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A violin then a mandolin


AMORI
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I'm nearly finished my current violin and am keen to try a mandolin now. I have a book by Roger Siminoff on making a bluegrass model (D5), would anyone know if this is a good book?

A few simple questions about mandolins.

1) Could (may) I alter/simplify the shape of the "curly wing" a little?

2) To what notes are the strings tuned?

3) How important is the Virzi?

4) Would viola sized tonewood be okay, sizewise?

5) Which supplier would be best when it comes to supplying all the parts?

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Hi. I would not alter the model, as in the case of violins, there is a stablished tradition for F 5 mandolins.

They are tuned as a violin, but with double strings.

One of the problems I see will be the fingerboard and the frets.

It seems some good quality kits are sold in the USA, I think.

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Yes, you can change the shape of the top scroll.  There are

several manufacturers and luthiers who have done so and some of

them are quite attractive.  The scroll serves no acoustic

function anyway.  The strings are tuned EADG just like a

violin, except in pairs.  To most mandolin players, the Virzi

is worthless.  In fact, Lloyd Loar put it in some of his

original F-5's, but most have been removed and they got the

nickname "Tone Reducers" rather than Tone Producers as they were

originally labelled.  They were an option, anyway and may have

assisted in some styles, but bluegrass music does not seem to be

the venue where they would be warrented.

Viola-sized tonewood is the correct size for making a mandolin.

 By the way, your book is probably the best mandolin-making

book on the market and Roger Siminoff is probably the best

authority on Lloyd Loar alive today.

Gary

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ok, now this I can respond to. I am only just learning to build violins, but I have built many f5 mandolins and modified scroll f5s. Yes, you can modify the scroll, but the block goes all the way up into it, so you will have to be careful with your design.

Skip the Virzi.

Luthiers Mercantile International is a good source for parts.

I don't like the Siminoff plans, but like any instrument building book there is good and bad info.

The best plans out there currently are available through Elderly Instruments. These are Really Good plans.

I draw my own plans now, but the roots of the sound of the F5 are the teens and twenties Gibson F5s built under the supervision of Lloyd Loar so it is good to base any of your own designs on that. However, there are plenty of visual aspects that one can change that don't have much tonal effect.

Skip the kits. You build a fine violin, you can make a fine mandolin, too. Your experience with varnish will help you a lot, but the fit and finish must be perfect for a varnished mandolin to look good. I use oil varnish and then french polish for shine.

mandolincafe.com is a great resource for new builders AND they are very open and willing to help newbies! In one of the forums there are pictures of many different styles of instruments. Unlike violins, mandos offer nearly endless opportunities for creativity, and many different and desireable sound profiles from bluegrass instruments to celtic to jazz.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

-Austin

clarkmandolins@hotmail.com

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Here are a couple of non-F5 styles. Both makers make fine instruments, Nuggets are the best made today IMHO. Keep in mind the body scroll has negligible effect on tone but is the strap hanger for most folks, so it affects the balance of the instrument.

Dave Cohen C#

Nugget Two Point

Be sure your Siminoff is the new one, not the old one- the new one is a fair to middling book, the old one is almost counterproductive. The new Siminoff plans are not too bad, the old ones are horrible. I would disagree that he is the greatest Loar mandolin authority- but maybe he is the best overall Loar historian though. I think Siminoff was also a consultant to Gibson during their dark ages in the 70's. I think he might have been to blame for the doweled neck joints- Doh!!

The expensive F5 blueprints from Elderly are on my shopping list.

Finally, skim the internet archive of Lynn Dudenbostel building Chris Thile's and Gary Hedrick's mandolins. Yet another approach, and I'm sure he does lots of things different now. Not sure this is the best archive of this, same info is hosted at a couple of sites. I played Gary's "Dude" mando a few years ago- really nice, but didn't have as much mojo as the Nugget!

Dudenbostel Archive

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I've only built one, but I can tell you that doing the binding around the top and back of an F-5 style mandolin is a very time consuming job. Also, you'll want to think about what finish to use. Mandolin buyers pay about an extra $1K for a varnish finish. I wouldn't do lacquer on a bet. The Lloyd Loar Gibsons of the 1920s were done with spirit varnish and a french polished topcoat. But I think the spirit varnish itself is fine. Unlike the violin, the sunburst finishes were done with aniline dyes (water stains) before the varnish. Most builders who use lacquer use a very dark shading with sprayed lacquer around the edges of the burst, hiding the wood, and sometimes hiding poor workmanship as well. But with the dyes and a medium toned varnish, you can still see the wood and to me it looks much better than opaque lacquer.

There is a violin/mandolin maker who builds a model with an overhang in the plates like a violin. It actually looks great, and will save you about 50 hours of labor I'd guess. He purfles the edgelike a violin plate.

I think looking at Dudenbostel's photos and reading Siminoff's book will give you a good base of information. Siminoff's neck joint is weird to me, and his (outside) mold is funky. I prefer the dovetail that Dudenbostel and most builders use. Pay attention to the neck angle. It's less than a violin and too much will give you a "skyscraper" bridge (ask me how I know).

I've seen the underside of Bill Colling's tops. He leaves the top just a bit heavy relative to the Loar plans, and he uses small tone bars (like 2 bassbars). He makes a consistently good sounding mandolin in my opinion. The old Gibson A models, as well as the F-2 and F-4 models had only one transverse brace just below the soundhole. But they have about the same top thickness as a Loar. I determined this fact by using the graduations given in Ted Davis' GAL plan, and then measuring a good sounding A from the period. This argues for small tonebars as well.

If you chose to make an A model first, you might find the F model easier to get done. An A can sound every bit as good or better than an F.

Good luck. You should have no problem

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Thanks for the input guys. I'm quite excited about the mandolin project and I've discovered that some of my violin wood stock will work for a mandolin so I don't have to buy so much material.

Are you saying that mandolins can be made in different ways? That is, different bass bars and neck joints etc? I'll have to use the older Siminof book, I just bought it recently from Amazon - it's a pity I did not know about the newer book. I'll use a combination of this book and the www. For the most part I'll be changing the shape to be more modern (as usual) but it will be something between the A5 and the F5 with more angular lines....

The book shows an outside mold but I'm sure I could use a violin type inner mold? Maybe I won't use binding on my first effort, I'm more interested in achieving good sound for starters. I may use a violin type overhang or maybe just a flush finish like my Fiolin.

A question. If mandolins (and guitars) have bindings I would assume it would be almost impossible to open them up as we do old violins (for repairs). Is that right?

Another question. Is the geometry as important for mandolins as it is for violins?

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"I may use a violin type overhang."

I once saw an old mandolin, that had been made by a violin maker, with a violin-type overhang. It was quite nice.

"A question. If mandolins (and guitars) have bindings I would assume it would be almost impossible to open them up as we do old violins (for repairs). Is that right?"

Yes. Guitars and mandolins are much harder to open for repairs than violins. But they often have the (somewhat) compensating advantage of a sound hole big enough to work through. Often it's the back that comes off rather than the top, because the fingerboard is glued to the top. For an interesting look at a major top repair requiring dis-assembly of a mandolin, check out:

http://www.frets.com/FRETSPage...tural/A4LTop/a4l1.html

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Don't be afraid to incorporate your violin designs and skills into an F5 mandolin...

Here are a couple (fuzzy) pics of a mandolin made by Joe Cleary.

Pretty cool....

>[i]

Most tonewoods suppliers can do the job for violin-wood prices...

Don't forget to order up the long F5 rib (27" or so) when ordering...

Necks can be one-piece or two-piece with a veneer down the center, ala some of the Loars.

Also, you can go slab or[/i] quarter on the neck. It's a matter of some debate as to which is the best way to go.

Also, wood selection is a different deal in the mando world, with some very respected makers building with heavy woods (Red Spruce and hard maple) that few violin makers would touch...

And with great results....

Also, it you're sunbursting, make sure you're building with split tops with no run-out. It will help homogenize your sunburst when you come to that part of the process...

"Another question. Is the geometry as important for mandolins as it is for violins?"

The Loar F5 mandolin is a weird animal...

For instance, the neck joint is located about 2 mm off-center towards the scroll. Go figure.

Everything is askance, including the F-holes and where the tailpiece is located...

It's a very hard instrument to copy, with tons of quirks and distinguishing features...

If you PM me, I can email you a Hacklingered Loar top and back map for reference. It's a cool thing to have around.

Luck!

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I'm learning by the minute, thanks again. "Tonewoods", my e-mail is murray@designsunlimited.co.za, I would appreciat that "Hacklingered Loar top and back map for reference".

For this first one, I have only made one design change and that is that the scroll is deleted in favour of an electric guitar-type extension. I have also omitted the little "wing" on the lower edge - I hope it has no practical importance!

Is it best to make a scarf joint for the peghead or is it best to carve it all from one block?

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" "Tonewoods", my e-mail is murray@designsunlimited.co.za, I would appreciat that "Hacklingered Loar top and back map for reference". "

Done....

"Is it best to make a scarf joint for the peghead or is it best to carve it all from one block? "

Usually it's done from a single piece of wood (or bookmatched halves), with wings glued on to achieve the peghead width...

That Mandolin Cafe site that was mentioned earlier is a great resource, BTW. Go to the builders section and search for whatever you want to know. It's all in there, usually.

When I first started building F5s in the mid-70's, there was literally two sheets on info on how to go about building one.

Now, there's the equivalent of 20-30 pages about how to build your points, for example....

It's really an amazing explosion of knowledge...

But I guess it's the same for violin making too, no....?

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Brad_Dorsey

Often it's the back that comes off rather than the top, because the fingerboard is glued to the top. For an interesting look at a major top repair requiring dis-assembly of a mandolin, check out:


I've also sawed the back off using a Japanese saw. The bindings cover it up nicely afterwards.

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