Friday, May 27, 2011

Geoff's OO nears completion

The bridge (the design of which was discussed in a previous post) was glued on to Geoff’s OO this week. As I’ve said before and make no apologies for saying again- this stage is the most nerve wracking of them all. There are so many opportunities for completely wrecking all of that hard work; what if you drop something on that polished soundboard, what if you glue the bridge in the wrong place!!!!

Assuming the bridge fits the contour of the soundboard, the first task is to mark out where the bridge goes- if, like me, you cut your saddle slot before gluing the bridge on, you have to take into consideration the compensation needed for correct intonation. The marking out is achieved with masking tape, a soft pencil, various rulers and straight edges. One quality that you need to be a good luthier is spatial awareness; you don’t have any straight edges to take as datum- everything is measure from an imaginary centre line that floats about 7mm above the soundboard.

Once I’m happy with the position, I cut around the bridge with a scalpel; through the masking tape and polish and not into the wood.

The next step is to scrape the polish away from the exposed area so that you get a good glue joint. Notice that I’m wearing cotton inspection gloves; I always wear these once the guitar has bee polished to protect its surface from accidental scuffs and fingernail marks.

With all signs of polish removed, the bridge can be glued on- I like to use Titebond for this and have never had any problems with it. The tape stops the bridge moving until the glue grabs. A top-tip is to fold back the end of the masking tape on itself- that way you have something to easily get hold of when removing the tape. The tape comes off before the glue hardens so any glue that’s oozed out should come off on the tape.

Next step- get it playing!

The Standard Mandolin

The Standard mandolin is coming along nicely too. The flamed maple body has been bound with cocobolo which makes a stunning combination.

Cocobolo is also going to be used for the fingerboard and bridge so it should be quite a striking looking instrument when it’s complete. The simplicity of the mandolin is really growing on me and that coupled with the light colours of the tonewoods used, seems to give the look of an early stringed musical instrument.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Guitar and Mandolin Making Tuition

Guitar and Mandolin Making Tuition

I’m often contacted by enthusiasts who either wish to become luthiers or are having problems with a particular aspect of their guitar building. I guess that my openness in this blog and my YouTube videos encourages this kind of contact. I’ve often toyed with the idea of running guitar/mandolin making courses but I don’t think that with my current workload it would be possible to run a course where someone builds a complete guitar. However, what I would like to offer prospective luthiers is some individual tuition in certain aspects of lutherie; maybe someone is having difficulties with bending sides or fitting backs or French polishing etc. So if you are having issues with your guitar/mandolin making and wish for some specialised tuition please contact me (contact details can be found on my website) and hopefully I can arrange a tutorial to suit your needs. The rate for such tuition is £25 per hour.

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Day in the life (well Friday afternoon!)

Something a bit different; a glimpse into my workshop !

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Standard Mandolin (part I)

Recently, I mentioned that I’m putting together a new mandolin; The Standard.

As I said before, time is the most expensive component of any hand made instrument, so I’m hoping to keep the construction straight forward- cut down on the time- hence keep the price down. BUT still build to a high quality and use the construction techniques which I believe make for a better instrument.

Well, here are a couple of pictures of the progress so far. For the head shape I’ve resurrected a style that I used on some steel-string guitars many years ago.

The beauty of this shape is: one, it’s fully functional. Mandolin or guitar tuners should (unless you’re using a slotted head) always converge, I can’t understand the Martin style headstock where the tuners diverge- this means that 3rd and 4th strings can snag on the tuners of the 1st and 6th strings.

Secondly, as all the edges are straight, the head can be planed to shape. I estimate that this shape probably saves around 1 hour compared to my curved head shape that I use on the twin-point mandolin. Also no inlay- saves two hours!

Talking of the twin-point, the Standard shape is based on the twin-point minus the points which gives the traditional tear-drop design!

The vibrating area of the soundboard is virtually same as the twin-point, as is the internal volume, so the lack of points will not have any affect on the sound. But again there is a saving of time. When I make the twin-point, the sides are more complicated to bend, supporting blocks have to be fitted to hold the sides together, the linings are more complicated to bend and fit too. Once the body is made there is also a lot of time taken up with the bindings and in particular cutting mitres in the purflings. So not having points probably saves around seven hours work.

You can see that I’m still using solid linings and an X-braced back, the same proven construction as my twin-point.

So far that’s a ten hour saving- whatever your hourly rate is, you can see the lack of embellishments will have a favourable result on the price without build quality being compromised.

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