CLC Newsletter - May 2012
Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.
People who have visited us will know that we are surrounded by commonage which is unfenced land jointly owned by a number of farmers who are then able to graze their animals on it. Sometimes, if we leave the front gate open, we can have animals who see better grazing in our plants than on the commonage wander in. This was a recent visitor just about to be led back out the gate.
And here are some previous visitors when a friend's circus, who were set up next to the house, let their camels out to look for forage. We noted that camels love prickly things like the roses!
Last month the Tech Bit was the first part about re-furbishing one of my early 5 string electric basses that had been acquired by Eric Siegloff who lives in Holland. This month is the conclusion. If you really want to you can read last months part here.
At the end of last month's episode the bass had had the fingerboard glued onto the neck which had been reinforced with carbon fibre and a new trussrod.
I fit frets using the compression method which involves hammering them in the prepared slots. You can see below how I had sanded the fingerboard to clean it up and remove any slight surface marks it had acquires over 23 years of use. I also add a drop of superglue to the fret ends for added security. After filing away any excess overlap at the fingerboard edge I check for level and the job is done.
As part of the refurb Eric wanted the finish replaced. I have always used two pack acid cured lacquer on my instruments and one of the advantages of this lacquer is that it can be removed with paint stripper. It takes a few minutes for it to get a grip and then the old lacquer can be scraped off.
Eric also wanted the neck re-shaped to give a slimmer profile and with the new carbon fibre inserts adding strength this could be done. I use a scraper for final shaping.
As part of fixing the neck twist I had removed wood from under the fingerboard which effectively lowered the fingerboard closer to the body. This would mean that the strings would now hit the bridge at a lower point. To enable full action adjustment I recessed the bridge into the body by about 1.5mm.
I also filled the extra hole in the top where a previous owner had added an extra switch using a plug of similar coloured Irish ash and made an ebony plate to cover the hole left after the removal of the unwanted pickup. I replaced the original wood screws that fixed the back plates in place with brass inserts and machine screws.
After a lot of sanding the surfaces I re-sprayed the bass with fresh AC lacquer rubbing down between coats to get a smooth finish and fitted the Citronic EQ and all the hardware.
And this is how it looks. Good for another twenty three years (which is more than can be said for the bluffer pretending to play the bass in the last pic!)
As always I really enjoyed seeing one of my old instruments again and the chance to bring this one up to date was very satisfying.
This is some of what Eric said when he eventually (thank you UPS!) got the bass back.
"As you recall, I purchased this second hand because I liked the tone of the wood, knowing that repair was ultimately required. My problem was that after a year of searching, no-one wanted to restore the neck to playable condition ("too hard"). I feel very fortunate that you found the time to take this project on and to restore the bass to its former glory. As to the restoration work undertaken by you, I have to say that I was astounded at the degree of craftsmanship applied, and indeed the result. My first impression when I took it out of the package .. the finish looks great, bringing out the natural wood colours of the Irish Ash top and Mahogany body/neck.
Thanks Eric. I think that qualifies as this month's Reader Article too!
In the Workshop.
It sat in the hallway for two days while I looked at it, turned it over, measured it and marked various possible ways to cut it and then I spent a day finally converting it into useable pieces. I was looking to get acoustic guitar sets (book matched back and sides) from it which requires quartersawn timber in specific dimensions. Anything else that could be saved for solid body overlays would be a bonus. So here is what I got from it.
And these are the blocks from which I can cut acoustic back and sides sets. Truly beautiful grain with the contrast between the heartwood (dark) and the sapwood (pale).
A few days afterwards Mike Huddart (of The Hillmans) and his wife Val came over from the UK to talk about his forthcoming acoustic guitar (he already has a 4 string bass) and guess which wood he chose to have it made from?
From that largish board I was only able to harvest enough walnut of suitable quality for three acoustic guitars which leaves two after Mike called. The queue starts here if you want a guitar made from this wood!
Other visitors to the workshop last in April included Aoife King who had asked me to fit a new set of tuning heads to her mandolin. Aoife is firstly a fiddle player but the similar tuning on the mandolin means she could easily convert to the mando. She played both for us.
I must be getting a reputation for amplifying strange instruments as Malcolm George turned up with this jeli ngoni from Mali.
This unusually heavy instrument has 4 strings made from fishing line which are tuned by moving the fixing point (a strip of leather tied around the neck) and fixing it in place with thumb tacks. Usually I can manage to use a Highlander pickup to amplify almost any acoustic instrument but not in this case as to gain access to the bridge would mean having to remove the top (some form of animal skin very tightly stretched across the hollowed out wooden body) and I was not confident I could replace it. I tried two different condenser mics inside the body which did amplify the sound but it was not a reasonable replication of the acoustic sound. I also tried a contact mic on the skin with almost no success. Then I pressed a contact mic against the neck and this worked quite well but interfered with playing to some extend. More experimentation needed. If you want to see how a professional plays a jeli ngoni and hear the sounds it can make click here.
Also in the workshop was a photographer working for the Kerryman newspaper who was taking some shots for them. Our friend Marcia (also a photographer and supplier of stones in the road!) took this pic of him taking a pic of me starting to carve the top for an archtop.
I think Eric's piece at the end of the Tech Bit above qualifies for this slot but I have also had some comments in from customers so I'll add them.
JP, long time friend who has graced these pages before in various ways, sent me a pic of his JP guitar. This was the prototype and mostly to his design. I remember him spending some time at our kitchen drawing out a complex schematic for the switching which I can scarcely follow today! His choice of colour and an arched top of top quality quilted maple. He says "Here's the first JP made. Wonderful guitar. Kinda like 335 meets LP meets Fender RF meets CL ASAS semi. Great work, and it sings forever."
Tom Kenna send me this link to a TV4 (the Irish language TV channel) session where he was playing his 2001 ASAD guitar.
From Harry Mestyanek in the sunshine of San Diego (musician/singer with Folding Mr Lincoln).
"Brought out my Larkin mandolin yesterday, & will play it again this evening - Adams Avenue Unplugged. This beautiful piece of sonic brilliance was made for me by Chris Larkin, a master Irish luthier from Castlegregory, Co. Kerry, Ireland. - photograph by Brooks Vandergraf
Claudio Berla from Switzerland sent this.
And his SC6 looks like this.
So it could be you!
Why not contribute an article for the Newsletter yourself? Write a paragraph or two about something relevant (or irrelevant!) and get a chance to shamelessly publicise yourself and/or your project in the Newsletter. Send your effort to me along with a suitable pic/video/soundclip/url/link, etc., and I'll see if I can include it (if I don't lose it). It does not have to be about how good your guitar is (even if it is!) but maybe something about a situation it got you into, a gig experience, the design and ordering process or anything related to it. Use your imagination! Or simply send me a pic of you and your Chris Larkin gigging.
Some beautiful examples available to buy now from the workshop. If you have been looking at this section for the last couple of Newsletters you will have seen the same pictures of the fronts of these beautiful guitars. So for a change I'm going to show the beautiful backs! There are more pics (including the fronts!) and full details on the Stocklist page of the website. Hoping to have a Stealth ASAS Semi on here by next month.
Irish wood in a 5 string bass? This beauty has a top of Irish yew which is hard to find and extremely pretty. Versatile too with the custom wound pickups and Aguilar 3 band EQ.
5 strings too many? Don't like active electronics? What about this Syra 3 pickup in subtle pink? More than enough sounds thanks to the different pickup internals and the 5 way switch.
Fancy something that looks old with a special sound? This ASAPJ JM with top, back and sides made from the same board of highly figured sapele might be it. This has been much admired this month and one player left the workshop wondering which organs he could sell for medical research in order to acquire it!
Pointy Superstrat. Top of zebrano overlaid on alder. Looks fast and hot - is fast and hot!
And still there and available to buy now is the ASAST archtop jazzer. A real head turner in looks and an ear turner in sound!
The ASAD 2HB. Beautiful Irish maple top and very, very versatile.
All available now. More details on the Stocklist and you can contact me for other pics and details if you would like to know more. If you are in Kerry, call and arrange to meet with one of them and it could be the start of a long term relationship.....
And Finally..The Recipe.
I can always rely on Ian for a recipe and he has not let me down this month. So here we go -
The awful pun is because this recipe combines the Muslim delicacy harissa (a spiced, rosewater-flavoured paste) with a proscribed meat. Sinful but (as always) nice...
And finally, finally....
We were invited by our friends Andy and Janet to stay with them in Kilfenora (famous for The Kilfenora Ceili Band - not my thing) the last weekend in April and we went to an amazing gig in the packed village hall given by Four Men and a Dog who play a variety of styles loosely based on Irish trad but infused with jazz, folk, rock, funk salsa and whatever you are having yourself.
They were on fire in the second set which culminated with some audience members not being able to control themselves and getting up to dance a half set despite there being no room to swing a cat! The pic looks like it was taken during the first set! Thanks to Andy Lambert for the pic.
T-Shirts and Straps
I now have extra Tees in L and XL sizes in black and blue which were the most requested colours and sizes. Still some mediums in most colours too.
These are high quality, heavy cotton Tees either by Fruit of the Loom or Gildan with the Chris Larkin Custom logo embroidered on the left side in bright green.
Also available for the first time in a while are the much sort after Chris Larkin Custom guitar straps. Again, numbers are limited.
These are custom made Levy's 'Signature' series 2" adjustable, heavy duty cotton straps with reinforced suede ends including the embossed CLC guitars logo. They are suitable for acoustic or solid bodies and can be adapted to fit straploks if required. The cost per strap is 11.00 Euro with the same shipping costs as the T-shirts - for Ireland the postage is 2.70 Euro, for the rest of the world it is 3.50 Euro. The postage for two or more will be a little higher.
If you are interested in buying a T-shirt or strap please email me and we can sort out all the details.
And finally, finally, finally....
If you have any suggestions for the Newsletter please send them to me. If you think anyone you know might be interested in this Newsletter please send it on to them with their permission. If you do not wish to receive future issues please email me with unsubscribe as the subject and I'll remove you from the mailing list. If you are a new reader and would like to subscribe to get future editions please email me with subscribe as the subject or sign up on my website. There is an archive of previous Newsletters on my website.