Prepare for varnishing

Check frets are level
Now before we go any further, lets make sure all the frets are level.  They very seldom are perfectly level. This does not need to be done now, it can be done later after the varnish has dried, but may as well do it now.

Level the frets
The high spots are levelled (very carefully) with fine sandpaper wrapped around a piece of plate glass.

Dress frets
Now the high frets are dressed with a fretting file and checked again until all the frets are perfectly level.  There is no need to introduce any relief because the force of the strings will bend the neck just enough to give the necessary relief.

Fill binding gaps
Usually there will be a few small gaps between the binding and the sides.  These are filled with wood filler.

Scrape the neck
The neck is scraped into shape with the scraper.  Knees make great clamps for this job.

Course sand the neck
Neck sanded into shape, making sure there are no dips or high spots.  I feel the shape of the neck until it feels good in my hands, and with a combination of scraping and sanding the neck gets shaped into a comfortable profile.  This step is important.  It is easy to end up with a neck that feels wrong - either too fat or too thin, and that ruins the whole feel of the mandolin.

Course sand the back
Course sanding the back

Course sand the sides
Course sanding the sides.

Shaoe end of headstock
End of the headstock is cleaned up and shaped with a small sanding drum in the Demel.

Fine sanding
Now the instrument gets a good going over with fine sandpaper.  This step is crucial because if you don't get rid of all the scratches and small dobs of glue and uneveness of the surface, it will cause no end of trouble when varnishing.  Usually I will need to go back to a courser grade of sandpaper and go over a few spots, or add a bit extra wood filler. Is very time consuming.

Stain the top
I usually use a natural finish on tops.  Here a bit of colour is applied to the spruce, but it is a natural stain that I extract from Blackwood.  It does not look like stain, it is the only colouring agent I have found that will give a natural look to Spruce.  It darkens with age and will give a nice vintage look to the top after a few years.

Lastly the whole mandolin is given a coat of dark blonde shellac to pop the grain.  The shellac is applied with a rag or high quality artist brush.