Two guitar bouzoukis fresh off the bench. The Venetian cutaway is really handy for guitar bouzoukis, open tunings being what they are the use of a capo is inevitable and this lets you get right up the neck for those awkward keys!
These bouzoukis have some lovely examples of some great native species tonewoods. As environmental concerns come more into the spotlight, I think we have all started to look a little closer to home. And these are a lovely example that there are beautiful woods on our doorstep. Lacewood back and side on one paired with Swiss moon spruce on the first. And Yew paired with a nice warm cedar top on the second.
K&K pure mini pickups installed in both, these give a beautifully clear and articulate tone while being perfectly unobtrusive.
During the build process this little guitar gained the nickname Wee Hog. With full mahogany back, sides and neck.
I worked closely with the customer to get all the vintage elements he loves in the instrument. From the light contrast celluloid binding to the Gibsonesque headstock and a nod to vintage Vegas with the simple star engraving.
Great fun to work on and great fun to play, are tenor guitars making a comeback? hopefully.
Continuing a run of larger mandolin family instruments with my largest yet! This Long-scale Cittern was built for a customer in Scotland wanting to tune down to D.
With another fine paring of European Walnut and Swiss moon spruce.
Had great fun playing with another mosaic rosette on the Cittern. Walnut has some of the best figuring of the native species. And it seemed a shame not to make the most of the gnarly grain patterns on the back and bring some to the face of the Cittern.
We came to a compromise on the 24.5″ scale, long enough to keep some tension on the bottom D but also short enough for some nimble tune playing.
An interesting build as always, and great to work with a customer who has played so many fine Citterns. Really helps getting to grips with the project when the customer has a clear idea of where they want to go with it.
Its been a long time since I have made a classic Irish Bouzouki, and this I really enjoyed.
Built for a fantastic player and all-round nice guy on the Irish music scene in Bristol. He allowed me a few indulgences, like this rosette. An opportunity to use some of the gnarly grain of this walnut should not be missed.
There are lengthy debates on the best choice of tonewoods for Irish Bouzoukis. From my perspective, in the grand scheme of things, these are still relatively young instruments. So tonal structure is something still to be explored.
I went through the options with the customer and we landed up with: Swiss moon spruce top, European walnut back and sides and Rocklite fingerboard and bridge combo.
Rocklite is a fascinating material to work with and well worth looking into for your next build.
Here is the Ebano type rocklite on this 25.5″ Irish Bouzouki scale. It can be used as a direct replacement for ebony, and from my perspective at least is the future of environmentally responsible choices for tonewood.
European walnut produces a lovely warm yet crisp tone for this Irish bouzouki. And has some of the best figuring of native hardwood species.
Design features are an important consideration, I like to add a volute. This helps add strength to a notorious weak spot of most steel string instruments.
Some Irish Bouzouki players like to use sliding capos for fast key changes, and in that instant you may prefer to opt for a rear cap on the headstock instead.
However as newer designs like Thalia capos come along they can save the neck a lot of pain from all that scraping/sliding.
This Irish Bouzouki produces a lovely sparkling tone with plenty of grunt at the bottom end. More CBOMS to come soon!
This was quite an interesting build for me, a multi-scale 10 string mandolin. Tuned from a bottom C through standard mandolin up to top E. The longer scale on the bass side allows for extra tension on the C string. Extra tension eliminates some of the sloppy tenancies of using thicker strings to tune down to C.
Proving to be a head scratcher to start with, but eventually coming round to it. The 12th fret/ body join is the only fret which could be considered truly straight to a standard fingerboard.
Slightly larger than a standard mandolin, with this body you get the extra depth to really use those lower tones. Remarkably the multi-scale doesn’t take much getting used to, once played for 5 minutes your hand rapidly become accustom to it.
As always with these larger instruments I make hand-cut solid brass tailpieces. Anchoring the strings to the tailblock this way really helps get the full tonal potential out of your instrument.
I really like an excuse to use these dot markers. Tahitian black pearl set into sterling silver, on this ebony fingerboard, really stand out. Little touches make all the difference to an instrument when it all comes together.
This banjo was built with a three part maple/wenge/maple neck. It gives it a lot of stability but also some really nice clean cut lines. This birdseye maple is, and was, notoriously difficult to carve. But the results in the end were well worth it.
Not quite the bank holiday weekend off, but it has meant I’ve had time to catch up on the website. I had a lot of fun building this lacewood 10 string Cittern, set up in open G. It’s not a wood that I’ve used frequently for Citterns, but I’m really pleased with the results. In sound, it has something akin to mahogany, as well as a little maple there as well. Either way, it has a really eye catching figuring.
This build had a bit of a silver theme: with an ebony and sterling silver rosette, with a handmade nickel-plated tail piece (it’s a pet peeve of mine when tailpieces don’t match other hardware).
To help deal with the tension of 10 strings, the Cittern has carbon fibre neck reinforcements and double-walled sides to give it a little extra punch.
I’m really pleased to have finished this arch-top mandolin. With a carved spruce top, three piece English walnut back and cantilevered fingerboard, it represents the first arch-top made to the same size and specs as my flat-tops. The flat back and carve top combination follows in the footsteps of some of my favourite British luthiers and the growing celtic mandolin tradition.
It is the prettiest new mandolin photographed in the grubbiest corner of my workshop – there are grand plans to reconcile this very soon!
I really enjoy the opportunity to get my teeth into a restoration project, and when this beautiful old arch-top Moreno guitar came up, I jumped at chance to take it to bits.
The back had a bad split, the neck was hanging off and underneath all the skin cheese on the fingerboard, it was in desperate need of a re-fret.
One of the nicer things about working on older instruments like this is that, sometimes rather than invasive work and power tools, all they really need is a little encouragement!
With that much play in the neck, all it took was a small amount of heat to get things moving in the right direction.
Its only really once you get an instrument back to its fundamental parts that you can really asses how much work will need to be done. Thankfully, apart from the originally spotted problems, this was one solid beast.
With decades of dust carefully removed, it was starting to look really promising. While the road-worn look has a certain charm to it, it is always really satisfying when you can get these old gents back to their original glory.
Unfortunately, at this point I got far too carried away with my work to remember to take any more photos. Having taken the fingerboard off to shoot the neck and discovering a beautiful piece of ebony lurking under all that crud and dust.
Once it was finished off with a nice replacement set of replica Golden-age machine heads and some lovely rich sounding flat-wound strings, it didn’t stay in the workshop long. It was quickly snapped up by a local guitar dealer, who had been after it since its arrival.
Cherry is one of my favourite woods to work with, particularly for choice of back and sides materials for mandolins. Whilst I firmly believe the design of the structure is foremost in creating any instruments voice, I like to think the choice of wood colours it. Cherry allows for nice crisp highs with a warmth you don’t get with a more traditional maple mandolin.