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Thread: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

  1. #1
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Hi All,

    This is my first post here. I'm in Northern Massachusetts (originally from NB, Canada).

    I have played guitar for about 24 years, and picked up the mandolin about 4 years ago as an additional instrument to play at church. Very enjoyable, indeed.

    For my 40th Birthday a couple months back, I had hoped to pick up an Octave Mandolin, particularly for Celtic Music. Very little availability to pick up try around here, and the prices were out of my range, sadly.

    So, I set aside the model ship(s) I was working on, and have retooled the shop for one of Don Kawalek's Octave Mandolin kits. I've seen several people here on the forums talk about them, and I'm looking forward to giving it a try.

    The kit arrived in great shape, looks like really nice wood was chosen for the top and back, and all the parts are pre-cut. Plans look straightforward, and came with a DVD of pictures that are better than the illustrations in most instruction books I've read (especially for model shipbuilding!)

    Don has been highly communicative, encouraging and helpful along the way. I may try to post some photos as I progress through the build.

  2. #2
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Inklings View Post
    I may try to post some photos as I progress through the build.
    Hi Inklings,

    Welcome to the Cafe. It's a great place inhabited by friendly, knowledgeable people who can help if you run into snags in your build.

    I hope you will post some photos. It's fun to see these builds come together. And if a model ship or two makes it into the background, so much the better!

    Have fun with your project,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

  3. #3
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post

    I hope you will post some photos. It's fun to see these builds come together. And if a model ship or two makes it into the background, so much the better!
    Thank you, Bob! That's very kind of you. Not sure the ships will make it into the background - I've had to move the shipbuilding desk far from the "heavy" tools (ie anything bigger than tweezers).

    That said, here's a little fellow I put into a Christmas ornament a while ago, just to show something.

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  5. #4
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Here's a few more photos, this time of the prep work for the instrument. As I mentioned, I'm recreating some elements of Don's kit in order to build "from scratch", but with the tried-and-true workability of Don's instructions and components.

    The shavings are the leftovers from me hand-planing the stock square. Black Walnut and Douglas Fir.

    Attachment 147594


    I picked up the riser extension for the Porter-Cable Band saw. I put a Woodslicer blade on it, and the thing chewed through that 8" Walnut like it was butter.

    Attachment 147595

    I'm using the "tapered side" method to clamp the back, with a cinder block on top it case it tried to move while the glue dries.

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    Kirby Francis

    Francis Guitar Repair

  6. #5
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    This evening I got the top glued up. It's from this piece of Douglas Fir:

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    And here it is in the "clamping board".

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    Up next is working on a neck, braces, ribs, etc. A trip to the old lumber yard will be necessary - I'm going to need some more Black Walnut. I highly recommend Highland Hardwoods in NH, if you're up in New England. Amazing "seconds" rooms and shorts bins.
    Kirby Francis

    Francis Guitar Repair

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    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Just a quick update. The back, sides, and top are joined, and ready for a trip through a thickness sander. Will post in another thread about a tool I am thinking of building to do that.

    Working on the neck now, and as always, Luthier (Don K) is being extraordinarily helpful. I'm working off his technique to build the neck, although I should have gotten 7/4 stock, as opposed to the 5/4 walnut I did get. I am grateful to have a fantastic wood supplier only 25 minutes down the road, so I will continue to dig through their stock.

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    Has anyone here ever used a dremel router base in a router table? I'm hoping not to have to get a router right away for this, but I also don't want to frustrate myself over a limitation in tools. And I would never want to pass up an opportunity to pick up some tools, when the excuse to do so is compelling!

    Any recommendations on suppliers for Rosewood for a fingerboard? Don's kit comes with Ebony, but I think I might try rosewood for the clone I'm building alongside it. Sounds like Ebony is becoming as hard to find as Unicorn horns these days - already decided not to use that for the inlays.
    Kirby Francis

    Francis Guitar Repair

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    I may be old but I'm ugly billhay4's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    you're doing good. Keep us up to date.
    Bill
    IM(NS)HO

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  10. #8
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Just a little update. I've been pre-occupied with gardening, building a thickness sander, and parenting, etc.

    Latest progress is imitating the neck block from Don's kit. Note his (attached to the walnut neck), and mine next to it (Mahogany).

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    You'll notice Don's instructions, the Siminoff books, and Graham McDonald's book are on the bench. So grateful for the generosity of advice that exists in this community!

    Eventually, I want to thickness the sides, back and front. Back and front are flat on this instrument (or are supposed to be - that will depend on whether or not I brace them correctly!) I have two backs glued up, hard to choose between them. Walnut for both, and Douglas Fir for the top.

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    A close up of each:

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    Kirby Francis

    Francis Guitar Repair

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  12. #9
    Registered User Inklings's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Mandolin Build - Don Kawalek Kit

    Still thinking of using the Doug Fir for the top, although I do have a piece of spruce downstairs I am tempted to put through the "ringer" and resaw. My resaw blade isn't as sharp (I've put a good deal of stock through it for other projects), so I might wait until I replace it before proceeding. Or, just be happy with the Fir, and give it a whirl.

    I messed up the first neck blank thoroughly enough that I am going to make another out of the correct 7/4 stock. I want to get the headstock angle right, and Don has shared some ideas about Table Saw jigs to safely and accurately cut the headstock that I want to try.

    It's been a while since I've been able to move ahead with this, but I still intend to complete it! I've been slowly gathering spruce for braces, tuners, and other items from here and there. Still pondering what to do for a Rosette, but I do have some spalted maple veneer (maybe 1/16" or so?) that I might try to inlay into around the sound hole.
    Kirby Francis

    Francis Guitar Repair

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