It was finally time to finish the project.  I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit sad to be done.  This project was fun, frustrating, therapeutic, time-consuming, thought-consuming, messy, and all-in-all an amazing experience.  As I have said many times, it is far from perfect, but it has blown away my expectations, both in how the finished mandolin looks, and also how it sounds and plays.  My initial goal was to finish the project with something that sounds like a mandolin, I far exceeded that with a mandolin that I am ridiculously proud of, and sounds better than anything else I own.  This was a journey in learning, building, and getting comfortable with accepting imperfection. 

I could not have done it without constant searching on mandolincafe forums, videos from Rosa Stringworks, the Don MacRostie, and a YouTube video from Anne Of All Trades that convinced me to jump in and give it a shot.  This also would not have been possible without a deeply understanding and encouraging fiancée that was willing to not only put up with but to be excited about wood-shavings, sawdust, tools, and clamps all over our apartment. 

Lessons Learned
Setting my goals and intentions from the beginning: Approaching this project with the mentality that the goal was to finish, not perfection is why I was able to finish.  I could easily have stalled out, burned out, or got hung up by making sure everything is perfect.

There are a thousand ways to do ANYTHING:  On every step and even the order of steps I researched other luthiers processes, and folks have super strong, and often opposing opinions as to the correct way to accomplish them.  Finding the way, or combining approaches for what worked for me and my setup was super important, but sometimes I just had to pick one and jump.  Staining was a great example, ultimately I went with the Rosa method because it made the most sense to me, and I could watch him do it on YouTube on a bunch of different mandolins.  On the forums folks love to argue the optimal way to handle any step but keeping my intention in mind, I managed to avoid analysis paralysis. 
Physical projects are a fantastic divergence from work:  Having a project that I could sit down 1 hour or 8 hours and make visible, tangible progress was an amazing break from my work.  In my work so much focus is on planning, tracking, and execution against timelines for work that may not bear visible change for months.  Breaking from that to something without deadlines, that can be taken in my time, and any time spent had a visible impact was deeply therapeutic. 

Each step has it's own skills:  While there were base skills that were built throughout the project such as working with grain, and understanding how to cut, shape, sand, wood each step required some research, and gathering understanding of a new skill.
Power Tools are fast, but mistakes are faster: Next time around I won't be using a Dremel jig for the binding.  I was dreading the hand routing in the scroll, but I was able to go slow enough that ended up great.  The Dremel lead to tear out and unforeseen issues.  I don't need to move fast, I have the luxury of taking my time and enjoying the project, in the future I will only use power tools as a last resort.
The Journal was Great: Keeping this journal kept me honest and allowed me the get closure and retrospect on each step.  It was great when I was feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with the work to-go.  When those feelings would arise, I could look back at the work so-far and truly see how far I have come.
Hard things are SO MUCH FUN:  There were many recommendations to start with an A-Style, but I wanted a F-Style, and I wanted to know how to make a scroll.  I knew it would be harder, but I wanted the challenge, and that challenge is what made this project great.  This mandolin literally has a good bit of my blood in it, but it figuratively has a good bit of myself in it.  I had to push myself, commit to the scary big cuts, commit to the time to slowly plane a recurve, accept the mistakes, and all the stuff I learned along the way.  This was all deeply engaging and entertaining, lot's of type-a fun when something came out well, lots of type-b fun after getting past something challenging or frustrating (binding anyone?)
I am sure there are more, which I will add as I think of them.  I will also add some videos of playing after I get something recorded.

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