Sunday, January 25, 2009


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Welcome to my blog.

Before I get started, I want to share something with you. I really have no idea what I am getting myself into here. I have never built a stringed musical instrument before, let alone been to a shop where they do. I do not (yet) have a shop full of lutherie tools (in fact, I don’t own ANY luthier-specific tools yet), nor have I had any training other than general woodworking things Dad showed me as a kid and one basic shop class in High School. All that aside, I’m going for it full-bore.

This project will be to build a highly detailed, customized F-style mandolin with white pearl inlays and a custom carved front. I will start with raw materials - no preformed or pre-shaped pieces (except, of course, for the tuners, tailpiece, end pin, and such) - and use typical instrument grade components like European spruce for the top, curly maple for the back, sides, and neck, and hide glue for my adhesive. I intend to use power tools to rough-out most of the waste materials (no CNC) and then hand carve and finish everything else including the top, back, and neck. I hope to do all this with only the help of some books I bought (see the next post for details) and whatever information I can find on the internet. I will be doing all this work at my house (with my wife’s blessing, of course) in either the basement/garage or in an upstairs bedroom where we currently store, and occasionally use, exercise equipment. As I go along, I intend to detail everything I buy, build, or modify including tools and materials. I also plan to share all the prices I find and, when it is not obvious, why I chose one selection over the others.

I have decided to start this project for three reasons: One, I am bored and have no real “hobby” I can get into here at the house. Sure there is yard-work, the honey-do list, etc., but when those are done (or being ignored - don’t tell my wife), I don’t have a project. Two, I have been teaching myself to play the mandolin for about 8 years, love the instrument, and now, with the price of quality instruments being what it is, I would love to have - but not spend all that money on one. Three, I love deeply involved, intricate projects, where the results are lasting, visually apparent, and impressive. This seems like a good way to satisfy all three.

So now that you know why I want to build a mandolin, you may be wondering why I have decided to build what promises to be about the most difficult level of mandolin build right out of the chute. Wouldn’t it be better to start with maybe an A-style mandolin, possibly a flat-top, or even a kit? Travel your learning curve on an instrument that is a little less costly? Sure it would. All those are much safer and probably far more intelligent approaches to learning the art and craft of lutherie. But that is not me. Traveling any of those paths would feel like a compromise and one that would likely end up causing me to lose interest, take short-cuts, or possibly even lower my standards as I build. I don’t want to do that. I want the extra challenge and the potential to finish with a result where people go “WOW...And this was his first one?”

Lets just hope I am up for the task.

I would also like to take the time to credit a couple of guys for some of the inspiration and information I have used to get started here. I anticipate checking back with both as I go along with my build.

If you haven’t found him yet, there is guy who has his own blog where has started building an A-style mandolin from a kit (clearly he is far more intelligent then I am). Check him out HERE.

There is guy in Japan, an amateur luthier, too, who has a blog detailing his build of a guitar. It’s quite impressive. Check his work out HERE.

I’m going to go ahead and end this first post here and get into details of what I have done so far in my next post.

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