We should build mandolins and violas

Lutherie is the art of turning strips of maple and spruce into beautiful stringed instruments like the violin, cello, viola, as well as guitars, mandolins, and banjos. Just about anyone can make an electric guitar on a bandsaw, but the skill and precision of building acoustic instruments is something to stand in awe of.

[Helen Michetschläger] builds violins, violas, and cellos in her hometown of Manchester, each one a work of art. Hardly any of her tools would seem out of place in the workshop of [Stradivarius]; everything is made by hand. The scroll on the neck is carved by hand, the inlaid purfling on the edges of the top and back are cut with a knife, not a router, and even the finish – one of [Helen]’s specialties – is applied with a light touch.

Violins are fine, but for the dulcet tones we enjoy, you’ll need the most beautiful instrument ever created, the mandolin. [Tom Ellis] has been making mandolins for over 40 years. After working in the shop of another accomplished luthier, he struck out on his own to build mandolins.

[Tom] does the tuning and setup on all his mandolins, but there is a bit more machinery involved in the creation of his pieces; quite a bit of the routine stuff (bridges, for example) are milled on a CNC, but each instrument still has a hand-built touch.

There’s much more to the luthier’s art than can be presented in a pair of 6-minute videos, so if you have something else that showcases some of the larger, more difficult instruments such as an archtop guitar or a double bass, send them in. We’ll put them up.

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