Sunday, July 24, 2016

Paul’s Standard Plus Mandolin

Paul’s mandolin is now complete and residing safely with him. Here are some photos of the finished instrument for you. A real beauty!
And here's the spec....
352 mm scale
Robson handmade tuners
Sitka Spruce soundboard with Sitka bracing.
Herringbone rosette and purfling
Pau Ferro back and sides
Body fully bound in Indian rosewood
Maple neck with carbon fibre reinforcement
Ebony fretboard, compound radius, wide gold evo frets
Abalone dot marker on front surface + brass ring side markers
Handmade Nava design tailpiece (ebony, brass stainless steel), bone nut and saddle
French polish finish
Brazilian rosewood head overlay with abalone inlay

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Friday, July 22, 2016

From when walnut was king...........

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking about designing and making a carved top mandolin. Whist I love my current range of mandolins, I am aware that some players simply prefer carved to flat-tops.
When I say thinking about it for a long time, here’s the Engelmann top that I glued together in 2008!
I don’t think that there is any point in me making F or A style instruments as there are many luthiers out there already building fine examples of those. So, after much thought, my design ideas have evolved to the point where I’m ready to start building and you’re welcome to watch this new project progress. You’re going to have to be patient though, as I’m only doing a few hours every now and then, in between all the commissions that are planned.
Back and sides- a few years ago I came across this desk/dressing table top. It’s made from some beautiful old mahogany that has been veneered with a decorative walnut veneer and banding.
Of course nowadays most people associate veneer with mdf and inferior KD furniture, but we're talking about quality cabinet making from when walnut was king! Imagine the quality of this piece of furniture, that the base wood should be prime mahogany!
This is a single piece of mahogany (no joins- what a tree!) and I planned out the best way to use it, so it will yield three instruments; it would criminal to waste such a precious resource.
I don’t use large woodworking machines, so prepping the wood involved some traditional skills!
Here is the one set of sides and another set bent with the end-blocks in place.

And here’s the back- 
-with the board being so wide, you may ask why not a one piece back? Here’s the end-grain of the back once it had been glued together, you can see how I’ve arranged things for maximum stability.
 One day I’ll carve this!

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Fitting the Headway transducer II

A couple of posts back, you saw some of the preparation that I do whilst making an instrument that has a transducer built in to it. Here’s the next instalment……
This week, all of the construction was completed on Rob’s Standard mandolin. Before I apply any finish, I like to get the mandolin playing and set-up i.e action and intonation spot-on, this in turn gives the final location of the bridge.
 Low tack masking tape records the bridge’s position. You may wonder why this craftsman leaves the ends of his tape so tatty looking? Smooth it down and you run the risk of your finger nails digging into the soundboard as you struggle to remove the tape!
All of this is painstaking, as you have to drill a hole through the soundboard exactly where the transducer exits the underside of the bridge. I always get Amanda to sight the drill for me; it must be perpendicular.
Then after a period of fiddling around, the transducer gets pulled through its hole; remember all of this is done blind.
Eventually the bridge goes back into its position, the strings back to tension and the transducer tested.

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Saturday, July 02, 2016

Rob’s Standard

Here are some photos to show how Rob’s mandolin is progressing. I’m particularly pleased with how rosewood insert in the back, ties in with the bindings.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Heikki ‘s Mandolin revisited

Amanda and I were delighted to receive an audio file of Heikki playing his new Nava Standard mandolin. We found the music quite uplifting and I was inspired to put together a photo montage of the mandolin to accompany it and make up a short video.

Here it is- I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did. Many thanks again to Heikki for sharing with us.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fitting the Headway transducer

In the last post, I mentioned that Rob’s Standard mandolin was not quite standard.  Rob has a couple of custom requirements; one of my handmade tailpieces and a Headway transducer.
One issue with using an under saddle transducer on a mandolin is housing the battery. Fitting a battery through the sound hole is a tight squeeze and all of the strings have to be taken off, which in turn means the bridge moves. The Headway solves this issue by using an external prep-amp which can also be used as a phantom power source for the transducer thus eliminating the need for an internal battery. With a stereo lead, one channel is used as the transducer’s output and the other as its power supply. The preamp itself is quite a neat thing and can go on a belt clip, if you wish.
 Here’s the completed tailpiece……………
…………….the large 12mm diameter hole is for the jack socket endpin.
 So, the soundboard is glued to the rim, the excess spruce trimmed and the position of the tailpiece carefully marked out, checked umpteen times, and the pilot holes for the tailpiece's screws drilled.
The tailpiece is screwed in place and a 12mm hole is drilled through the rim and tail-block. 
The transducer can then be test fitted. You can see why it’s a very good idea to use plywood for the tail-block, anything else and you run the risk of the block splitting. 
With the various nuts and washers adjusted for a perfect fit, the transducer is removed. Next, I like to glue the backing nut in place with CA; this helps with the final fitting once the mandolin is complete and you’re working blind through the soundhole.
 And after one last clean-up, the back is glued on to form the magic box.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Ambassadors and more……..

I’m sure that you’re familiar with Holbein’s painting, The Ambassadors; all the objects with their associated symbolism etc.?
Well, there were a few items at this week’s market that I couldn’t resist buying and when I laid them out, I thought that if Hans were to pop round to paint me, he would probably choose a very similar selection of symbolic objects……..
 The mandolin is a traditional Neapolitan bowl back from the 1900s; it probably doesn’t have any great value but it’s a lovely thing. So, do I restore it, or just let it adorn the workshop as is?
 Also, I couldn’t resist, yet another plane- a Stanley No 4, this one, is made in England, but has brass fittings instead of aluminium alloy and the casting looks a bit heavier and sharper compared to the other No 4 plane that I restored a while ago. 
Although there are plenty of websites for the dating of American Stanley planes, I can’t find any English ones.
Oh and the Keep on Truckin' badge, who didn’t have one of these on their denim jacket when they were 16?
 Anyway, back to the real world! I’ve had Paul’s Standard Plus playing in the white and now I’m about half way through the French polishing process- you can see how the wood really comes alive with some finish on it.
The next mandolin is a not-so-standard, Standard for Rob. Here is the completed rim- bubinga sides and rosewood end graft, with solid double thickness maple linings.