Friday, April 29, 2016

Heikki’s Standard Mandolin in the white

This week saw all of the construction completed on Heikki’s mandolin and it strung-up in the white. Once I was 100% happy with it (action and intonation), it was stripped back down and cleaned-up, ready for the finishing process.
In the “before and after” shots below you can see what a difference a few coats of shellac make.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

More old tools…..sorry, “Vintage Tools”

With the finer weather, we see the return of open-air markets! I saw (and coveted) these three lovely Stanley USA Hercules butt chisels on one stall. Old, but completely unused and just the right size for mandolins! 
They were a bit pricey for me, but Amanda snuck back and bought them for my birthday! Here’s the box that they came in, someone must have bought these mail-order, stuck them in a drawer for years and years, waiting for me to come along and use them.
 
I also came across this 3 inch Record Junior clamp, I really like these nickel plated clamps- they always seem very precise for instrument work. You can see the original price label; £1.43.
 And after a bit of a clean-up, it’s ready to take its place with the rest of my Record Junior collection! The 2 inch ones I’ve had for about 40 years.
 
 It occurred to me, as I was sharpening this Stanley #102 plane that I also must have purchased it 40 years ago. 
Tools that I bought new whilst at the London College of Furniture in the 1970's are now probably considered vintage! I bought this and many of my tools from Parry’s in Old Street, East London.
These days, Old Street is a very hip place- those days… not so!
 I never really got on with this plane- probably due to the lack of adjustability, and I’ve only really been using it regularly for the past two years or so. What I like about it now, is that it’s light and can be held in one hand.  This is essential for the rough shaping of braces as I never clamp down my soundboards whilst working on them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chris's Electric Mandolin

Just in case you were wondering…….Chris’s left handed electric mandolin has been completed and he came over during the week to pick it up. I’m very pleased with the way turned it and I’m glad to report that Chris is too!
Below is a video that we (Amanda and I) made during its construction- it’ll give you an insight in to how it was built.
And here are a few photos for you too.....

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Making Paul’s neck blank

I thought that I’d show you how I put a neck blank together- although this one is for Paul’s Standard Plus mandolin, the general process is the same for any of the instruments that I make.
We start with some basic woodwork- I don’t have (or want!) a large band-saw or planer machine, so it’s down to traditional, hand skills to true up this piece of maple.
Once the maple is flat and square, the rough profile is cut-out and prepared for laminating with some rosewood veneers and a thicker piece of pau ferro.
Another piece of maple (from the same board) is prepared for the head- my bench-top band-saw is just about at its limit here!
The head is glued on- I always use a spliced head joint.
Once the head is on, two slots are routed for the carbon-fibre strips that I like to use to stiffen the neck. With CF epoxied in place, the head overlay can be glued on- this is a precious piece of beautiful chocolate brown Brazilian rosewood. It does look good enough to eat!
Next the head can be shaped and the tuner holes drilled- you also have to counter-bore the holes to take the bushes.
The head can then be inlaid with my N logo; Paul has chosen abalone for his.
And after quite a few hours work, we have the finished neck blank…..
You can also see that on the back of the head, I’ve partially carved the volute and, those tuners are some very nice handmade Robsons.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Bound up

It continues to surprise me, that there is a growing trend to leave some instruments unbound. The bindings serve the very real function of protecting the delicate edges of the soundboard and back and to me, leaving them out is inconceivable. Here you can see the vulnerable top edge of Heikki’s Standard mandolin; how could I leave that unbound?
Obviously, it’s a stage which takes a fair bit of time, care and skill to carry out, but is essential to the longevity to the instrument. 
To contrast with its bubinga back and sides, I’m using rosewood for the bindings, which has to be bent using the bending iron.
Cloth tape is the method that I like to use to hold the bindings in place whilst the glue dries. You can get a great deal of pressure with the tape and ensure a good bond. The only drawback is the 10 to 15 min that it takes Amanda and me to get it all untangled once the glue is dry!
  And here’s the body of Heikki’s mandolin; fully bound.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

What’s on the bench?

Currently, I’m waiting for the Tru-Oil on Chris’s e-mando to harden and then it can be re-assembled.
So, time to get on with the next two! The work on Heikki’s Standard mandolin is well underway. Heikki lives in Finland, so this will be another one of my mandolins going out to the discover the wider world! We’ve chosen Bubinga for the back and sides- (which is sometimes called African rosewood) I think that it is a much under-rated tonewood and it has all the properties that any luthier would want to make a great instrument.
Below are a couple of photos of the back and rim.
 Also work has commenced on Paul’s Standard Plus; here’s its herringbone rosette, which I must admit, I'm very happy with!

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Safe in the Highlands

Another tense few days, whilst Martin’s mandolin was in transit; it took almost as long to get to the Highlands as Youhei’s did to Japan!
Anyway, it arrived safe and sound and here are few photos; spruce soundboard, maple back and sides, sapele neck and a fair old smattering of cocobolo!

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