Sunday, August 30, 2020

Just getting on..........

 I’m in the middle of applying the finish to Allan’s e-mando. It’s had a number of thin coats of Tru-oil applied and you can see how the grain is already greatly enhanced. A few more and we’ll be there!

Tip of the week! - I just made up this thingamajig, inspired by a fret-rocker, from scrap acrylic.

When carving a neck (archtop #4 in this case) you need to use a straight edge to ensure that there are no bumps or dips along the neck’s length. No problem on a guitar, but on a mandolin the distance between where the neck starts to curve into the heel and the angle for the head is comparatively short, so 150mm rulers etc don’t work; they’re too long to rest only on the neck, hence the thingamajig. Super handy!

And below is the finished neck- some lovely flamed maple, laminated with black veneer and sapele to complement the body.

So that’s the construction of #4 done- on to the setting-up etc.

As an aside, my favourite tool for shaping necks is a Japanese Shinto rasp and one that I’d unreservedly recommend. I noticed that my one hasn’t been cutting as efficiently lately, losing its sharpness, so I just bought a new one- and there’s quite a difference. 

Shan’t complain as the old one lasted 77 necks! Yep, I record that sort of stuff.

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Friday, August 14, 2020

Setting-up the e-mando

With all the “woodwork” completed on Allan’s e-mando, it’s time to get it set-up and playing. Setting-up an instrument is an iterative process; you’re constantly checking against an ideal and modifying until you get the desired result.

The nut has its slots cut roughly to depth (always too shallow, never too deep!). 

These days I prefer to use Tusq for nuts; being a homogenous material it is far less likely to chip or split whilst working on it. This is more of a problem on a mandolin’s nut than a guitar’s; as the string slots are so close together and the grain runs lengthways, pieces easily break off between the slots. Does Tusq affect the sound? No!

Then the bridge has a test fit. As Allan doesn’t require an under-saddle transducer, it makes sense to make an adjustable bridge. Small lengths of off-cut string are placed under the strings to get the exact break point for correct intonation.

The bridge can then be removed and refined.

With the bridge sorted, the action at the 12th fret can be set and then the nut can be worked on. 

Each slot is filed deeper and progress checked with feeler gauges until the desired action at the 1st fret is reached. 

As an aside, I’ve been using these special gauged nut files for years, and just storing in them in a drawer and then rummaging around to find the correct one. Not doing as many commissions has removed the pressure of time from me, so I took an hour or so to make this storage rack.

So much easier to find the file that you want- should have done this ten years ago! A lesson to be learnt!

Anyway, after toing and froing between the bridge and nut, the action is now at what I consider to be the optimum. I tend to leave and instrument for good few days to settle. If it’s ok and nothing’s changed then the finishing process can start.

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