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Thursday, December 30, 2010


This is the gittern soundboard being glued up. I made the adjustable base-board to save hammering pins into any old bit of wood I find around the workshop - I'm pleased with it. I was less pleased when I carelessly snapped the newly glued soundboard when I was planing it to thickness. Luckily, it snaped right down the middle, and I was able to re-joint it. Take more care..!

I have planned the bracings and rosette and made a start on them - more in the next post.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Neck Joint

I cut the neck joint today. I'm working out the details as I go, and I decided to move the nut position to make it easier to play notes at the first fret. Once I have drilled the holes for the pegs (eight of them) I will glue the pegbox on with araldite.

I've also been thinking a bit more about upcoming is the current list:

Finish the Gittern
Finish the Cittern
Bowlback Mandolin
Parlour Guitar (for daughter)
Tenor banjo with wooden soundboard
Cherry Mandolin
Electric Micro mandolin

...but I sure that this will change !

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A bear head

More progress on a few different fronts. First, my soundboards arrived from Alaska. I like the quality, but the import duty is really steep. I will be using a Sitka spruce one on the gittern. I have some others for my bowlback project, and a cherry wood mandolin I've had some vague thoughts about.

Secondly, I have made some progress on the pegbox - I'm quite pleased with the bear, even if he does seem a bit stern.
And lastly, I have been bidding for (and have just won) a baby milk warmer on e-bay. "Why?"you ask. Well, I will be gluing the gittern together with hide glue, and I will use the warmer to keep the glue at the right temperature. It's a bit cheaper than buying a more traditional glue pot.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Even more like a spoon

I have now hollowed out the bowl of the gittern and added a little relief carved snail to mark it as my own. No date though otherwise my sister might get caught in an anachronism.

The bolwback arrived safely. I am going to make some technical drawings and then take it to bits so I can figure out how it was put together. I'll then make one of my own (and might be able to restore the old one too, who knows).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A big spoon

I have worked on the gittern body shape, and it now looks like an oversized wooden spoon! There's still a bit more to come off the neck area, and the bowl is yet to be hollowed out. Still, it's progress.

Meanwhile, I have finally got around to buying (on ebay) an old bowlback mandolin. I will use this to start preparing plans to construct one of my own in the future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A new start

I have just made a start on the gittern for my sister. I sawed up the great lump of sycamore that will become the bowl and neck and started the shaping. Learning my lesson from the Les Paul I have made use of a router as well as my trusty bandsaw. It's also birthday season and I now have a copy of Robert Lundberg's book on lute construction, which is fantastic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I took the day off work today and managed to complete the Les Paul guitar (with only a few days to spare!). The truss rod cover was fairly straightforward, but I had to make some major modifications to the bridge which was too high. I am fairly pleased with the final result, and I've certainly learnt a lot - I hope the lad likes it...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nearly there...

I fitted most of the ironmongery today. There's just the nut (and truss rod cover) to make and fit, and some soldering to do before I get to fit the strings and see how it sounds. I just remembered that I need to order some strings

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On with its neck

The mission for this weekend was gluing on the neck (using lots of Araldite - the proper slow setting stuff). This went without a hitch, and once it was well set I sprayed some dark brown nitrocellulose to blend the colour of the joint (I thought that the colour transition was a bit too harsh before). The whole thing is now getting a few more coats of clear nitrocellulose. I also made a pickguard fron some ebony to match the fretboard - I'm quite pleased with this!

The flash makes it look a bit redder that it looks under natural light, but it shows up the quilting on the maple very nicely.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I am now in the process of spraying the nitrocellulose finish to the body and neck. After sanding everything down about 6000 grit, I sealed both with a coat of shellac (Zinsser Bulls Eye). I have been spraying the back of the body with layers of a mid brown (a couple of coats each evening), and I'm now happy with the colour (the finish is from Manchester Guitar Tech). The neck has been coated with a lightly tinted gloss. I have also sprayed a couple of coats of clear gloss to the front prior to attempting the cherry sunburst. So far so good!

Also, I have started soldering the electronic bits together.

I really feel the clock ticking now as August approaches...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


The task for this weekend was fitting and dressing the frets. With the binding on the neck, the frets needed to be undercut. I used a special tool from Steward Macdonald - it made job much easier. I'm beginning to feel the time pressure now.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"I see you have constructed your own fretbender, young Skywalker"

I've mostly been gardening at the weekend, but I did manage to make a fretwire bending tool. It worked fairly well (that's the bent fretwire in the picture).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Starting to look the part

I haven't updated in a while, but I've been making steady progress when time is available. The new bandsaw has been a real boon - I think that this will be a great workhorse in the garage. The neck is now mainly complete - just the frets to fit and a truss rod cover to make. The most recent change has been the addition of the side dots.

The body shaping involved a lot of planing, scraping and sanding and I think it looks quite nice. I've fitted the binding and I still HATE this plastic stuff. I know it's more authentic, and is easy to scrape flat, but the gluing is ever so fiddly and I always seem to be left with some gaps. These have been filled with epoxy, but I'm going to 'stick' with wood bindings in future!

The pictures show the neck in place, but there's no glue involved - I will apply the sunburst and finish (nitrocellulose from an aerosol can) to the neck and body seperately.

Friday, April 02, 2010

'ello John, got a new bandsaw

I'm now the proud owner of a new bandsaw - I needed something a bit more manly than my old one so I could make book matched fronts for mandolins and guitars. Here it is, about to resaw the front of the Les Paul.

I've glued the two halves together, fixed them to the back, and routed out the cavities for the pickups.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Well, the neck is now shaping up; the bindings are on (I remembered that I hate plastic bindings), and I have shaped the neck profile. I will put in the side dots next, but I'm going to leave fitting the frets until the neck is in place (unless I work out that this is a dumb order). My lad has checked the the neck profile fits his hand comfortably.

There was a minor issue with the wood for the front, as it turned out that the piece I wanted wasn't in stock, but I am happy with the alternative, a nice bit of quilted maple.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


I have now finished the mother of pearl inlays on the fretboard. Here it is after all the little cavities were routed, and in the other picture everything is glued in and sanded flat. I also sanded a radius onto the fretboard.
I used a home made sanding block with the correct radius hollowed out , and with a coarse grit paper it didn't take much effort to get a nice rounded profile. I finished off by smoothing it with my micromesh pads. Finally, I prepared the tenon where the neck will join the body. The next job is to glue the fretboard into place and complete the binding.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


I have ordered the wood (from for the top of the Les Paul. It appears to have a strong quilt figure which the customer, (older son), liked the look of, but I will have to see when it arrives. The outline drawn on it is not the proper shape, only a guide!

Meanwhile, I am getting on with the inlays on the fretboard. My mini rotary tool died in the process (with a small bang), so I've replaced it with one from Axminster . So far I'm very pleased with it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Here is the peghead - it's bound and inlayed with abalone and mother of pearl. I took out the scratches with micromesh - it gives a really nice finish.Add Image

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Into the new year

Although I haven't updated this diary in a while, I have been making some progress with the Les Paul. Many of the methods are new to me, which makes it more exciting! I fitted the truss rod (a hotrod), and two carbon fibre reinforcing rods to the neck and finished the rough shaping. I made a peghead veneer from an off cut from a macassar ebony fretboard, but decided re-saw and bookmatch it (quite a challenge). I'm happy with the results though, and this is now fitted and the bindings are glued in (currently held in by all those rubber bands). I have marked out the fretboard and made a start on the inlays (XXI to mark the birthday, and my snail logo to signify slow progress). These will be inlayed into the peghead next, as the design below: