Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Andy’s Hybrid Archtop

These are some photos of a full-size model of the proposed design for Andy’s new guitar. The out-line shape is one that I’ve been considering using for a while: I’ve always liked curvaceous shapes for steel strings and this seems a good opportunity to try it out.
Fortunately, Andy is a good friend, as well as client, and trusts my judgement; this will be the fourth instrument that he has commissioned from me!
The top will be carved from solid spruce, as an archtop, but as Andy wishes for rosewood back and sides, to match his other instruments, so the back will be flat and depend on the braces to give it a gentle curve. This form of construction isn’t as unusual as it seems, C.F. Martin built its C3 jazz guitars in the 1930s in the same way, complete with a round soundhole.
Electrically, there will be a Kent Armstrong magnetic pickup mounted at the end of the finger board and a piezo pick up under the bridge’s saddle.
As this is the first time that I’ve used this shape, the next step is to make the external mould ready to bend the sides and also source a nice piece of spruce for the top. Although, I’ve got a good supply of tonewood for classical and steel string guitars, I have nothing in stock for this. Maybe I’ll buy a couple just in case anyone else wishes to order one similar!
I need to start working out some more design details before I go any further with this commission. I imagine that this guitar will be ready some time next summer.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cremona and Antonia Stradivari

We’ve just got back from holiday in Italy. One of the main reasons for going was to visit Cremona.

As I’m sure you’ll know, Cremona was and still is the world’s centre for violin making.
For me, the highlight of the visit was the Museo Stradivariano; although this museum is dedicated to Antonia Stradivari, it has none of his instruments! What it does have however are his tools, templates drawings etc. You could literally start work building a violin with all the kit there. I hate the word “awesome” but it sums up the feeling that you get when you see this collection. To see the tools that were handled by the world’s greatest Luthier and maker of some the world’s greatest artefacts was just awesome! You could only take photos without a flash, so they're not as clear as I would have hoped for.

There’s also the violin museum (no photos allowed!) which has a fine collection by all the great makers: Stradivari, the Amatis etc. One stunning violin, a copy of the Stradivari “Hellier” violin, by Sacconi stood out because of its fine decorative inlays and I’m inspired to incorporate the design into a new mandolin. There are lots of copies of this Strad, this is one that I could photo (without a flash).

I have some wonderful maple that I’ve been saving for something special and this could be it!

It’s amazing how many luthiers work in Cremona; there are literally over 100 and as you walk around the town you keep coming across these very exclusive looking showrooms, with workshops in the rear. I have no idea how they can all make a living, but can’t help wondering if there is room for a guitar maker there. You couldn’t help but produce fine work, being constantly surrounded by such beautiful man-made objects and buildings.

One problem that we always have in Italy is that by the time we reach where we want to get to, everywhere is shutting up for lunch (12:30) and by the time they open again (3:30), we have to get the train back! Hence, instead of chatting to luthiers, peering through windows!

Watch this space for a Stradivari inspired mandolin……………back to the workshop! Ciao!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Completed Mandolin

The mandolin is completed and its new owner, Peter, has collected it. It’s always good to see the reaction on client’s face when they pick up the instrument that they’ve been waiting months for. It’s a great leap of faith to place an order with a Luthier and I always appreciate the trust that’s placed in me.

The spruce classical nears completion, as you can see the bridge has just been glued on. I find this stage the most nerve wracking. Having spent ages making and varnishing the guitar, the area where the bridge is glued on has to be scraped clear of varnish, back to bare wood. One slip and aaaaggghhh…..a wrecked guitar.

I’ve introduced a line of green into the latest rosette. I don’t normally like to use dyed wood, but the green complements the cedar front. The next stage is to remove the wood between the two sets of lines and inlay the mosaic tiles.

You may remember I mentioned a commission for an SG style electric. After many emails and ‘phone calls with Andy, the guitar has morphed into a Howard Roberts style jazz guitar. I think that the great thing about a custom built guitar is that the client can have a real input into the design process and end up with an instrument that suits his/her requirement exactly.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mandolin: first fix

Mandolin nears completion.

The mandolin is almost complete!! You can see it, on the bench ready for its “first fix”. The strings go on and then via an iterative process, the nut and bridge are slowly modified until the best possible action and intonation is reached. The bridge blank is made from Brazilin rosewood. A time consuming process, but it’s what makes quality instrument stand out from the rest!