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March 8, 2009
As I start to use granulated hide glue, as opposed to liquid hide glue I realised I needed a heated glue pot – preferably with a double boiler or thermostat controlled warmer.
I had heard of people using a coffee warmer, and I had a small one lying around gathering dust that I had picked up from a swap meet a year or two ago.
I did a couple of glue mixes using just the coffee warmer plate and an old vegemite jar, which was ok, but I felt that the bottom would overheat leaving cooler (potentially gelling) glue at the top.
So I modified the top of the original coffee jug by cutting a hole just large enough to screw the vegemite jar in, raising it a little form the bottom of the jug.
Then I put water in the coffee machine, let it drip through into the jug, then placed the glue jar with glue dissolved in an equal quantity of water as glue, into the coffee jug, and the warm water now surrounds the glue, keeping the whole thing at the right temperature moderated by a thermostat to about 65C.
Viola! the whole thing cost about $5 for the coffee machine, and the jar could have been any glass jar which might otherwise have just gone in the recycling bin.
January 10, 2009
After gluing on the fingerboard and nut I touched up the varnish and gave the whole instrument a good final cleanup and wax.
Then it was time to add the tailpiece and machine heads and the instrument was almost finished.
The final-ish thing was to make a bridge – I used some leftover Tasmanian Blackwood and made a bridge, tuning in the strings with stepped forward and back slots.
Finally I got some new strings and strung it up for the first time. It needs playing in but the sound is wonderful and will only get better!
You can read all the steps here
This was very well worth doing!
Here are some more photos
And here is what it sounds like
January 10, 2009
The bindings worked well, so it was time for a final sanding and clean up using 180 grit, then 600 grit then 1200 grit on the sides and back.
I also took the face of the head back to bare wood and painted it black – after masking off adjacent areas – as grain run-out made it look as though there was a nasty crack in the head. So the paint is purely cosmetic. When dry, I varnished it for durability.
I then fitted the Tasmanian blackwood button at the back which covers the join between the neck and the back, and sanded it smooth.
With a final check of the overall structure, I gave the back a further fine sanding and began varnishing. There will be several coats, not only to give a smooth weather resistant finish, but also to seal the padouk timber. It is used as a dye for good reason! So it is important to ensure it won’t rub off on the player!
The top will only have several coats of shellac – a kind of French polishing – to provide a nice satin finish that won’t reflect stage lights too badly, and to keep the character of the birdseye maple.
I hope to attach the fretboard soon and fit up the instrument tomorrow – just in time for my Daughter to return and give it a real workout! The instrument is for her, and I know she will make good use of it – assuming it sounds okay!
What do you think of it?
January 9, 2009
The sides glued up well, and progress continues – after removing the clamps I gave the sides a quick clean-up with sandpaper to remove glue squeeze-out. Titebond liquid hide glue is great to work with, allowing some slip time to get everything lined up ok, but then once it starts to bind it holds well and dries within a few hours.
The mandolin is now starting to look like an instrument, but it is still fairly rough around the edges. The binding provides a decorative border, but also provides additional strength and protection for the joints. I have been quite worried about the gluing process, because hide glue has a use-by date, and I was half-way through before I read the bottle and found it was out of date by six months. Apparently Titebond put a 12 month use-by date on, but liquid hide glue can last 12-18 months. Perhaps I was lucky this time. But if any components fail I will be buying a new bottle forthwith. I could use the hide granules, but that would involve messy use of double boilers and rushing to use it before it cools etc. The liquid glue is very easy to use, is versatile at room temperature and works well.
Anyhow, I had bought some inlay banding strips at the 2008 Canberra Timber and Working With Wood show with a view to their potential for instrument bindings. The banding strips are about 1.5mm thick and about 6mm wide and 1.2metres long. They are easy to use, being flexible enough to do each of the bouts without steam bending, and thin enough to cut easily with a sharp knife.
You’ll have to wait to see how it looks, as they are still taped in position after gluing, but the early indications are good🙂
The next pictures won’t look much different as I still have to add the bindings for the back/bout interface!
The small round piece of blackwood in the foreground will become the back button, concealing the two pins that help to locate the neck – but more on that tomorrow.
I basically have the back bindings, fitting the fingerboard and some finishing work on the head before fitting it up ready to play – so not long now!