Saturday, October 05, 2019

Robin’s mandolin II

A brief update for you on Robin’s mandolin. You can see that the body is now together.
Also, the tailpiece is made.
Why make the tailpiece at this stage? Simply so that I can drill the hole for the jack socket accurately and without splintering the tail block.

In the previous post I mentioned the mandolin’s “discreet decorative theme”, well that involves making some custom bindings and purflings……

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Robin's "Hybrid Mandolin"

If you follow my blog regularly, you would have seen awhile back that, for various reasons, I’m limiting the number of commissions that I take on. However, Robin who already has one of my mandolins, tempted me with an interesting project. I’ll cut to the chase! I’m making him, what I’ll call, a hybrid mandolin; a “flat” cedar top i.e. the same as my Standard Plus design with a carved black walnut back same as my Archtop design.
Here are a few photos of the instrument so far;
Birds eye maple neck with a lovely burr walnut head overlay and black pearl inlay.
The black walnut carved back.
The top with the rosette inlaid which, reflects the discreet decorative theme throughout.
Here you can get an idea of what the back and rim will be like- clearly its going to make a much more rigid structure compared to my flat-backs.
I like to think that the body of the mandolin is like a loud speaker; the soundboard is the equivalent to the paper cone and that the back and sides are the metal chassis. Therefore, the back and sides should be rigid so that they don’t absorb energy from the soundboard. This equates to volume and sustain.

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Friday, September 06, 2019


I guess all luthiers search for the Holy-Grail of wood finishes; something that’s a doddle to apply, looks great, doesn’t affect the sound, doesn’t affect your health etc. etc. But having, over the years, used acid-catalysed melamine, two-pack polyurethane, nitro-cellulose, water-based acrylic, the one lesson that I’ve learnt is that there’s no substitute for hard work! Like many of my colleagues, these days I tend towards shellac-based finishes or various oils.
The current archtop mandolin is being French Polished and is looking quite lovely! I put together this video to give you a taste of the polishing process; it's not intended as a "how-to" guide. Hope that you find it interesting.

Thursday, September 05, 2019


I can’t believe it, this is my 500th blog post. Hate to get sentimental about these things, so let’s push on.
 I just got this batch of wonderful Sitka Spruce in from the USA. They will,of course, be used for archtop mandolins. Although they are nice and dry and ready to use, it will be a few months before the next archtop gets started!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A visit from Phil

This week, friend and guitarist extraordinaire, Phil Hare paid a visit to Amanda and I. As well as a good old catch up, he brought over a recently acquired 1955 Martin 0-18 for me to have a look at and possibly do some restoration work on.
As you can see from the photos it’s had a hard life and it would be interesting to hear the tales it could tell. There’s no doubt that it would be an interesting project for someone who wants to painstakingly take it apart, make a new soundboard, re-build it and give it a new lease of life. But, to be honest I’ve never really enjoyed repair work, much preferring to build from scratch, so unfortunately, I had to pass on this one.
Whilst here, Phil kindly gave us his latest CD, A Stranger I Came. It makes you realise that he is not only a brilliant guitar player but a very talented song-writer too. And of course, he plays his Nava guitar throughout, which is always a great thrill for us to hear.
If you want to see Phil live, he is playing at March Town Hall on 26th Oct 2019. This will be his 8th annual Under The Bridge concert that he and Steph promote and also appearing will be Ken Nicol (The Albion Band and Steeleye Span). It promises to be great night. You can find out everything you need to know about Phil on his website and maybe treat yourself too.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Beginning of the end

For various reasons that I shan’t bore you with, progress in the ‘shop has been a bit slow recently. However, I’m finally managing to crack-on with the finish on the archtop. This one is being French polished and you can see how the finish really pops the grain.

For me, French polishing is a slow process so it’s going to be a good few weeks before archtop #3 is complete and ready for sale.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

#3 In the white

As promised, the archtop is now playing “in the white”. I’ll give it a few days to settle, make any adjustments and then take it apart to start the finishing process. I’m very pleased with the sound; the trebles are particularly clear and crisp. At this stage in its life, the tone changes/improves daily.
You’ll remember those fiddly bits for the finger-rest/pick guard? Here’s the finger rest attached- Brazilian rosewood from the same billet as the fretboard and tailpiece, laminated to carbon-fibre for stability. 
Looks very cool even if say so myself!