Let's Build A Mandolin

Last Modified - Oct 2011(©Alan Dunwell 2011)

As I build each instrument, I take photos along the way. I then turn each group of photos into a slide show and include the CD "Baby Book" along with the instrument. This allows the new owner to see the actual process by which his or her instrument was created. Folks seem to like this. This photo essay is intended mostly for other instrument builders, but it is also just a nice discussion of the building process and worthwhile for players to help understand what goes into making a instrument. It is also a good answer to the question often asked "Why do these instruments cost so much?".

Here I am including the photos from one of these slide shows to demonstrate the steps I take in the build process. This is a moving target since I am constantly changing jigs and designs with every instrument, so consider this a "snap shot". I will try to update this page as I make any major process changes. Near each photo is a brief explanation of what is happening Of course this can't cover all the steps or give all the detail a builder might like to see, so feel free to contact me with any questions you might have regarding the process.

A heads-up here for folks looking for details on how to do a dovetail joint neck with the cross-bar of binding and the little blocks around the neck to body area. You won't find it here. I have switched over to doing a bolt-on butt-joint neck for my mandolins and like it enough that I don't do the dovetail unless specifically requested and it is an up-charge because it is so fiddly.

The design I am using is based on the 4-sheet plans of a Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5. These plans were created by Adrian Minirovic and are available from Elderly Instruments. ( http://www.elderly.com/books/items/656-1.htm ) While they are a bit expensive they are Outstanding! Recommended.

The Mandolin being demostrated is one that was built for Mr. Tom Risner of Texas, know to the RMMGA World as "Tom from Texas". It is an Addirondack Spruce top with quilted maple back, body, and neck. The inlay is of Tom's design. You may see some additional pieces in some of the photos, these are of a second mandolin that I was building on spec in parallel with Tom's, the Sibling to his. Tom's differs in some a standard F-5 so I include some "asides" showing the alternative or more standard procedures. Enjoy!

Lets's Build A Mandolin