Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Walnut Archtop: head

One of the things that I’ve been working on this week is the neck for the next Archtop mandolin. The neck itself is made from bird’s eye maple and the head overlay from some spectacular Claro walnut. Here are a couple of photos and a video of the process.
The videos for the what is now "Jeremy’s Archtop" proved to be very popular, so I thought I’d do a second series and look at some different aspects of the build.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018


I’ve been French polishing instruments for around 10 years now and in spite of that experience, I still find it difficult to predict how long the process will take. I just keep going, polishing and cutting back (to various degrees) and one day the instrument turns around and says to me that’s it we’re done!
Not quite at that stage with Mike’s mandolin, but getting near.

So, in between polishing sessions, I’ve started the next Archtop mandolin. I’m so pleased with the one that Jeremy now owns that I can’t imagine changing the design but what I will do is refine my building technique, maybe make a few jigs etc.
The next Archtop will have American Black Walnut back and sides; I’ve had some lovely pieces of walnut in stock for years and have finally had the courage to convert one piece of it into back and sides- mostly by hand!
"For your viewing pleasure- MAN vs WOOD!"


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Archtop Mandolin season finale!

As promised here is the last episode in my Archtop build series. I should add that the mandolin has found a home and it was a real pleasure to meet Jeremy and his wife when they came to collect it at the weekend.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Nava Archtop Mandolin

The Archtop mandolin is now complete and I must say that I couldn’t be more happy with it. The next one is already on the bench! Below are some photos for you. Video to follow!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Latest find

I came across this set, of what I can only describe as, “angle slip gauges” at the market on Saturday. Beautifully made and no doubt part of some poor deceased engineer’s house clearance. I’m not sure what I’m going use them for yet, but when the time comes, that'll be a fiver well spent!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Mike’s in the white

You can see that Mike’s mandolin has been set-up; the action and intonation is now what I consider to be the optimum for one of my mandolins. It’s a long iterative process to get everything spot on. The strings are brought up to tension and the instrument rests, measurements made and then adjustments- maybe one slot in the nut is cut a bit deeper or the whole saddle is lowered. With the action correct, next on to the intonation and we keep adjusting and re-tuning. This process takes me about a week as I like to allow the mandolin to settle after any major adjustments.
Next week the French polishing starts!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Just working......

So here’s a bit of an update on what’s happening in “The Nava Analogue Workshop”.
The archtop is going through the finishing process- it will have about 16 coats of shellac applied with an air-brush. Sounds a lot, but each coat is cut back with super fine abrasives and a silky, natural looking satin sheen gradually builds up.
The majority of the constructional work on Mike’s Standard plus is complete. It’s had a good clean-up and is now ready for me to make the bridge, nut & saddle and go through the “line-the-white” process that you’ve seen so many times before. The redwood soundboard looks quite stunning already.
And then we have; return of the Uke!
If you’re a stalwart of this blog you may remember that quite a while ago I started to build a maple baritone ukulele and no doubt you’ve often wondered what happened to it! The answer to that question is nothing; it’s waited patiently in the workshop whilst many mandolins have been made.
I decided a while back that this year (2018), I would limit the number of commissions that I build, so that I can finish the projects that I’ve not had time for, as well as developing the archtop mandolin range.
So rewind 6 years…………

Back to the present day and you can see things have moved on a bit this week! 
Here it is with the Spanish cedar neck and cocobolo fretboard glued on. Hopefully it will be offered up for sale on my website later in the year.
And last but not least, thinking about the next archtop; top plate joined in anticipation.

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