Mandolin build #3: Prep work, carving profile

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Blog entry by BJODay posted 10-18-2015 08:46 PM 1514 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Glue up front and back Part 3 of Mandolin build series Part 4: Working on the Sound board »

There are different ways to carve the front, (sound board), and the back of the mandolin. Some shape the outside first. Others start with the inner surface. You can use chisels, gouges and finger planes, or side grinders and sanders. I’m going to work the outer surface first. I’m going to try using a sanding wheel on my drill press.

Before starting, I need a guide to know when I have the shape close. The plans have profiles printed on them. I cut the profile out, glued it to some masonite using spray adhesive. The profile is a cross section view of the mandolin’s body.

The cut the shapes on the band saw. Then I sand them by hand to clean up the shape.The printed profiles are “positive” images. The pieces I’m making are “negative” shapes.

Here is a profile guide against the raw wood of the maple back. Lots of wood to remove.


8 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4030 days

#1 posted 10-18-2015 08:49 PM

This is really going to be interesting. Thanks for posting this blog.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3421 days

#2 posted 10-18-2015 09:22 PM

BJ, you are braver than I am. If I even dared to try making one, I would practice about 3 times on scraps. Keep up the good work.

-- Art

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3658 posts in 4876 days

#3 posted 10-19-2015 03:03 AM


This looks like a real challenge!


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30631 posts in 3502 days

#4 posted 10-19-2015 02:17 PM

Instruments from scratch just amaze me. I love the tutorial.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7167 posts in 4358 days

#5 posted 10-19-2015 07:12 PM


From your pictures, it looks like you’re building an A model mandolin…either an A 40, or an A 50 style….I have a 1956 A 40 Gibson, and a 1950 F 12 Gibson (same style as an F 5)... In 1984 I built an F 5 style mandolin fashioned after the F5 Gibson…I had a good friend who was a luthier, and he walked me through the steps, but I did the actual building. I used a piece of Sitka Spruce for the top that I got from Martin Guitars that was 80 years old at the time…The back and sides were made from curly birds eye Maple. After I got it all assembled, and the parts put on, I took it to a friend of mine in Nashville (he worked in the mandolin dept. at Gibson), and had him to put the finish on…it is a sun burst finish, fashioned after Bill Monroe’s 1923 Lloyd Loar….The wood was really dry, and once I tuned the top, it had/has a nice woody sound to it….That mandolin really barks. I have some pictures of it, but back then I had no camera or cell phone to follow the build….

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View BJODay's profile


528 posts in 3107 days

#6 posted 10-19-2015 08:38 PM


It’s an oval hole “A” from Graham McDonald’s plans and book. I assume you play. I only recently took up the instrument. I have noticed I am a little more careful around my table saw. I need all those fingers.

I’m glad to hear someone else on LJ’s has tried a mandolin. Much of the work is similar to other projects. I’m a little nervous about the neck angle, dovetail and finishing. Lots of time to think that stuff through. Challenging project for me, and it doesn’t take up much room in the shop.


View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7167 posts in 4358 days

#7 posted 10-19-2015 11:13 PM


I have no doubt that’ll you’ll get it all worked out. And yes, I do play a little. I got started late in life trying to master the instrument, as my father-in-law played a great mandolin, and I tried to learn from him..I think I was around 28 when that was going on…He played several accustic instruments, including the guitar, resophonic guitar(also called a Dobro)....I married his daughter, who played guitar, and I play mandolin (?), guitar, and upright bass…We had a family bluegrass band, and my wife and I had a bluegrass band for 7 years…She retired, and I went on to play with a few more bands….I built the mandolin when we lived in Memphis under the guidence of a good mandolin luthier (I mentioned him eariler)....He had jigs built to shape the neck, sides, etc. Got it all together, but unfortunately he died before it was ready to finish…Thus the Nashville trip…This is the only mandolin I’ve ever tried to build…My wife and I worked with a guy in Oklahoma building resophonic guitars (I built the bodies, and she did all the inlay work on the necks and peg heads)..I’ve never tried to build an instrument since.

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View English's profile


692 posts in 2641 days

#8 posted 02-21-2016 02:20 AM

I love the detail in your blog, you are building a instrument and a great tutorial too.

-- John, Suffolk Virgina

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