Friday, May 26, 2017

Twin-Point Tailpiece

It’s Friday afternoon and I’ve just completed and fitted the tailpiece on Andrew’s twin-point. There’s quite a lot of work in it; I reckon a good 10 hours, but the outcome is well-worth it.
(I love this little anvil! Another recent acquisition)
You can see how the tailpiece complements the body, something that a commercial item won’t do.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

On the bench

It occurred to me that I currently have 4 completely different mandolins on the go; so I thought that you might be interested in a round-up
We’ve got the e-mando; I’ve finished applying the Tru-Oil so I’m just waiting for it to fully harden before it’s reassembled and offered for sale.
 Then we’ve got Andrew’s cocobolo and red spruce twin-point. The neck was shaped earlier in the week; these days my Japanese Shinto rasp is a firm favourite for the initial shaping.
You might remember my tiny Veritas plane? It’s been useful in ways that I hadn’t imagined; here, ideal for cleaning up the juncture between neck and body.
 Fast forward a couple of days and here’s the twin-point, all cleaned-up and awaiting its hardware.
Also progressing nicely is David’s Standard mandolin, some fine Brazilian mahogany and a herringbone upgrade. Maple bindings next week.
 And lastly the carved-top project. Some progress has been made! I’ve used a wonderful piece of Brazilian rosewood for the head overlay and you can see that I’ve done some very rough shaping of the back with my Wagner Safe-T planer.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Housekeeping: Chisels

It being a rather grey Sunday morning, I thought that I’d do a bit of housekeeping; sharpen chisels! When you’re in the zone, fitting a neck or carving braces, you don’t want to stop to sharpen tools, so a bit of regular housekeeping is required.
First I like to polish/flatten the back of the chisels on a stone- you can’t get a sharp edge if the back isn’t flat. Over the years they get flatter and better.
Where possible I like to use a honing guide to ensure a consistent angle.
If the chisel or plane blade doesn’t fit in the guide, I use an angled wedge to help with the correct sharpening angle.
 I use three grades of stone, the last being my hard black Arkansas stone; it gives a surgically sharp edge. 
You may remember, awhile back, Amanda bought me a set of “vintage” Stanley Hercules butt chisels? These have become firm favourites to use; they're the perfect size for mandolin work.
I also enjoy using my old Marples bevel edge chisels; I bought these about 40 years ago (1 per week) when I started college. They’ve been a great investment, although recently I had to replace my 3/8”
This Bahco 4mm chisel is also an old favourite (again about 40 years old), particularly useful for the small housing joints that I use on my instruments.
About 10 years ago I bought some Japanese chisels and I must admit that I don’t find them as useful for luthiery as my bevel edge ones; I find them a bit too thick.
Anyway here we are ready for Monday morning.


Friday, May 05, 2017

Andrew’s Twin Point Update

Here’s a bit of an update on Andrew’s twin-point mandolin. One of the most time consuming elements of my twin-point builds is the binding and purfling. There are 21 separate pieces to be glued into place which includes 8 pieces of ebony all of which have to be bent on the hot iron to shape.
Firstly the rebate is cut….
Then purfling glued on….
Ebony bent to fit…..
Glued on…..
 One the trickiest stages is mitring the purfling at the tip of the points. It takes me around 30 minutes to carefully cut one mitre- shaving slivers away with a scalpel until a perfect fit is obtained.
I love the way that the bindings and purflings help to define the shape.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

New e-mando design ideas

 Due to all the various commissions that I’ve been fortunate to have had, this is the first instrument that I’ve built on spec for about four years. “Experimental” is too strong a word, but there were a few things that I wanted to try out.
Firstly, a shorter fretboard (not scale length); so this e mando has 19 frets instead of 22. Why? This means that the neck pick-up can go about an inch further north which gives a mellower tone and in turn, creates room for a second humbucker at the bridge. Hence increased tonal variation.
And secondly, materials- some background- I had an enquiry back in January from a chap in Californian who wanted a cocobolo octave mandolin; at that stage the new CITES regulations had just come in and as I have no paperwork for my current stock of wood I had to decline. It did make me however, do some research into shipping to the USA. I found the fish and wildlife dept extremely helpful; it seems that there are issues with pearl too- the need for import permits and the instrument has to enter the USA via the appropriate port which can deal with such things.
So, in a bid to construct an instrument that could be shipped trouble free, world-wide I've tried a few alternative materials. This electric mandolin has metal (aluminium in this case) inlays, a rocklite ebano fretboard (man-made ebony substitute) and a Graphtec tusq nut and saddle. The body and neck are ash and maple which being temperate hardwoods should pose no problem, as far as I can tell, in shipping anywhere worldwide. Maybe this would be the sensible approach for an acoustic instrument too, using say maple or walnut for the back and sides (they both make great sounding instruments) and maple for the neck.
The e mando is currently being finished in Tru-Oil and should be for sale on my website early summer 2017.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

New e-mando tailpiece

I wanted to make an aluminium tailpiece for the e-mando that I’m currently working on. Sheet aluminium seemed a bit too soft for the design that I normally make, so I designed a new model which utilises some much better quality ali alloy angle section.
 After much sawing, filing and drilling……
PS CNC free zone;-)

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Friday, April 07, 2017

Safe in Ireland

Patrick’s twin-point has now been completed and is happily residing in Ireland. Here are some photos for you. 

Don't you just love cocobolo!

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