You may have noticed that I often use the term, “In the
white.” This is a term borrowed from violin making and refers to the instrument
(which is made from white
woods i.e. maple and spruce) before the typical reddish-brown varnish is applied.
This week saw the construction of Mark’s left-handed mandolin
completed and it strung up in the white. I thought that I’d run through that process for you. At the top of the page is Mark's mandolin freshly sanded and in the white!
The first task is to fit the bridge blank to the curve of
the soundboard. Once it’s been roughly shaped at the bench, the final fitting is done on the
soundboard itself, with an abrasive paper. To ensure as good a fit as
possible- the white pencil marks highlight which areas aren’t making contact.
Finally I like to use a feeler gauge to make sure there aren’t
Once the base is fitting, the rest of the bridge can be shaped. The saddle is notched
for the strings and shaped roughly for the intonation. With so many mandolins
under my belt, I pretty much know how much compensation the strings need.
Before the tuners are fitted, it’s wise to seal the back of the head and put on a layer of masking tape. You’ll find that all brand new tuners have a
lubricant put on by the manufacturer and unless the bare wood is protected, that lubricant will leach into the wood and stain it.
Below is the tailpiece that I’ve made and that has to be fitted into position.
The bone nut has to be carefully marked out and the slots
roughly cut to depth.
Double check, and then we’re ready to put some strings on………
The nut’s slots are then carefully filed to the final depth; I use a feeler
gauge between the underside of the string and the top of the first fret to
measure the action.
Once I’m happy with the string height at the 1st fret, the
action at the 12th fret can be adjusted by filing the saddle. With the strings at the correct height, the intonation can then tweaked by adjusting the
point where the string breaks over the saddle.
The mandolin will now be left, under tension, for a few days
and once it has settled down any fine tuning to the action or intonation can be
By the way, that's a day and half''s work!
Labels: Gary Nava handmade guitars and mandolins, left handed mandolin