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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:48 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:34 am
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I have built quite a few mandolins in my time.
As with guitars, I wish I'd have built others at times, but cash to pay the bills and all...that seems to be the disheartening part of the "profession". You just can't build without getting dragged down by "your list". They are a mixed blessing that may grant you a little financial breathing room, but can be a heavy weight around your neck. At one time, I had a four year backlog.
Anyway, Here's a few mandolins I have built over the years. I will try to add a few construction photos at the proper point. Sorry, no numbers...
Good place to start is with a photo at IBMA with Joe Trimbach and the late Dick Nunnally, 1/2 of the "Mando Boys" started by Peter Ostroushko. Dick also founded "American Heifer", one of MN's top bluegrass bands before he died. He had a great Oklahoma voice and wicked sense of humor.

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Joe is playing a V8, last iteration of the model and Dick is playing an F5C classic.

Here is one of the less fancy, single bound F5's.

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Note the scooped out pickgard and "Florida" end of the fingerboard. That facilitates picking without clacking.
More later...

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Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:48 am, edited 2 times in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post (total 2): sebastiaan56 (Sun Jan 21, 2018 1:47 pm) • Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:24 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 6:40 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Sorry, had some computer glitches and cut the photos short.
Here are some more of the tortoise mandolin above...

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Later on I built quite a few that were single bound ivoroid and called them PML's...poor man's Loars.

Here's one ready to have the neck shaped...

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And finished...

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Here you can see how the pickgard and "Florida" are scooped.

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Laughingly, we called this my Loar, but it was a Kay-Kraft that I repaired and replaced the fingerboard, reglued de-laminations and reset the neck. Is really a nice player for a plywood mandolin. Plays like a dream now and in very good shape.

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That's about all I have time for today. More to come...
Thanks for looking...

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http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:50 am, edited 2 times in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:26 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:54 pm 
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Koa
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Man, if only, and I mean IF ONLY I could nail a burst like that on my guitars! Well done is an understatement! Thanks Hans.



These users thanked the author Glen H for the post: Haans (Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:08 am)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 9:27 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Beautiful work Haans

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These users thanked the author Bobc for the post: Haans (Sat Dec 23, 2017 10:08 am)
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:36 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Glen H wrote:
Man, if only, and I mean IF ONLY I could nail a burst like that on my guitars!


Glen, lets see what we can do about that.
I assume you have a compressor and can spray finishes.
Buy an Iwata airbrush (around $120) and the finest needle and nozzle tip for it. If you need the connecting hose, buy that. Some hoses have bleeder valves on them, or set your compressor for 15-20#. Get some extra plastic bottles at an art supply store. You can get a dozen pretty cheap.
Clean your new airbrush. Take it apart and submerge in alcohol, swirling it around every so often. Likely you will see crap floating around in the solvent after a while. Also look for possible loose bits of metal flashing. Make sure the airbrush is absolutely clean by spraying some spirit varnish or shellac on a white paper. Adjust your airbrush to a fairly wide pattern and light spray. Practice on scrap wood. Then spray alcohol through it to clean again. Make sure your brush is very clean after you use it...every time you use it. Also follow lubricating instructions, you should get a bottle of lube with the brush.
I used Trans-Tint in medium brown, red mahogany and brown mahogany, and used water as the solvent. Alcohol works too, might even be better as it dries so quickly. You should mix the brown or red fairly thin to start and add color as you gain proficiency. Start practicing on scrap.
NEVER USE STAIN! Stains have pigment in them and muddy the burst.
First step is to Mask off all binding, purfling, etc. or use varnish or lacquer, 3 coats. I did use 3M tape at times, but it will always bleed. I did it on ivoroid bound mandolins because it kept most of the dye off the binding. Might sound like a lot of work, but consider ruining your binding and purfling work. Color the whole instrument yellow or amber. Dilute this too. I used to wipe it on, but later sprayed it as the color on spruce is more uniform. Always add Transtint, it's better than adding water or alcohol because you can count the drops. Always approach from the too light side of dyes. You can always add a drop and can keep track of your mix.

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Next start airbrushing the brown or red.

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Start on the very outside edge and work around the instrument. On successive applications you can move in a little more toward the center. Usually took me 6-8 coats to achieve the proper darkness and sometimes I would add a couple drops of black right at the end coat and spray around the edge to make it a bit darker.

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You may also find that in building on the evenness of the burst, you have a little bit of void here and there. Back off the fluid amount and you will be able to slowly fill in areas. I usually covered the center too with a bit of spray as I never liked "bullseye" bursts. Back off the instrument 3-4' and fog a little over the center. Take your time and do the first ones slowly.

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It will look dull, flat and dark, but after you get a few clear coats on, it will look fine. After you are done with the burst, spray a couple of thin coats of clear to set it. Then, look over the whole instrument carefully and scrape bindings.

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The sunburst will always get lighter (clearer) as you apply clear finish.
Applying the dye right into the wood gives the greatest amount of clarity.

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Hope this helps...

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http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post (total 3): Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:28 pm) • dzsmith (Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:04 am) • SteveSmith (Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:20 am)
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2017 3:46 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I can't quite remember why I decided to build mandolins when I decided to build again after more than a decade away from the craft. Might have been the growing number of guitar builders at the time. I do remember that I had bought a teens F4 Gibson way back and was pretty enamored by that one.
I had built a few F5's before I quit the first time around.
My father was a mandolin player in an orchestra in Germany before WWII, the big one. I can still remember him on the couch with a crappy Sears mandolin, playing in the evenings. I finally found an old Washburn for him and fixed it up. Sounded much better than the Sears. I still have it on a shelf.
Maybe that is why the mandolin sound stuck in my head. First guitar I ever bought was a 12 string...
When I first started seriously building F5's, Gibson was on a rampage, suing anyone they could get their hands on. They were suing over the F5 shape, pick guards, the flowerpot, even the "bell shaped truss rod cover".
I changed the shape a little, and called mine Model 23. I Built a lot of those, here is one with a blond top.

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I designed my own floral inlay, but did use the bell shaped T/R cover.

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Later it seemed like Gibson stopped suing, but I kept building the 23. I built them with mostly Euro QS maple and red, Italian and German spruce. I remember trying an Englemann, but thought it just a weak German spruce. They were all "topbound" meaning that the purfling was on the top and back. The F5classics that I built were all sidebound.
One year I went to a festival in CA, and one of the features was something called "Loarfest". It was a gathering of Loar fanatics and it was evident that they thought so much of their Loars that I decided I could build them too. So, I built Loar molds and designed a new "flowerpot inlay".

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I was one of the only builders that used an inside mold ala violins rather than the outside mold.

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Here are a few more F5C's.

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I was also building a few A models before I got all Loarified. This one is a 15 fret A5 and is a bit smaller than the old paddleheads of the teens and the A5 Loar.

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I also just had to build the A5C and just as with Gibson, I only built one...

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Note how pushed forward the bridge and ff holes are.

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That's about all I have time for today.

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J. Brentrup Guitars & Mandolins
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Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:54 am, edited 1 time in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:32 pm)
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 26, 2017 10:33 pm 
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Koa
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Hans, much thanks for the burst tips. I have done a few and they were OK but just OK. Your transitions are so soft and blended. That’s what I’m aiming for. And the brightness of the colors. I’ve got test adi tops from the old spruce guys and before my next build I’m going to do some trials and try to get the process down better. I’m going to tint directly on wood for a first (for me). I get too much finish build tinting finish IMO. My next build is on hold for now, my wife has me remodeling the house for now.
Flooring, paint, new kitchen all that ... since the nest emptied this past year.
So thanks again and I really appreciate your contributions here.



These users thanked the author Glen H for the post: Haans (Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:52 am)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:54 pm 
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Koa
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Gorgeous looking mandolins. I can't decide which one I want most



These users thanked the author Quine for the post: Haans (Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:52 am)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:42 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Thanks guys.
Glen, one thing you must really be careful about. Don't drip anything on the surface you are bursting. Make sure everything is clean, wear gloves, be methodical about every step. Make very sure your airbrush does not spit. I used to hang a sheet of white paper up to try the brush before I shot it at the instrument.
Many coats of thin dye is the way to do it. I would recommend you use alcohol as the solvent as it is nearly dry as it hits the top.
It got pretty boring building F5's and A's all the time, and so I spent my spare time making molds and jigs for other Gibson instruments in the mandolin family. I never wanted to hollow out logs, so Mandobasses were out, and I pretty much stayed away from octaves and other long neck mando-like instruments. Mando-banjos were obviously out.
I built oval hole A and F models. Some were what I called hybrids, and had 14 frets to the neck. They were a bit punchier than the 12 fret necks. Here's a "snakehead" A4C...

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Many of them had plain birch backs so I did the same.

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The oval F4C...

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A couple of hybrids...

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I also started building 3 point mandolins that Orville originally built. The black one is a mandola.

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Here is a friend of mine's 3 point and his '23 Loar.

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Torch peghead of the 3 points. Silver wire inlay around the abalone.

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Finally got around to the H5C mandola...note the different shape of scroll, size of ff holes and fern inlay.

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That's all for today...

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http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:34 pm)
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 29, 2017 3:33 pm 
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Cocobolo
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Hans, this is really inspiring stuff. Thanks for sharing your experience and your past builds.

Can I ask about your thoughts on the carbon fibre "tone bars" that you have sometimes used. I am interested in the idea of using CF reinforcement between the neck block and end block, to brace against some of the compressive forces of string tension and offload the soundboard. Similarly, Rick Turner and others have used CF buttresses between the neck block and sides of ukes and guitars. Can you tell us a bit of your experience with using this approach? Any recommendations for someone wanting to try it out?
Thanks for all of the masterful instruction.
Mark


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:44 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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You are welcome Mark.
Tone tubes were originally used in my GC-12's and since they didn't seem to upset anything, I started using them on 6's. I guess I never believed much in those tubes that ran to the waist because of the high angles involved. Just doesn't seem like there is much support and the angles are all wrong. I think the string tension still affects the top the same way, but there is no tendency for the neck block to rotate.
Here are a couple of photos of the nose block and the buttresses.

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Rods were 3/8" and I preferred the T shaped nose block as it gave more room around the sound hole.
Tone wise, I don't like to speculate except to say that it doesn't seem to hurt tone. I wouldn't go so far as to say it enhanced tone, but it sure didn't hurt.
Back to mandolins...
It's always been my feeling that the more wood you leave on the instrument (within reason) the more the instrument sounds like wood, and further sounds like the species of wood you use. Thin down a top or back enough and no matter how you brace it, it sounds like cardboard. Now, I really don't mean it actually sounds like cardboard, but it is reduced to NOT sounding like the wood you used. Same with those composite double red spruce tops/Nomex/epoxy ( you won't be convincing me that it sounds like red spruce, or Ovation backs sounding like anything but like plastic. I think that my 20 years building mandolins and mandolas taught me that.
Here is the point. If your objective is to just make a "BETTER" sounding instrument than all the rest, you are probably leaving behind the wood tonal qualities in favor of louder, more head inside the guitar sensitivity, brilliant and boomy, kind of sound. That is never where I wanted to be. I wanted instruments that sounded like the wood, red spruce sounding like red spruce, German like German, etc. I wanted my instruments to sound FAT. So, I have always approached building instruments from the thick side (within reason). The tone is in the wood, not the shavings on the floor.
Anyway, at some point, I decided to try to build some of my own designs. Of course, design is always "borrowed" ideas from something or somebody else, but it is how you combine elements that makes or breaks the design.
I started with a mandolin I originally called Stealth, but later called it V6 after the last one.

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I couldn't find a finished photo, but the one I liked the most was the one below...

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As you can see, the instrument was both top and side bound.

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I also built an instrument called Eclipse originally, but the last iteration was V8. Here is one of the originals I built with pink ivory wood.

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That instrument eventually ended up like this...

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Some were also red burst...

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Finally I had a request to combine both instruments taking the best features from each...

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Think that I liked that the best of all of the V6/V8's.

That's all today...

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http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:59 am, edited 2 times in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:35 pm)
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:58 pm 
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Cocobolo
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You are an amazing craftsman. Bravo!



These users thanked the author jshelton for the post: Haans (Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:04 pm)
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:08 am 
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Cocobolo
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Those are very useful insights. I have just finished building an irish bouzouki style of instrument and I used CF rods between the neck block and tail block, much the same as in your pictures of your GC guitars. This has been a fun build in which I am trying various new ideas (fan-fret multiscale, heel-less bolt-on neck joint (Graham McDonald's design), Ken Parker style tailpiece swinging off a bolt in the tail block). Some of it might work, but some might be folly. I haven't managed to string it up yet because my first version of the tailpiece suffered a major structural failure as I brought it up to full string tension. I had crafted this elegant looking CF reinforced timber tailpiece that proved to be much less strong than I had anticipated. It literally exploded into multiple pieces - not a proud luthiery moment! Version two will hopefully be more successful.

Anyway - I digress. I had imagined the purpose of the CF rods was to enable major reduction in the mass of the soundboard. Reasoning that if we need to engineer the top to withstand all of that string tension we might be making it heavier than the optimum for its sonic performance. Therefore, it would be advantageous to have another structure resisting the tendency of the instrument to fold itself in half. If the soundboard no longer needed to keep the box stiff it could just do the job of making sound, thought I. But now you are suggesting that you want to keep some wood in the instrument for its influence on the character of the sound. That is an interesting additional element in the equation.

The T-shaped neck block is a nice solution to the problem of how to keep the rods out of the way of a central sound hole. I chose to use f-holes on my build mainly because my rods went close to the centre and I thought that would rule out using a centre hole. Next time I might give it a go your way.

I love the fusion of traditional influences and new design that is evident in your V6 and V8 designs. Orville and Lloyd were obviously real innovators and I doubt they would still be making the same designs for 100 years if they could still be around. It seems to me that your newer designs are a real continuation of the craft - and it helps that you really know what you are doing and put it together with such technical skill.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:04 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Mark, sorry to hear of your T/P explosion.
No one can say what is optimum. Over the years building mandolins, I experimented quite a bit with neck angles and break angles over the bridge and at one time thought about a variable height tailpiece, but never followed through. In all, there seems to be an optimum break for tailpiece instruments for each one built. All we can do is approximate. In mandolins it is a compromise between loudness and refinement in tone. The higher the break angle, the louder it gets till you overpressure the top and the tonal qualities break down. Lower bridge heights than normal yield a warmer, more refined tone.
Guitars probably have some of the same conditions going on with bridge pin tops and saddle height, but I believe arched mandolins, mandolas, etc are a much more sensitive instrument than guitars. They are more like violin family instruments.
In my own guitars, the tops were obviously heavy compared to the current lighter is better thinking. It's a different quality of tone.
I have no idea how an instrument would get it's sound without the strings tensioning the top, whether pulling up or pushing down. I have also used a single tone tube in mandolins, (no opinion either way), and also on some of the last custom designs have used tapered ribs, taller at the tailpiece.

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Guess I'll call it quits with a few photos of my one and only Gibson, a 1921 F4 with a prototype Cremona brown finish instead of red, one of only about 200 ever made. As far as I'm concerned, this was Orville's grandest design.

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Note the back, which Charlie Derrington and I thought to be quilted silver maple, softer than red maple that was standard. This and no truss rod would give a warmer sound than typical F4. Also the tiny quilts are much more suited to mandolins than the guitar size quilt you see on most newer mandolins with Big Leaf maple quilt. It has a stunning, warm sound with a solid punch.

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Just a lovely instrument and in almost perfect condition...
Thanks folks!

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http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Sun Jun 24, 2018 4:55 pm, edited 2 times in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:39 pm)
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 02, 2018 10:10 pm 
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No, thank YOU Haans. Your thought process, attention to detail, technical mastery, design sense, and artistic ability are a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

Ed


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:10 am 
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I can't believe how prolific you have been and the product is just amazing!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2018 9:33 am 
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Thanks guys...
Steve, you have to keep in mind that I have done this for basically 30 years with a decade long break to cabinetmaking, so 10 years before and 20 after.
This was "state of the art" for me when I started the 2nd time...those tops and backs ended up nearly 1/2" thick when they came off the pattern router. It just basically enabled me to hog off the majority of the scrap.

Image

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I really hope some of this inspires a few of you to take up some of the ideas I have put down, and the photos provide a few details, both guitar and mandolin.

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Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:03 am, edited 1 time in total.


These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Clinchriver (Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:41 pm)
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:34 pm 
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Cocobolo
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Yep - plenty of inspiration there. I am keen to try a few new ideas after seeing all this. I just know my level of execution will not be the same as yours, but I will still take a lot of pleasure from the trying.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:27 am 
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Mark, it's a learning curve for all of us...

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 3:10 pm 
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Incredibly beautiful work, thanks for sharing. I love the Stealth design too.

I bought Siminoffs book on mandolin building about a year ago but so far it's just sat on the shelf waiting for me to find the time and to get over the intimidation factor of carved top instruments. I did build one mandolin based on my early 1900's Washburn 'falt top' mandolin and have been quite pleased with the way it sounds and plays.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:41 pm 
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Thank you John.
After I hand carved a few completely, I said never again till I got the Dupli-carver. Then I had to carve inside and outside forms to be able to copy them. Nowadays, you can find CNC'd tops and backs.
That Washburn copy is a beauty.

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These users thanked the author Haans for the post: Ken McKay (Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:59 pm)
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:07 pm 
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Thanks for posting all these fine photos of gorgeous instruments. Your work is phenomenal!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 10:49 am 
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Very kind to say, Jay!
Here's an old photo, probably a winter's build waiting for spring to start finishing.

Image

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Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 9:17 pm 
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Thanks Hans for posting all that information and pictures of your mandolins. Very beautiful instruments.

My stumbling onto this thread is very timely as I will soon be applying the finishing to the first F style mandolin that I have built and it will be a burst. The information you provided on your method of doing a burst finish is very useful to me.

I want to do a three color burst and noticed that some of the mandolins you posted pictures of appear to have a three color burst. Can you provide any further advice on the additional techniques you use for a three colour burst.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2018 5:31 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Richard, thank you and you are welcome. I hope you can get some help from what you see here.
None of the instruments actually have a three color burst. As I have said earlier, some of them may have had drops of black Trans-Tint added later as the color built up to adjust the darkness around the rim. Maybe these photos will help.
This particular instrument was to have a more reddish burst, but red or brown, it is about the same.
The first photo shows the back after several coats of dye.

Image

Next is after 4-5 more coats and the back, ribs and neck are starting to look like what I wanted.

Image

The next photo shows some black added to the dye and this is probably after another 4-5 coats. The photo gives me a clue that more was done after this as the neck has too much yellow showing and hasn't been blended well yet or fogged over like the yellow in the back.

Image

This looks like the end with a couple of light coats of spirit varnish after I added more black and blended the neck. At this point, the binding and purfling are ready to be scraped.

Image

Finally, the finished back...

Image

You can see that the dye in the beginning is very light orange looking because of the yellow base, but as each coat is added, it gets darker and darker and in my opinion, I probably added a drop or two of black and then as the burst progressed, added a drop or two more.
I hope that helps. Feel free to ask further if you are unclear about something. Happy to help...

_________________
J. Brentrup Guitars & Mandolins
http://www.brentrup.com


Last edited by Haans on Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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