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Thread: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all,

    I hope that all is well!

    To briefly introduce, I am Rob and I am about to embark on a journey to build my first solid body 8 string electric mandolin.

    I will be quite a daredevil and I will design and build the mandolin from scratch. Basis for the design will be A5 mandolin plans from GenOne, but "final" shape is something that looks good to me at the moment. Here is the picture of a plan still on paper (disregard the oil stain ):

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    Both body and neck will be made out of quarter sawn European cherry with some mahogany strips and fretboard will be made out of ebony. For nut I have a piece of camel bone and for the bridge I will choose between pink ivory, stabilized spalted birch or ebony. Here and there I might add some veneer accent pieces, but this I will decide along the way.

    Anyhow, this will be a rather long build, but I will document everything and upload some pictures here on the forum.

    Cheers,
    Rob

  2. #2
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Looking forward to seeing your progress but most of all your finished EM8.
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  3. #3
    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Sounds like a fun project! Looking forward to following along with envy
    2020 Northfield Big Mon
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi guys and thanks for your comments!

    I made some baby steps, started to square up the fretboard blank. It is quite oversized, I will dimension it as I move along with the planing. Still working on the floor, waiting for my local Ikea to stock up on the benches, I found one which I will turn into something like a "modern" Roman workbench.

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  5. #5
    Registered User WarrenDeV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Good luck to you. Very interested to hear how you work out the electronics. I'm a guitar / ukulele builder hobbyist and tried an electric solid body 8-string myself (my son's a player) - was quite an adventure, especially finding hardware for an 8-string.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Thanks for the interest. I have been quite busy with my day job and found some half hour here and there to do some work on the project.

    Regarding the electronics, I will have a custom, hand-made pickup. There is a fellow luthier and electronics enthusiast nearby with whom I talked and he will come up with something, once I come to the electronics installation. The plan is to have all the electronics on the pick guard, so I still have some time.

    In the meantime, I planed the fretboard blank to the desired thickness and marked the fret positions (perhaps a bit hard to see on the picture). Neck blank has also been planed to the desired thickness and I did the scarf joint at 20. You can see how it is clamped together for glueing. I also used an old Record 050C combination plane with 5 mm Veritas plow plane blade to make the truss rod channel. Truss rod will be Gibson style with 5 mm rod and brass nut and anchor. I still have to play around with tap and die to finalise the truss rod ends and anchor.

    Few pictures are here, others will follow in the next few days.

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  7. #7

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    I managed to do some work today on the neck. I glued in the wings on the headstock and did some work on the headstock veneer. I had a piece of spalted maple (1-1/8 x 1-1/8 x 11-7/8), which I cut and bookmatched.

    Here are some pictures, I hope that more will follow soon.

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  8. #8
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    That spalted pattern is wild, it will make a cool headstock!
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  9. #9
    Registered User WarrenDeV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Agreed - wonderful pattern. And if I see the pencil lines correctly, that's going to be an interesting headstock shape.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi guys, thanks for the comments!

    @WarrenDev
    Yes, you can see the pencil lines correctly, I went for this crescent moon shape, it just looked nice when I was drafting the initial plans.

    I managed to do just a tiny bit on the headstock, it is hard to catch some time between work and family obligations. Nevertheless, I glued today the headstock veneer and trimmed the sides with the drawknife. I will do a bit more shaping tomorrow, if I catch some time.

    Here are the pictures from today:

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  11. #11

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    As already announced, this is going to be a looong build.

    Here is a small update.

    The fretboard has been sloted and cut to size. I wanted to do simple square fret markers, but due to inexperience, the square became a rectangle and in the end a channel, inlaid with the same spalted maple used on headstock. As you can see, there is still work to do.
    For this week the goal is to have the frets installed and fretboard glued onto the neck.

    One question for all the builders out there. I am slowly approaching the phase where I have to install the frets, glue the fretboard onto the neck and carve the neck. What would be the most practical approach to this sequence? My idea was to install the frets, glue the fretboard and then carve the neck.

    Looking forward to the feedback.

    Attached is also the last photo of the fretboard progress.

    Cheers,
    Rob
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #12
    Registered User WarrenDeV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    I've always done the fretting after the fretboard is installed. Gives me an opportunity to fit the fretboard to the neck after it's glued down before I have to worry about filing the fret ends. Here's a pic of fretting in process for the neck on my electric.

    BTW - I've always used the round dots for fret markers. Easier to just drill a round hole. I'd like to try inlay sometime, but the complexities of the rest of the builds are sufficient for my talents (or lack thereof).

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  14. #13

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Thanks, that puts things into perspective a bit!

    I initially wanted to do the dots, but I felt a bit underwhelmed with them in this build. Usually people like to complicate too much in the first build.

    The neck in the photo is the neck on the mandolin in your profile picture?

    Cheers,
    Rob

  15. #14

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    It doesn't really matter. I've done it before and after. Its more a function of what tools you have to fret with and if you feel comfortable carving a neck after having fretted it. In regards to tools, if you are hammering then it doesn't matter much but If you are using a press of some sort then the neck taper, carved or not, plays a role in it especially making sure you get downward pressure to seat the frets and aren't seating them at an angle. I'd recommend taking a triangle file and running it with the slots to put a slight chamfer on either side of the slot. That will allow the fret to come out without tearing at the grain in the event that you don't get the fret installed correctly and need to replace it.

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  17. #15
    Registered User WarrenDeV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Yes, that's the neck from my profile picture - and the only mandolin I've built.

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  19. #16

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Thanks for all the input!

    I decided to glue the fretboard first, cut the neck to shape, install the frets and then carve the neck. Since fretwire will be pressed in, leaving the neck uncarved and flat for even downward pressure. Also, I chamfered the slots with the triangle file, @thistle3585 thanks for the tip.

    Here is a picture of the current status of the build. More to follow after I come back from vacation.

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    @WarrenDeV
    We are waiting for the new build!

    Cheers,
    Rob

  20. #17

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    A bit of work was done since my last post.

    Before pressing in the fretwire, I sanded the fretboard with 180 and then 220 grit sandpaper glued to the piece of float glass, in order to flaten the entire fretboard and skip fret leveling afterwards.

    I pressed in the fretwire, filed it flush with the fretboard and dressed the ends. You can see from the pictures that this was my first fret job. After dressing the fret ends, I quickly passed over them with 280 and then 400 grit sanding fleece to remove file marks. I will leave the final polishing to just before neck instalantion.

    Next step is to thickness the headstock to 14 mm, cut it to shape and drill tuner holes.

    Here are the current pictures, more to follow.

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  21. #18

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    As promissed, this is really a slow build.

    Over the past few weeks I managed to prepare the body blank. I started with four quartersawn 4/4 cherry boards which I cut to the size and planed one face flat on all four boards. After that I did some grain matching and glued the planed faces together, to get two 8/4 body blank halves. Next, I planed one reference face and reference edge on both body halves. Then came the mahogany insert, 13/16" roughly sawn, both faces planed parallel and glued to first body halve. Second body halve was chalk fitted to the second face of mahogany insert and everything was glued together to form the body blank.
    Then I planed the entire body blank face flat and second face parallel, ending with 1-19/32" thick body blank.

    This was my biggest glue up job up to date.

    I also traced the body shape on the body blank and aligned and positioned the neck to trace the neck pocket.

    Here are some pictures. Unfortunately, I am not taking a lot of pictures, as I am mostly working on the mandolin in the evening, when my daughter is sleeping, so I use my cell phone as a baby monitor.

    Here are the pictures:

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    Cheers,
    Rob

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  23. #19
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Nice. Cherry's a really fine neck and body wood choice.

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  25. #20

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    Work on this little beast is still in progress, but balancing work and family has to take the toll somewhere.

    Again, I managed to snap a few pictures throughout the process. I am carving the curves with Shinto rasp, standard rasp, file and card scraper, which is super time consuming. Quite possibly I will invest in a good set of sculptors (carving) files by Iwasaki for quick material removal.

    Anyways, still long way to go.

    Here are some pictures:

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    More to follow...

    Cheers,
    Rob

  26. #21
    Registered User WarrenDeV's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Terrific progress. The cherry is a good choice - easy to work with and it will finish nicely. I've used microplanes for quick material removal. A bit "rough", but subsequent filing / scraping works to finish.

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  28. #22

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Hi all!

    Still going strong with the build! Unfortunately, time to work on my project is becoming quite a scarce commodity.

    I made some small progress by chiseling out the neck pocket. First I aligned the neck and body centerline, clamped the neck onto the body at the right position and traced the heel of the neck for the pocket. Then it took just a very sharp 1/2" japanese chisel, a small Thor rawhide hammer and roughly 45 minutes to chop and chisel out all the waste. The pocket is coplanar with the top of body, I will adjust the neck angle to 3 degree with a shim.

    I am still weighing my options regarding the glueing in or screwing in the neck. The "issue" that I have with glueing is a small contact surface between neck and pocket on the sides, as this is the part where the glue will "hold". This area is only 1-1/4" x 3/4". But, there is still time to decide.

    Here are some progress pictures:

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    Cheers,
    Rob

  29. #23

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    I do a glued, set neck. My joints are 2"Lx1.5"Wx.75"D. I've never had a problem with gluing them in. Only reason I'd go with a bolt on necks is if you aren't confident in your neck angle and thin you'd want to adjust it later.

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  31. #24

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    Thanks for the input.

    In the end, I will glue the neck in. Since my glueing surface is a bit smaller compared to yours, should I stick to the D3 type wood glue, or should I use 30 min epoxy glue? I do not wish to overkill it, if not necessary.

    On the other note, I bought an Iwasaki carving file (half round) and I got to tell that it just goes through the wood like hot knife through butter. If you pay attention to the grain direction, it also leaves a nice surface.

    I am 3/4 done with the chamfering of all the edges on the body, so I will post some new pictures soon!

    Cheers,
    Rob

  32. #25

    Default Re: Newbie Builds an Electric Mandolin

    I use regular Titebond in the red bottle. Epoxy isn't necessary.

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