Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mandolins, Mandolins, Mandolins!

I’ve been getting on with French polishing Geoff’s OO- this is the first time that I’ve used Honduras rosewood and it’s really starting to look spectacular under a layer of polish.

Paul’s mandolin

Mandolins seem to be temporarily taking over! I got Paul’s mandolin playing last week; one thing that I enjoy about mandolin building is that, due to the floating bridge and tailpiece, you can set the instrument up prior to applying any finish.

Once it’s playing perfectly, it can then be stripped back down and the finish applied- Tru-oil in this case. The mandolin has a K&K pick-up installed. The K&K is fixed directly to the underside of the soundboard with an adhesive film and as the soundhole is far too small to allow me in insert my hand into the finished mandolin, I decided to fix it in place during the construction stage. This way, it can be fixed exactly where I want it and the soundboard’s surface can be prepared so that the film adheres correctly.

If I know that some accessory has to be stuck to the inside of an instrument, I will coat the surface with several layers of CA to seal the surface so that any adhesive film sticks really well.

“Red Mandolin”

You may remember the “Red Mandolin” from a couple of years ago.

Its owner, Alan, wanted me to make a new bridge for it with a removable bone saddle. He also wanted to me to make it as light a possible. Alan is a retired professor of engineering and has also made a few violins, so I respect his views and was happy to oblige. You can see the old and new bridges below.
Alan was delighted with the outcome and reports a noticeable increase in the instrument’s volume.

Richard’s Mandolin

You may also remember Richard’s English walnut mandolin, unfortunately he allowed a friend to play it and it picked up a few finger nail marks on the soundboard.

Richard can’t live with the marks, so I’m re-polishing the soundboard for him. Fortunately, the nail marks haven’t torn the grain, so they sanded out quite easily. I was surprised, however, at how resilient the polish was to sanding.

The case against using French polish is it perceived fragility. However, the polish is applied thinly and what ever medium you use, it is sitting on a very soft surface. With fingernail marks, it isn’t the finish that is scratched as such, but the wood that is underneath the finish is dented.

The “Standard”

I’m also designing a new mandolin that I’m going to call the “Standard”. In these times of austerity, not every musician can afford to own a bespoke, hand-made instrument. So in bid to build a mandolin that is more affordable, and that competes with the like of Moon and Fylde on price, I’m designing a no-frills instrument. Time is the most expensive component of any hand made instrument and building one-off instruments to a clients specific needs is extremely time consuming. With the Standard, I shall concentrate on the features that influence the sound and playability and strip back any unnecessary adornments. This will be a real exercise in "form following function." The result will be a beautifully sounding, playable hand-made mandolin at a reasonable cost to the player.

Watch this space for more information.........

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