Wednesday, August 26, 2015


In the workshop, you have to plan your day, so that you can get the most out of your resources; in my case the limiting factor seems to be space and clamps! Also you need to work on one item for as long as you can before gluing it up and having to wait for the glue to dry.
So what happened on Tuesday.
First things first; switch the bending iron on so that it can warm up.
Next unclamp the mandolin; the back was glued to the rim on Monday.
Next clean-up the solid linings that were glued to the guitar’s sides.

 That all done, the bending iron is hot enough to bend the next piece of lining; then glue it in place. 

On Roland's guitar there are 12 separate pieces to bend and glue, so it has to be done over the course of a few days.
Next, shape the two braces that have been glued to the guitar’s back and then glue on the third.

Mark out the bracing pattern on to the guitar’s soundboard, make the bridge plate and sound hole reinforcements.

Glue the bridge plate in place.
Both of Roland’s instruments will have ebony bindings and I prepare these from ebony stock; very time consuming and grubby work!

 As we’re getting near the end of the day, the solid lining that was glued up about 6 hours ago can be unclamped, the second piece bent and laminated to the first.
 The soundboard is glued to the mandolin’s rim.
The guitar’s bridge plate is dry so the first sound hole reinforcement can be glued on- much later in the evening I’ll go in to the workshop and glue on the second.
 That was Tuesday…….

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The answer!

Firstly, congratulations to "Anonymous" who correctly guessed the mystery picture; a block for the Florentine cutaway for Roland’s guitar! So close Joe!
And here it is being glued in place.
It looks a bit crude at this stage, but trust me, I’m a luthier. More on this once the guitar’s rim has been completed.
Talking of rims, below is the completed rim for Roland’s mandolin. You can see the double thickness solid linings that I like to use and the two end blocks glued in place. Plywood is my prefered material for mandolin tail blocks;  you must use something that will not split when you screw the tailpiece on.
Here are the two dot and diamond rosettes with the sound holes cut-out.
And, as far as the mandolin is concerned, the story so far.
Just in case you were wondering; the new/old plane is performing extremely well- just used it for the final graduations of thickness on guitar’s soundboard.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Today’s Mystery Picture

Here’s a component for an instrument that’s currently on the bench; I just loved its sculptural form. I wonder what it is……………..

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Stanley No.4 smoothing plane

In the last post, you’d have seen the plane that I recently bought at a local market. It was a great find; I'd been thinking about getting a No.4 for a while. My main plane has always been a No.5 Jack which was given to me whilst I was still at school, so I guess that I’ve been using it for around 40 years (gulp!). I just fancied something to fill in the gap between the Jack and my block planes.
As you can see it was quite rusty and unloved; therefore it was stripped down completely, every part cleaned up, handles re-polished etc.
The sole of the plane was cleaned up and flattened by rubbing it against some abrasive paper stuck down to keep it flat.
The blade needed a couple millimetres ground off its end as it had been poorly sharpened by its last owner. The back surface of any cutting tool should be a mirror finish to enable you to get the sharpest edge. Below you can see how the back surface is gradually improving by using a sharpening stone.

I use three grades of stone, with the final honing being done on a hard black Arkansas stone which gets you a surgically sharp edge. I like to test its sharpness by seeing whether the blade will shave the hairs off my arm!
The cap iron also needs to have a very clean edge, to stop any shavings getting wedged between it and the blade.
And after a few hours work, we have a very well set-up plane with just the right amount of patina to show its age. I’ve no doubt that I’ll be using this plane for the rest of my life!

Thursday, August 13, 2015


A good haul this weekend!
A turnbuckle…..
….which is just the right size! 
This is far neater than using lots of clamps to hold the sides.
This great little hand vice- you would not believe how dirty it was!
And last but not least a Stanley No. 4 smoothing plane, I’ve been fancying one of these for a while! As you can see it’s in need of some tlc, but I love the idea of bringing old tools back to life and using them for the purpose that they were intended. 
More on this plane later!

Friday, August 07, 2015

Roland’s Pair

With the mandola safely with Peter and the French polishing on the mandocello well underway, it’s time to get cracking with Roland’s double commission. I’m making him a Standard Plus mandolin and a rather interesting guitar. Rather than trying to describe the guitar here and now, I'll let you see it evolve over the coming weeks!
 Below you can see the process of making the matching pearl dot and diamond rosettes; as you’ll see, the mandolin has a red spruce top and the guitar, cedar.
The groove for the rosette is routed and the purflings are glued in place. I made up these tiny spring bronze clips to hold the purflings in place whilst the glue dries.

What I like to think of as the ugly duckling stage……..
And the beautiful swans!

The neck blanks have been made; the mandolin’s from sapele and the guitar’s from Honduras cedar. The mandolin’s head is fairly straightforward to make and but the guitar has a slotted head which takes far longer. As the guitar is nylon strung and as there will only be four strings, we’ve decided to use Schertler individual tuners. These are really lovely tuners and as I’ve not used them before, a bit of design work and prototyping was called for…….

 And then on to the real thing.  The best way to cut slots in a head is with a router, using a template and template cutter.

It’s a good idea to remove most of the waste with a drill; with a template cutter you have to route to the full depth in one hit so you don’t want to overload it.

Then some fine hand work to cut the ramps…
Although I wanted the heads to kind of match I also wanted the guitar’s to look more “classicalesque” hence a little detail at the corners (you'll have to zoom in to see it!).
The back and sides of the mandolin are Pau Ferro. I’ve not used this wood before, but it has all the right properties and a tap tone similar to cocobolo.
 The sides were bent with some trepidation; having bent cocobolo and Honduras rosewood, I know what a swine some of these South American woods can be to bend. However, the pau ferro was so compliant; as easy as walnut!
And here's the tail block being glued in place; as the tailpiece is screwed to the tailblock, I like to use plywood thus eliminating any risks of splits.
Last but not least two very nice backs.