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I know it isn't a guitar, but a flat-top mandolin is so similar to a tiny guitar in construction and design that I think I may as well post my work here for you all to see anyway... Think of it as broadening your horizons! I should have started posting photos when I started working on it, but the thought didn't cross my mind until recently.

Anyway, the lame bit is that the photo gallery in question is a Facebook photo gallery. (If it weren't, my friends wouldn't follow along to see what I'm doing.) The not-lame bit is that every single photo is captioned, and many of the design decisions are explained along the way. Photos are usually posted the same day I do the work.

Here's the public link to the photo gallery: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=597325&id=559500530&l=9161c52828


Specs, though some of this is not yet seen in the photos:

- X-braced Sitka spruce top with extra-heavy head brace, a la Somogyi. (Reason: it's structurally significant. It supports the neck block and defines the end of the vibrating plate, so the ends won't (and shouldn't) be scalloped. You wouldn't scallop the trusses in your house, would you?)

- EIR back and sides

- Sides are also lined with Sitka to double the thickness and increase stiffness (like a Ramirez or Friederich classical guitar or an Ervin Somogyi acoustic)

- Solid Sapele linings ("kerfings," but what do you call them if they aren't kerfed? Linings.)

- Spanish-style neck joint (integral neck)

- Black walnut/roasted curly red maple (Acer rubrum) neck: roasted maple has been baked (after kiln drying) at a high temperature just short of scorching the wood, which turns it a wonderful brown colour that I would describe as caramel. I suspect it gets that colour because the sugars/sap in the wood caramelise, but that's a guess. When baked, it is allegedly more stable humidity-wise than normal red maple, and red maple is empirically more stable than hard/sugar maple (Acer saccharum). It is also 20% lighter, 35% softer/easier to carve, and still a spectacular 90% as stiff! It should be a stable neck. The walnut was chosen mostly for aesthetic purposes, but it too is very stable and is lighter, softer, and almost as stiff as sugar maple.

- 0.5"x.25" carbon fibre inlay in neck

- Compound radius EIR fingerboard with proper guitar-sized frets instead of goofy tiny mandolin frets

- Grover 309 tuners (they get good reviews, so I'll give them a shot)

- StewMac scalloped tailpiece (less time consuming to restring than a Gibson-style tailpiece, and the heavy cast tailpieces aren't the right angle for a flat-top)

- Red Henry style bridge; he's so generous with his research information! I respect that. http://www.murphymethod.com/index.cfm?event=pages.content&contentId=87

- K&K Mandolin Twin pickup

- French Polish with some strategic oiling to maximise chatoyance. Yes. Yes yes yes.

Feel free to ask questions if you have them.

Edited by B. Aaron
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Very nice. How did you go about roasting the maple? I am interested in trying this in a build at some point.

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Very nice. How did you go about roasting the maple? I am interested in trying this in a build at some point.

I didn't. I purchased it that way. My local Windsor Plywood (a wood speciality shop) usually has a good selection of curly roasted red maple shorts in stock for about $13.50/bf. Pricey compared to plain maple, but still cheaper than most maple neck blanks you'll buy from StewMac or LMII.

As I understand it, it is cooked in a "special oven" at 350-425°F for a while after kiln drying. I have heard that the "special" oven may be a vacuum oven, but I don't buy that rumour myself. I do not know how long it is cooked for... I have heard conflicting reports ranging from "6-7 minutes" to "a few hours." Both Ernie Ball and Sadowski guitars sing roasted maple's praises as a neck wood.


This is my favorite type of mando

I like how you made your workboard, too.

I got the workboard idea from Graham McDonald's book, "The Mandolin Project." Good good book. I rather like it. The workboard itself will be sufficiently accurate for a small-bodied instrument like the mandolin, but I'm not sure it's quite spot-on enough to do something large like a guitar. I've got some ideas on how to route out a dished workboard, so I might do that this summer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

New photos are up:

- Cutting a notch in the top for the neck's CF inlay; also to align the top

- Reinforcing, cutting, and binding the soundhole

- Bracing the top and back, profiling and shaping the brace ends

- Notching the linings for the braces

Edited by B. Aaron
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New photos up.

Inlaid fingerboard. Glued the fingerboard shim in place and shaved it down. Installed the pickup (K&K mandolin twin internal soundboard transducer). Made and glued label on back.

I'll glue the back tomorrow and start the binding this coming week.

Edited by B. Aaron
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Hey, I notice you have a WM425 workmate in some of those pics... How do you like it? Worth having over the smaller model? Any interesting ways to use it that you've come up with?

I'm looking at getting one for such projects, hence the questions.

Nice looking work you've done here.

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I love it. It certainly does have an advantage over the smaller models (which I have also used): it is bigger. It gives you more work space, and that's important. It can do some sort of vertical clamping trick too, but I've never bothered to try that.

My only complaint is that I wish it were taller.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...


The finishing process took me a long time because I've had a lot of other things on the go in the same period (other instruments, pedals, gigs, work, schoolwork, sewing, etc). But it's done done done! Check out the photos.

As always, I apologize for using a Facebook photo album instead of something classier (like Flickr).

162 photos in total, each captioned with explanations. I can't claim to be an expert, but I can at least pretend to sound professional.


- B.Aaron -

Edited by B. Aaron
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