Friday, July 26, 2013

Hard at it!

All of the constructional work has now been completed on Nadim’s guitar. These last few stages have been really hard work in the current hot and humid weather conditions; it’s no fun wearing a dust mask at the best of times!
 One of the last details is making the bridge and one incredibly important aspect is ensuring that it matches the curvature of the soundboard. I find it best to the fit the underside of the bridge blank to the soundboard before it has been shaped to its final profile; that way you don’t tend to round off the corners which can lead to gaps.
 A white pencil makes a good indicator of any low spots, also it helps to use feeler gauges to check for any gaps that are difficult to see.
With the bridge shaped. I’ve started the French polishing process.
I’ve just the glued the carbon fibre rods into the necks of Adrian’s two instruments. As the necks are a bit longer and as there is more tension in the strings compared to a mandolin, I’m using a deeper (and hence stiffer) section of carbon fibre on these two.  Also with the OM’s neck being even longer than the tenor’s I’ve decided to use an adjustable truss rod as well- belt and braces! It was my intention to make a simple Gibson style rod until it was pointed out to me that Touchstone Tonewoods supply a great range of short length double action rods (thanks Tavy!).
I’ve been using Touchstone Tonewoods for many, many years and I must say that since they have got their on-line ordering system sorted out they are incredibly efficient at getting stuff out and at answering any queries. Give them a go and tell them Gary sent you!

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Standard V Now Sold

Standard V is now sold. It’s always an anxious 24 hours, once an instrument has gone out of the door so we were relieved to get an email from its new owner, saying, “The mandolin has arrived safely and it is fabulous. I'm really thrilled with it!”
Many thanks for that message Peter.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Making a neck blank

I’ve started work on Adrian’s double commission- a tenor mandola and an octave mandolin. I’ve just made the neck blanks and thought that you might be interested in how I made them. As Adrian wants the instruments to match, I’m making the various components out of the same pieces of wood.
For the necks, I started with a very nice piece of quarter sawn sapele. Now, if I were a factory, I’d bandsaw the profile out and job done! However, that’s not how I do it! By-the-way this procedure is the same for all of my instruments.
After some initial marking out I use my band saw to make the first cuts. Although my band saw is relatively small, once set up properly, it will cut 80mm thick hardwood.
Once the first cuts have been made, I mark out and cut the head joint. I always use a scarf joint at the head;  it is vastly superior in strength to any other method of producing the angle at the head as you do not end up with short grain across any part of the head/neck juncture.
At this point I also reduce the thickness of the head to about 13mm- close to its finished depth.
Before the head is glued on to the neck, I cut the neck, in two, along its length. If ever you have cut a piece of wood along its length, you will know that the two individual pieces can move relative to each other as internal stresses are relieved. I also take this opportunity to laminate the neck with some contrasting veneers. By relieving any stresses in the wood and then laminating with veneers you get a very stable neck.
 Once glued back together the blanks are trued up by hand to get them flat and square.
The back surface of the neck can’t be planed as the heel would get in the way. So here I use a Wagner Safe-T planer to flatten and thickness the neck. This tool is like a fly cutter for wood and is a bit scary to use, but works extremely well.

You can see the cut that it makes. Also you can now see the laminates of the neck; I’ve used thin black and thick white maple veneers as this will echo the binding around the front of the instrument.
The scarf joint is then carefully prepared; I said that this joint is vastly superior- the caveat being that it is done well!
When the two pieces of the scarf joint are glued together, they must be clamped down firmly to a work board. When you apply pressure to a scarf joint, as the clamping force isn’t perpendicular to the joint there is a tendency for the joint to want to slide apart.
 Once the head is on, wings are glued on to increase the width of the head for the tuners. Hopefully you can see why luthier built instruments should be superior!
Truss rods next……………….