The arching process continues to occupy my mando building efforts these days. I have been shaving off little slices of wood like this for months. MONTHS I tell ya!
Seems like it would be tedious, but it really is a Zen kind of thing. As you would expect, the blueprint we are working from has exact dimensions specified for the contours, the thickness of the plates, everything. Once you forget about all of that and just go with it, it is a very pleasant experience to let the shape flow out. Put it this way; There are four of us building mandolins in this class and they all look different. Here's a look at the drawering...
As of the start of my last class period, this is what the top of my instrument looked like. You'll notice lots of tool marks and plenty of rough spots but the arching work is obvious.
At this point, I'm using two cutting tools to accomplish the arching. They are a tiny finger plane and a very thin cabinet scraper. The finger plane is fitted with a toothed blade that resembles a comb. It leaves us with less cleanup work than a straight blade would. Other tools that help keep me on track are my arching templates, my hands and eyes and a strategically placed full-spectrum light. The templates are renderings of the long arch and the side arch at the latitudinal and longitudinal center lines of the instrument. Boss Reed says, "they are guides, not gods". 'Nuff said. You just place the template on the instrument, mark with a pencil where the template touches the wood and then shave that wood away. When the template contacts wood along its' entire length, my boy, you have got it! (Lillian Gish.) Here's an older shot of the back plate with said pencil marks, a couple of finger planes and some of the templates.
And here's the top plate, which is getting very close to being finished. Note the ramp that flows into the long arch. This is where the fingerboard will reside on the body and just past that will be where I cut in the sound hole. The angle of that ramp was created with a larger block plane. This is one of the parts that has to be perfect. No Zen moments here. It's all about clean work, constant checking of the progress and knowing when to stop.
At the end of the class period, I gathered the two pieces for a team photo. Eventually, they will work together to feed a certain kind of hunger. They make a nice couple if I do say so myself. Soft and hard, plain and fancy and hailing from either coast. And each useless without the other. Ya gotta appreciate the contrasts.
Tomorrow I will begin the process of creating the inside arches. Did I forget to mention those? Yes, more scooping, more shaving, and more scraping is in my future.
The crows are back, roosting in the park. They've brought friends this year and it is one eerie presence to behold. It's still warm enough outdoors for a walkabout, but it's late and I'm ready to get some shut eye. Sleep tight everybody.