Sunday, January 25, 2015

On the bench; Jan 2015

Currently, I’m working on Mark’s Standard Plus mandolin, I've just cleaned up the maple bindings and you can see the results below.
One thing that you can’t see at the moment is that this one, is a left handed mandolin. Nothing on the outside to give that away, but my bracing is asymmetrical so, internally it’s a lefty! Evidently, about 10% of the population is left handed, so it’s logical that one in ten of my instruments should be left handed, but this is the first left handed mandolin that I’ve ever made and I have only made one left handed guitar back in 2009. I find this quite surprising; you would think that being a custom builder of fretted instruments, players who can’t find a decent left handed guitar/mandolin would be seeking guys like me out???
I’ve also just started preparing for Jonathan’s……? Well, what to call it; it’s a five course instrument, tuned CGDAE. I’ve seen them called a liuto cantabile, but I think that would be a tad pretentious, so let’s call it a 10-string mandocello. The extra course gives it a top E, so it has the range of both a mandocello and octave mandolin.
Jonathan had one of my guitars a few years back and we’ve been talking about this project for a while.
You can get an idea of the size of the ‘cello, here’s Mark’s mandolin in its mould.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

A Good Day

It’s always good to get feedback from “Nava players” and to see/hear how the instruments are getting on in their new homes. So, we were delighted to get a couple of emails today. One from Paul in Australia about his emando;
 It is a great instrument to play; the action is perfect, it stays in tune better than any mando I have owned and it is really great using the two pick-ups. It feels good, the weight is just right and has a nice balance.
When I get gigging or busking I will send you some pics....but I am a very happy customer!
 And another one from Chris with a link to some great videos of him playing his “Standard Plus” on YouTube.
It’s great to see the mandolin being played as it should be! Check out Chris's YouTube channel for more videos.
Cheers Guys!

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year to you all! The first job of 2015 was to ship out the last two instruments that I completed in 2014. Paul’s emando to Australia (which you’ll have seen in the previous post) and Ewart’s up to Lancashire.
Here are a few photos of Ewart’s completed Standard Plus mandolin. You'll have to forgive the reflections; the polish was very shiny!



So what does 2015 hold? If you keep following my blog you’ll see quite a few mandolins being built. There will also be 5 course carved top instrument (more on this very soon), a mandola and two nylon strung guitars……I’d better get cracking!

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Friday, December 26, 2014

E-Mando (Electric Mandolin) Design

I’ve just completed Paul’s e-mando and in the New Year it will be making a 10,400 mile journey to its new home in Australia.
Amanda and I have put together a video to demonstrate it. Rather than spending too much time talking in the video,  my rationale behind the E-mando’s design is here in the blog.
Having seen a number of bands playing live, using poorly amplified acoustic mandolins, I wanted to build something that a gigging mandolin player could regularly use amplified, with the minimum amount of fuss. Or, of course, any other player who wants to try a different voice.
Aesthetics:
I wanted the e-mando to look and feel like a mandolin rather than a mini-guitar. So many of the solid body mandolins that you see are scaled down versions of classic solid guitar designs and this look just isn’t for me. This shape is morphed from my Model 2 shape, which helps to keep the family resemblance with my acoustic instruments.
The e mando is finished in Tru-oil and wax which gives a wonderful tactile surface and enhances the natural beauty of the woods.
Ergonomics:
Thinking that the e-mando’s player could be on his/her feet for a couple of hours, ergonomics are an important consideration.
The top edge of the body is chamfered on both sides so that there are not any sharp edges to dig into the left arm.
32mm thick body keeps the weight down to just under 2 kg and comparatively light open gear mandolin tuners help to keep the mandolin balanced.
With the neck sloping backwards and a 20mm high bridge this e-mando feels like a traditional mandolin to play.
The use of an end pin jack-socket means that the lead and jack plug doesn’t interfere with the player.
The fingerboard has a compound radius and this coupled with the wide evo fret wire makes for a very easy to play instrument.
The Tru-oil neck is very smooth and fast.
 Electrics:
I wanted the e-mando to offer great versatility without overly sophisticated (and pricey!) built in electronics or the need to change batteries.
There are two pick-ups; one humbucker and a piezo. The humbucker has volume and tone controls and a toggle switch to allow series/parallel switching: a centre off position allows for the pick-up to be completely turned off. These simple controls offer an amazingly wide tonal variation.
The piezo transducer is mounted in the bridge, under the saddle to give an approximation of an acoustic sound; a second toggle switch allows this pick-up to be turned on or off.  To get the best from this piezo it must be used with an external pre-amp.
The out-put is via a stereo jack-socket and the use of a Y-lead allows the two signals to be treated separately. Alternatively the jack socket is wired so that you can use a standard lead and just use the output from the humbucker.

 Strings:
The tailpiece is designed to take ball-end strings. Having a magnetic pick-up means that nickel wound strings are required and there is a much greater variety of ball-ended nickel strings to choose from, compared to loop-end. I’ve made up a custom set of strings 11 to 36 using electric guitar strings and feel that this range helps to balance the volume from string to string. Buying custom strings is really easy from somewhere like Stringbusters and this set cost around 6 quid to put together.
Well, I hope that the above coupled with the video gives you a good in-sight in to the rationale behind this mandolin’s design.
 As I said, in the video, there is an infinite number of variations in the design of solid, electric mandolins, so if you fancy having custom one built, please feel free to make contact.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Christmas 2014!

Amanda and I would like to wish all of our clients (past, present and future), friends and anyone who knows us a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.  
Our thanks and appreciation go out to all those who have commissioned an instrument this year. We are very fortunate to have a healthy order book; with many customers becoming friends and some coming back for second or third instruments. Also thanks to all of those who have made such positive comments on various forums. etc.
We are lucky to work with so many good folk who share the same values as us.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Phil’s Twin Point Mandolin

Phil’s twin-point mandolin was finally completed this week and shipped out to him. There are some choice photos of it below: Indian rosewood backs and side, Adirondack soundboard and a maple neck.

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New Home Page

Just updated the photos on the home page of my website. I’ve gone for black and white photos this time and they are themed to emphasis the fact that my instruments are handmade. Take a look if you’ve got time ;-)
Cheers Gary

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Book of British Guitar Making

Whist having a browse in W H Smiths today, I stumbled across this “bookazine” published by Acoustic magazine; to give it, its complete title, The Book of British Guitar Making: The Essential Guide To Bespoke Acoustic Luthiery in the United Kingdom. And whilst browsing through it came across an article about Gary Nava! I must say it came as a bit of surprise, basically it’s a re-print of an interview that appeared in Acoustic magazine in November 2009, although there are no photos of my current work, in particular my mandolins, it’s great to be included.

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