Thursday, August 25, 2016

A trio of rims

Just to complete the story, here are all 3 rims.
The twin-point rim takes a surprisingly long time to construct as there are 17 separate pieces to be fitted together, glued etc!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ten Years On

Would you believe that it’s ten years (almost to the day) since my first blog post? If you’ve been following the blog all that time, many, many thanks for your support. The first entry back in 2006 saw me working on a couple of classical guitars and over those past ten years things have evolved to the point where I’m now making mostly instruments from the mandolin family. Anyway, let’s not get all nostalgic! On with the show!
I’m currently working on rims. What’s a rim; well that’s my collective noun for the assembly of sides, blocks, linings and end graft.
All of my rims are essentially the same-

  • solid wood sides bent using a hot iron,
  • a plywood tail block to join the sides at one end (plywood resists splitting when fixing the tailpiece)
  • the neck block- joins the sides at the neck end and is sturdy enough to take the neck joint
  • linings- these increase the surface area for gluing the soundboard and back to the sides
  • the end graft- the decorative insert where the ends of the sides meet.
Here’s the completed rim for the carved top- note the neck block is spruce to cut down on weight, but is laminate from 3 pieces to resist splitting.
This will be going on the back burner for a while, whilst I progress with commissions.
You can see some of the step’s of “rim making” here with Phil’s OM.
Sides being bent-
Tail block glued in position-
Linings going in-
There are quite a few styles of linings; my instruments have evolved to having a double thickness of solid linings. This equates to 8 separate pieces being bent and glued in place- a time consuming process but well worth the effort in improving the overall quality of the instrument.
And the completed rim.
Patrick’s twin point is more complicated! Each side is made up from two pieces which are held together at the point with a spruce block (just like the points of a violin).
In order to protect the end grain at the points, a piece of ebony is glued on and shaped to blend in with the curve of the sides (believe me, this is easier said than done!).
And eventually we get to this- the four side pieces held together by their respective blocks- next step the linings.
And the next ten years.....?

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Sunday, August 07, 2016

A couple of dates for your diary-

Two of the above bands; The Fried Pirates and The Tildens have members who are friends and "Nava" users. You may remember Adrian of the Fried Pirates? He has had a number of instruments- mandola, OM and zouk. And the lefty emando that went out a few months ago is played by Chris of The Tildens (new links to their website on the side bar). Looks like a great weekend.
And the incomparable Phil Hare’s Under the Bridge gig and workshop; more details on Phil’s website.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

So what's next?

With Rob’s and Paul’s mandolins safely collected, work on the next two commissions starts in earnest. These two, Philip’s Octave mandolin and Patrick’s twin-point mandolin, are both coincidently bound for Southern Ireland.
Below are the two rosettes; as you’ll see Philip is having a herringbone rosette and Patrick a pearl dot and diamond design.
Patrick has also opted for an “F” style head, this design has proved very popular since its introduction (twin-points only!) and here’s the finished head with a rather wild cocobolo head overlay.
On instruments with longer necks, I often prefer to use maple as it’s just a wee bit stiffer. I recently got hold of this very nice board of flamed maple and I always feel that it so important to get as much out of a board as possible- not just from a business point of view, but to show respect for the tree that was felled.
So, planning! Here you can see the two pieces that will be laminated to form the neck, the spliced head, fretboard wedge and a piece for matching bindings; that should leave enough for a couple of future mandolins!
By now, you should be aware of my passion for tools. This specialist Veritas bevel-up plane is absolutely wonderful for highly figured wood; compounded in this case by having the grain of each piece of piece running in opposite directions. The cut is so, so clean!
A few days later and the completed neck, this one with a beautiful jet black ebony head overlay, which will tie in nicely with the herringbone. 
 And here we are……
You might notice that there are three necks here; remember that carved top?

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Thursday, August 04, 2016

Now playing: The Dandy Horses

Amanda and I were delighted to receive this great album in the post today:  “Tales from Hard Luck Town” by the Dandy Horses. If you’re a regular blog follower, you may recall that I made Sean a cocobolo twin-point about 4 years ago. Sean plays his mandolin on 5 of the tracks and it was incredibly kind of him to send the CD to us.
The Dandy Horses have been described as, “One of Northern Ireland's fastest rising folk bands” and listening to the CD it’s clear to see why. Here’s a link to their website if you’re interested in having a listen!
Good luck Dandy Horses!