Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What a luthier does all day

You may have seen the TV series, “What Do Artists Do All Day.” Well, I thought that you might like to see what a luthier does all day!
The first task of the day is to continue with the French polishing of Phil’s twin point. Yesterday, the whole instrument was cut-back with 1000 grade wet or dry paper.  Then the soundboard, one of the sides and the head were polished. So today, the back, the other side and the neck get polished. 
I’ll only spend 10 to 15 minutes on it at a time. At this stage, I’m trying ensure that the finish is flat and shiny and I want to avoid over-working the surface and it becoming sticky.
Next, I’m fitting the soundboard of Ewart’s Standard Plus to the rim. I cut small housing joints in the linings for the end of each brace; a total of 9 joints.

This is quite a time consuming job as you also have to ensure the perfect alignment of the soundboard in relationship to the rim.
Every 30 to 45 minutes I go back and do some more polishing on Phil’s…………
 With all the housing joints cut and the soundboard fitting, I make two fine cuts at the end of the mandolin. 
Later on, the wood between these two cuts will be chiselled out and this is where the end graft will go and eventually join up with the purflings and bindings.
 With everything done on the soundboard, back and rim, the back can be glued on (soundboard tomorrow). 
Most of components of Ewart’s mandolin have now been made, so on to something else to make full use of my time.
That something else is the neck for Mark’s Standard Plus. The head was spliced on yesterday, so today I glued the wings on. The wings make the head wider to accommodate the tuners.
Next, I’m preparing the head splice for Paul’s e-mando. My aim over the next couple of days is to get these two necks up to the same stage, so that I can route the carbon-fibre slots on both.
Remember whilst this is going on, I’m still polishing Phil’s!
 Then I selected the Adirondack spruce soundboard for Mark’s; the edges are trued up, with a plane on a shooting board.
Phil’s gets the last polish of the day (making 8 times today)......
......the e-mando’s head is glued up......
......and then the soundboard!
 The day doesn’t end here; we’re now on the computer, sending emails to various clients. I always send copious amounts of photographs, so that, in this case, Phil, Ewart, Mark and Paul can see how their instruments are progressing.

Last but not least a new blog post! That was my day!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2014


With the French polishing of Phil’s twin-point well underway, it’s time to crack on with Ewart’s Standard Plus. Below you can see the sequence of inlaying the N logo in to the rosewood head overlay.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

In the white

Here are a couple of photos of Phil’s twin-point, “In the white.” The whole point of this stage  of the build, is that the mandolin can be set-up and got playing without any finish on. When I’m 100% happy with its performance it will be stripped down and French polished.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You can’t have enough clamps!

Here you can see the fretboard being glued on to Phil’s twin-point. You need a variety of clamps in this game and it’s not all about enormous amounts of pressure, rather spreading the load over a large area.
Once the fretboard has been prepared and fretted, I then carve the neck.
And here’s a nice shot of the tailpiece- although I’ve made a fair few of these tailpieces they still take me quite a long time to make. But of course, the joy is in the making.
If you like handmade stuff, you might enjoy this website that I stumbled across for the Handbuilt Motorcycles Show;
As a craftsman, I particularly like this bit of  their introduction-
“As our collective existence slips further into digital abstraction, we at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show believe something has been lost and it is time to revive the culture of physical craftsmanship. Although in today’s modern mass-produced world few young people are taught how to do physical work or are encouraged to embrace a trade, there remains a universal attraction to the beauty that can only be formed by human hands.”

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Cutting neat mitres is a ridiculously time consuming activity, but very satisfying when they come out right!


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Family Group Photo

In the last post, I mentioned that the 'zouk was now residing with its two siblings. Well, here is a great family group photo that Adrian sent me.  From left to right; tenor mandola, octave mandolin and the bouzouki. Really pleased to see them altogether, cheers Adrian!

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Navazouki Completed

Adrian’s bouzouki is now finished and residing with its two siblings. Below is the last video in my bouzouki mini-series, which includes a great demo by Adrian.

And here are few photos of the completed ‘zouk for you.
Bouzouki Versatility
I’ve made a variety of instruments from the "extended" mandolin family and it occurs to me, how flexible the Irish Bouzouki format could be(is!).  This one is custom built and therefore tuned to Adrian's preference;  GDAD with 3rd and 4th courses strung in octave pairs. But by changing the nut and saddle, you could use unison strings, tune it GDAE and you’ve got yourself a long-scale Octave mandolin. The neck has 17 frets clear of the body and 660mm scale, so a capo at the 5th fret gives you mandola tuning, a scale of just under 500mm and 12 frets clear of the body. Capo at the 12th and you’re in to mandolin country with 5 frets clear and scale of 330mm.  Interesting eh? I’m sure regular ‘zouk players have already realised that!

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