Carving the top

Spruce wedges
This is how it all starts out, two wedges of Spruce.  In this case it is wedges of European Spruce from Switzerland.

The thick edge of the wedges are first planed perfectly flat.

Heat gun
The wood surfaces are warmed with a heat gun.

Hide glue
Hot hide glue.

Brushing hide glue
Hot hide glue is brushed on one surface.

The wedges are rubbed together until the glue takes hold and then left to dry at least 24 hours.

Plane the back
The back of the glued Spruce wedges are planed flat.

Mark outline
The outline of the mandolin top is drawn on the back using a template.

Cut out on bandsaw
The outline of the top is cut out on the bandsaw.

Now cut out
Here is the top cut out to shape.

Mark with marker gauge
The edge is marked to 5mm..

Mark fingerboard
The position of the fingerboard is marked.

Finger board marked
Now is ready for carving.

Rough carve
The top is rough carved with the rotary chisel.

Finished rough carving
Here it is after finishing the rough carving.  This only takes about 15 minutes.  Cleaning up the mess usually takes longer.

Shape with finger planes
The top is then shaped with finger planes.

Finished shapping
Here it is after being shaped with the finger planes.  It is now ready for sanding.

Sanding disk
The marks of the finger planes are smoothed out with a sanding disk in a power drill.

Check with template
Final shape is checked with a template.

Hand sand
Final shaping and smoothing is done by hand with sandpaper.

Feel for lumps
Feel for lumps and correct if there are any lumps or ridges.

Check bridge fits
Also check that the bridge will fit easily.

Check the arch
Make sure there is a smooth arch.

Everything is OK, so give the top a light coat of blonde shellac.  The shellac will protect the top from greasy finger marks and glue marks.

Mark part not carved
We are ready to rough carve the inside of the top, but first mark around the edge where the ribs and linings will glue to the top.  This must area must not be carved.

Set drill bit depth
Now we need to drill some holes in the underside of the top to indicate how deep to carve.  First set the drill press up.

Drill the depth
Drill the depth holes.

Rough carve inner part of top
Now the depth holes have been drilled, we can rough carve the underside of the top with the rotary chisel.

The mess
Carving with the rotary chisel is a really messy business.

Rough carving of underneath finished
Rough carving finished.  Only took 10 minutes.  The cleanup took longer than the carving

Finger plane under top
Now the inside of the top is shaped with finger planes.

Finished planing underneath
Here it is after being shaped with the finger planes.

Final mark soundhole
Now mark the soundhole.

Drill pilot hole
Over to the drillpress and drill a pilot hole.

Cut soundhole
Cut out the soundhole on the fretsaw.

Soundhole cut
Here the soundhole has just been cut out.  Note that it is not quite a smooth oval shape just yet.

Dremel soundhole
Smooth out the soundhole with the Dremel fitted with a sanding drum.

Plane fingerboard angle
Oval hole mandolins have the fingerboard glued to the top, so we need to plane an angle equal to the angle of the neck into the top.

Check fingerbaord angle
I use a small template cut to the neck angle (4.5deg) and a spirit level to check that the angle is correct.  The bench is also checked that it is level beforehand.

Check horizontal
The angle also needs to be level horizontally.

Check bridge height
The bridge height also needs to be right.  This will give a final bridge height of around 19 or 20 mm, which is about right.

Carve around the fingerboard
Now that all the angles are correct - 4.5 deg slope, horizontal, and correct bridge height, the excess wood is removed around the fingerboard with fingerplanes.

Sand around the fingerboard
The final step is to hand sand around the fingerboard area.

Finished carving the top
Now finished.  Ready for the next step, installing the soundhole trim.