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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Working on the scroll

A bit of progress on one of the two scrolls over the weekend...I'll get both to the same state before cutting the channels where the pegs go. It also appears that I will have to make my own reamer (Touchstone tonewoods let me down). It will be a bit like Luke Skywalker constructing his own lightsabre, so I'll expect a "well done" from Darth.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


There's a bit going on here. The wood arrived from Touchstone (unfortunately the material for the ribs was missing) - Indian rosewood for the back and spruce for the front. Four of the pegs are also in the picture. The pegheads have advanced a little and I'm ready to start working on the scroll carving. The clock's ticking though, only 241 days left...

Monday, October 24, 2005


I've now ordered the wood for the back, ribs and soundboard, in rosewood and spruce respectively, from the ever helpful touchstone tonewoods. I have also bought two sets of Schaller adjustable pegs. I was torn between these and the traditional ones, so I hope I chose right. The wood for the top and bottom is a bit narrower than I wanted so I'll either modify the design a bit, or put a contrasting piece of veneer down the middle.

My birthday shot by the other day, and my family bought me a couple of the Siminoff books (this one and that one). The bluegrass mandolin looks very tempting for my next choice, or will the archtop guitar win out - next decade - arrgh.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The moulds

While I had the camera I took a shot of the mould. I still need to work out how to fix them to the base.

The heads roughed out

I roughed out the heads this afternoon.

A large lump of sycamore

The sycamore for the heads was ordered from Craft Supplies. They were out of stock of the size I needed, so I got this giant lump. You can see the template for a size comparison. I have quite a lot of sawing ahead of me! In the front are the two tail pieces in the making.


As a slight aside, I thought that I'd show the walnuts we harvested today. They should be dry for Christmas...

Headstock Plan

This is a my plan for the heads - I will need two. I was inspired by a violin from Beethoven's era, but I had to modify the scroll to suit the dulcimer design.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


I was quite chuffed this evening to find a couple of comments on my recent post. Ah-ha I though, someone has expressd an interest in courting dulcimer moulds...but no, it was just SPAM - advertising for free something or other. I have deleted them. I hope that there isn't some machine out there automatically posting comments to blogs.

The Mould in the making

I have grabbed half an hour or so and made a little progress on the mould. Once the other pair of mould edges are glued (in the back of the picture) I will clean them up and make sure that the two halves are identical. Then, I'm going to have to work out how to fix them to the base!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A tiny bit of progress

I have managed to find half an hour or so this evening and made a start on the mould. Two out of the four bits are cut out. Once the rest of the bits are made I will bolt them to a base board. I am hoping that it will be possible to reconfigure the mould so I can work on the top or bottom of the dulcimer, or to use it to make a single course one.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Ukulele Orchestra Great Britain

I heard this lot on the radio on the way home - playing at the Edinburgh Festival (I think). Radio 4 Live (30 min) Broadcast on Radio 4 - Fri 09 Sep - 18:30. If they are ever in the area I would love to hear them live.
Their web site

Sunday, September 04, 2005

6 doors

All hanging very nicely...but where's all the time gone?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Campanella Strings

Campanella Strings Highly pleasing...


My lovely wife has spotted the large lump of wood in the garage. This is hardly surprising as it's 8 foot long and 4 foot wide. "Are you making another musical instrument?" she enquired. "well...maybe" was all I could muster. I really must get those doors hung...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

More Supplies

I now have a large (very) sheet of plywood taking up most of my garage. I'm going to hack this up to make the mould for the dulcimer. However, some dee-eye-why is taking priority and I really have to get some doors hung first.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Start of the Dulcimer

Construction has begun with just 310 days left. I've made a start on the two head blocks (at the bridge end). My first attempt was rubbish - I cut the wood badly and, rembering the quest for perfection, I chucked it out. The current bits look better.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Rebetika No 1

I bought the CD of the above title in Kefalonia airport - it features Glykeria-agathonas and michalis genitsaris. It's rather good...

Fretboard Design

Dulcimer plans

Well, I'm back off holiday, and I did manage to do a bit of work on the drawings. I have decided to make the dulcimer in celebration of 20 years married to my lovely wife. This, I hope, will force the pace of the project and will give my until early July 2006 to get it finished. I have decided to make it quite ornate with, for example inlaid fretboards (two, since it's a courting dulcimer). I have finished the fretboard inlay design - it is a vine with 20 leaves representing...well it's not too difficult to work that one out! I also want to use a decorative binding around the edges of the instrument. It's my intention that doing this decorative work will help me with the archtop guitar(s?) planned for 2007....

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Dulcimer drawings

I'm going to try and complete my dulcimer drawings over the next two weeks. Pencils have been sharpened...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Plans plans plans

Just for the record, it is my intention to make a double course 'courting' mountain dulcimer next, and after that an archtop guitar, following Bob Benedetto's book. After that...

A well made cookie tin mandolin?
A violin?
An archtop mandolin?
A lute or a bowl-back mandolin

...though perhaps I'll never have time.

New Bridge

Monday, June 06, 2005

Bridge Making

Now that I've finished the mandolin, I've been able to make a new bridge for my bought one (Blue Moon, from Hobgoblin). I used the same compensated design (maple with a bone saddle), and I also made the slots in the nut a bit deeper to lower the action. It sounds much better now - louder and more resonant, although it's developed a slight buzz which I will need to fix by dressing one of the frets. Picture to follow in a day or two.

Friday, June 03, 2005

The finished instrument in its case

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Hard Case

I ordered a hard case from hobgoblin. They were most helpful (they had to do some measuring to make sure it would fit) and I am delighted with the case - my mandolin looks most comfy in it!

Monday, March 28, 2005

It sings!

Today I fitted the tuning machines and the tailpiece, and made a cover for the truss rod hole. I then strung the mandolin up to pitch and...played it. The strings still need a bit of time to bed down, and I will have to do a second fit of the bridge in a week or so, but I'm very pleased with the tone. Picture to follow in a day or so

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Bit of a crisis this evening. I went to put the next coat of oil on and found that the hook holding up the mandolin had broken and the mandolin was lying on the garage floor. There was a big chip missing from the back and worse still, when I tapped the back, there was a buzzing noise as if one of the tone bars had come loose. I felt very depressed all of a sudden as this would render the instrument into the equivalent of firewood... However, after a more detailed investigation I found that the buzzing came from the truss rod nuts which were not fully tight. Phew. I have now inlayed a small peice of sycamore into the back to replace the missing chunk. Its far from perfect, and looks quite ugly, but at least it will be playable. Next time... Anyway, to cheer myself up I am going to order a tailpiece from Hobgoblin.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Finishing with Oil

Here is my mandolin, drying after its third coat of finishing Oil. I thing that three or four more coats should do...

The slotted nut

The nut with slots. On the right hand side you can see the bit that kept breaking off.

The Bridge with bone saddle

I am quite pleased with the bridge. The only thing I'm a bit worried about is if I will need to trim too much off the bottom when the strings are fitted.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Filling some gaps

I'm ready to apply the finish now, but I noticed a couple of places where there was a small gap between the ebony bindings and the ribs (about 0.2 mm I think). I decided to fill these before proceeding with the finish, so I made a paste of 1 part ebony dust (made with a file) a 1 part quick setting araldite epoxy adhesive. I've applied this and will sand/scape it down in a few minutes.

Monday, February 28, 2005


Well, I dressed the frets without mishap, and then decided to cut the slots for the strings in the nut. All was going well until the bit between the two 'G' strings broke off and fell onto the garage floor (the bone is more brittle than I thought). After grubbing about in the sawdust for a bit, I gave up searching for it and made a new piece (it's about 3mm x 3mm x 3mm!) and stuck it in with superglue. After I had ground it down, I refiled the slots and knocked it out...onto the garage floor. After grubbing about... (you've heard this bit already). So I made another bit, and this time it seems to be fine. I am now ready to apply the finish - I've chosen Tru-oil, nornally used for the stocks of guns.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


I kept staring at the frets and in the end I decided that the were not good enough. Especially near the sound hole, several were sitting too high, so I ripped seven of them out! The slots needed cleaning out, and I refitted the frets after filing off the tangs, and then stuck them back in with the use of some superglue.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Friday, February 04, 2005


In daydreaming about making musical instruments I have been making a mental list of some of the tools I would like to have:

A safe-T planer for my drill press
A thickness sander
I may make my own, perhaps along the lines of the one in the stew mac catalogue.
Finger planes for when I carve an archtop instrument
A router table, perhaps an overhead pin router - maybe I'll make my own
A 1/4 sheet palm sander
A better way of getting rid of dust!

I reckon the list will grow

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Slow Progress

I have fitted the nut, and the first five or so frets. I had to refit the first one as it wouldn't go right in- I think the bottom of the slot had some glue or something in it. This bit is a bit more difficult than I thought!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bone Smells!

This afternoon I fitted the nut and made a bone saddle for my new bridge. Bone smells horrible when its worked (especially with power tools), and I also have the BSE question in the back of my mind as I generate clouds of bone dust. I have the vacuum cleaner running the whole time, but still I worry... The nut will be fine I think, but the bridge looks as if it will make the action too high. I may have to remove rather a lot of material from the feet and so will get close to the little winged holes.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

New Bridge

I have just made a new bridge out of hard maple based on the Red Henry design. I will add a bone saddle.

The snail inlay

I decided to put the the snail inlay in the mandola, and I'm glad I did - it didn't work out quite as I had hoped. When I sanded and filed down the silver wire it heated up and lifted out, so it got thinner and thinner. Finally it crumpled up, hence the repaired gap. Still, I've learnt something for the next inlay.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Machine heads

I have just ordered a set of Schaller Machine heads (M6 mini in chrome) - sixty quid (gulp). Also some bone for the nut and bridge saddle - nut and frets next...

Monday, January 03, 2005

Most of the woodwork is finished

The fretboard is glued on and I've tidied up and chipped off a bit of excess glue. I have found that if I sand the belly up to the edge, the dust from the ebony bindings stains the pine. The scraper seems to work better.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Fretboard & inlay

I've just glued on the fretboard, so an anxious six hours awaits. Also, I had a play with a an offcut from the Ablam shell. I have found that even a light sanding exposes areas of resin, so I'm going to hold off on inlaying the peghead at the moment.

Fully bound

It's been a productive day in the workshop. I have glued on and scraped down the ebony bindings. It was a bit messy, and there are a couple of very small gaps to fill. Also, it took ages to scrape down the excess, which I will have to remember for the next instrument. I have also made the wooden shim that goes under the fretboard, and shaped the end of the fretboard to match the soundhole.

The peg head inlay

While I was waiting for the glue on the bindings to set I had a crack at the peg head inlay. The spiral is silver wire and the rest is Ablam (shell & resin which comes in a sheet). The coulourful bit is abalone, and the whitish bits are green snail shell.