Sunday, September 26, 2021

Twin-Point Head shape (new!)

I’ve always been a bit bemused by the design of most heads, be they guitar or mandolin. In my opinion, you want the strings to leave the nut and run, more or less, straight to the tuners. Also, you don’t want the tuners, nearest the nut, to interfere with the path of any of the other strings. So, from a purely functional point of view, it makes sense to have the tuners arranged in an isosceles trapezoid shape, so that as you get further from the nut, the tuners converge. Funny thing, I found this old worksheet that I produced for an electric guitar making course that I ran, back in the day!

The twin point mandolin has had a few head designs. The first ones were a bit Gibson A shape-ish, which I then narrowed at the top so the strings had a straighter path to the tuners. I then offered a “F” style head which a number of clients opted for, but I’ve always struggled with the aesthetics of this design.

When I designed my Standard mandolin, I used my “arrowhead” shape which I had used, on and off, for many years. The beauty of this design, is that you get the straight string path, its straight edges complement the plates of the tuners and it’s comparatively easy to make. A real application of “form follows function.”

I must admit that I like designs that are functional and are not dictated solely by appearance. This of course, is completely at odds with the twin-point mandolin as, the points are purely decorative (as in other designs such as the scroll on a “F” shape mandolin etc.). But equally, in this digital age, it’s nice to make an instrument that has the appearance of something from a by-gone era.

So, I’ve been trying to balance my need for the practical with old school aesthetics. And this is the new design: evolving from my “arrowhead” design and picking up the curves of the body’s points.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Making the twin-point's rim.

I’ve just completed the rim for the twin-point mandolin and below is the video of how I did it, as well as a few photos of the finished part. Making a video of the process, brought home to me, how much work is actually involved in its construction! As there are a lot of glue joints, all of which are left 24 hours before moving on to the next stage, the rim is assembled over a period of time, and as you work on it in short sessions, the total time spent isn’t really appreciated.


Thursday, September 02, 2021

Polishing Archtop #5

Just in case you’ve been wondering what’s happened to Archtop #5, well I’m in the middle of the French polishing process and in the photo, you can really see how the shellac pops the grain. Lovely!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Twin-Point, Flat-Top Rosette

 What with all the arch-tops and e-mandos that I’ve been building recently, I’ve not had the need to make a rosette, as there hasn’t been a sound hole to put it around! I’ve always enjoyed making rosettes so I’ve really been looking forward to making one for the new twin-point and here it is……..

And how I did it!.......

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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Twin-Point, Flat-Top Mandolin: introduction


Friday, August 06, 2021

Twin-Point Mandolin: The Next Generation?

Firstly, why twin-point and not two-point like other luthiers call their pointy mandolins? Quite simple really, my shape is symmetrical, each half of the body mirroring the other, so “twin” makes perfect sense to me!

I built my first twin-point mandolin back in 2007 and have made 14 instruments to this particular shape. When I look back, there have been quite a few changes; at least three bridge designs, three head shapes, the heel shape, tailpiece design and some of the internal structure.

As, I haven’t made a twin-point for a while, I feel it’s high-time to make one. A few months ago, whilst having a bit of a workshop clear-out, I threw out my original external mould, (used for constructing the rim) as it was getting tatty from use and being modified. This was a deliberate decision, as getting rid of the old one means that I have to construct a new and better one, incorporating the mandolin building experience that I have gained since 2007.

So, as I’m starting with a new external mould and wish to incorporate all that I’ve learnt, since I built that first one, it seems appropriate to think of this one as “The Next Generation”.

Here’s the new external mould, although the mandolin’s player never knows anything about this, it’s the crucial foundation to a successful and accurate build. You’ll see it in action as the build progresses………..

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Archtop #5: Bridge

Over the years, I’ve given a great deal of thought to my bridge’s design and, looking back, at my early mandolins, the design has evolved considerably. So, here is the current incarnation.

The ebony blank is roughly fitted to the top plate: by marking out the curve on the base of the bridge from the templates used to carve the top plate it can be done quite quickly and accurately.

Then the slot for the saddle is routed. This allows the saddle to be fitted and by using a simple jig, the bridge’s location can be accurately found.
Then the base of the bridge can be sanded to fit the top plate perfectly and then worked to its final shape.
There is always a tendency for this type of bridge to tip towards the fretboard, so to compensate for that, I now make my bridges a tad wider at the base and set the saddle slot a few mil back. Also, at this stage the saddle is roughly shaped for intonation compensation and slots cut for the strings. The final refinement of the saddle is done once the mandolin is strung up.
Here’s the bridge, you can see that I scallop out the front of the bridge; this is to remove some of its extra mass which is gained by making the base wider. Also, I like to have “feet” on my bridges rather than continuous contact. The feet are directly over the top plate’s tone bars.
Make the nut and then………………..