Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Iron Resurrection

For a while now, my electric bending iron has been a bit wonky and sorting it out, is one of those jobs that keeps getting put to the back.
So, before I bend the the ebony bindings for the archtop, I thought I'd take it apart, only to find this………..
 I was amazed at how much the wood had burnt, no wonder it was wonky! My main concern however, was the fact the earth wire had burnt through and wasn’t connected anymore. I cleaned out most of the burnt wood with a router.
 And then plugged the hole with a piece of scrap mahogany.
The base was then topped off with a piece of heat-resistant calcium silicate board.
After a bit of soldering………..
 The “iron” itself was fixed down with some new stainless steel screws.
If my archive is correct I’ve used this particular iron on 76 instruments, so now after some fettling we should be good for the next 76!


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

101 Resurrection

You’ll remember a few posts back the old Stanley #101 plane? Since then I’ve made this new cap iron from some brass. (Just a hack saw and files used for shaping).
 And I’m glad to say this old chap is now back in service; originally made around 120 years ago and repaired by me 120 years later!
I was fortunate to have a box of nice 2BA thumb screws knocking about- when I was at the LCF back in the 1970’s, fellow student luthier Bill Dinsdale and I, used to club together to buy supplies in bulk, we must have bought at least 40 of  these for the purfling cutters that we made in the metal work classes.
 I’ve now used 3 and got 17 left!


Thursday, July 12, 2018


I’ve been slowly making progress with the next archtop mandolin. One thing that helps enormously to get the top plate to its correct thickness, is drawing a grid on the wood and then accurately mapping out the dimensions. You can then see exactly where you want to remove more material; I did this 3 or 4 times until I was 100% happy with it.
With the top plate at its correct thickness, the sound holes can be cut-out (I can’t really call them f holes, can I?). I spent a long time, on the last archtop, working out how to set-up a Dremel to cut the holes; that time invested paid off as it took a fraction of the time to produce these ones. Although you could cut them with a fret saw, I need their surfaces to be perfect in order to be able to neatly bind them.
I feel quite strongly that the holes should be bound; it protects the softwood edges from accidental damage, strengthens and helps to lessen any risk of cracking at the holes, stops moisture escaping via the end grain and looks jolly nice too!
The black veneer had to be bent using a soldering iron as a small improvised bending iron.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Standard Plus Completed

Mike’s Standard Plus mandolin has now been completed and was shipped out to him earlier in the week. The Indian Rosewood and Redwood combination produced a truly wonderful tone! Below are some photos for you.
I’m now thinking of finally building myself (and the rest of the Nava family) a mandolin using a Redwood soundboard from the same board as this one! Watch this space……..

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Archtop Tailpiece

Here’s the tailpiece for the walnut archtop mandolin. You’ll see that there’s a thin green line running through it; this continues a decorative theme that the mandolin will have. I like to get the tailpiece made before the back is glued on to the rim, that way I can drill a hole for the jack socket and support the end-block to eliminate any chances of splitting.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018


No doubt, you’ll remember that in previous posts I’ve extolled the virtues of my Veritas miniature block plane. Well, not anymore!
The thread on the small screw, which holds in place the cap iron, has stripped thus rendering it unusable.  I got on to Axminster and you can get a replacement screw, which I’ve ordered, so now all I have to do is wait 12 weeks for it to arrive! Looking at the plane’s design I can’t help feeling the some of the components are just too small to be robust enough for daily luthier usage.
Coincidentally, at the weekend, I picked-up this old Stanley #101 plane.
 Back when it was first introduced, it was sold by Stanley as a toy plane, but as it proved popular with craftsman it was re-advertised as small plane block plane.
Unfortunately the cap iron has broken, so the intention is to make a new one from some brass.
The wee plane is clearly old and after looking at various web-sites, it seems that the S foundry mark on its castings means that it was made between 1894 to 1902. At least 116 year old then! Not sure if the complex miniature mechanism of the Veritas will last that long (well, not if I use it regularly!).

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Walnut Archtop; back plate complete

This week I completed the back plate for the next archtop mandolin. I’ve put this video together so you can see how it’s done. Again, working by hand is physically demanding but also immensely satisfying. You’ll see how the simple jig, I showed you in the last post, effectively holds the back plate whilst carving.

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