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Part Three: Mandolin Production - Master Model F-5

 I don't know about you, but I'm here to see how the famous F-5 mandolins are made. In particular, Charlie wants to show off his work on the replica 1922-24 Lloyd Loar model F-5, the "F-5 Master Model."

 Tops and backs come over from the big facility downtown, where CNC equipment does the rough carving.

 Here's a Derrington designed machine for bending the complex side of the F-5. The heavy aluminum parts are heated electrically, and air cylinders apply gentle pressure to form the sides, which have first been dunked in water for about 10 minutes.

 It's quite a trip to watch this thing do its job.

The simpler bends are done in a similar fashion.

Over in the assembly area, the sides go into molds where they are held as the various components are glued in place.

 Both inside and outside molds are utilized to keep the shape consistent.

 This one is done.

 Notice the indexing holes in the neck block.

 The shape is complex enough, so when a little extra pressure is needed in certain areas, simple wedges provide support.

 As with most any other instrument factory, there are little stacks of body parts lying here and there.

 Look closely a the underside of this mandolin top and you'll see the indexing pin that fits into the hole in the neck block. Little tricks like this make factory production run smoothly.

 Sorting and getting ready to fit top braces.

 Top braces, or tone bars, are hand shaped and hand fitted to the curvature of the top.

Tops and backs are clamped in place with these simple rigs.

 It doesn't take long to fit up a mandolin top and glue it this way, so there's no need for sophisticated tooling here.

 The heavy top caul gives good overall pressure as the glue sets. By the way, the Master Model is made entirely with hot hide glue, so it is necessary to clamp up quickly before the glue gels.

 A pair of backless bodies.

 Check this out. Charlie tells me that the original Loar model had the treble f-hole 1/16" higher than the bass one. (That's one feature I never noticed!) The idea was that the bridge would then appear to span the centers of the f-holes when it was slanted slightly for best intonation. The new Master Models are also built this way.

Both the tops and backs get glued on oversize. Then, the entire body is trimmed and edges sanded before the binding ledge is routed.

Now's the time for some final contour sanding.

A high speed air sander helps to "fair" out all the complex curves of the back and top.

Naturally, this area is where a lot of hand work is concentrated!

Binding the body takes quite a while, and is one of those finishing touches that take far more skill and effort than most folks realize.

Many of these instruments have little production notes written right on them as they go.

Some areas, like this point, will be covered with dark finish, so little chips can get filled without being noticed.

This one needs to have its binding leveled and final contours established.

Here's one I saw lying on a bench. A good cutaway view of the inside of an "A" style mandolin.

Guess we know what model this one will be!



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