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Thread: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

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    Default 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Is it just me that notices the location of the 15th fret dot position marker as it pertains to being equal-distant between the 14th and 15th frets? Take the mandolin in todays classifieds for example, the Poe. Look at that dot . Does this off-set to one side reveal that all the holes were drilled at once on some jig, and all the dots are probably off a little bit starting with the first one and getting worse as the frets get closer together? I see this on so many nice instruments, even the occasional Gibson. This has become sort of casually accepted and no big deal.

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Maybe the dots are accurate but the frets are not???

    Things that make you go hmmmmmmm....

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    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    I think it's a case of human nature. As much as I try to do something perfect, I can't always get it.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    More likely the way the strings are spaced on the nut/bridge causes this. Most string spacing does not have the G and D pairs exactly around the center of the board, making the dots appear to be off center, even if they are not.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Thank you for all the photos, absolutely beautiful instruments. It looks like you always get it right.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    The way I do it is to draw diagonal lines from the fret slot corners and where they intersect should be the correct location. I then use a scribing tool to make the first pilot hole, then use a heavier awl to enlarge that. Now at this point a good 1/4" brad point bit would be a good choice but I have a Black and Decker Bullet bit set and the 1/4 fits my dots so well I use that. But this requires me to enlarge the pilot hole to accommodate the pilot bit on the Bullet which is something like a 7/64". I'm not a machinist and never claimed to be so invariably after this attempt to get it centered it almost always is off a little one way or the other. I just didn't think it would be a big deal to anyone.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    And the 15 the is where it's most obvious.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    ...I just didn't think it would be a big deal to anyone.
    One would think...
    I've found that everything is a big deal to someone.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    So true that, John. And i resemble that remark.

    There is a simple and elegant solution to the dot alignment issue, which is no inlay on the face of the fretboard. Slightly larger side dots more than do the job.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    I guess this thread is a good opportunity to mention the "issues" I've noticed on many expensive mandolins. Even on my own Daley built Gibson A5L:

    -Binding height varies on the back compared to the top and changes in height all around the rim.
    -Binding width varies as well. Thick in one area and around the headstock gets thin.
    -The button and binding is not perfect. Binding on the button varies in width.
    -The arch of the backplate is not symmetrical. One side has a bump that the other does not. This was confirmed by checking the thickness of the plate.
    -All sorts of issues around the peghead, most noticeable with the bindings thickness and height.
    -Of course the fretboard dot inlays are not perfectly centered between the frets.
    -There are rasp/sanding marks in the wood on the neck right where it meets the body. These are noticeable under the lacquer.
    -The neck where it meets the body has a slight inward curve to it, so it's slightly less wide than the res of the neck in that area.
    -Side fret dot markers are not perfectly centered in the binding. A couple dots actually touch the black part of the binding.
    -Mitering issues in the binding. Most noticeable at the button.


    I could go on. But the point being that even a great mandolin will be less perfect when scrutinized. I think I notice these issues far more now that I know how to build. Before that I really didn't notice. Those little caveats that I try to avoid when building... well, now I just look at my Gibson and think, Gee, maybe I'm being too anal.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    When I started doing finish work professionally I learned to see the details. Things I never noticed before stood out like "sore thumbs". I learned the difficult places and likely trouble spots. Every time I picked up an instrument I would automatically scan it with my eyes and pick out all the details and whatever was "wrong" with them. I knew where to look to see if the builder got it right or not. I could pick apart the detail and finish work of any builder. I started to notice that even the highest level instruments were not perfect and are never perfect. I also started to learn from the things that people got right, and how different people handled different details, where priorities were apparently placed and so forth.
    Eventually, and probably gradually, I stopped being so critical. If the binding width varies a little, so what? If there is a blotch in the color, no big deal. A scratch under the finish? hey, if happens. How are the frets? How is the set up? Does it balance? Most importantly, how does if feel, play, and sound? Those are the important things. The cosmetic details are never perfect, they can't be, and they don't need to be.
    So now, when looking at someone's new (or old) instrument, a quick look over is enough for me. Does it look generally good and consistent? if so, good enough, how does it play and sound?

    I think lots of us go through a similar progression from not seeing the details to obsessing over them to accepting that they can't be perfect and realizing that the cosmetic details are not the important things. I also think some of us don't go through that process, or at least not all of it, and stay at one place or another. Some people report "flawless craftsmanship" when that can't exist. They just haven't learned to see the flaws. (Excellent craftsmanship surely can and does exist, just not flawless.) Some find the "off" details and obsess over them, some don't really think about it one way or another.

    So, fscotte's point is; show a mandolin with an off-center dot, regardless of the maker, to a builder, ask for a critique of the details, and be prepared for a long list of things that could have been done better. Then know that each of those details will be the pet peeve of someone somewhere. It's just the way it is.

    As for me and my fingerboard dots, I do as Jim does; mark an X from the corners of the space between frets, and use that as center. (Because the 'board tapers, the X won't cross at the exact center, but really, how close is close enough?) If the drill wanders, oh well... someone will notice that, but someone else will notice that scratch that didn't quite get sanded out of the back before the finish went on, and someone else will notice that binding miter that didn't line up perfectly, and on and on. I could spend countless days double checking, triple checking, correcting and obsessing over all the details, but I can't charge enough to do that, and furthermore I'll never get it perfect (it's impossible), so eventually it must be considered done and sent out the door for someone to find their pet details that aren't perfect.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Phew!!! I can relax now and maybe get some instruments finished.

    What a great feel good thread.
    The more I learn, the less I know.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Actually, I think this list would be of great interest to someone wanting to build, or appreciate, or critique mandolins in terms of construction and attention to details. It shows how different people approach and understand their work and how those approaches are seen by others.

    Jamie
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    I actually bought an E**tm*n mandola - a factory second- that played and sounded great, & at a great price. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why it was a "second" - the finish was great, even under the fretboard extension and inside the curl it wasn't too rough. The binding was perfect all around. It took me a while to realize that the 15th fret marker was actually at the 14th fret... Dyo- shows how often I got up there and how important it was to me...

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    My mandolins will never be perfect, but I'm Ok with that. There's something that bugs me on every one. I just finished backing up on one and made it better, but wasn't going back to square one to to do it.
    While I do take pride in all my work, in the end, the most important thing to me is the sound and playability.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Somehow the picky details have become less important with some of the 1920's era Gibson mandolins. Why is that? Sound? Name brand? The eyes can overpower the ears on lots of modern instruments.

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    Registered User fscotte's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Just gander through the F5Journal, and see all the "defects". Of course time does have a way of breaking down the instrument, wood expanding/contracting, glue drying out and shrinking, binding coming lose, gaps here and there due to climate changes and abuse over the years, plus the occasional repair or two...

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    The way I do it is to draw diagonal lines from the fret slot corners and where they intersect should be the correct location. I then use a scribing tool to make the first pilot hole, then use a heavier awl to enlarge that. Now at this point a good 1/4" brad point bit would be a good choice but I have a Black and Decker Bullet bit set and the 1/4 fits my dots so well I use that. But this requires me to enlarge the pilot hole to accommodate the pilot bit on the Bullet which is something like a 7/64". I'm not a machinist and never claimed to be so invariably after this attempt to get it centered it almost always is off a little one way or the other. I just didn't think it would be a big deal to anyone.
    That's what I've always done - with one extra check - mark them all out, then place a straight edge along the marks you made and make sure they line up - they should of course, but there are always small errors and if they don't line up it'll show!

    I've also always found that the "granular" nature of woods like ebony means that whatever you use to punch the first hole will wander slightly off course unless it's very sharp... and as has been mentioned already, it shows up a lot at the 15th fret because that's where you can see if it's off centre. Actually, mine have a 17th fret marker as well.... just asking for trouble really!

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Thank you Tavy. The diameter of the dot has a lot to do with how it looks between the upper frets, 17th for example. What size dot do you use (at the 17th fret) to make it fit without a side touching or going under a fret? When more intricate inlays are done, such as snowflakes, diamonds, stars, etc. they seem to be very carefully aligned relative the adjacent frets.

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    I had a custom mandolin made for me by a cabinet maker that was the foreman at a shop that made all of the wooden projects for the government buildings in Washington, DC. he was so precise that I have never been able to find any of these flaws in the mandolin he built...He also build all of the wooden furniture in his house and they are just beautiful...Myself not being a builder but I can understand how building a mandolin that is perfect in every detail would be almost impossible...After reading this thread I`ll go home and look at that mandolin real close now that you have mentioned some things to maybe look for....

    Willie

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Quote Originally Posted by dan in va View Post
    Somehow the picky details have become less important with some of the 1920's era Gibson mandolins. Why is that? Sound? Name brand? The eyes can overpower the ears on lots of modern instruments.
    My 1923 A2 snakehead's not-so-perfect rosette. Of course, they could have put the seam under the end of the fretboard. High craftsmanship era...
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    Jim

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hudmister View Post
    Thank you Tavy. The diameter of the dot has a lot to do with how it looks between the upper frets, 17th for example. What size dot do you use (at the 17th fret) to make it fit without a side touching or going under a fret? When more intricate inlays are done, such as snowflakes, diamonds, stars, etc. they seem to be very carefully aligned relative the adjacent frets.
    5mm dots:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    And no, that 17th fret marker isn't quite dead centre!

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    Registered User Bill Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    First mandolin I built the edge of the 17th fret marker just barely goes under the 16th fret and is very close to the 17th fret. I should have used smaller markers.
    Bill Snyder

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Gibson had all those big ol' guitar fingerboard marker dots, so they just used them for mandolins. At least that's how it looks to me. I always thought the dots were too big, and the 12th fret pair of dots was spaced too wide, in Gibson mandolin fingerboards. I settled on 4mm dots for mandolins, and to me the 6mm to 7mm dots on many mandolins look like caricatures(!), but since that's what was in the F5 fingerboards, many people think that's how they're supposed to look. (Then there's the "florida", and so forth...)
    So, for me, if it's a little off center, I can accept that, but why is it so big?! One is a small human error (off center) one is a design error (too big, in my opinion, of coarse).

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    Default Re: 15th fret pearl dot position makker.

    Sunburst, I agree that the 6mm to 7mm dots are too big for the mandolin. Smaller dots look more precise. (Then there's the "florida", and so forth...). Not to drift off course too far but you touched a real point of interest there. I now see brand new quality mandolins for sale with a sculpted florida. If it is in the way and causes pick noise, etc., why have it? It's for the traditional look most likely but functionally it is in the way. Who plays those notes? I notice on the Sam Bush "F" style model Gibson the fingerboard does not have a Florida.

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