Saturday, October 3, 2009

Starting the Finishing Process

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Well, aside from getting the soundboard soundboard restained, there is not much to report for the last couple of weeks. This is not because I haven’t been doing anything, you understand, its because successfully applying the finish is NOT an easy process. All I can say at this point is that as one of my purchases for my next mandolin, I am going to get a book and/or a video on finishing. Stewart-MacDonald offers a couple of choices including Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing by Jeff Jewitt that I think I will probably get. Before I do, though, I will see what the folks at the Mandolin Cafe think.

In any case, I figured I would share a couple of pictures of the re-staining I was able to get after having to remove my first finishing attempt.

As you can see it came out really well, or at least I think so.

I don’t expect to post much for a while since one of the things I have learned is that I will be applying (and re-applying after messing up) several coats of lacquer by the time this is done and that lacquer has to cure for a couple of weeks before it truly sets up. There is so little to see and so much waiting that I really don’t have much to offer. About the only things I have left to do are to make a truss rod cover, fit the bridge, install and end-pin, and string-her up. None of that can really be done until the finish has cured.

I have also found that since I am hand-applying my finish it is difficult, if not impossible, to apply lacquer to both the front and back on the same day. Consequently I am forced to work on one side for a bit, wait for at least a day so that can dry and then work on the other. I’m guessing that it will be several weeks before I finally have the finish I want before I can move to fitting the bridge.


Wilbur said...

I don't see why you can't apply the lacquer to both sides in one day. It dries in a matter of moments. I used the lacquer in spay can from stew-mac and it worked fine. I applied additional coats after an hour and a half. I wish ya the best of luck as I've seen you had enough bad luck.

lutheriefromscratch said...

I think the main reason I need two days has mostly to do with the fact that I really have no experience here. Similarly, I have no doubt that your methods work, I simply chose to try it way I did and now have to deal with the results. As I go forward, I will most likely use a spray-can lacquer on my next instrument and I appreciate reading about your experience.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the "no experience"! This was my first mandolin also. I made mistakes and then had to correct them. I know that if I ever do it again I won't make those mistakes.
I was surprised that our mandolins looked so much alike!
It wasn't a cheap project. After I added up the costs I thought to myself "Wow, I could have bought a really good mandolin with all that money". But, it would have been someone elses mandolin! I can honestly say this is mine. I play it every day and it continues to sound better. This mandolin building project was one of my lifes most enjoying experiences.


lutheriefromscratch said...

I hear ya there - I have easily paid enough for a really nice, professionally built mandolin with this! I also agree that it has been worth it. Would I do it all over again? No doubt.

Now I just need to get finished with this one.....


mjd said...

Your sunburst looks great. I have read that this type of finish is difficult to apply - having never tried to do so myself - but you really did a great job.

I can't believe it's your first mandolin.

Nice job!

Anonymous said...

If you are interested , you can see a few pictures of mine at


I hate posting as anonymous but I can't remember my password. :)

lutheriefromscratch said...

mjd - Thanks for the compliments. The sunburst on the maple back was really pretty easy, especially compared to doing it on the spruce top. For me, there really wasn't much of a choice, though - anything else would have been giving in to the process. Hopefully I can get some photos of my finished mandolin up pretty soon (once it's finished, of course).

Wilbur - Your mandolin is cool. Thanks for the URL. I really like your peghead design. Maybe on my next one I will get a little more original, too.