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Thread: My International Violin A-Style Build

  1. #1

    Default My International Violin A-Style Build

    I was not originally going to document this, but decided to put up some photos and describe a bit of what I've done to build my kit.

    Just a little detail on the front - I'm a fairly experienced wood worker and have a reasonably equipped shop. I've also built a number of instruments already, some from scratch, and some from pieces of others. That said, in this kit, there were a number of 'firsts' for me. This was my first carved top instrument for example.

    For this kit, I used the Siminoff book that IV includes with the kit in a combo. I found the book to be really helpful. I also read on this forum for several months. I used the search function to search out all the different steps I had to perform before and as I did them.

    I started by graduating the top. I purchased a small finger plane from IV with the kit. I love this tool. I'm also terrible using a plane, but getting much better. I made a digital graduation gauge to measure the top with and found that extremely useful to measure the Siminoff graduations. (pic does show the back, not the top... but I love that plane!)

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    I then spent considerable time fitting the neck to the body. Unfortunately, the fit here in the kit was beyond terrible. Hindsight, I really should have reached out to IV for a new neck. In the end, I got a good fit in all directions except one. I used a digital angle gauge to help with the neck angle and set it at 5.5 degrees (it glued up at about 5.3 when clamped hard). However, I have a left to right tilt, which means I ended up with my bridge angled a bit - I shaved one foot a bit and raised one adjuster to deal with this. Overall, it is 1.6 degrees to the right. does not affect sound, but bothers me from a build accuracy perspective.
    Last edited by Chinn; Sep-02-2019 at 5:09pm.
    Chinn A-style
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    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

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  3. #2

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Next up, I wanted to complete some work on the neck.

    I started by removing the white binding on the neck and re-doing the job with the torteloid binding that I finished the instrument in. That was not a bad job.

    I then worked on refretting the neck with medium frets from Stewmac. I made myself some fret cutting pliers while I was at it to improve the quality and speed of the job.
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    For the headstock, I removed the thin veneer that was there from the factory and then thinned the backside of the headstock. I then dowelled in the stock tuner positions (this became a small mistake later...). After this work was complete, I laid in a slab of headstock ebony veneer and traced in my headstock shape.

    MOP inlay was another first for me. Well, at least this is the first time I've done it the right way. Lots of youtube vids to learn how and many broken blades later, I had my inlay cut. I freehanded the inlay pocket with a carving tool that I use in another woodworking hobby (think Dremel on ultra accurate steroids).

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    The body needed a little more attention at this point before moving forward. I wanted to make this 'my' mandolin, and not just another kit build. I love tortoise binding, so I sourced some and bound the body with that. Not a bad job at all. The factory notch was not great, but it worked.
    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

  4. #3

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    With these tasks completed, I was ready to glue the neck into the rim/top. I did this as you might expect with many clamps.

    One significant deviation however was that the originally provided dowel holes were no where near lining up. As a result, I filled them with a hardwood dowel. I then re-clamped everything, made all my alignments and measurements to ensure I had everything where I wanted it and then re-drilled the holes. I started with a 1/8" drill and worked up to 1/4" to ensure I did not lose my alignment of the holes as I crossed between the two pieces of wood (neck and neck block).

    The end result was/is tight and strong.

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    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

  5. #4

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    The back caused me a lot of questions at first. I was going from the Siminoff book and graduations. My back was significantly thinner than suggested by his graduations. I talked to people on this forum, and ultimately talked to the good people at IV. They suggested it was actually still too thick. So I thinned it more until it resonated as I thought it should. Here, I'm out of my element, so I'm not sure what will make one sound good vs bad, however, this is a learning experience, so I've learned something from this one.

    With the top graduated, I was ready to glue up the box. I used a combination of some clamps and some relatively elastic cloth to close it up. The setup worked well and I've got tight seams all around.

    I used my small planes and large drum sanders to trim the edges and she was ready to string up in white.

    I used the factory bridge (which I dyed black) and made a bone nut for it.

    What can I say- There is a psychological effect that says that people often think things they made themselves are better. However, I loved the sound. I've played many good quality mandolins, but not owned one. Overall, it sounds quite good. I'm very happy with its tone.
    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

  6. #5

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    After several days of playing the instrument in the white, the factory provided bridge broke. I've read of a few that did that, so it did not surprise me. I took this as an opportunity to order a Cumberland Acoustic bridge and get ready for final finishing.

    For the finishing, I've finished instruments in aniline dyes and lacquer before, so I elected to do that again. I have never done a sunburst before this instrument however.

    I picked several dyes at my local woodworkers store to add to what I already had. Testing on some scraps quickly showed that their descriptions did not match the colors at all. A description that should have been brown is very much a wine color. I elected to roll with that and make a more early Gibson-esque burst on the back. I used a lot of searching on this forum and some great youtube vids to guide me.

    A couple things perplexed me while doing this - one was that one of the reddish colors would develop a greenish gold color over the top as I built it up. However, when I shot the lacquer over the top, you cannot see this greenish-gold tone.

    Some things that really helped me- I used a ton of rubber gloves and old clothes. My workbench was covered in an old towel and then a garbage bag. I collected butter an cottage cheese tubs in advance as the perfect containers to work out of for the dye. I purchased my alcohol in a gallon from the hardware store. I was also happy with how forgiving the dye is.

    Some mistakes I made were a lack of enough sanding overall. This is where my previous woodworking experience should have shown through. I should have known where the dye would highlight a 'defect' or other issue.

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    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

  7. #6

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Finally, this brings me to where I am now.

    I currently have 10 coats of Mohawk Nitrocellulose on the instrument. I'm pretty happy with where the finish is going. I do wish I had grain filled more, but I will continue to build and level and it will work out in the end. I know over time there will be shrinkage, but that will give the instrument more character.

    As I mentioned above, I've finished other instruments, and I also paint cars, motorcycles, etc. I plan to just take my time and build the finish and allow time for it to fully cure after I get my final coats on it before final buffing. I know I can get a nice shine.

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    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

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  9. #7

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    I enjoy making tools and jigs in my shop for my processes and this project was no exception.

    The thickness gauge was made of heavy 3/4 multi ply hardwood ply. I used a digital gauge from Harbor Freight for measurement. I put an adjustable anvil in place in a blind nut as well. I finished it with Velvit oil to keep it somewhat stable.

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    Next up, I made a small neck cradle from some scrap maple and ply. Self Adhesive felt kept it from marring a finish.

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    For fretting, I ground down a set of cutters to an edge which would make cutting the ends easier. I may re-grind more relief in either side to make this even a little easier.

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    Finally, I made a bridge fitting jig. Some wheels stolen from one of my children's broken toys help it roll without marring the top. I shot this with the aniline dye while doing an airbrush test at one point (did not go through with airbrushing). I love this jig. I've seen a few versions of this available, but it was easy to make.

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    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
    Aria M-300BG 2 Point
    Kay Model 68

  10. #8
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
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    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Nice work! Looks great for a first effort!
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

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  12. #9
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Wow that looks great! Nice job so far!
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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  14. #10

    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Beautiful work..
    " Practice every time you get a chance." - Bill Monroe

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  16. #11
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Excellent!

    Jamie
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

    + Give Blood, Save a Life +

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  18. #12
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: My International Violin A-Style Build

    Nice job!

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