I’m aware that my blog seems to have gained quite a few followers; so many thanks to all those who are interested in what goes on here. I’m also aware that I haven’t chronicled an instrument from start to finish, in detail, for awhile, so here goes!
Brendan’s Mandolin Part I
You saw the Alessi tuners for Brendan’s twin-pointer a few months back, they are F-style so, I’ve designed a new head shape to suit them. It’s not quite as straightforward as you might think; on F-style tuners, each button is on a different length shaft and you have to get the curve of the head just right so that it works aesthetically and on a practical level the buttons have got to rotate!
Rather then trying to draw the curve- I shaped a piece of hardboard with the tuners mounted on and gradually sanded the 'board away until the shape worked.
With the edges worked out, I started looking at the design for the top of the head. So after some time sketching, this is what I came up with and Brendan is happy with it. So let’s make it!
The neck is made from Cuban mahogany; this is the real thing, beautiful rich brown, recycled from the lid of a 19th century grand piano. It’s laminated from 3 sections with the grain of the middle section going in the opposite direction to the outer two; this aids stability.
The head is glued on with a scarf joint; I’m amazed that most mandolin necks are just cut from one piece giving short grain in the head.
The neck is stiffened with two carbon-fibre strips which I run through into the head for even more added strength! I guess what I like to do is build a very strong, but light instrument- the strength coming from design and attention to detail rather bulk.
You can see (below) that I cut out my pearl N logo by hand- yes I actually make them myself. The pearl is very brittle so it’s glued to some thin ply for support.
The N is then inlaid into the ebony head overlay. I do this before I glue the head overlay on, so that I can cut right through the overlay (with a piercing saw).
The head overlay is glued on- tiny wooden pins ensure that the inlay is in the centre of the head.
I use a StewMac jig to ensure that the holes are aligned, with 4 tuners on a plate, you can’t afford to be inaccurate. I’ve done this task successfully without a jig, but the measuring out is a pain as the tuners’ dimensions are imperial and trying to mark out 29/32” spacing when you’re used to metric.......
With the tuners fitting, the head is cut out and carefully shaped.
And eventually- the finished head! The ebony head overlay coupled with the ebony buttons is pure class, even if I say so myself.
And I haven’t forgotten the guitars! I’ve just made the bridge for Alan’s model 1 which should be glued on next week.
and Chris’s Hare has had a coat of sealer prior to grain filling. What’s really cool about Chris’s is that the rosewood sides have really dark stripes and in places the ebony bindings seem to blend in and disappear!
Labels: Handmade mandolin, Luthier, Nava