Saturday, April 05, 2008

Building the Mandocello

The baritone guitar is going through the final finishing stages and you can see it below.


The real work on the mandocello has now started; it’s an interesting build, so I thought I’d put a fair bit on the blog about it. Firstly its shape, in an earlier blog, I mentioned the Music from the Woods of England project and I proposed an unusual shaped guitar for it. See below.

When Andrew and Jane approached me about building them a mandocello, this shape immediately sprang to mind. When I did the original drawing, I decided that I didn’t want a shape that looked like it belonged to a particular time or place. Also I’ve always felt that the best place for the bridge of an instrument is the centre of the lower bout. These two factors got me sketching and hence the idea evolved. I’m very grateful to Andrew and Jane for going with this design; all artisans need patrons with some vision.

With 8 strings and a narrow neck, I’ve decided to reinforce it with two strips of carbon fibre and an adjustable truss-rod. I’m becoming much more confident with the carbon-fibre, the neck of the bass that I recently completed for my son is supported in exactly the same way and it hasn’t moved at all and that’s without the adjustable rod being tightened. I’ve taken the carbon-fibre right through the head joint which will greatly strengthen this area too.



The soundhole is oval so I had to make up a jig in order to cut the channel for the rosette and the hole. Being oval, each piece of mother of pearl had to be shaped individually to fit.


For the sides I’ve made up the external mould in four sections. It’s a bit odd cutting the sides into short sections before bending them, you keep double checking before sawing them! The back and sides are being made from some really beautiful English walnut.



Once the sides were bent, the four pieces are joined together by blocks of wood. The tail block is made from plywood. This going to have a hole drilled through it for a jack socket and the tail-piece attached to it; ply is the obvious choice so that it doesn’t split.



These heavy duty rubber bands and strips of plywood are a very effective way of clamping the awkward shape of the sides into the mould. Also they help to keep the overall weight of the mould down. The mould plus a dozen clamps gets extremely heavy and you run the risk of dropping the lot as you work on the sides.



All the other blocks are made from Honduras Cedar; it’s both very light and extremely stable. The linings will also be made from Cedar. Another reason for using Honduras Cedar or “Cigar box cedar” is that it gives the inside of the instrument a nice aroma; how’s that for attention to detail, worrying about how your instrument smells!


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3 Comments:

Blogger Luthier's Pride Musicians Circle said...

Gary,
I love your blog! It's a great way to get your message out to the many guitarists that are interested in making the next step into a quality musical instrument to enhance their playing sound and style.
I would like to post a link to your site on our web page www.luthierspride.org as we support the performance and appreciation of the hand-crafted guitar. Your information regarding the creation of your instruments is very valuable and your youtube video is very entertaining.
Please keep up the good work!
luthierspride@verizon.net

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Nava,
My name is Van Hypolite. I'm twenty-five years old, been playing Guitar since christmas 2001, and started learning Mandolin in the autumn of last year.
I made my own electric guitar about three or four years ago, but I've no experience making acoustic instruments. Nevertheless, after learning a bit of Mandolin, i decided I'd like to make my own Mandocello. I was wondering if you'd be kind enough to give me some pointers?
Yours faithfully,
Van.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Gary Nava, Luthier said...

Hi Van

A good place to start is with this book
http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Books,_plans/Building_and_repair:_Bouzouki.html
Cheers Gary

5:21 PM  

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