Friday, April 17, 2009

Some Backwards Steps

Friday, April 17, 2009.

Earlier this week, I posted some pictures of my work out on the Mandolin Café website and luckily (or unluckily I suppose depending on how you look at it) one of the REAL luthiers who frequents the site pointed out that one of my tone bars was glued in the wrong location. Sure enough, when I went back and checked it against the plans, I had indeed missed the mark. A little embarrassing to not catch something so big myself, but I guess that’s what learning is all about.

So yesterday, I decided to try to “unglue” the bar by soaking it with water hoping to soften the glue enough to get it off. After letting it soak overnight, not only was I NOT able to get the bar off, but I DID manage to unglue the soundboard from the side wood. Oh yeah, I also managed to warp the soundboard. And I suspect I might have ruined the glue joint between the kerf lining and the side wood, too. Way to go, Steve!

Of coarse one of the other REAL luthiers suggested that I simply carve away the mis-located bar and replace it with a new one. I thought about doing it this way (and probably should have taken his advice) but not having extra wood from which to make a new bar, I opted to try my removal process instead. Sigh.

So, all this damage done, I have decided to start over on the soundboard-side wood bending-kerf lining. I can’t say that this is a really bad thing, though, since I must confess that I was a little disappointed in the overall results I had achieved on this first assembly – my side wood bending was a little “off” from the shape of the mold, my mahogany blocks were not quite the right shape to match the thickness of the side wood, and I think I can do a much better job of shaping and finishing the soundboard before installing the tone bars. In all, I think I will probably be a lot happier with my finished instrument this way. So, I placed another order today with my friends at Steward-MacDonald for new top and side wood and, once that arrives, I can begin again.

This evening, I got home from work and took another last look at the tone bar, having decided to go ahead and continue to let it soak all day - after all what more damage could I do? When I took the soak rag off, much to my surprise, the tone bar popped right off. No additional damage to the soundboard.

I’m still gonna go ahead and build the second soundboard though. After considering my ongoing disappointment with the first one, I think I will be a lot happier if I do.

In the mean time, I still have plenty to do with finishing the back and getting the neck ready to attach. Here is how the scroll on the back is coming.

In the long run, my hope is to “salvage” the old soundboard-side assembly enough to use for a “mandolin-build-in-process” display some day. I have often thought that this kind of display would be kind of cool to have set up at a festival or such. Maybe this can be my first piece for such a display.

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