Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Fitting a Headway

Over the last week or so, I’ve had Robin’s mandolin set-up and playing. I felt that having a flat-top and carved back was somewhat experimental, but I’m very happy with the way it sounds and will have to post a video for you when it’s completely done.
Anyway, having had the mandolin strung-up and being fully confident that it’s settled, it’s time to fit the Headway under saddle transducer.
Firstly, the bridges position is accurately marked out using tape. Then the tension can be taken off the strings and the bridge removed.
The transducer itself is just over 2mm in diameter, so the appropriate amount has to be taken off of the bottom of the saddle. The depth of the saddle is carefully marked with a pencil and the transducer inserted into the bridge. The bottom of the saddle is sanded until the pencil line is level again with the top edge of its slot.
Next, the transducers hole is marked out onto the soundboard. I always put a piece of tape down where I’m drilling- the woods winter growth is much harder than the summer growth and this difference in density can throw a small drill off course- the tape limits that movement.
Once you’ve drilled the hole, the fun part is working blindly to get the transducer through it. I like to use some green garden wire, poke it through the hole, attach it to the end of transducer with some cellotape and the pull it through the soundboard.
Then everything can be reassembled and the pick-up tested.
The Headway has an internal pre-amp which is powered by a PP3 battery. You’ll notice that the battery is outside of the mandolin. In my opinion, the small soundhole and moveable bridge makes fitting a battery inside one of my mandolins impractical. Fortunately, you can power the Headway with phantom power via one of their external pre-amps and do away with the battery; this is what we’re doing with Robin’s.
Next step-take it apart and get polishing!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Archtop #3 has now been sold

Archtop #3 has now been sold and is with its new and very happy owners! Many thanks to all those who have shown interest. #4 will be underway early 2020!

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.

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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……