Workshop and tools

The worshop
Here is a picture of my workshop in the back corner of the garden.  A total of around 70sq metres, divided into two rooms.

Clean room
Inside the clean room of the workshop.  This is where all the finishing is done and is where I store most of the wood.  This room has an air conditioner and de-humidifier to keep the humidity around 40%.

Machine room
This is the machine room where all the dirty work is done.

Heavy duty machines
Another view of the machine room.  The heavy duty machinery.

Main bench
This the main bench in the machine room where I spend most of my time.

Often people who are just starting out to make a mandolin, ask what tools are required.  Well you can see what I have below, together with a short description.  This is not everything I have, but does cover all of the most important tools.  This is not meant as any kind of recommendation, or a comprehensive list, but just an example of what I use.

Inca bandsaw
This is my trusty Inca bandsaw.  Probably the most used of all the power tools in the workshop.  It is only a small machine, just big enough to cut tops and backs for mandolas, but that is all I really need for mandolins.  As you can see, it is an Inca, made in France (expensive), and the picture is correct, not back the front.  Very high quality machine.  Accuracy is really dependant on the quality of the blades.  Best thing I ever did was to buy this machine.  I love it.  It is now over 25 years old and still cuts as good as new.  Unfortunately they are no longer manufactured, but can still be found refurbished on the Inca web page -  You will never regret buying one of these.  They were originally made in Switzerland for over 75 years (hence made to Swiss precision), then the factory moved to France just before I bought mine.

Bending pipes
Bending tools.  Home made bending pipes and gas torch, crude but effective.  Used to bend sides and bindings (I use wooden bindings).  I made these in 1993 and am still using them.

Assortment of various clamps.

Dremel, essential tool for every Luthier.

Drill press
Small drill press.  Essential power tool.  Used for all sorts of drilling.

Dust extractor
Dust Extractor.  Essential for keeping dust levels down.  Must have for bandsaws and sanders.  Dust is a constant problem and hazard.

Finger planes
Finger planes.  Must be one of the most useful hand tools.  Used to shape the carved tops and backs and to trim the wooden bindings and soundhole inlays.

Fretsaw.  Used to cut soundholes.

Fretting tools
Fretting tools.  From left, good quality steel ruler, dead blow fretting hammer, fret nipper, fret bending tool, fret pulling tool.

Nut files
More fretting tools.  Fret files, nut files, feeler gauge.

Hand planes
Hand planes, all number 4.  Very much used hand tools.  On the left is my "plastic fantastic"  Stanley plane, used for rough work.  In the centre is my Lie Nielsen (expensive) which is used for fine work and the most difficult jobs such as planing highly figured wood, or very hard wood.  On the right is my vintage Stanley (beautiful plane!), about 120 years old.   They don't make them like that any more. Used for the finest work such as preparing the centre joins.

Hand tools
Various hand tools.  Chisels, screwdrivers and model maker's saw.

Linisher (i.e. belt sander).  Probably a close second behind the bandsaw as the most used power tool.

Misc tools
Palet knife, reamers and Dremel router attachment.

Free plate tuning equipment
Plate tuning equipment.  High powered speaker, 140W power amp, digital sine wave generator and music instrument tuner.  All home made except for the speaker and tuner.

Rotary chisel
Angle grinder with Rotary Chisel fitted.  Used to rough carve the tops and backs.

A lot of people have asked me where to get a rotary chisel.  Mine has rough carved over 350 tops and backs and is still going strong.  Unfortunately it is no longer available.  It was manufactured by a sole trader from Western Australia and he is no longer making them.  However, Arbortech have recently released a new tool that I think is better than the rotary chisel.  They call it "Turboplane" and it produces a smoother surface than the rotary chisel.
Here it is

Turbo plane

And this is a mandolin back rough carved with the Turboplane.  Impressive, I have converted.

Carved mandolin back

Router table
Router table.  Used to route the groove in the neck for the carbon fibre rod.

Safety gear
Safety gear.  Essential for any workshop.

Sanding disc
Sanding disk.  Used to sand tops and backs after being shaped with hand planes.

Saw bench
Saw bench.  I do not use this much, mostly used to cut fret slots.  Also used to cut larger pieces of timber and is useful as a bench for fretting fingerboards.  Note the radio/CD player which constantly plays mandolin music to inspire me.

Thickness gauge
Home made thickness gauge.

Thickness sander
Thickness sander.  Used to thickness sides, bindings, headstock veneers etc.  Very useful machine that used more and more.

Wood lathe
Wood lathe.  Used to turn strap pins, and is also used to make parts for other musical instruments (e.g. tuning pegs).

Scrapers, pegs etc
Clothes pegs for gluing linings, violin makers clamps for gluing top and backs to sides, various scrapers.

Vice and drills
Woodworking vice, various drills, plugcutter, knives, saws etc.

Thicknesser planer
Woodfast thicknesser/planer.  This is a recent addition to the workshop that is proving to to be a real time saver.  I use it for squaring up neck wood, centre joins and planing the back of joined wedges.  This all used to be done by hand, as described in the construction pictures.  Heavy duty machine, weighs nearly 200kg.

Hammer bandsaw
This is another relatively recent addition, a large bandsaw, a Hammer N4400, made in Austria by Felder.  I bought this for resawing guitar backs and sides and for cutting up larger pieces of wood.  Not really required for mandolin making, but saves a lot of money if I can cut my own guitar sets.  Is a big powerful beast with a 4HP motor.  Weighs around 125kg.