CLC Newsletter August 2012
Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.
The weather has been unpredictable again and affected quite a lot of things we did last month. As a response to the rain we decided to re-waterproof our biking gear which involves spraying stuff onto it and letting it soak in. We were surprised at how many pairs of gloves we had when we left them in the workshop to dry.
Due to the rain many events were cancelled but not the Nova Festival and we really enjoyed our time there despite it being a little wet!
We saw some great acts (more of that later) and met up with old friends. One of the best places was the Hurly Burly tent which doubles as a cafe and theatre venue. In the middle of serving food the staff regularly drop everything and perform various dance routines! We also saw a one hour performance in there where the audience were involved which was really good.
These superb pics by Gary Wolstenholme. You can find out more about Gary and his work as well as the Drowned In Sound site here.
Crowley's Music Centre, Cork.
Anybody who has been playing music over several generations in Ireland will be aware of Crowleys. The shop on MacCurtain Street in Cork has been a Mecca for anybody wanting guitars, amps, strings, accessories, sheet music, etc. In the '70s I bought my first Marshall combo there because Rory Gallagher used one and he was a Crowley's customer. Michael Crowley was always most helpful and a joy to deal with. Recently Sheena Crowley, daughter of Michael, took over the running of the shop and is putting her stamp on it - things like Saturday gigs by local bands in the shop and her exhibition of work by Irish musical instrument makers from August 9th until the end of the month. Sheena has asked me to show some of my work and so three guitars and and a 5 string bass from the stocklist will be in the shop over that period. If you are around Cork why not go along and see what great stuff you can get made by the makers of Ireland?
Tech Bit - Headstock. Weakest part of a guitar?
Ever dropped your guitar? Ever seen anything like this?
The broken headstock. It is one of the most common problems that guitar repair men get to see. If your neck is made from one piece of wood, as the one above is, then it is essentially weak. Why? Because wood fibres run in straight lines (as you can see above) so when you get to a change in direction, as you do where the headstock dips backwards from the neck shaft, you have what is called short grain as the fibres do not bend around to follow the change in direction. Drop your guitar so that the headstock hits the ground and it will probably break at this point if it is of this design.
So what can be done to improve the situation? I think all makers who use a neck made from a single piece of wood have a facing on the front of the headstock. The wood fibres (grain) in the facing runs parallel to the direction of the headstock which makes it slightly stronger and acts as a type of shock absorber to take some of the sting of an impact. It is a help but it is not an answer.
Another help is to build in a volute which adds extra wood below the nut to reduce the short grain as can be seen in this pic. You can also see the headstock facing, the dark layer on the front of the headstock.
Some makers prefer to use a headstock that does not bend backwards, Fender style, as this, apart from being simpler and cheaper to make, is also stronger as you almost get rid of the short grain. Here are two versions, one from Fender and the other from another maker.
With this design in order to get the correct downward string angle you have to use a metal string guide. I don't think I have ever heard of a Fender style headstock breaking but it is common with Gibson style headstocks which have short grain.
If you think that angled headstocks are a good thing (and I do!) there are other ways to make them strong enough to withstand impact. I use a scarf joint where the neck is made from (at least) two parts - the shaft and the headstock itself. In this case the shaft is cut at the angle you wish the headstock to 'droop' by and the headstock is glued to this.
On most of my guitars the headstock is made from a number of elements - the main body, the facing and the intermediate laminates all of which have the grain running parallel to the facing.
When glued together this lamination is extremely strong and, being laminated, stable.
The headstock laminate is then glued onto the neck shaft.....
.....and after a little woodworking creates a neck where there is no short grain.
Adding a fingerboard makes the joint even stronger as it sandwiches the scarf joint between the neck shaft and the fingerboard. Below is the scarf joint on my ASAD Personal guitar . You can see the line of the joint parallel to the angle of the headstock
As you can see there is also a volute and a headstock facing so I'm covering as many options as I can when I make a neck! In over 30 years of guitar making many of my instruments have survived 'accidents' including one which fell of the back of a motorbike (nothing to do with me!) and, although some necks have cracked slightly at the headstock end and been easy to repair, I have yet to have one break.
If the scarf joint is made using wood with less character than my Personal the joint line is sometimes hard to see. Go back up to the picture of the volute (which is from the Superstrat currently on the Stocklist) and has a scarf joint. I don't think you can see the join.
If you have a topic for the Tech Bit let me know and I'll try to cover it.
In the Workshop.
More visitors. Andy Lambert mandolin, bouzouki and mandola player of quality brought his Chris Larkin guitar bouzouki in for a check up after 11 years of hard gigging. Here he is when he arrived and he demonstrated the problems to me.
Andy gigs hard so there was some wear on the instrument (quite a lot of road rash!) and he doesn't always have time to clean it!
After cleaning, stoning and re-profiling the frets, adjusting the neck relief as well as making a new nut and saddle it was 'as good as new' and Andy seemed to be happy!
Ross Kingston has acquired another old Chris Larkin. This one is an early ASAD RS in imbuya (sometimes known as Brazilian walnut although it is no relation to walnut). Despite the age (I think it was 1988) it is in great condition and very original and just needed a little work on the bridge to get it right again.
I have been working on some singlecut basses recently and here are two of them, an SC5 with headstock and a headless version.
Both are using Irish woods - the headless model having a beautiful Irish walnut top with wings of quartersawn Irish sycamore while the headed model has a figured Irish maple top with wings of flamed Irish sycamore.
While the headed version is quite conventional in pickups and circuitry (2 x Larkin/Armstrong humbuckers with single coil switching and EBS 2 band EQ) the headless SC5 is more unusual. It features a very large pickup/ramp unit and piezo saddles.
The pickup/ramp has the pickup built into one end of the unit (as configured it is at the neck end) which puts the coils in the P Bass position. The whole unit is symmetrical so it can be removed and turned through 180 degrees which then puts the coils in the bridge J Bass position. Also the volume control is a push-pull switch that changes the pickup from series to parallel humbucking. As with the pickups in the headed SC5 the symmetrical unit was custom made for me by Aaron Armstrong.
Last month in the Tech Bit I showed how I made the saddles for this bass which contain the wonderful RMC piezo units. The ebony bridge is custom made to enable height and intonation adjustment. So this bass has two separate outputs - a standard jack socket for the humbucker and an 8 pin DIN connector for the RMC saddles. Why a DIN socket? Because the customer wanted to use this signal for driving a synth by MIDI so it connects by cable to an RMC Poly-Drive IIB off board unit which feeds a synth and also allows for the piezo signal to be send to and amp or desk. A very, very versatile set-up.
The singlecut design is favoured by some electric bassists as the extended body stiffens the neck and could add sustain as well as very good access to the higher frets. You can see how this works in this pic of the back of the headed version.
Additionally the necks have two bars of carbon fibre built in as well as a two way trussrod. The headless version is now being enjoyed by the customer in Sweden, the headed model is available to buy from the Stocklist or to try at the workshop.
Alex Warren is a friend, a fellow runner, a fellow biker and a guitarist/singer. He has written a piece that has nothing to do with guitars except he suggests that you listen to 'Acoustic Motorbike' by Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom as you read it!
My car insurance expired in may so I decided to leave it off the road and take to two wheels full time for the summer. As I injured myself at the start of the year I can't run anymore so I decided to try a bit of cycling instead and the 10mile cycle to work seemed doable on a more or less daily basis. I bring the motorbike when it's pi$$ing rain as the wetgear keeps me dry but nothing works on the 'acoustic motorbike'. Our last government brought in a scheme as the country was on the verge of going on it's knees to subsidize the purchase of bicycles (acoustic motorbikes) for the purpose of cycling to work, it was a 'green' initiative. So thousands of people went out and bought bikes, some for themselves, other for their kids and funny enough lots have appeared on internet sale sites! The tax-payer meanwhile pays for half of the cost...just what a country on it's knees needs really.
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.
Gig of the Month.
While we were at the Nova Festival late at night in a muddy tent we got to see a band called Goose Party. They are 5 multi instrumentalists from England who produced a really high energy show featuring original, really well crafted songs and involve a very theatrical presentation moving seamlessly from instrument to instrument, costume to costume between and during songs. If you get a chance to see them go for it. You won't be disappointed.
This is where you will find the finished examples of instruments that are available to buy from the workshop. I work in batches of three similar instruments where possible , two for customers and one for the stocklist. There are more pics (including the fronts and backs!) and full details on the Stocklist page of the website.
Please note that some of these instruments will not be in the workshop during the Exhibition of Irish Instrument Makers being held at Crowleys Music Centre in Cork from August 9th until the end of the month. This does not mean they are not available to buy - I can always get them back from Cork!
The most recent addition is this rare SC5 bass with a headstock. Lots of beautiful Irish wood in this one (see the back shot above in the Workshop section). Plays and sounds as good as it looks. More details here.
Finally, after much heralding, there is another ASAS Semi Stealth model available and it's a goodie! You can read more about it in detail here.
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. This will be in Cork for August.
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! Also in Cork for August.
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! This will be in Cork for August too.
The ASAD 2HB. Beautiful Irish maple top and very, very versatile. Cork bound as well.
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.
Due to an interesting mis-diagnosis in June we were on a diabetic diet for a while until the mistake was admitted. We actually enjoyed the healthy eating and Syra found lots of new ways to cook so we are now on a semi diabetic diet by choice. One thing we like is cornbread - really good with soups and sloppy dishes!
And finally, finally....
I don't know how I got any work done this month as there was so much going on. Maybe I didn't! Every year my bike club organises several get to gethers and one major international event known as an RTT (don't ask!). This year it was held in Northern Ireland chosen because most of the members are in the UK and had little experience of this island. Living in Ireland I might have preferred Spain or Portugal with some sunshine! Anyway it turned out really well and we spent 5 days based at the Cohannon Inn near Dungannon which I can't recommend enough. The club is for riders of the Yamaha TDM which is almost the perfect motorcycle that does everything well. Here are some of the members reminding themselves of this lying on a cliff edge at Malin Head the most northerly point of Ireland. Can you spot me? Picture courtesy of Andy 'Moose' Symmons
Thanks to Paddy Luckie who managed the event we toured some beautiful places with wonderful roads and sampled some great cake (which is of course essential!) in fine company. We even had some good weather particularly the day we visited the Giant's Causeway and some guys got sunburned.
Here Ivan Guy and myself discuss the high quality of the chocolate cake we had just been served by the owner of a cafe in Greencastle. It was the best chocolate cake of the whole trip. Picture courtesy of 'Marky' Mark Sealey.
Difficult to pick out the best from so many good experiences but if I had to it would riding two laps of the Ulster GP circuit in the company of Alan Eccles who had competed there when he was racing. These are the bikes of the 5 of us who did the circuit mine is the pretty blue one on the right. Picture courtesy of Chris 'Matlock' Summers.
The lap record is over 130mph (208kph) which is the fastest road race circuit in the world. We managed not to beat it!
Whether you are a biker or not Northern Ireland is somewhere you should consider visiting, it has lots to offer and the welcome you will get is special.
And finally, finally, finally....
Anybody who has visited us over the last 13 years will have met and made friends with Melody and Dubh our twin dogs. Melody died on July 30th after giving us and others so much pleasure from pup to adult. Sadly missed.
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. Become the envy of your friends by wearing one of these highly desirable fashion essentials! They cost 12.50 Euro each with shipping of 2.70 Euro to Ireland or 3.50 Euro for the rest of the world.
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, finally....
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