raw wood with just hand tools. F-5 may be one of the most difficult instruments to build (if you wish it be really beautiful)...
    I would suggest that your first study a lot about traditional instrument making. There are zillions of articles and tutorials on internet, perhaps none is start to end with hand tools but all you need is just substitute the handtools instead of the power tools.
    If you don't hane good drawing get one, it's one of the most important things on the way to success. I spent few years drawing plans and preparing for the actul work before I started on my first build (almost completely done with hand tools). Now you have everything within few clicks so take the time to do the homework and study how it is done and after that you will be able to ask specific questions like "I have some scrap wood and tools x, y, z and want to start making mould for my F-5 build, what would you suggest?..."
    There are many generous builders here willing to help you but you are making it hard or impossible.
    Adrian

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  40. #50

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by PaniniWar View Post
    How would I make a mould for the mandolin without having any power tools?
    +1000 for calling it a mould, not mold!

    Cardboard will work for limited use. You can't make 100 mandolins out of the same mould, but if you cut, stack, and glue cardboard, it can be a very rigid material that you can cut with an exacto knife or razor blade. I've used it very successfully for one off mandolins and guitars. Structural insulation foam will also work well, like the purple stuff they sell at home depot...

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