Friday, July 28, 2017

Archtop mando update

I’ve just complete the back plate for my archtop mandolin project. If you follow the blog, you’d have seen the project bubble to the surface on occasions. Don’t worry it’s not a commission- there’s not some poor client somewhere waiting years and years for his instrument!
However, I have been thinking about the design for literally years, and now that  I’ve covered all the elements in my head and on paper, it’s high time to make some real progress.
Here are a few photos of the back plate carved, scraped and sanded and the rim. 
You’ll notice that I’m using mahogany for the back and sides, this wood is being re-used; it was originally a desk top. It’s extremely good quality wood and would be criminal not to give it a new life.
Here’s a little video that Amanda and I put together for your entertainment!

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Head Inlay

I’ve said it many times before and I make no apologies for saying it again- one of the greatest compliments you can get as a luthier is a past client coming back for another instrument. So, Amanda and I were delighted when Brendan decided to commission a new mandolin from me.
 Many of you will know Brendan for the wonderful video that he posted, playing what was then his new Nava cocobolo twin-point. That was about 5 years ago and since then Brendan has become a good friend and confidant.
You’ll have seen the neck blank in the previous post, well that’s for Brendan and over the coming months you’ll see his rather special build unfold.
He set me a little challenge for an inlay in the head overlay. Here’s a sequence of photos- A few stages are missing; once I'm in the zone, I find that I can easily forget about taking photos!
Many hours’s the final result. The red and green are made from reconstituted rock and the N from black pearl.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Making a Neck Blank

I thought that I’d show you how I make my mandolin neck blanks. For this one, I’m using some of my very old Cuban mahogany stock. It’s a “recycled” lid from a Victorian grand piano- I like the idea of a new musical instrument rising phoenix like from an old one. Unfortunately, I’m running out of it so not too many more!
It doesn’t look much at this stage but here’s one that I’ve been French polishing; beautiful!
 I always laminate my necks; this gives a much more stable neck compared to a single piece of wood- you’ll note that the central piece has its grain running opposite to the two outer ones.

After gluing the three pieces together they’re squared up and the head joint is prepared. I’ve always used a spliced head joint; it’s a far superior method as it eliminates any short grain in the head itself.
It’s a bit tricky to glue up; because as the glue joint isn’t perpendicular to the force applied by the clamps there is a tendency for the two pieces to slide apart. You can see below how I stop this.
Once the head has been glued in place and the blank trued-up again, the next step is to fit the carbon fibre.
I’ve been using carbon fibre to reinforce mandolin necks for well over 10 years now without any problems- I feel that an adjustable truss rod is unnecessary on such a short neck. The CF is epoxied in place with a strip of wood on top of it. These strips are to allow extra surface area for gluing the fretboard on with Titebond.  One thing that you must do is leave a small gap at either end of the carbon fibre to allow the excess epoxy to escape when applying clamping pressure. Why? Before the epoxy sets it’s a liquid and you can’t compress a liquid, so if it can’t escape the pressure will build-up and the neck can split- you only make that mistake once!
And here’s the neck blank awaiting its head overlay……….more anon.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

David’s Standard mandolin

David’s Standard mandolin has now been completed and was shipped out to him earlier this week. I think we were both delighted with it!

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Sunday, July 09, 2017


By way of a change…………..


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Twin-point available

You may have seen the cocobolo twin-point that I’ve been building recently. I’m just in the middle of French polishing it, and sadly my client has had to cancel the order due to ill-health: Amanda and I send him all our best wishes for the future.
This means that in about 6 to 8 weeks time, I should have a cocobolo twin-point completed and ready for sale. The last time I had one of these available was in 2009! So if you wish to circumnavigate my 10 to 12 month waiting list this could be for you. For more details send me an email (you’ll find the address on my website). I should add that due to the new CITIES regulations this mandolin can only be sold within the EU.

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