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new member - questions about getting started

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 9
Hello all, I am interested in taking my first step into instrument building. I have signed up for a woodworking class at a local tech school. We have roughly 20+ hours at class to complete a project of our choice. I'm looking at the item #5347 ukulele kit or the #5160 campfire mandolin kit at Stew Mac as possible projects.

Has anyone built these kits, or could you recommend something good for beginners? I have good basic hand tool skills, but very little experience with wood.

Thanks for you help!!

Jan 17, 08 | 11:38 am

Total Topics: 34
Total Posts: 567
First off, Welcome!!!

I haven't done either of the two kits you have mentioned, but I have built several guitars and can say that 20 hours isn't going to be anywhere near enough time. The typical time it takes to build a serviced kit guitar is around 100 hours and that is if things go well. If any problems come up, it isn't out of the question to add another 20 - 30 hours on to that.

I say if you have a place where you can continue your project after the class has ended then go for it. Honestly though if you are looking for a project that you can start and finish within that 20 hour limit, none of these kits are going to work. Heck, the big factory bulders like Martin take more than 20 hours to build a guitar and they have 200 years experience and lots of specialized tooling to get it done!

You might want to check out Grizzly for their kits. The different kits they have are partly assembled and can be done in the 20 hour timeframe. My first kit was a Grizzly electric guitar and it probably took me 15 hours to do including the finish. They have a mando and uke kit that just might fit the bill for what you want. Just go here and they have a listing of their kits.

Good luck and let us know how things go!

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Jan 17, 08 | 12:31 pm

Total Topics: 16
Total Posts: 309
Grizzly's mandolin was my first and it will fit the time frame. Stewmac is a little more involved. This is the Grizzly:

Jan 17, 08 | 1:45 pm

Total Topics: 11
Total Posts: 94

For what it's worth, I have about 20 hours in my StewMac Uke kit and have not yet done the finishing. Prior to this kit, I had no woodworking skill. If you do build that kit, use Bill Cory's stock advice of dry fit, dry fit, and make sure the plan's and template's measurements match. Have fun


Jan 17, 08 | 2:18 pm

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 9
Thank you all for your advice. I suspected that the timeframe would be a problem. If I could talk the teacher into letting me spend all my time in the shop instead of half in the classroom, I'd double the time to 40+ hours. But I guess I need to do the bookwork too.

I think I could continue at home as well, or at the shop where I work. I will look at the Grizzly kits next. More updates to follow.

Jan 17, 08 | 2:40 pm
Bill Cory

Total Topics: 158
Total Posts: 3584
Brian -- Welcome to the forum -- but ... skip the Grizzly mando kit if it's anything like their guitar kits. Really. I "built" one of their guitar kits, and it wasn't fun at all; I did it just for completeness in my book on guitar kits. Here's the page on the one I "built," and really, even for $100 shipped, it's not worth it. The woods are second rate, the action requires some advanced knowledge to adjust (and it has to be done in the building, not as a setup), and the guitar is just not worthwhile. You learn nothing at all about building if it's like the guitar.

I'd go for the Stewmac mando kit; it has to be better -- better woods, etc., etc. Plus customer support if you need it.

Having said that about the guitar, I actually sort of like mine, and I was able to get its intonation correct only by using some real tricks. I got it built and it sounds okay. Still, I'm sending it to a website that sends free guitars to soldiers in Iraq.


Jan 17, 08 | 2:58 pm

Total Topics: 16
Total Posts: 309
I've done the $150 mando and the guitar. The mando is much higher quality and higher price and requires more construction. The Stewmac would be more satisfying, but would take more time. I'm a fan of grizzly kits, not because they are so good, but because they got me into this guitar making addiction. I think they'd do the same to someone else.

Jan 17, 08 | 6:05 pm

Total Topics: 2
Total Posts: 9
I have to agree on the grizzly kits. Even though I have limited class time, I can work off hours in the steel shop I work in (we have some woodworking tools). The dowel rod neck connection and complete body turned me off. The campfire mandolin from Stew Mac looks to be the front runner, as it covers a lot of the construction procedures minus the wood bending. You even cut out the top yoursefl! Also I just bought a Martin DC Aura, so I don't need anymore guitars EVER. It's wonderful...

I'm trying to get some skills so I can get a job at a local luthier shop. I think the campfire mando covers more ground, even if I'll probably need more time to finish.

Jan 18, 08 | 7:30 am
Ken Hundley

Total Topics: 40
Total Posts: 2169
If you start working for a luthier, then your New Martin will be just the beginning!

Jan 18, 08 | 10:13 am

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