Sunday, October 28, 2012


Over the years, I always had a variety of instruments to make at any one time and therefore have never really been in the position to make batches of any one component. Making three mandolins, all the same shape, has allowed me to do this recently and it certainly is more efficient. Take these three necks; they all need to be routed take the carbon fibre reinforcement.
So you get the router and jig out, set-up the cutter this takes the same amount of time whether you are going to route 1, 3 or 50 necks. Even cutting the CF to length, hack saw out, marking out and cleaning up the dust afterwards- time saved.

To ensure accuracy, I use one of these jigs from StewMac to drill the holes for the tuners. 
The holes are drilled ¼” for the tuners shafts but then the holes have to be counter-bored to 8.2mm to take the bushes. Having 24 holes to counter-bore, inspired me to make this simple jig. The steel tube is aligned with the drill, the ¼” hole slips over the tube, toggle clamp to hold it firmly and drill. The phrase involving old dogs and new tricks springs to mind.

 And here are the 3 completed heads.
Respect for materials.
You’d have noticed that all of the heads have wings glued on to them. The head is the widest part of the neck and it would be such a waste of valuable resources to have the whole neck blank the same width as the head.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Standard Mandolins?

I’ve had a few emails from people wanting to know what’s happening with the Standard mandolins, well… here’s an update for you.
First, the Standard Plus: the body has now been fully French polished and whilst that is hardening off, I’m applying a few coats of Tru-oil to the neck as I want to go for that “speed” neck feel. In all truthfulness, the raw wenge neck has such a wonderfully smooth and hard texture that you could get away with no finish. The wenge with a coat of oil on looks like dark chocolate- good enough to eat! Although, the photo doesn’t do it justice!
 Anyway, my intention was to offer this one up for sale once it had been completed, but it’s already been snapped up and will be off to James in the West Country in a few weeks’ time.
 As far as the standard “Standards” are concerned, number IV has been pre-order by Tristan; this gave him the opportunity to choose the tonewood for the back and sides.  With the current interest in my mandolins, I thought that I’d build three at the same time and so I have been preparing the wood whilst waiting for the glue to dry on John’s and the polish to dry on Sean’s twin-points!
 So what we have here are the three backs; English walnut for the next Standard Plus, figured maple for Tristan’s Standard and Brazilian mahogany for Standard V.
All the soundboards are from some very nice, stiff European spruce. The two Standards have the sound holes bound whilst the Plus has a rosette- this one using walnut in the centre.
Prepping three soundboards together brought home to me how much extra time is consumed making a rosette. As you probably know, with the Standard mandolin, I try to save time in order to reduce the cost to the customer; believe it or not this rosette took around three to four hours to do, so whatever your rate of pay, hopefully you can appreciate my rationale.
And as you can see I’ve also been prepping wood for the necks. As always laminated for extra stability, the Standard plus has green and walnut laminations to match the rosette, Tristan’s maple and rosewood to match the body’s tonewoods, and simple black lines for Standard V. By-the-way, the heads haven’t been glued on here.
 Here’s the spliced head going on Tristan’s.
If you’d like one of my standard mandolins you can pre-order by contacting me, via my website. 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guitar making mould/former for sale

I’ve been having a bit of a sort out in my store room and came across this mould that I made about 5 years ago and no longer use. Unless you have the resources, moulds are a real chore to make, so I thought that I’d put it up on eBay (link at the bottom of this post) in case someone could make good use of it.
The dimensions for the overall shape of the body are:
Body length 505mm, upper bout width 270mm, waist 225mm and lower bout 370mm.
The mould itself is 75mm deep and can be spilt in to two halves, which I think makes life easier when working with freshly bent sides that haven’t been cut to their final length.  The halves are held together with plywood plates and machine screws- there are threaded metal inserts in the mould to take the screws. The mould is varnished to protect it from moisture and to reduce the likelihood of gluing your guitar to the mould! This is built to last!

Here are a couple of photos of the guitars that I made with it. Although they have a 12 fret necks, the shape should work as well with 14 frets.

If this sells it will help rationalise the number shapes that I offer-Models 1 and 2, Hare signature, parlour guitar, 12 fret OOO style, 14 fret OO style, Gibson style jumbo, classical, baritone uke, twin point and standard mandolins! Yup, I think that I can spare a mould!

If you are interested in this mould, I'm after £50, which includes mainland UK shipping.- Send me an email via my website. Cheers Gary


Monday, October 01, 2012

Thoughts on X-bracing

Sean’s twin-point is going through that process of waiting for the polish to harden and the Standard Plus is being polished. That’s happening in parallel with construction of John’s twin-point’s soundboard.
The vast majority of steel-strung, flat-top instruments use some kind of variation of X-bracing. The X is the main structural support of the soundboard and therefore needs to be strong; however for an instrument to be responsive it also needs to be light. Here’s how I do it.
Firstly, some accurate marking out is called for-
Then the notch has to be cut-out; use a razor saw for this to get a really clean cut.

After a chisel has been used to chop the waste out, I use needle files to clean up the notch. 
A notch is cut in both of the braces that make up the X. You might be able to see that wood has compressed slightly due to the tightness of the joint.

This is what you are after-
When you cut out the notches, it is important that you get the depth of them spot on. Too shallow and one of the braces will not make contact with the soundboard. Too deep and the bottoms of the notches will not touch each other; remember that this is the only point on the X- brace where end-grain is not involved in the joint and you want to get the maximum benefit from it.

I like to glue one brace on first…

...and then the other- notice that I prefer to use clamps rather than go-bars- once the glue is on, these joints are so tight that you need the force from the G-clamp to press it fully home.

In order to re-enforce the joint a patch of spruce is glued on the top. I hate seeing the X reinforced with a piece of muslin soaked in glue!
Note that throughout this process the braces are left square; only once the patch is glued on, do I profile the braces.

Now this is a very pedantic way of doing the X, but if you are going for lightness in construction you must build with the utmost accuracy if you want your instrument to last.

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