Friday, November 15, 2019

"Had my fill"

All the construction work on Robin’s mandolin has now been completed.
Robin wants a French polish finish, so I decided to fill the grain now, whilst still cleaning-up and sanding.
For many years I’ve used pumice powder to fill the grain, prior to polishing and generally it has been absolutely fine, the only drawback is that the natural dye, from the wood being filled can discolour the purflings and bindings. Although this is a minor issue, which can be fixed with a scalpel blade and a bucket of patience, I’ve started using epoxy resin as a filler.
The advantage being is, that it is clear and there is no cross-contamination between woods. The disadvantage is that it’s bloody hard work!
The resin is pushed into the grain and when it’s hardened the residue is sanded off- in effect about 95% of what goes on is sanded off! Which took me about 5 hours- I never said that this method was quicker or easier!
Anyway, job done and ready to get playing in the white.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Archtop #3 now ready for sale!

The archtop is now ready for sale at £1475 including a Hiscox case + shipping. You can find full details here on my website.
And here is the last video of the current series; presenting the complete mandolin. As always, I try to demonstrate it and as always, I fail to do it justice. You’ll have to imagine what it would be like in the hands of an expert!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Archtop #3 completed!

The latest archtop is now complete. I’m very pleased with the outcome; if you’ve followed its construction from the beginning, you may remember that I said, “I feel a responsibility to make something beautiful, with my Brazilian rosewood.”
Hopefully you’ll agree that I’ve achieved that. Below are a number of photos for you- I’ll get a video done soon!

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bindings etc.

You’d have seen the custom bindings and purflings for Robin’s mandolin in the previous post. So here they are going on. The first step is cut the appropriate size rebates around the body; no mater how many times I’ve done it, it’s still a procedure best described "nerve-wracking".
Then the purflings can be glued in place. Just as an aside, I’ve started using this yellow tape from StewMac and it works incredibly well for this task. Getting a strong tape with the right amount of tack, isn't as easy as you'd think!
Next, I bend the ebony bindings to fit. With some woods you can use odds & ends for the bindings, but ebony has to be prime quality otherwise it just won’t bend the way you want it to.
Cloth tape holds the bindings in place whilst the glue dries and keep on going until all the pieces are in place……
After about 5 hours of careful scraping and sanding, we have the completed body.


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.