​​     I have to point out that the methods described here are not the normal methods of mandolin assembly. By starting with back, rim and blocks already assembled, we were somewhat painted into a corner.  A more traditional method of construction would be to attach the soundboard to the rim and blocks with the dovetail already cut and ready for the neck. Then the back is glued on to close up the box.

     Either way, in the end, the finished fretboard is attached to the neck, and the neck is finish-carved on the mandolin. 

     That's more than a few critical components permanently joined in just a few critical days in the shop. These few assemblies detemine the string angles, the stability and the playability of the instrument for its life.  The point of no return is when the neck dovetail is glued and pressed into the headblock. All after that is a carving freefall within very strict parameters...the fillet, the fretboard support and the 15th-fret cross binding, glued together as one carving.

     I believe that I had a beer at the end of that week. 


     The inlays that I am referring to here are rosewood bindings at the points and the tail of the instrument. Both sides of both points have strips of rosewood mitered into (and connecting) the bindings.  The tail, likewise, has a mitered strip connecting the bindings, top to back.  With the right incentives and abilities some could show tasteful, artistic style at these points of inlay interest and/or dis-interest. Woody's are wood.

    Set-up was unique for each inlay, so it took one complete day for each...fixture set up, caul, clamp and glue, then wait 24 hours and do it again.   Below is pictured a set up for holding the mandolin upside down to cut, glue and finish the tail inlay.  Also pictured are the rosewood points.

Final Assembly (almost)

     Woody has been 5 months building this mandolin and will probably have it around the shop for another month dealing with the finish and final set up.  There were many significant moments in February and I will try to relate the most interesting ones here. Carbon-Fiber trusses; Joining the neck to the body; Connecting the bindings; etc.

Neck Reinforcement


     There is a good chance that this mandolin will soon live in a much damper environment than Richmond, VA. The owner is thinking of moving to the Oregon coast and I have been concerned that the neck might move given the nearly constant high humidity. So, in addition to the truss rod mentioned last month, Woody decided to rout the neck for two carbon-fiber stiffeners on either side of the truss rod. (Carbon fiber has 90% the strength of steel at 10% the weight)  This neck will be rigid.  That's a good thing. A rigid neck not only helps maintain a proper set up, but also helps the instrument sustain tones longer and clearer.  The more rigid the neck, the more energy it reflects back into the string when stopped on a fret.


      Work at Woody Strings was intense at times in February... a lot of details to finish the assembly and set up the mandolin. Now things slow down with the mandolin essentially finished except for lacquer applications which require time between coats and time to cure before final hardware set up.

     Below are some pics from the month of February. ​​​ Final Assembly, Neck Reinforcement and Inlays are some of the topics covered this month.  

  For those who might have tuned in late, this mandolin was started about 35 years ago while Woody lived in Alaska.   The mando parts came back to Virginia with Woody after ten years operating the first Woody Strings in Fairbanks ('75-'85).

     In October, 2016 an idea was born... to complete the Birdseye mandolin at the wJs shop in Richmond, VA  Since that decision, it has been much more than an interesting winter.  

     The mandolin back, rims and block were cut and assembled in Fairbanks, and transported with me to VA in 1985. (Since 1985, a change of life ensued while raising two very intelligent children.) The mandolin soundboard, likewise, had been glued up and rough-carved in Alaska. In October I retrieved all of these parts from the original cardboard box in which I had packed it so many years ago.

     When developing the idea to finish the Birdseye, I thought that I could use the partially assembled (Birdseye maple) body and continue on with the soundboard and neck...eh...not so fast.       UPON FURTHER REVIEW the headblock, and both of the ribs attached to it, had split and needed to be replaced. Otherwise, the Birdseye back and ribs and the mahogany corner blocks were in good shape. The project would actually be to finish carving the 35-yr old Sitka spruce soundboard and assemble it onto the re-built maple body. Essentially building a new instrument out of old wood. At the same time, build a new neck ...and dovetail them together... 

    AND SO. . . here we are in the first week of March and all that's left is the finish and the set up.                                                          (can 'o corn) 

    Right now I'm thinking about a week's Stay-cation when I'm finished.  


     In March I hope to finish and set up the instrument, play it for a couple of weeks and deliver in early April... leaving me to dream up another project for this spring and summer.

     I will have some shiney new photos of the completed instrument next month.


February, 2017

Mandolin Assembly

  • Carbon Fiber

  • Inlays

  • Binding the Points

  • Joining the Neck to the Body​

​​​Joining the Neck to the Body

     If there was one defining moment in the assembly of this mandolin, it would be on the day of joining the neck to the body.  To get to that day, the dovetail had been carved and made ready for a permanent fit to the body. Once the finished dovetail is glued and pressed into the head block, there is no simple reversal. The head block fillet and the fretboard support (shown below) were then carved and glued in place.  So few words to describe more than a few hours of tediously satisfying attention to matching contours and surfaces.