Picture of Army-Navy Mandolin on the Cheap
A mandolin is a small stringed instrument, traditionally with 8 strings in 4 courses of  2, this means you play it like a 4 string instrument such as a ukulele. The term "Army-Navy" mandolin or "Pancake" mandolin refers to the body shape in that it is flat on both the front and the back instead of domed like an "A" style or "F" style archtop mandolin. A quick Google search will tell you more than you ever cared to know about their history.

This instructable chronicles my progress through making one as cheaply and easily as possible. Please note: this is not a for dummies guide, it is just what I did and how I did it. 

Recommended reading:
The Ultimate Bluegrass Mandolin Construction Manual by Roger H. Siminoff
If you're interested in more details, or want to build the genuine article, I highly recommend getting your hands on this manual. It is a wealth of knowledge by the man who literally wrote the book on the subject. 

The attached instructions from Stewmac.com about assembling their campfire mandolin kit. I didn't do things quite the same as they did, but it's handy to read so you get a good picture of what is involved. 

basic woodworking hand tools
heat gun & spray bottle or water pistol for wood bending
dremel tool if you want to get fancy
lots of clamps

3/4" softwood scraps, ideally spruce
3/4" hardwood scraps, I used an old floorboard
1/4" hardwood for the fretboard
4mm plywood, alternatively wood planed to this thickness
an 8" piece of 3/16" steel rod, I found mine in an old dead printer
Mandolin hardware (strings, tuning machines, fretwire, tailpiece, nut)

I was able to do the whole thing for under $45, but if you're not a penny pinching cheapskate such as myself, you can find a kit here.

siminoff.net an excellent source of kits, parts, and information
stewmac.com another great place to find parts
Crystal Forest Mandolins a quick overview of the proper process
Chris Williams' mandolin a more detailed review of a 4 string flat top
campfire mando.pdf(612x792) 1 MB
top & back pattern A3.pdf(1183x829) 346 KB
patterns A3.pdf(1183x829) 137 KB
Nickynui1 year ago

what size paper to print the blueprints on? i am going to make this mandolin (looks great BTW) but i am going to do a carve out style instead of a glue together style.

This is amazing. I will have to start working on this soon...can't wait :)
rimar20003 years ago

An MP3, maybe?
bwells24 years ago
I bought a Washburn A style mandolin for under $200, w00t!
andrew.spencer.2 (author)  bwells24 years ago
Score! Well done, they make a mighty fine mando
Cerafem4 years ago
Hows the sound on this? I love the idea of making my own instrument, but I also want to know how it compares.
andrew.spencer.2 (author)  Cerafem4 years ago
I was actually really impressed with how it sounds. Mellow tone, good volume, and really great sustain. To be honest, I think it sounds at least as good as my last F5 archtop I made
u should make a instructable for that F5 archtop.
Most definitely.
andrew.spencer.2 (author)  Pryo Chain4 years ago
Yeah, if you want to do an F5 you should definitely buy the book. I think mine was about $20 on Amazon, best resource you'll ever find. It's where I learned everything I know on the subject, and I could never come close to writing anything nearly as comprehensive.
friger4 years ago
Thanks for the great instructable, it has been my go to source for my build. It's not quite done yet but close, I have put on the tail piece but am still working on the bridge.
andrew.spencer.2 (author)  friger4 years ago
Very well done indeed! You do beautiful work, love the photos!
rimar20004 years ago
Beautiful work!
buttersnake4 years ago
That looks great man! Good job, you could sell these on ebay easily, but it does take a bit to build one so it all depends on how much your time is worth.
Bandaids4 years ago
Sir... this is quite amazing