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Thread: No Power Tool Mandolin

  1. #1
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    Default No Power Tool Mandolin

    Anybody here done this before? Got any tips or such? Any pictures? Maybe talk about how you went about it? Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Luthiers have been doing it for 100s of years....

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    Luthiers have been doing it for 100s of years....
    Yeah but I can't find any tutorials, videos, materials, or anything. I am completely clueless.

  5. #4

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Sort of depends on what 'no power tool' means. Fell your own tree by hand, hand split, hand resawn, all the way down the line? What about the metal parts? Or plastic parts? How much is to be sourced from suppliers?

    I think Roger Siminoff's book would be useful just because all the steps there could be hand done. This assumes, of course, that you are familiar and competent with all of the hand tools required. You have to make sides which are bent, top and back, cut and carved, kerfing, head and tail blocks, neck, fingerboard and the assorted joinery.

    I think if you think of making parts and assembling your manufactured parts, the process is a lot simpler than 'making a mandolin.' Not without a fair degree of skill, just a lot simpler.

    Just my $.02.
    Play it like you mean it.

  6. #5
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I built my first F5 with no power tools. I didn't fell the trees, but I did rip the wood by hand. Frankly, it's not something I would do again, but it's a good learning experience. Every power tool has its hand-tool equivalent, so the process isn't hard to figure out if you're proficient with the tools to begin with.

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  8. #6
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    What kind of mandolin are we talking about? For simple pancake style you can read any classical guitar tutorial, just change shape of body and neck joint (dovetail or tenon). If we omit the resawing of wood the process is pretty simple and straightforward. If you have all the wood prepared you can start in the morning and have body and neck/ fingerboard ready in the evening (without binding). No big deal.
    For archtop there are critical steps of cutting the body blocks, especially the scroll where you need cuts as close to square as possible to get good results. On A style it is much simpler.
    I think you should google for individual processes, not a full start-to-end tutorial for mandolin.
    Adrian

  9. #7
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Over the past several years I have built 40+ instruments, mainly mandolin family but a few guitars too, and the only power tools I use are my bandsaw and drill press. I could get by without the drill press, but would not like to be without the bandsaw. I attended the excellent Stringed Instruments Making course at the old Anniesland College in Glasgow in 2004/5 and we were taught by three superb luthiers who were very much into using hand tools. There is a great feeling of satisfaction in thicknessing a top or back or sides with a hand plane and shaping necks with a variety of rasps, files and spokeshaves.

    I have never made any carved-top or f-style instruments, only flat tops, so thicknessing is a lot more straightforward than graduating a carved top, but I know builders who happily use miniature finger planes and gouges to form their carved tops, both on fiddles and mandolins.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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  11. #8

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Very few power tools leave a "ready to use" surface. Whether it's a jointer or a CNC machine, I always clean up surfaces with hand tools before jointing or assembly. So you'd just have to do more of the roughing by hand.
    martinjacobson.com - Jacobson mandolins

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

    How do you do bindings without a router?
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  13. #10
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    How do you do bindings without a router?
    Wayne Henderson says he did them with a pocketknife in his youth.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” ≠ “Accidentals”

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    How do you do bindings without a router?
    Use a purfling cutter with a single blade and a small chisel.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  17. #12
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Paul, I use a cutter which a machinist friend made for me which is based on a violin purfling cutter but a heavier build. It is adjusted to the required depth then drawn round the body of the instrument, first against the soundboard then against the sides. This scores a deep line which I then use to guide a chisel to cut the channel to the necessary depth. Takes a while longer than a router would take, but there is a lot more control! I have the StewMac cutter attachment for a Dremel-type drill, but rarely use it after I had an experience where the cutter slipped in the collet and made a bit of a mess!


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    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

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  19. #13
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I know this has come up in the past - but over 5-10 years ago. Most of the builders who responded said it just wasn't worth the extra work. Using power tools to hog out most of the tops and then do the fine close work by hand saved their joints and a ton of time. If I recall Brian Dean was the most likely one to do more of the work by hand eschewing power tools. You can certainly build the entire instrument by hand, but what does that really give you? I'm unsure it increases the tonal quality of the instrument (I think that comes from building a bunch and learning how the pieces make the whole respond).

    My personal feeling - and I'm not a builder - is I really love riding my bike but I'll use my car for my 25 mile commute each way.

    Jamie
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I rebuilt a kitchen one time using just hand tools, no power tools. It was tough but it did teach me a few things. It taught me that no matter how proficient I was with a hand saw I could never cut anything as straight as I could with my table saw and drilling with a brace and bit can be very tiring. If someone doesn't own power tools then by all means have at it. I'm sure there will some satisfaction in doing that way. Most luthiers I know mix hand work with power tools. In this day and age of CNC machines and such almost anything can be automated if one has the resources. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I take the Martin tour and see those folks sitting there with a 6 inch high stack of 2 X 2 squares of sand paper.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I don't think Stradivarius used any power tools !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  22. #16
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I don't think Stradivarius used any power tools !
    He couldn't cut a straight line either. That's why the top of a violin is shaped like it is
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  24. #17
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I guess the question I would ask the OP is what his need/intention is in only using hand tools. Do you have a political or artistic statement to make by building this way? Do you have limited resources and can't afford a full shop of power tools?

    You can also get some of the grunt work done either by buying a kit or else by buying partly finished parts.
    Jim

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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I use a bandsaw and a drill press. I prefer to drill by hand with an old Millers Falls. I also have a couple of really small push drills. I use an electric drill for things outside of the shop, but rarely in. I do have a 4" belt sander now that I think of it for quick things. Old tools are far superior to use than new. My block plane is from the 20's, most likely so is the Millers Falls drill. When I built my shop my uncle, who is a carpenter, asked if I had a air hammer. I said I breathe air and I hammer. He couldn'g believe I would use a hammer and do it all by hand, but it was much more pleasing to hear the nail going in than a compressor running all day.
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  26. #19

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I had a fairly productive five year spell where I sold all of my power tools and had an analog shop, except for a drill press, in an old historic building downtown. About once every four months I would visit a friend's shop and buy an hour of time to re-saw boards and run a few through the thickness sander and jointer. I also built several instruments when I lived off the grid out in the desert with a funky hippee chick, felling wood by hand, collecting redwood logs off the beach, and heating hide glue on the woodstove. As cool as that was back in the day, thoughts of the woman in the teepee come up a lot more than thoughts of getting rid of my big bandsaw....

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  28. #20
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    I would think most of the hand tools available today were made by power tools. Just sayin...
    Indulge responsibly!

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  29. #21

    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    When I was younger that's what I thought a "handmade guitar" was!

    FWIW, I am old enough to remember when Dad brought home his first electric drill! Boy, he thought his worries were over, now he could drill this and drill that...........before that we used the old brace and bit -- which I'm sure is still in a cabinet somewhere.

  30. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I don't think Stradivarius used any power tools !
    He had apprentices and or lackeys. Tradesmen in a guild, not in isolation like a modern solo builder.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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  32. #23
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I don't think Stradivarius used any power tools !
    Meaning what? He didn't have the choice. If power tools were available who is to say he would not have taken full advantage of them.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  33. #24
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    I know this has come up in the past - but over 5-10 years ago. Most of the builders who responded said it just wasn't worth the extra work. Using power tools to hog out most of the tops and then do the fine close work by hand saved their joints and a ton of time. If I recall Brian Dean was the most likely one to do more of the work by hand eschewing power tools. You can certainly build the entire instrument by hand, but what does that really give you? I'm unsure it increases the tonal quality of the instrument (I think that comes from building a bunch and learning how the pieces make the whole respond).

    My personal feeling - and I'm not a builder - is I really love riding my bike but I'll use my car for my 25 mile commute each way.

    Jamie
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I guess the question I would ask the OP is what his need/intention is in only using hand tools. Do you have a political or artistic statement to make by building this way? Do you have limited resources and can't afford a full shop of power tools?

    You can also get some of the grunt work done either by buying a kit or else by buying partly finished parts.
    Here are my reasons:

    Have absolutely no power tools.
    Can't afford them either.
    Don't have space for them either.

    A different satisfaction to build something completely by hand, and using no power tools. A cool different connection between you and the instrument. A whole different ambiance.

    Improve dexterity and patience.

    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.

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  35. #25
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    Default Re: No Power Tool Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I would think most of the hand tools available today were made by power tools. Just sayin...
    Sorry, but what does that have to do with anything?

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