Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quite a few things!

There’s quite a few things going on in the workshop at the moment. John’s koa guitar is looking really good- I’ve just about finished applying the French polish and it now needs to fully harden before the bridge goes on.

Speaking of which, here is the bridge; it’s made from Brazilian rosewood to match the head overlay. This too is beautiful wood; I’ve got a fair number of Brazilin rosewood billets which I got hold of in the 1970s and never used. The trouble with luthiers is, we put stuff aside for “something special” and expire before that day comes! So I’ve decided to start using it!

So, in between applying polish to John’s guitar, I’ve been putting Alan’s twin-point mandolin together. You can see the body below- yet more beautiful cocobolo with a red spruce soundboard. Without doubt, the twin-point mandolin has become my most popular instrument and (without blowing my trumpet, pardon the musical pun) because I’m willing to incorporate custom features, no two are alike.

I’ve also been cutting abalone- lots of little diamonds for the rosette on Charlie’s twin point mandolin.  The photos below give an idea of how I cut them. 

Whilst I was in the mood I also cut the N logo for the head (and for the following two mandolins!)

Awhile ago I was thinking about phasing the N logo out, but everyone who orders from me likes it, so it stays. It is however, gradually changing shape. Whenever I cut one, I don’t use a template, I draw it straight on to the shell. I like the idea of each one I make looking the same but being different; like your own signature. Each time you sign your name your signature has its distinct characteristic, but each version will be subtly different. The logo is gradually getting slimmer- so here’s the next three.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Plane!

Wood work slowed down a wee bit this week- my trusty block plane that I’ve had and used constantly for 36 years, committed suicide by jumping off the bench. The cap that holds the blade in place broke and I can’t find a replacement.

Therefore, a new one had to be purchased. I like Veritas planes but they are a bit costly as are Lie-Nielsen, but for roughly a third of their prices Stanley are producing their Premium range of planes, so I thought that I’d give one those a try. And here it is!

It really is incredibly well made- nicely ground surfaces and a thick A2 blade- I would thoroughly recommend it. You can compare the old and new below.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mandolin necks—and more!

I seem to have 4 mandolin necks on the go at the moment and I just wanted to mention a few things that you might find interesting.

On the twin-point mandolins, I had been using my own slim variation of an A style head. However, I have had to increase the width of it accommodate using Alessi tuners.

Although the size of the tuners’ plate is standard, Alessi uses dome headed machine screws to hold the worm gear in place and this protrudes quite a bit, so you can see the problem below.

Here’s the same head with a set of Golden Age tuners from StewMac- no problem with the fit.

I thought that I’d get a set of Golden Age tuners to see what they are like. The trouble is that StewMac prices are much less competitive for me buying in the UK than they used to be- not their fault. You’ve got the exchange rate, international shipping, VAT at 20% when they get here and then DHL charge you £10 for collecting the VAT!!!!

And here's the new shape...........

I’m also preparing two Cuban mahogany necks for two more twin-pointers. This wood is wonderful. Most “Cuban” mahogany that you now get is plantation grown and it just ain’t the same!

This wood comes from the lid of a scrapped Victorian grand piano and I like the idea of the wood for a new instrument coming phoenix like from another. The lid was made in one piece and therefore is slab sawn; but imagine the size of the tree that it came from, it must have been huge! Against perceived wisdom it is also perfectly flat and straight.

What I do with these necks is use three pieces laminated together, with the grain of the middle piece running in the opposite direction to the outer pieces. This gives a neck great stability and also it gives the opportunity to turn the grain through 90 degrees and end up with quarter sawn wood!

Different size heads? A style for Charlie and F style for Sean.

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Monday, April 09, 2012

History Lesson

On my blog profile, I say that I made my first guitar when I was 14. In those pre-internet days there was very little information available about guitar construction. A magazine called Everyday Electronics ran a series of articles on building an electric guitar which I followed and from that built my first guitar (including making the pick-ups!) at school. I think that I then bought a Hofner from a junk shop for two quid which I renovated- painted orange with Humbrol enamel paints and made a nice marble effect Formica pick-guard!
Next, I built a bass guitar (a teak body with a Guild humbucker) which eventually became the first instrument that I sold. Anyway a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by John- a professional guitar teacher and musician, who bought that very same guitar. He kindly sent me this photo of him playing a gig in the 1970s on that very guitar!
John said that the bass helped set him on his way and I guess he set me on my way too.

Cheers John!