Friday, May 15, 2020

Archtop #4- Slight Diversion

Before I started work on the top plate of archtop #4, I wanted to make a second wooden round-bottom plane. Once I get started on the carving of the top-plate, I won’t want to stop! So, I’ve reined myself in and decided to make the plane before I start the next stage.
 If you watched the video in the last blog post, you would have seen why: essentially, I need another plane with a tighter longitudinal curve on its base
For a while now, I’ve been interested in Japanese design and craftsmanship and there’s a great YouTube channel with lots of woodworking videos. One thing that interested me, whilst watching these Takumis at work, was the sheer number of tools that these guys have; all very simply made, but specific to one job. If the tools are simply made then you’re probably inclined to custom make them as and when required.
So, to a certain extent, I’m now trying to adopt this approach towards my tools and work. The round-bottom planes; they’re relatively cheap and quick to make, so why not make more than one, if it means that your work can go that little bit better. Anyway, here are a few photos of the finished plane and the video above, is my ideas on making a wooden round bottom plane- it’s not a “how to” guide!

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Monday, May 11, 2020

#4 backplate

I’ve just completed carving the back plate for Archtop #4. In order to cope with the irregular grain of the sapele, I started off with a good sharpening session. I can’t over emphasise the importance of sharp tools, especially when dealing with high figured wood.
The first step on the outside, was to do some rough shaping with the Wagner Safe-T-Planner; always with trepidation.

And then much planning, scraping, and sanding by hand.........
There’s more detail in the video.
Here is the finished outer surface; it’s had a quick coat of sanding sealer, just to pop the grain- doesn’t it look lovely!
 Then on to the inside. From a woodworking point of view, I was extremely happy with how this went. My squirrel-tail round bottom plane works like a scrub plane, it’s good for relatively rapid removal but doesn’t give a smooth surface finish, hence making the wooden one, a few posts back.
As it happens, the wooden plane worked much better than I thought it would, giving a really good surface finish.
And the video!

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Monday, May 04, 2020

Robin’s revisited……..

You’ll remember Robin’s Hybrid mandolin (Flat top/Arch back) from a few months ago? Well, here’s a chance to hear it in action. Many thanks to Robin for the recording- always grateful hear my instruments in action.

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

A true story……

Way back in the olden days when people would gather together to sell their wares, we came across an unloved Burswood mini guitar.
Grammy, who always has a good eye for a bargain, said to Pappy, “we must buy this for our grandson!” So, we gave 10 magic beans and took it home.
For two whole years it sat in Pappy’s workshop, until the day came when, Grammy said, “Soon it will be our grandson’s birthday and he will be old enough to learn to play Smoke On The Water; you must prepare the guitar for him!”
And so, the unloved Burswood was stripped down, anointed with potions and images of legendary heroes applied.
 Much of it’s insides had to be repaired and new parts found. And then after being fettled and loved back into life, it was transported to another county by the magician, UPS, to the young would-be Rockstar in time for his 7th Birthday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Getting a head

As mentioned in the last video, the head shape had to be cut-out and tuner holes drilled. Here is the result.
One of the trickiest operations is carving my vee shaped volute, done mainly with a chisel. 
The head now is really finished, nothing left to do, I’ve even filled the grain of the ebony! A practical reason- I do this nowadays before drilling the tuner holes, that way you don’t have try to clean the grain filling medium out of the holes!

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Sunday, April 19, 2020

Archtop #4; real work begins!

So, carrying on from the previous post. With the neck laminated, the head angle is cut ready for the spliced head joint.
You can see here how the neck and head will be joined. 
The problem is; because the join line isn’t at a right angle to the direction of the clamping pressure, there is a tendency for the two pieces to slide apart, once the wet (and initially slippery) glue and pressure is applied.
By clamping the head in the vice and a block to the bench, that ability to slide is eliminated.
And here’s the clamping arrangement; you can see why it’s easier to bandsaw the whole thing from a single piece of wood! But, I never doing anything because it’s easier, only because it’s better.
I’m using Macassar ebony for the head overlay (and for other parts of the instrument) and mother of pear for the logo inlay. The inlay takes an inordinate amount of time for something that has no real bearing on how the mandolin plays! There’s a fair bit about this process in the video, so I won’t go in to that here.
So here’s the neck blank and the head overlay ready to be glued; the wooden pegs ensure that the logo ends up where it’s meant to be!
You can see that the rim is now complete too. 
However, before it comes out of the external mould, a centre line has to be marked so that the neck mortice and end graft are correctly located. With no flat surface or straight lines that’s easier said than done!
And here’s the back ready to be carved.

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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Archtop #4 begins

Well my friends, it’s time to start work on Archtop #4. But firstly, I sincerely hope that anyone (and their loved ones) who reads this blog is keeping well and safe. With the current Covid-19 situation, and with both Amanda and I having “underlying health conditions”, I’m trying not to consider the possibility of illness and not being able to complete something I start. Strange times indeed!
OK, head in gear………..
For the back and sides, I’m using pommele sapele; it’s a beautiful wood and was lucky enough to get hold of a decent size board; usually you only see it in veneer form.
Not being 100% sure about its bending properties, I wanted to cut the sides from the board and bend them first. If all goes well, then cut the wood for the back plate, if not I’ll use the wood for solid bodies. So here’s a little video to tell the story…..
What I didn’t say in the video was that the board itself is 38mm thick, I like the wood for the back plates to be 17mm thick before carving, so I only had 4mm to allow for the cutting! I must admit that I was chuffed that I achieved that!
When the sapele if freshly cut it is very pinkish; one thing that I’ve learnt, is that sapele loves finish, so just to give you an idea of what it could like, I sprayed some water on it.
The irregular grain pattern of the wood makes joining the two pieces for the back plate a bit tricky. In spite of a super sharp plane, you still get some small tears.
 So, I’ve found that sanding them with this tool that I made up, works incredibly well.
You can see how the dust collects in the tears, when they’ve gone you’re ready to glue.
I recently treated myself to some new light weight sash clamps from Axminster and this was the first outing- really easy to set-up and use.
The neck and tail blocks have been glued in place, to join the two sides together. Although there are lots of clamps, only one is applying pressure to the glue joint, the rest ensure that everything remains aligned accurately.
The neck is being made from some lovely flamed maple and as always, the neck is laminated for extra stability. This one with black veneers and a strip of sapele to visually tie in with the back.

More soon ;)

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