Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

  1. #1

    Default Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    Aloha Y'all!
    Am brand new and fresh to your site, an experienced luthier from Maui, call me Raven.
    I build mostly archtop ukuleles, some guitars, have given building lessons to 25 or so students, and have made one F5 mandolin about 8 years ago. My total output would be near 75 instruments, 60 or so being carved and arched.
    For many reasons I thought I would make a small batch of F5's, and I have put together my molds and bending helpers, cut and prepped my sides, and joined my tops/ backs... the sides are bent and I am ready to install my blocks and get going.
    Without my lost and missing building notes I am starting slowly. I have broken or botched 4-5 headblocks this week. Am learning each time, gonna get it soon. Would like some advice on making head blocks, Old style.
    My first build, although almost forgotten, was copying a kit with a super cool, CNC dream of a neck/ headblock pair with a tapered dovetail. Of course I had to simply wing it and do my own thing with the dovetail. What that might have been has not yet come back to me!
    1st question... laminating the blocks in cross grained layers seems reasonable. Is it done very often? Certainly would minimize the weak areas, but maybe have negative effects too...?
    2nd Q... wood selection. Is Mahogany the 'go to' species for blocks? Or are there several others that work just as well? What are your choices and considerations?
    #3... Technique . Have made a nice template to be used with a flush cut bit and a router. This gets me all of the big open spaces. My oscillating spindle sander is very helpful cleaning things up. The Coping saw is my best tool for thinner openings, then small files, etc. Meticulous care gets me really close... there is a lot of hand sanding.
    Sold my Scroll Saw last year, as I had rarely used it. Band saw, also gone. My friend offered CNC, but I wanted to do it 'the hard way' at least once.
    #4... Knowing that it is 'just the block', and that I will be carving the scroll out of top, block, and back; how much of the open spaces within the scroll are defined sooner, and how much should I leave for later?
    and #5 Looking very closely at the GAL's plans for the F5 from 1988, the block gets no sides on the scroll side of the neck. The block gets side material out towards the point, but not the other way. Seems the neck will cover all of that? Is this always the case, or do some bend that side both ways around the headlock, and also tuck the side into the block in a similar manner to the longest side hiding near the neck? I guess I am asking if it has the chance to show if it's not sunburst painted and kept natural?
    I'd like to apologize in advance for digging up well discussed topics, repeats...
    But as a newbie, I haven't figured out how to find the old threads easily. I fumbled through about 5 times so far, and thought maybe this was the easier way to learn.
    Well, sit back and smile, remembering your second build and all those hurdles you were soon to meet! Can't wait to read up on arching, graduations, Dovetails, and binding.
    Mahalo for your time and patience. Aloha!
    PS. I know nothing of Tags, emotes, icons, etc.. This is my very first post of any kind. In ways I am as green as a fresh blade of grass. Go easy on me. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    4,132

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    I can't imagine attacking an F without a bandsaw.

  3. The following members say thank you to Jim Hilburn for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    1,979

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    I built my first F5 with no power tools, not even a drill, and it's an exercise in tedium to be sure. It's a good experience, though. I wouldn't want to do more than one that way.

    1) I don't see any problems with cross-laminating the blocks. I've done it with tailblocks but not with headblocks (by the way, many builders call this a "heel block"). Laminating the blocks will help you make them without a bandsaw, as you could cut the layers with your template guide and coping saw. I'd recommend a few holes for 1/4" dowels to line them up when you laminate them.

    2) Mahogany is stable and is tried and true, but you can use other woods. I've used Spanish cedar, which is lighter, but I didn't like the way it machined (it's a little soft and "fuzzy"). There are certainly plenty of options.

    3) It sounds like you're stuck with the coping saw, but I'd also suggest having a good-quality half-round needle rasp for cleaning the inside once it's laminated. It saves time with sanding sticks.

    4) You'll want to have the opening defined before glueup because it only gets more difficult later, especially without a bandsaw. But, make sure that you'll be able to clean it all up once the top and back are on without messing up your final desired outline. The key is the shape of the binding channel, because that's what the eye sees, so start with the drawing of the binding and work outward from there to establish where the woods ends, and treat that boundary as sacred.

    5) I think most people run the maple side around the the neck joint area and a little way into the scroll. If you're doing a dark sunburst you might not need to, but it's not much harder to do and looks better no matter what. It's also easier to finish maple then mahogany because of the smaller pores.

  5. The following members say thank you to amowry for this post:


  6. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    springfield,ohio
    Posts
    597

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    I've used cedar along with mahogany for blocks and points, but mahogany in by far my first choice.. It's about the most stable concerning warps and splits.. Laminating is the way to go for me, cross graining adds to it's strength.. I start with 3/4 inch mahogany and with cross grain laminate, end up with 1 1/2 inch thick blocks.. that's slightly over size for the 1 3/8 inch needed for mandolins.. Can't think about not having a band saw.. I have a 12 inch that does everything I need, but a 14 inch or bigger would do it all better.. That is my NO. 1 used power tool.. The type blade you use tho is the real secret.. I like a skip tooth best, but what ever, keep it fresh and sharp..
    kterry

  7. #5
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    2,539

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    The old fashioned way should be how folks did it at Gibson in 20's, no?
    They cut the block without the cut inside the scroll, that is cut when both plates are glued on. The bent side went all around the block ending just at the start of the tight scroll cut. Band saw is your friend, go slow and stead and finish with some sandpaper on sticks. They used mahogany but I use walnut as mahogany is rare in our forests. No laminations needed, these blocks don't crack unless the mandolin is bangad badly. Folks who use softer/ lighter woods do lamination because of that. In some cases I laminated the blocks because I had thinner stock and I used CNC to cut the shape (easier with thinner wood).
    Adrian

  8. #6

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    The old fashioned way should be how folks did it at Gibson in 20's, no?
    They cut the block without the cut inside the scroll, that is cut when both plates are glued on. The bent side went all around the block ending just at the start of the tight scroll cut. Band saw is your friend, go slow and stead and finish with some sandpaper on sticks. They used mahogany but I use walnut as mahogany is rare in our forests. No laminations needed, these blocks don't crack unless the mandolin is bangad badly. Folks who use softer/ lighter woods do lamination because of that. In some cases I laminated the blocks because I had thinner stock and I used CNC to cut the shape (easier with thinner wood).
    Aloha! Want to say Mahalo for all of your time and experience, trying to help me out... much appreciated. I have yet to complete a good headblock out of one piece, but my friend has stepped up to help me with CNC, so I have a good prototype made of 3 parts 1/2 inch stock. A thought occurred to me today - to laminate a thin cross grain to the future block to strengthen it, then sand it off later in prep for soundboard...
    Have found a good challenge in the fitting department as everything is rounded, but can handle it.
    Also wanted to thank HoGo for the top notch blueprints of the Original F5 Gibson that he meticulously drew up. Bought a set from Elderly and am very impressed; there is a ton of info on those pages!
    Was guessing they cut the entire assembly when complete, as you say. Have been trying to dream up a way to pre-cut the soundboard and back, but lining up all three sounds nearly impossible without computers. Am on track and moving forward. Soon, more questions to come. Many Thanks to all, Raven

  9. #7
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    1,979

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    If you're doing it on CNC you can also add some hollows to the laminated blocks, which I like to do to reduce the weight a bit. The hollows don't extend to the top and back so as to decrease gluing area, they're completely enclosed. Just make sure you don't have an stray shavings or glue inside that could buzz some day in the future


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_2319.jpg 
Views:	41 
Size:	64.9 KB 
ID:	181969

  10. The following members say thank you to amowry for this post:


  11. #8
    Adrian Minarovic
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, Europe
    Posts
    2,539

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    Quote Originally Posted by amowry View Post
    If you're doing it on CNC you can also add some hollows to the laminated blocks, which I like to do to reduce the weight a bit. The hollows don't extend to the top and back so as to decrease gluing area, they're completely enclosed. Just make sure you don't have an stray shavings or glue inside that could buzz some day in the future


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_2319.jpg 
Views:	41 
Size:	64.9 KB 
ID:	181969
    Boy, you could get three timesas much blocks out of that piece... (I hate wasting wood so I try to use every bit of it)
    The pic shows the only time I've used CNC cut blocks (few times I've used blocks cut by water jet CNC before thit, but that doesn't count as the cut is a bit rougher than bandsaw but since I've never owned bandsaw that was the only way to get them cut decently, for latest four or five mandolins I cut them on bandsaw in my friends' workshop) I intentionally left small bridge between the scroll and main part of the block. That adds tremendous strength to otherwise weak part - during glue-up the forces want to open the scroll as the sides wedge in and if you use wedge inside mould to press the scroll side back against the ribs you may crack the block at the narrowest part, this helps to keep everything in alignment (especially if you use precise mould with alignment pins like on the 2nd pic). The same holes are used to laminate the blocks and align top or back on the assembly. It worked pretty well but the rim had to be extremely precise and any wiggles in grain after bending had to be smoothed so lately I'm doing with only two pins and only take care to align the center of button and the rest is kept with tiny amount of extra wood (1/32" or less) to be worked after assembly.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCF3833.JPG 
Views:	39 
Size:	1.21 MB 
ID:	181971   Click image for larger version. 

Name:	DSCF4025.JPG 
Views:	30 
Size:	1.26 MB 
ID:	181972  
    Adrian

  12. #9
    Registered User amowry's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    1,979

    Default Re: Making Head block for F5. " the old fashioned way"

    That was an in-progress shot; I cut more blocks out of the rest of it later.

    Nice mold, and I like your idea of leaving a bridge to support the blocks. I do the same as you, use the index holes both for laminating the block and aligning the top and back, leaving 0.01" extra wood inside the scroll on all the parts to sand flush with the binding later.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •