Thursday, June 21, 2018

Archtop Tailpiece

Here’s the tailpiece for the walnut archtop mandolin. You’ll see that there’s a thin green line running through it; this continues a decorative theme that the mandolin will have. I like to get the tailpiece made before the back is glued on to the rim, that way I can drill a hole for the jack socket and support the end-block to eliminate any chances of splitting.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018


No doubt, you’ll remember that in previous posts I’ve extolled the virtues of my Veritas miniature block plane. Well, not anymore!
The thread on the small screw, which holds in place the cap iron, has stripped thus rendering it unusable.  I got on to Axminster and you can get a replacement screw, which I’ve ordered, so now all I have to do is wait 12 weeks for it to arrive! Looking at the plane’s design I can’t help feeling the some of the components are just too small to be robust enough for daily luthier usage.
Coincidentally, at the weekend, I picked-up this old Stanley #101 plane.
 Back when it was first introduced, it was sold by Stanley as a toy plane, but as it proved popular with craftsman it was re-advertised as small plane block plane.
Unfortunately the cap iron has broken, so the intention is to make a new one from some brass.
The wee plane is clearly old and after looking at various web-sites, it seems that the S foundry mark on its castings means that it was made between 1894 to 1902. At least 116 year old then! Not sure if the complex miniature mechanism of the Veritas will last that long (well, not if I use it regularly!).

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Friday, June 08, 2018

Walnut Archtop; back plate complete

This week I completed the back plate for the next archtop mandolin. I’ve put this video together so you can see how it’s done. Again, working by hand is physically demanding but also immensely satisfying. You’ll see how the simple jig, I showed you in the last post, effectively holds the back plate whilst carving.

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Saturday, June 02, 2018

Walnut Archtop: back plate

I’ve been working on the back plate for the next archtop mandolin. My objective with this build is not change the mandolin’s design (as I’m very happy with it) but to refine my building technique.
The first thing that I’ve done is to make this simple jig which allows me to hold the plates whilst I’m carving them.
The first modification to the jig, was to add this external template. It has a couple of dowels for accurate location and allows me to keep refreshing the outline as I work.
As you can see below, it works!

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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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