Thursday, February 27, 2014


It surprises me that there is a bit of a trend to leave some instruments unbound. The bindings serve the very real function of protecting the delicate edges of the soundboard and back, and to me, leaving them out is inconceivable. Obviously, it’s a stage which takes a fair bit of time, care and skill to carry out, but is essential to the longevity of the instrument. Even my “Standard” mandolin is fully bound.
You can see here, on Alan's mandolin, how the rebates are routed into the edge to take the binding. 
I like to use solid wood which has to be bent using the bending iron. There’s nothing wrong with plastic materials, it’s simply that wood is currently my preference.
Cloth tape is the method that I like to use to hold the bindings in place whilst the glue dries. You can get a great deal of pressure with the tape and ensure a good bond. The only drawback is the 10 to 15 minutes that it takes Amanda and me to get it all untangled, once the glue is dry!
There’s a fair bit of cleaning up to do as all the binding is over-sized; it has to be scraped down flush with the rest of the instrument.
And here we are all bound up!

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Monday, February 24, 2014


What a great weekend we had visiting Luke, Louise and Jacob; and Amanda and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary.
Glad to report that Jacob has taken to the guitar although at the moment his style can best be described as percussive (watch-out Andy McKee!).
There’s something quite wonderful about playing a guitar that you made (in 1979) before you were married and before your son was born, to your grandson! As I said longevity!
You can read some more about this guitar in my archive.
 Meanwhile, back on the bench...
Once the fingerboard has been glued on, the playing surface needs to be generated. Firstly, it’s sanded flat and then chambered across the width; these days I do this entirely by sanding. You can plane the ebony but sanding completely eliminates the possibility of the grain tearing out. Keeping the spruce soundboard clean whilst sanding ebony can be a dirty business, so it’s wise to protect the top.
Ian is having slotted abalone diamonds as position markers. Before I glued the fingerboard on, I drilled pilot holes for the centre of the diamond. 
The shape is carefully marked out and then I used a dremel to remove the bulk of the recess; in order to get the sharp corners, the final fitting has to be done with a chisel. 
The diamonds are then epoxied in.......
 and after 24 hours cleaned-up to reveal.....
Next we carve the neck!
And here again is the progress on Alan’s bubinga mandolin. The next stage will be the bindings

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Coming Togther

Ian’s model 2 guitar is now coming together. As with all my guitars, the neck is joined to the body with a tapered dovetail joint; the female section in the body is routed using a jig, whilst the male section is cut and fitted entirely by hand. 
The alignment of the neck is, of course, critical and on a cutaway even more so, as one edge of the fingerboard has to line-up perfectly with the edge of the cutaway.
Once the neck has been glued in place (no clamps, just a good joint and gravity!), I continue the slot for the carbon-fibre rods into the body to make the joint even more rigid.
I often have a bit of a debate with myself about the end shape of the fingerboard; here it seemed natural to echo the curve of the sound hole. 
And after some more careful alignment, the fingerboard goes on.
 Don’t forget the two-way truss rod! Here you can see it installed before the ‘board is glued on; I like to protect it with PTFE tape.
 And then we glue it on……………
Inlays tomorrow!
In the meantime, Alan’s bubinga mandolin is coming together nicely too! You can see that the rim is complete, with my double thickness solid linings and the back has just been fitted to it.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Chisel rediscovered!

I think that all woodworkers, over the years, build-up a huge collection of tools; some indispensable, used daily/hourly whilst others languish unused. I bought this paring chisel whilst I was at the London College of Furniture in the 1970’s, and to be honest it’s been used very little! However, I’ve just rediscovered it and what a beautiful chisel for shaping braces! Although it looks monster its length allows for fine control.


Saturday, February 08, 2014

At last!

This week, I finally completed all the purflings and bindings on Ian’s guitar; and literally all-day yesterday was spent carefully cleaning up the body ready to cut the dovetail for the neck. It may appear to have taken a long time, but when you use cloth tape to hold the bindings in place, you can only glue one piece on at a time as the tape has to pull the binding down and in to the rebate, also I like to give ebony bindings a full 24 hours for the glue to dry. Here is the final result………….
Now whilst waiting for the glue, I haven’t been idle; the next two mandolins (for Alan and David) are now underway.
One of the pearl Ns being cut by hand.
PS Now up to 75 blog followers! Thanks for all your interest in my work.

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