Making "Ceol Binn"

Ceol Binn


Encouraged by Colin, a player at my local Folk Club, I'm made my first mandolin - a flat top with European Spruce top, English Walnut back and sides and Malaysian Blackwood bindings. This will be a prototype that Colin will test out for me. It's called "Ceol Binn" - sweet music.


Start with a cunning plan. I bought a Hiscox Mandolin case first to make sure the design will fit !!

The European spruce top joined using hot hide glue.

The English Walnut back joined using hot hide glue.

The top and back thicknessed.

The English Walnut sides thicknessed.

The sides are then bent using a heating blanket in this jig.

The sides in the mould,

The English walnut neck and tail blocks are made and the two 5mm carbon fibre rods glued in using fish glue and held in place in the mould. The blocks are not yet attached to the sides.

The sides are glued to the tail-block together with the Malaysian Blackwood end-graft and black/ pear/ black side purflings using hot hide glue.

The sides are glued to the neck-block using fish glue.

The central rosette ring is cut from a book-matched piece of English walnut.

Here's the result.

I wasn't happy with the response of the European spruce top after thinning and have replaced it with a Lutz Spruce one. Then the rosette channel is routed out.

The rosette is the English Walnut ring flanked by black/pear/black purflings.

The Lutz spruce soundhole patch is glued on using fish glue.

The soundhole is then routed out.

Here's the result.

The English Walnut back centre strip is glued in using hot hide glue.

The Lutz spruce back X braces are profiled to a 10' radius, notched and then glued in using hot hide glue.

Next the lower bout ladder brace is glued on.

Then the English Walnut X brace cap is glued on using hot-hide glue.

The next job is to profile the sides to match the back's curvature and the English walnut reverse-kerfed linings glued on using fish glue.

. . . followed by the top linings.

Then the English walnut side braces are notched into the linings and glued in using hot hide glue.

Next veneers of black/ pear /black are glued on the inside of the rim where the side sound-port will be cut after the box has been bound.

The braces are then carved and the back "voiced".

Notches are cut in the linings for the back brace ends and the back glued to the rim-set using fish glue.

The A Frame braces are glued on the top using hot-hide glue.

The Lutz spruce X braces are profiled to a 10' radius, notched and then glued on using hot hide glue . . .

. . . followed by the transverse brace after it has been notched to fit over the A Frame braces.

Next the thin European spruce cap is glued on using hot-hide glue over the X brace open joint.

Next the brace behind the bridge is glued on using hot-hide glue.

Then the "voicing" process starts - the braces are profiled to give the top response I am looking for. When the top has been "voiced" to my satisfaction I sign and date it.

Here's the voiced top.

The English Walnut fingerboard support piece is glued into the neck-block using hot hide glue.

As access through the soundhole will be tight I decided to glue the label in before the top goes on

Here's the inside view. Notches are cut in the linings to fit the top's brace ends.

The top is then glued to the rim-set using fish glue.

When the glue has dried the sides are scraped level and true with the box in the Troji and the edges of the top sanded a little thinner.

The Malaysian Blackwood bindings and black / pear/ black side purflings are bent using this jig.

Next the top binding channels are cut using the binding jig to the depth of the bindings plus side purflings. The channels are stopped just short of the end-graft. Purfling pieces are stuck using double-sided tape over the end-graft. The binding channel is then cut over the end graft with the jig riding on these so that the depth cut is just that of the binding. The end graft side purflings can then be mitred using a chisel.

The process is repeated on the back.

Next the top and back purfling channels are cut.

The top and back bindings and purflings are then glued on using fish glue.

Finally the side bindings and purflings next to the neck are fitted and glued in.

The bindings are then scraped and sanded flush and the side soundport made. First the elliptical shape is marked in the correct position.

Then using a 3mm brad point drill bit holes are drilled inside the line and the centre removed.

The soundport is than sanded to shape using files.

Next the fingerboard extension hole is cut out of the top after an African Blackwood end cap has been glued onto the neck-block.

Here's the finished body . . .

. . . and another view . . .

. . . and another.

Next the scarfe joint is cut and glued on the English Walnut neck blank using hot hide glue.

After much deliberation I decided to use a non-adjustable carbon fibre truss rod rather than a metal adjustable one. The truss rod slot is routed out.

Then the English Walnut cap is glued onto the top of the carbon fibre truss rod using fish glue.

When the glue is dry the English Walnut cap is trimmed flush and the slots for the outer two carbon-fibre rods routed.

The rods with English Walnut caps are glued in with fish glue and clamped while the glue dries.

Next the neck has had the heel and fingerboard extension cut on the bandsaw and this is then fitted to the body at the correct angle and position and so that the heel cheeks fit the sides perfectly. A piece of dowel is fitted in the neck heel to take the threaded insert, the position of the insert marked and the insert fitted and glued in with epoxy.

The neck is then bolted on to check the fit.

Looks a bit more mandolin like now!

The heel is trimmed for the heel-cap and after contouring it to meet the back the African Blackwood heel-cap is glued on using hide glue.

The African Blackwood headstock veneer is glued onto the top of the headstock using fish glue.

The African Blackwood veneer is bent to the shape of the volute and glued on the rear of the headstock using fish glue.

Next the fret slots are marked on the ebony/English walnut laminated fretboard and cut with the fretsaw in this jig. Laminating the fretboard is a good use of scarce wood and results in a lighter fretboard.

The fretboard is the tapered and the end cut to match the soundhole using the circle cutting jig.

A piece of binding is bent to shape on the hot-pipe and then glued to the fingerboard using hot hide glue. The binding is ebony with black/pear/black purfling.

When the glue is dry the binding edges are trimmed flush and the rest of the fretboard bindings glued on using fish glue.

The 2mm holes for the side dot markers are then drilled and the markers glued in.

The headstock is shaped and the tuner holes drilled.

The fretboard is then glued onto the neck using fish glue.

The neck is then carved to shape . . .

. . . and the fretboard radiused.

Then the Gold EVO fretwire is pressed in and seated with hot hide glue.

With all of the frets in place it looks a bit more like a mandolin.

The African Blackwood bridge blank is marked and slotted for the bone saddle.

Here's the result.

The saddle blank is cut to final shape and the bottom sanded to match the top curvature.

Then the sides are shaped and the bone saddle is fitted.

This is how it will look.

Next the pores in the walnut are filled using egg white. Small pieces of 240 grit sandpaper are dipped in egg white and rubbed on the body creating a slurry of walnut and egg white that is pushed into the pores - the albumin in the egg white acts as a binder. When dry the body is sanded with 240 grit paper. Walnut has very small pores so one or two applications are all that is required.

Let us spray.

The back view.

Here's the final result after the tuners, but bridge tailpiece and strap pins have been fitted.

Back view.

End on.

Snug in its home. Here are some sounds.