January 2009


Our guitarist, Butch, had been to Tilba-Tilba on a number of occasions, and noted that some good name bands from Sydney had performed at the Dromedary Hotel there. In conversation with the publican, he had mentioned our Irish band and the rest fell into place.

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

Saturday promised a hot drive down – the place is about 300kms from Canberra, about an hour’s drive south of Bateman’s Bay, so I was quite pleased with the offer of a lift in Butch’s car – along with a cut-down version of our sound system.

We arrived mid-afternoon in time to get some excellent food from the cafe over the road and then we set up the venue – an open shed out the back – a former stable perhaps, which contained a functioning jukebox and a small stage. The whole side wall opened out onto the beer garden.

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

The other band members had a joke about my insistence on bringing some stage lights – but we were glad of them when it got dark – we would have been invisible to the audience without them!

As a pub show, we started with some up-tempo Irish and Australian songs and some lively reels and jigs – amazingly right from the first bracket people got up and danced – and continued throughout the show.

We were told that bands never shift the regulars from the front bar – but we did :-)

Full Circle at Tilba-Tilba

In fact the audience responded really well to the fact that (a) we weren’t the usual covers/blues band, and (b) we weren’t what most people’s concept of an Irish band was.

During the tunes we went out among the dancers and danced as we played – and on feedback afterwards, they loved the fact that we joined them, rather than staying aloof.

So all up it was a great night and well worth the drive down. We had a great welcome there and I’m sure we’ll be back there before long.

On the way back, we stopped briefly for a rest and stretch, and looked up at the most amazing clear night sky, with the Milky Way in a vivid streak right across it – simply breathtaking!

Cheers
Jerry

Here is one of the best uses I’ve seen of a loop machine/fiddle combination – in the hands of the great Andrew Bird.

Cheers
Jerry

For some while now, I have been getting an annoying string buzz from one of the sympathetic strings, so I decided that now was the time to make a new bridge.

I used the previous one I made as a rough template, but raised the centre ‘D’ a little and ensured it was completely flat across the bottom so the sympathetic strings would not move to the side. I cut small grooves for them and lined up the top profile and cut matching string notches along the top. The wood is Tasmanian blackwood – I thought I’d see what difference a harder wood would make.

The sound is more crisp and slightly thinner, but still warm. As the bridge plays in better I shall have a better idea of the sound. And yes the annoying string buzz has now gone!

Hardanger fiddle bridge

Cheers
Jerry

This is the most unusual version of Orange Blossom Special that I’ve yet heard! It is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

And from the ridiculous to the sublime – Jake Shimabukuro plays “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – truly amazing!

Click on the link above to hear more of this amazing virtuoso

Cheers
Jerry

mandolin

After gluing on the fingerboard and nut I touched up the varnish and gave the whole instrument a good final cleanup and wax.

Then it was time to add the tailpiece and machine heads and the instrument was almost finished.

The final-ish thing was to make a bridge – I used some leftover Tasmanian Blackwood and made a bridge, tuning in the strings with stepped forward and back slots.

Finally I got some new strings and strung it up for the first time. It needs playing in but the sound is wonderful and will only get better!

You can read all the steps here
http://fourstrings.wordpress.com/?s=mandolin

This was very well worth doing!

Here are some more photos

mandolin

mandolin

mandolin

mandolin

mandolin

And here is what it sounds like

Cheers
Jerry

An

The bindings worked well, so it was time for a final sanding and clean up using 180 grit, then 600 grit then 1200 grit on the sides and back.

mandolin

I also took the face of the head back to bare wood and painted it black – after masking off adjacent areas – as grain run-out made it look as though there was a nasty crack in the head. So the paint is purely cosmetic. When dry, I varnished it for durability.

I then fitted the Tasmanian blackwood button at the back which covers the join between the neck and the back, and sanded it smooth.

With a final check of the overall structure, I gave the back a further fine sanding and began varnishing. There will be several coats, not only to give a smooth weather resistant finish, but also to seal the padouk timber. It is used as a dye for good reason! So it is important to ensure it won’t rub off on the player!

The top will only have several coats of shellac – a kind of French polishing – to provide a nice satin finish that won’t reflect stage lights too badly, and to keep the character of the birdseye maple.

I hope to attach the fretboard soon and fit up the instrument tomorrow – just in time for my Daughter to return and give it a real workout! The instrument is for her, and I know she will make good use of it – assuming it sounds okay!

mandolin

mandolin

What do you think of it?

Cheers
Jerry

The sides glued up well, and progress continues – after removing the clamps I gave the sides a quick clean-up with sandpaper to remove glue squeeze-out. Titebond liquid hide glue is great to work with, allowing some slip time to get everything lined up ok, but then once it starts to bind it holds well and dries within a few hours.

The mandolin is now starting to look like an instrument, but it is still fairly rough around the edges. The binding provides a decorative border, but also provides additional strength and protection for the joints. I have been quite worried about the gluing process, because hide glue has a use-by date, and I was half-way through before I read the bottle and found it was out of date by six months. Apparently Titebond put a 12 month use-by date on, but liquid hide glue can last 12-18 months. Perhaps I was lucky this time. But if any components fail I will be buying a new bottle forthwith. I could use the hide granules, but that would involve messy use of double boilers and rushing to use it before it cools etc. The liquid glue is very easy to use, is versatile at room temperature and works well.

Anyhow, I had bought some inlay banding strips at the 2008 Canberra Timber and Working With Wood show with a view to their potential for instrument bindings. The banding strips are about 1.5mm thick and about 6mm wide and 1.2metres long. They are easy to use, being flexible enough to do each of the bouts without steam bending, and thin enough to cut easily with a sharp knife.

You’ll have to wait to see how it looks, as they are still taped in position after gluing, but the early indications are good :-)

mandolin bindings

mandolin bindings

The next pictures won’t look much different as I still have to add the bindings for the back/bout interface!

The small round piece of blackwood in the foreground will become the back button, concealing the two pins that help to locate the neck – but more on that tomorrow.

I basically have the back bindings, fitting the fingerboard and some finishing work on the head before fitting it up ready to play – so not long now!

Cheers
Jerry

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