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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Further Indulgence

I have downloaded the Audible sound recording open source software, and I am beginning to get the hang of it. I've now mastered two track recording (well...overdubbing), so I thought I'd make a festive recording with my mandolin (it seems tiny compared with the octave) in duet with itself. All I now need to do is to master the playing a bit better. Anyway, here it is - Silent Night.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


I fitted the carbon fibre reinforcing rods to the neck of the Les Paul, and made a start on the electronics. These are a bit confusing as I have got three diffrent wiring plans! Still, I've made my choice and done a bit of soldering. And now the indulgence...I thought I ought to have a soundfile of the octave mandola, so I've uploaded up a song - its written by Flogging Molly but mangled a bit here!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Les Paul gets a neck

I thicknessed one of my pieces of sycamore today, and with the bandsaw cut out three neck profiles (and a couple of 'ears' for the peghead). I glued them together with Extramite glue and clamped them up with loads of clamps. The cloth is there to catch the glue that is squeezed out. I'm a bit concerned about potential twisting (the sections of wood are not truly flat- or quarter-sawn) so I will probably fit some carbon fibre as well as the truss rod.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finished (almost)

I did quite a lot last weekend and made the truss rod cover and a bridge out of an offcut of ebony from the fretboard. I tried a new design for the bridge, and I'm pretty happy with the result.

I fitted the metalwork (tuners and tailpiece) and put the strings in place. I am delighted with the tone, it has more sustain that the smaller mandolin, but still has that mandolin 'ring'. The fretboard seems huge compared with its smaller cousin, and needs a much more active left hand.

Once it has settleed down, and the strings hold their pitch for more than half an hour I will need to refit the bridge and lower the action a little bit.

I can now concentrate on the Les Paul, but already my mind is wandering to the cittern, gittern and the next two mandolins after that...

Here is a close up of the bridge. It has a bone saddle which is at a slant to compensate for the changes in pitch as the strings are pressed down onto the frets.

This is the back - the walnut has taken the finish nicely.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Starting to finish

The octave has had a couple of coats of of Tru-oil now. It will take a few more coats until the grain if filled and the surface is really smooth.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Routing out

The Les Paul body weighs a little less now as I have completed routing out the cavities for the electronics and the 'weight loss' chambers.

I have also made a little spacer piece so that my Allen tailpiece fits a bit better to the octave mandolin.

The flash has exagerated the contrast between the colours (walnut and macassar ebony) a bit. The tailpiece has a radius of about 24cm, whereas the bottom of the mandolin is nearly flat.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Les Paul gets a body

A busy weekend with loads of sawdust. I took the great slab of ash and sliced it up then adjusted the thickness with my radial arm saw. I then glued the two halves together and after some further planing I cut out the approximate shape on my bandsaw. I used the template as a guide for the pin router and finished it off with the belt sander. Result.

I have been looking of the web at some of the 'chambering' that Gibson use to hollow out their guitars. My lump of ash still weighs a ton and would benefit from a bit of a diet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More Wood

I collected some wood from Goulden Hardwoods today, for the Les Paul. Some ash for the body, and sycamore for the neck. I was also tempted by a lovely piece of walnut (back and/or sides for a mandolin) and some cherry (I don't know where this will end up). Here it is in the back of the car with the body and neck templates on the top of the pile.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I've just ordered one of these...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What's left to do

I found time today to fit the last of the frets on the octave mandola. It's now pretty much ready to apply the oil finish (just some slots to cut in the nut first). After that, all that remains is to make a bridge, and fit the hardware.

I also made a braiding wheel today - a copy of the one my sister has. Its made from a piece of santos rosewood and seems to work quite well!

Finally, I'm hoping to pick up some wood for the Les Paul on Wednesday - exciting stuff...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ready to nut and fret

I have glued on the fretboard and shaped the neck to fit. After a bit of filling in gaps (I decided I don't like superglue after all - back to good old araldite) the woodwork is pretty much finished. I now need to make the nut, fit the remaining frets and make a bridge. Also, I have decided, in the end, to buy a metal (cast) tailpiece as I'w worried about the force from the eight strings breaking any wooden one. On the left is the the instrument as it stands:

Sunday, August 16, 2009


The fretboard shim has been glued in and I have fitted the position dots into the fretboard. I got these from Small Wonder Music, and they were excellent value. I have also fitted the last eight frets - these will end up over the soundboard, and tapping them in might cause problems if I fit them after the fretboard is glued in place (I learnt this on the last mandolin). I glued the dots in with superglue and used 'kicker' to set it hard - is seemed to work well.

I also made a start on the Les Paul
- only making a body template, but it's a start!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

It's been ages...

...since the last post. The octave now has bindings fitted, top and bottom. I experimented by gluing the bottom set in with superglue, but although it meant I could get on the scraping and sanding straight away, I think I prefer the slower setting 'Extramite' glue. I have also made the fretboard shim so everything's ready to glue on the fretboard itself and finish the neck.

I've also been looking through the plans for the Les Paul copy that I have promised to make for my older son's 21st birthday. I had better get started soon as there's only a year to go...

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm still in business

Just a quick post to say that the octave mandola is still moving along, I simply haven't had time to write any updates (well, I was probably too lazy). I have added some binding to the top, and cut the 'groove' for the binding on the back. I have also made the fretboard, but I won't fit this until all the binding is finished. Finally I've been to Halfords and bought some stainless steel brake cable. I'm going to use this to attach the tailpiece, 'cello-style - I have no idea if this will work!

Time is ticking on now, and I really need to get started on the guitar in August, as it will be one year from my older son's 21st birthday, and he might end up with no present...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sticking the lid on

It's really starting to look the part. I stuck in my label, gave the inside a coat of varnish and then glued the front on with extramite adhesive. The back and front overlap the sides, so the next job will be to trim these flush, prior to fitting some binding.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lots of pegs

Here is the obligatory picture of a host of clothes pegs - in this case affixing the lining. After this the front goes on, so I will have to remember to stick in my maker's label. I also glued the back of the cittern today, with its stripe down the middle.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cittern neck

This generated a great deal of sawdust, but it's looking quite good. The peghead is longer then the octave mandola to accommodate the ten tuning machines, and the neck is wider to give room for the five sets of strings. The fretboard is going to have a slight radius (30cm) to make this wider neck more comfortable. The strips in the fromt of the picture are the pine linings ready to be bent (these should do both instruments if I don't snap them during the heat bending).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Heel Cap

It was a bit fiddly, but I decided to fit a heel cap to the octave mandola as the walnut back wasn't quite big enough. I made this from some of the macassar ebony that I'm using for the fretboard and peghead veneer. I also fitted the truss rod to the cittern neck.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Starting to look like an instrument

I love this moment. I cut out the slots in the neck to accept the ribs and, for the first time I could see the shape and size that the instrument will have when its finished. After a few moments imagining the completed octave mandola, I glued it with araldite and left it to set.

I have also ordered the wood for the back of the cittern - once it arrives I'll have everything I need to finish both the Octave Mandola and the Cittern.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Necks

I've been busy over the Easter weekend and have made progress on the necks of the 'octave' and the cittern. I have made and fitted the ebony peghead veneer - the Macassar ebony is lovely to work with and the grain is more interesting that the plain black ebony. On the cittern neck (sycamore) I have put in the centre stripe of three layers of veneer and marked up to start fitting the trussrod. I have also been shopping and bought the tuners and fretwire from Stew Mac in the USA.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

More Supplies

I finally decided to go with Macassar Ebony for the fretboard and peghead on the octave mandola, and I've bought a couple of bits on e-bay. I have also decided to try and make an ebony tailpiece, along the design of those used on violins and cellos.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

neck and body

Things are starting to move on a bit now. I'm just about to glue the back on, and I've shaped the neck. I now need to order the wood for the fretboard and peg head (and maybe tailpiece). I was going to use Madagascar ebony, but I might try kingwood.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

On with the neck

I'm just fitting the truss rod to my walnut neck, and I have had to cut a thread for the first time. It turned out to be pretty straightforward...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Wood

Both instruments lurched forward a bit. The cittern belly got a set of braces (shown not quite finished here). When I have tidied up the two little braces I will be setting this one aside for a while.

I prepared the tailblock for the octave mandola from some of the alaskan spruce, and glued the walnut ribs to it. I am pretty happy with the joint. I also 'bent' a set of linings from some willow I had in stock (shown in the foreground of the photo). I will probably use these for the backs of both instruments, and make some spruce ones for the bellies. Or then again, I might use stick with just the willow.

Finally, I received a shipment of walnut from Paul at Goulden Hardwoods who was really helpful. I will be using one bit to make the neck of the Octave Mandola, and the other bits may well find there way into future mandolins...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Braces and Ribs

After the lads got beaten at football, I finished off the braces for the octave mandola. I then bent my walnut ribs and put them into the mould. The walnut bent quite easily, and looked really pretty when darkened in the water. The ribs were a little too long for the mould so had to do a bit of trimming and also take out one of the turn-buttons. I will leave the ribs to dry in the mould for a few days.

I have been looking around for some UK-based wood suppliers, especially with the dollare so strong, and I have a couple of leads. I'm trying out Yandles for some maple and sycamore (for the back braces), and contacting tonewood-suppliers to look for some fingerboards, back and neck wood.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Progress at last

I made good on my intention to get restarted on the instrument making, and over this weekend glued up the back of the octave mandola. The two bookmatched pieces are only just big enough and I have have no spare at all. There may be enough for the 'button', but this might have to be made from a separate piece of figured walnut.

I also glued the tone bars to the yellow cedar belly. I had forgotten how quickly the Titebond glue sets and had to scrape some half set adhesive off the bars when I made a hash of it the first time through. With the bars its better to use too much glue to start with and squeeze out the excess. It was much better on the second attempt.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back to the lutherie

I'm happy to report that the cloakroom is now done (except for wiring in the shower which I will get a proper sparky to do) and I can back to making instruments. I have sharpened up my chisels, plane irons and cabinet scrapers and I'm ready to go. I have even tidied up my garage to celebrate the start of the new year.

I have done some of the calculations (string tension, nut spacing etc.) and set these out on two design sheets (one shown to the left). Next I need to make the octave mandola back from the e-bay walnut.