Mandolin build #5: Carefully carving the sound board

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Blog entry by BJODay posted 10-27-2015 03:50 PM 1975 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Working on the Sound board Part 5 of Mandolin build series Part 6: Mistake made »

I started removing the waste with a flat chisel. This was working at first but it is hard to control. I found myself pulling off larger than desired pieces of wood. I purchased a curved gouge. This gave my inexperienced hands a little more control.

I removed as much as I dared. Then switched to a sanding disc on my drill press. It removed wood very quickly. I was getting close to my desired curve near the edges. But still had more to remove between the center and the outside edge. So I bought a Random Orbital Sander. A 5” DeWalt. It also works very well.

You can see as the drilled depth gauge holes start to shrink and disappear. I don’t want them to disappear completely. If I do, I have nothing to judge the height and I could remove too much wood. I’ll work the area between the center and outside edge with the ROM. I may have to switch to hand sanding on some parts. I think luthiers use finger planes as they get close. I’ll just go slow and make do with what I have.

This is the sound board. It is Adirondack Spruce. It is more forgiving than the maple on the back. I’m hoping to refine my skills enough on the spruce before starting to carve the back.


9 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30618 posts in 3452 days

#1 posted 10-27-2015 03:52 PM

Lots of patience required.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3981 days

#2 posted 10-27-2015 04:00 PM

I don’t know very much about this but is sure does look like very tedious work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7164 posts in 4309 days

#3 posted 10-27-2015 04:02 PM

It’s coming along nicely, BJ…..Slow and easy is the name of the game….It took me a long time to shape the top and back on my mandolin….Remember….you can take it off, but you can’t put it back…!! Like Monte said..patience.

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4449 days

#4 posted 10-27-2015 05:49 PM

I’m late to the party, but I had a look at the other episodes. Looks like a fun and challenging project that is coming along very well.

If you Google ‘finger planes’ images you can see a lot of shop made ones in case you are interested in making your own.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Texcaster's profile


1293 posts in 2788 days

#5 posted 10-27-2015 11:16 PM

Don’t rush it, you just have to find YOUR way.

These are the tools I use for most of my top and bottom carving. I don’t use sanding disks because for me, it’s too fast and risky.

The double convex 151 is used the most. Most of the cutting is cross grain. The raised handles are perfect for the inside. I ground the sole to a 20in radius.

The gouges are #3 and #5, the flatter the better for me.

The squirrel tail and the palm plane are veritas double convex.

The business end of the palm plane is the size of a finger plane.

I should add, much carving can be done with curved scrapers.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View BJODay's profile


528 posts in 3057 days

#6 posted 10-28-2015 12:14 AM


Thanks for the pics. I’ve got a couple of curved scrapers. I’ll try those. I may have to break down and get a finger plane.


View JerryBuilt's profile


9 posts in 2463 days

#7 posted 10-28-2015 12:24 AM

Texcaster beat me to it. I love the control you can maintain using a goose neck scraper.

View ART LACKEY's profile


114 posts in 4493 days

#8 posted 12-23-2015 03:45 AM

hello there BJ. when I was carving out the underside of the top and bottom I took the top off a porter cable router and drilled a hole in it to receive a lamp ring and then suspended it above and centered on the work piece and moved it back and forth until it was a perfect bowl. mind you ,you need to have just the right radius so the center is the right thickness and the cut comes right to the edge where your going to glue on the sides. I forget what they call the reinforcing wood around the edge. it was tricky, but it worked great. then I flipped it over and did the outside by hand with little spoke shaves.

-- Old turners don't die, they just turn to dust!

View English's profile


691 posts in 2592 days

#9 posted 02-21-2016 02:31 AM

All of this hand work may be too much for a power tool guy like me. But I plan to keep watching. Thanks for sharing.

-- John, Suffolk Virgina

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