Construction - Staining 1


When considering the overall process of producing a mandolin, my rule of thumb is that one-third of the time and effort goes into construction, another third into ornamentation and set-up (binding, inlay, fingerboard, bridge, & hardware), and the final third into staining and finishing.

Whether these metrics are accurate or not, it’s sobering to remember that once all parts are fabricated, fitted, and glued-up, there’s a long road ahead.

The satisfaction derived from each phase is different.  Being a woodworker at heart, I particularly enjoy building a good box. Ornamentation and set-up turn the box into a functioning, pleasing instrument. A quality job of staining and finishing bring the instrument to life. A degree of artistry is required in all three phases.

In the realm of luthiery, it’s hard to imagine anything more challenging than staining and finishing an F-model mandolin.





Years ago, I would stain instruments and ignore the binding—subsequently scraping off the thin layer of stain.

At present, I do all I can to minimize the amount of scraping. I’ve purchased narrow tape sold for the purpose of masking binding, but my experience is disappointing. It is just as easy to buy painter’s tape at the local hardware store and slice it to width. Adhesion is much better.

As mentioned in the section on inlay, applying a bit of white glue to all binding joints helps control seepage of stain. Once the masking tape is laid down, applying glue where the pieces of tape overlap helps keep it all in place while pushing the stain around.