Search This Blog

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Just so you know, this is the reason that I'm on my self-imposed luthiery ban. I still hope to have it finished by Christmas.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I'm currently 'fixing up' the cloakroom and so am a self-imposed ban from any proper luthiery - the tension is starting to build! So instead, I've been shopping with some birthday funds. I've bought a set of plans for a Gibson Les Paul, as a guide to building No. 1 son's 21st birthday present and a new set of nut files (all from the marvelous Stew-Mac). I also located a walnut back and sides set on e-bay, and it arrived in the post today. I like the contrasting colours, but it's going to be a tight squeeze for the octave size.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gittern Plans

This is my current plan - drawn out on holiday:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Soundhole cut out

I've now cut out the soundhole and the outline of the belly. I've also added some reinforcement on the inside to protect the fragile edge of the soundhole. Next to fit the braces.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


My sister has asked me if I can make her a stringed instrument suitable for playing at a Tudor historical recreation. I have done a bit of research, and the lute looks the most appropriate. However, I'm not ready to do a 'ribbed' bowl back instrument yet, so I will suggest a Gittern. These appeared in the 14th century, and didn't disappear until the 17th or 18th, so she shouldn't get thrown out for having an anachronism! I have also been given an electric guitar (belonging to a friend of my elder son) to fix - a bit of electrics and possibly a new set of frets.


I faced a bit of a challenge putting in the purfling which goes round the soundhole. I had been wondering for a while how to cut a neat oval channel. In the end I made a template out of some 1cm thick oak (from an old drawer side) and used this to guide a mini router. My practise attempt went well, but on the real thing the router bit slipped down while I was cutting and the channel was a bit too deep in one place. Still, no real harm done, and the fitted purfling looks quite good.

I will now cut out the soundhole itself (just inside the purfling, and re-inforce the inside with a strip of sycamore veneer.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Second Belly

The second belly is now glued up and thicknessed. I have also made the first set of braces (also shown in the picture). The little picture is a close up of the 'bearclaw' figure on the spruce - I can't say it looks much like anything done by a bear!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Nearly Oops

I have now marked out the treble bars on the correct side!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Belly work

The first belly is now cut out (including the soundhole). The photo is the inside with the positions of the braces marked out in pencil. I have already sawn the timber for the braces (spruce) and these now need shaping and gluing into place. My daughter will be glad when I've finished working on the yellow cedar belly wood as she doesn't like the smell at all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

First belly glued up

I have now glued up the two pieces of yellow cedar to make the first belly. I have just been in to the garage to take a photo and it has bowed rather alarmingly. I think that it may be something to do with the leather mat I left it on (the remains of our old leather sofa). Fortunately, the bow is the same way as the wood will be bent to make the belly and the joint is completely sound. The wood 'rings' quite nicely when I knock it. The yellow cedar seems more pliable than the spruce, and I wonder if this contributes to the 'mellow' tone that it is supposed to impart.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The bellies begin

Much excitement as my box of wood arrived from Alsaka. The company, Alaska Speciality Woods kindly included a magazine about Prince of Wales Island, where they are based - it looks very beautiful. Fishing appears to be the main pastime! I have given both sets of soundboards a tidy up with a plane.

The first picture is the yellow cedar - destined for the mandola. It has a strong scent which is particlarly noticable whent its being planed. I quite like it, but my daughter reckons it smells horrible.

The other picture is the sitka spruce for the cittern. The 'bearclaw' figure is quite light, but pretty nevertheless.

The next job is to 'shoot' the boards (plane them square for joining).

Saturday, May 03, 2008

My Stuff

My veneers arrived from Anita Marquetry (these will make the stripes down the neck), but I didn't have any luck at Craft Supplies - they don't seem to have anything in stock!
I have now ordered the tops from Alaska. One Sitka spruce (for the cittern) and one yellow cedar (for the mandola).

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I have started my big shopping session for the wood and other bits and pieces for the two instruments. The cittern (10 strings) will have a spruce front and maple back and sides, with maple linings and some purfling. The neck will be laminated maple, and the fretboard and peg head veneer will be ebony. The octave mandola will also have a spruce front, but with a walnut back and sides. The neck will be laminated walnut, and the fretboard and peghead will be maple (a bit unusual, I hope). I intend to sell one of these instruments (I don't think I mind which one) and reckon on asking about £500. I'd better make sure that they're top quality!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Why no progress???

Well, I'm waiting until I have enough cash to buy the wood, that's why. Anyway, I have, in the meantime made a new thickness gauge. I have also set upon the idea of making one of the two octave mandolas with five courses of strings, rather than four. The top course will be tuned to 'B', and I have calculated new string spacings, and tensions (I found a handy programme at I have got a feeling that this will make the instrument a cittern!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Octave Mandola(s)

Well, I've made a start on the octave mandolas. This is the mould, pictured alongside the mandolin mould. My objective is to make two, and sell one to cover the cost of the materials. I have also decided to make my oldest son a guitar for his 21st birthday - something based on a Les Paul. This gives me a while, but the clock's ticking...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Finished at last

Well, the mandolin banjo is now complete. I fitted the new set of strings and lowered the action a bit. I really like the sound - it suits blues well, but it can be a bit loud. I'm particularly pleased with the inlay around the rim - I think that I will try something like this on the octave mandola that's coming next.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mostly strung up

I finished the nut and made a new bridge this weekend. I strung up the the instrument, but unfortunately found I had no D strings! I have been playing it with just the E, A and G - it doesn't sound bad but it is quite loud so I'm expecting some complaints from the rest of the family. I'll get some D strings as soon as I can. The bridge will still need some minor adjustments to lower the action a tiny bit, and then it will be finished. Bring on the octave mandola...