Thursday, July 31, 2008

So how long does it take to make a guitar (Cittern) Part 3?

Well, I’m now up to 40 hours and you can see that soundboard, back and sides are all together.

Fixings the sides together on this shape takes a fair bit of time as there are small blocks shaped to fit inside each point and the neck block has to be exactly right to accommodate the cutaway and ensure a smooth transition from neck to body. As Ruaridh wanted to limit the use of tropical hardwoods in his instrument, you can see that the linings and blocks are all made from spruce.

The tail-block is plywood, less prone to splitting if you have a 12 mm hole for a jack socket. Fixing the sides together on this instrument probably took two hours longer than on a guitar. You can see that the purfling is now going on...

Raymond Burley

You may have heard of Ray, he is a highly acclaimed classical guitarist. If he is playing near you must go and see him. We saw him recently in concert near, Oxford and his playing is superb. He also plays with Gordon Giltrap and they have a great album out together called “Double Vision.”
If you have been following my blog for a while you may remember that a good 18 months ago I lent my friend Andy, my Classical “demonstrator” which I never got back as he bought it from me! Anyway, Andy has guitar lessons from Ray Burley and over that period of time Ray has heard it develop and played it a fair bit. So, I was absolutely delighted when Ray put a favourable comment about my work on his website.

Mandolin Jack Flat

Talking of good music, check out Mandolin Jack Flat on YouTube. He is a friend and client - I’ve done repair work on few of his instruments. He has put together some great Americana music and videos.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So how long does it take to make a guitar (Cittern) Part 2?

If you saw one of my previous posts, you will know that I’m logging the time that I’m taking constructing Ruaridh’s cittern, so that I can answer the above question realistically.

Well, I’m up to 15 hours and here’s what has been done so far.
The neck blank has been worked on: laminated together, head joint made, carbon fibre reinforcement strips inserted and the slot for the adjustable truss rod done. The head overlay complete with pearl “N” has been glued on and the head shape cut out.

The sides are bent, back joined and taken down to its final thickness. The soundboard has also been joined and taken down to a bit over its final thickness and the rosette inlaid and cleaned up.

The time that I’m logging is the time that I’m hands on, doing practical work. What I’m not taking into consideration is design and development time.

This cittern being so what unorthodox has taken a fair bit of thought. The Rumsfled jig has been back in action, have a look at this if you’re interested.....

The Red Mandolin

You saw the multiple piece mandolin back in the last post. I’ve decided to use a Redwood soundboard for this one, so that all of the woods used are of a reddish hue; hence its name, the Red Mandolin.

I’ve just made up the rosette.

I mentioned a while ago our trip to Italy to visit Cremona and the Museo Stradivariano. One stunning violin, a copy of the Stradivari “Hellier” violin, by Sacconi stood out, this had pearl inlay of dots and diamonds around the outside. This motif was also used by another luthier that I greatly admire; the 19th century English guitar maker Louis Panormo. I’ve always wanted to make one of these rosettes, so this seem the right time!
Below you can see the sequence of making it, the 3mm diameter dots are bought in but all the diamonds (6 x 3 mm) I cut by hand.

Cutting 2.6mm wide strip from pearl blanks

Precautions from dust

Jig to cut angle

Careful positioning

Filling with ebony fibres and epoxy


The mandocello has been strung up and the tailpiece successfully tested. So it’s now being French polished. In this day and age of sustainability and various environmental issues, French polishing is probably as green as it gets. You are using shellac which is a secretion from an insect and harvested from the bark of the trees where it deposits it to provide a sticky hold on the trunk. Alcohol as a solvent, pumice powder (from volcanoes) as a filler and its all applied by a pad made up from cotton waste and old well washed white T-shirts. To stop the pad sticking olive oil is used as a lubricant. As a I say as green as you can get.
If you want to know more about French polishing guitars, there is great on-line guide/tutorial by Orville and Robert Milburn.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Mandocello tailpiece and future mandolins

The mandocello is now being French polished and whilst this process is going on, I’ve made its tailpiece. There didn’t seem to be a decent commercial mando’ tailpiece available so I decided to make one. Also I wanted it to be able to accommodate ball-end strings so it owner won’t have to source expensive, long, loop end strings.

A great help whilst making the tailpiece was my Axminster cross-vice, it allows you to use your pillar-drill like a vertical milling machine and you can see it being used here in conjunction with a router bit.

The finished tailpiece is below and I’ll test it this week.


Early next year I’m going to be building a mandolin for a lady called Jill. She likes quilted maple, so I was fortunate that my wood supplier was willing to prepare two slices for the back and sides and a matching neck blank all from the same board. You can see a piece of it below: it’s hard to believe that its surface is flat and smooth.

I’ve stared to build another mandolin for fun, from less usual “mandolin wood.” The photo below is not of sides of smoked salmon but some cocobolo (rosewood from Mexico)!

I’ve always liked the multiple piece backs that early fretted instruments had, so I thought that I would do something similar here. The middle piece of wood is Brazilian rosewood. It’s going to be quite something!

Labels: , ,