Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I recently posted on the Mandolin Café forum that I was making a “tenor and octave”.  As Mandolin Café members are mainly USA based, this caused some confusion, as Shaw said, England and America are two countries separated by a common language!
In the UK the tenor mandola is the instrument which is tuned to a fifth below the mandolin, in the same relationship as that of the viola to the violin but in USA it’s simply called a mandola. It makes perfect sense to me just to call it a mandola, why use two words when one describes it accurately.
And of course many in the UK call the octave mandolin (USA) an octave mandola, which doesn’t make much sense as it’s tuned an octave below a mandolin and not a mandola!  D’oh!
This got me thinking about the naming of my instruments; so below is Adrian’s mandola with all the construction work complete.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What’s next?

With the construction of Adrian’s double commission nearly completed, it’s time to start preparing for the next instrument. This one will be a rather striking guitar for Ian, based on my Model 2 shape. If you’re not aware of my Model 2 you can see it here on my website.
The Indian rosewood back has been glued together; I like to use sash clamps for this task.
Once the back has been joined and taken down to 2.5mm thickness (did you spot the deliberate mistake?) a groove is routed, to take a decorative stripe.

This stripe is going to made up from ultra-thin black/red/black lines and abalone; the whole stripe (6 lines and the abalone) is just over 2.5mm wide. When you are doing fancy stuff, it really is a case of less is more!
The groove is routed with a dremel tool and then all the component parts are glued in with epoxy resin…………

……………..24 hours later and after a clean-up, here’s the result.
And although the stripe is very fine you can see below how it stands out against the rosewood back. Like I said, more is less.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Octave and Tenor: neck and neck!

Apologies for the pun! As you can see, both of Adrian’s instruments now have their necks and fretboards fitted and both have been fretted. The tenor’s neck has been roughly carved and will get its final shaping next week, whilst the octave’s is still square.
Whilst fretting, I’ve been using a fret rocker to test whether or not each fret is level with the previous one. I don’t know who invented the “fret rocker” but I bought mine from a chap in Portugal, who sells them on eBay. 
The differing lengths of the edges allows you to compare only three frets at a time (if the middle one is high then the fret rocker rocks) as you progress up the fretboard and the frets get closer and the straight edges need to be shorter. Checking each fret individually ensures that they are all seated properly.

 Apart from checking whether or not frets are level, it makes a great mini straight edge for all manner of checking. 

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tenor takes lead again!

The next step with Adrian’s pair is to fit the necks. The socket in the body’s end block is routed using a jig, but I always fit the neck by hand. This procedure involves some very accurate marking out and I thought that I’d show you this little collection of tools that I use.
You’ll notice that these look more like engineer’s tools and indeed they are; the close tolerances demanded in instrument making necessitate this type tool.
When you are fitting the neck on to the body you have to work from the centre lines of the neck and the body; there are no parallel edges or right angles in the world of luthiery. When checking alignment, I like to use a right-angle section of extruded aluminium as it’s self-supporting.
With a nice tight joint, no clamps are necessary, just glue- here you can see gravity doing the work!
And here we have a sneak preview of the tenor mandola with the fingerboard on and the pearl dots inlaid. I must admit from a purely aesthetic perspective, the longer scale and 14 fret neck work really well with my “standard" body shape. 
Frets next…………but before that, I’d better get the neck fitted to the octave mandolin!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A happy day

I finally caught up with John, to hand over his mandolin and here he is. He has got to be the best turned out mandolin player ever! I think that I’ll insist that all of my clients wear formal attire when they get their instrument!
Joking aside, I met John and his lovely wife Jane at their daughter’s wedding (congratulations to Kate and Paul!).


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Nadim's Hare and Adrian's pair!

I recently completed Nadim’s guitar and yesterday he drove down from Yorkshire to collect it. It’s always a treat to meet the player, with whom, over many months, you have built-up a rapport. I meet, in person, surprisingly few of my clients and often have to entrust delivery of our precious instrument to a courier company and although, touch wood, there has never been a problem, personal collection has got to be better all-round. Anyway below is Nadim’s first encounter with his new Hare signature model.
And here’s a little video......
................if you want hear what these guitars sound like, check out Phil's videos on YouTube.

The hardwood bindings have gone on to Adrian’s instruments; the bindings always define the shape of the instrument. What I do like (if I say so myself) is this fine black line which defines the joint between the maple bindings and the spruce soundboard. This line is only 0.12mm thick so it’s quite surprising how well it shows up. I think that I’ll coin a new luthiery term: micro-purfling!
And a few more choice photos for you............

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