building a mandolin

How a Coombe mandolin is made

Firstly, I am privileged to be able to provide the mandolin making pictures made by Lynn Dudenbostel in 2001. This is a resource that has been much used by aspiring mandolin makers, but the original source went offline.  With Lynn's permission here it is -

Dudenbostel mandolin making pictures


This section is work in progress.  I intend to have a complete series of photographs of the entire sequence of how I build my mandolins, but this is a lot of work to prepare and will take some time for me to complete.  There are hundreds of photographs to be processed.  In the meantime, take a look at what is here.

The pictures are warts and all as I make a mandolin.  I am not perfect.  A few minor mistakes are made and you will see how I correct the mistakes.  Most of the pictures have been taken with one hand on the camera, so some things such as hand planing are normally done with two hands, but I needed one hand to take the picture.  Also, the pictures were taken over some period of time (hey, it takes a lot of time to make a mandolin).

The pictures show how I make an oval hole mandolin.  I chose an oval hole because there is a lot of information available on how to make an F5, but very little information on oval hole mandolins.  The pictures are mostly from one mandolin, but sometimes I forgot to take a picture so some pictures are added later from another mandolin.  Follow this and you can make a truly outstanding sounding oval hole mandolin, but just bear in mind that not every little fine detail is recorded here.  This is just one way of making a mandolin, and I am sure there are better ways of doing some things, but it works for me.  Other makers will do things differently.  For example, I hate making jigs, other Luthiers love to make jigs.  Thus my instrument making tends to be done with a bare minimum of jigs.  That's fine.  If you like to make jigs, go ahead and make lots of jigs, otherwise do what I do and avoid jigs as much as possible.  Some things are also limited to the tools I have.  I don't have a pantograph, CNC or spindle sander.  These would change the way I do some things.  You work with the tools you have, but the best tools you do have are your own brain, hands and ears.  Think about what you are doing, then think again, and listen carefully to the result.

Note that things change with time.  I don't necessarily do the same now as what is described here, for example some of the glues pictured here are no longer available, and if a buy a new tool then I will now be using that tool.

Here is something many people have asked me about - X bracing.  This is how I brace my oval hole mandolins.

X brace

X brace

The F hole mandolins are quite different, the X crosses further forward.

X brace

X brace

Here are some pictures of Chladni patterns.  These are not the mandolin in the pictures below, but are examples of a mandola and a few mandolins.

Workshop and Tools



Carving the top

Sound hole trim

Carving the back

Tuning the plates

Roughing the neck

Neck and dovetail

Headstock inlay

Glue the top

Binding the top

Riser block and neck

Glue the back

Back Bindings


Prepare for varnishing




        Tailpiece and nut


        Pick guard


For more information on construction techniques, or timbers email me. I am happy to discuss individual requirements, and try to choose the timbers that best suit customer requirements. However, recommended woods are dependent on current availability.