CLC Newsletter - April 2012
Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.
We have a bird feeder that is visible from where we sit to have our coffee break and we enjoy watching the birds trying get the nuts from it. We have one female chaffinch who lurks around elsewhere in the garden but as soon as another bird lands on the feeder she immediately appears. Here she is watching a starling attack the feeder.
And here she is benefiting from the starling's efforts eating what fell from the feeder onto the table below it.
So she doesn't actually try to get the food herself but waits for a starling to do the work and then picks up the bits that spilled from the feeder. I thought this was an intelligent bird who had learned to benefit from the work of others and was probably in line for a membership of Mensa or a birdy Nobell prize of some sort. I told my sister about this behaviour thinking it was unusual but she told me that chaffinches are ground scavengers so there is nothing strange in what she is doing. We are disappointed!
This is going to be a two part Tech Bit spread over two months.
In the February Newsletter I mentioned that I would be refurbishing one of my early 5 string basses that Eric Siegloff had recently bought used in Belgium. You can always date my instruments from the serial number which in this case is 890201 which means that it was built in February of '89 and was the first instrument in that month.
During it's hard life gigging it had taken some knocks, had an extra pickup added in a less than elegant way and, despite having the wonderful Larkin Citronic active EQ (did I ever mention that it is the best sounding bass EQ that I have ever heard and I'm devastated that I can't get them made any more?), had been rewired and a switch fitted by what I can only assume was a monkey on acid! The control mounting holes had been interfered with too.
But the real problem was that there was a slight twist in the neck at the headstock end that required fixing.
There were some options as to how to do this and I chose to remove the fingerboard, level the neck and re-fit the fingerboard as well. Since this bass also had one of the first versions of my trussrod having the fingerboard off it was an opportunity to upgrade to a two way version.
To remove the fingerboard I first evenly warm the neck thoroughly using a heat gun moving it constantly to soften the glue then, carefully using a knife, gradually separate the fingerboard from the neck topping up the the temperature with the heat gun as required.
It came off with very little damage to either the fingerboard or the neck.
The twist was mostly at the nut end so I planed along the neck towards that point until I had the twist removed.
To remove the trussrod I first dug out the strip that holds it in place using a chisel and a Dremel router.
You can see the plastic wrap that helps the trussrod to move freely in the neck. The original rod was fitted into a curved slot and this need to be filled before the new trussrod can be fitted so I had to even out the slot and make a suitably shaped fillet of wood to do this which is then glued in place.
Once this fillet has been levelled a fresh slot for the new trussrod has to be cut. The two way truss rod does not need a curved slot.
Here it is in place.
Since Eric wanted the neck profile slimmed which would weaken the neck slightly this was an opportunity to add extra strength by fitting two carbon fibre rod as I do with the current bass necks. To do this I had to cut two more slots for these.
Both the trussrod and carbon fibre are held in place by thin fillets of mahogany that have to be glued over them.
Earlier you saw how I planed the twist out of the neck and it would have been possible to glue the fingerboard back on then but with the other work the neck has to be levelled again to make a good joining surface. This time I sanded it flat using a heavy, straight board to which I had glued sandpaper.
Here are the fingerboard with a clamping caul curved to fit it and also slotted to fit over the frets.
Clamped and glued.
And look - no twist!
That's enough for this month. Next month I'll show you what else I did to get the bass back to fitness!
In the Workshop.
Not exactly "in the workshop"! In March I made a couple of wood buying trips over to Wicklow on the east coast (we live on the west coast) which is probably the part of Ireland with the best hardwood trees. For many years I have tried to use as much Irish sourced woods in my guitars and it is extremely difficult to find it at the quality that I need. Through a chance remark at the Dublin music show I was given the details of a sawmill I had not known about before and went to investigate. Once off the highway the drive across the last third of the country passes through some beautiful places including one of the original Hollywoods (there are several in Ireland). This one has copied something from the one in Los Angeles! Can you spot it?
The sawmill was the best organised and cleanest I have ever been to. This is unusual for a sawmill! It also had the smoothest sounding saw I have ever heard. A good saw should be quiet in operation and this Stenner 'hissed' as it sliced through big trees without effort.
How big were the trees it could handle? Well this is one redwood and not the biggest that was there.
Thanks to my mate Jerome (who asked the right questions) we were able to source an 8 foot trunk of Irish walnut (for me the Holy Grail of Irish hardwoods) buried underneath some beautiful Irish oak that Eugene and Cassius, who worked the saw, cut to my instructions into boards two inches thick. The figure in these was spectacular and I managed to get one board perfectly quartersawn which should make some wonderful acoustic instrument eventually. Why do I say eventually? Because this is wet wood that needs to be dried down to a moisture content suitable for my use which is about 7%. So first it will have to be air dried, that is, exposed to the air under cover which will remove most of the water. You don't want the moisture leaving the wood too fast though as this would cause cracks. To control the exit of water through the ends of the boards (which is where most of the drying occurs) you paint over them with oil paint.
The sticks between the boards allow air to pass over all the surfaces of the timber to aid the drying. The boards were then strapped together and labelled with my name in BIG letters! I don't want anybody 'liberating' or even looking at them!
You can't see how beautiful this wood is from the pictures but, trust me, it is beautiful. So now they are sitting outside under cover slowly drying at the sawmill. In Ireland with our damp climate it is difficult to get wood dried to lower than 16% in the air so the final drying will be done artificially in a kiln down to 7%. From the sawmill we made the trip to the kiln man also in Wicklow. Neil Willis, who is a partner in Kiln Dried Hardwoods, works from a premises in the grounds of the now derelict Belmont House where he has a large shed full of wood that is kiln dried and an open wooden shed where cut trees are air drying. And here we are looking at some!
While I was there I looked at and bought a board of kiln dried Irish sycamore (above) that was figured down one side and saw some kiln dried Irish walnut that was quartersawn but didn't buy it at the the time. After coming home I thought about it, called Neil back and sent him the money to make the purchase. It is so rare that I would have been a fool to let it go!
So a wonderful time seeing new wood places, meeting new wood people and acquiring some beautiful wood to make more instruments from. What could be better?
Many thanks to Pat Staunton the owner of the sawmills and as nice a man as you could wish to meet. Forgot to mention I also got some beautiful, unblemished, Irish yew and two boards of figured sycamore from Pat's wood stock.
Last month I showed the tenor guitar that I had made for a customer - a tenor guitar being a four string instrument tuned in fifths.
Here is a picture of Willie when he came to collect it.
About a a week later I email him to see how he was getting on with the instrument and this was his reply.
"Haven't left it out of my hands .... If feels like something I should have been playing all my life ...it's multifunction , pick my chords for singing with ...lash out the jigs and reels ...! Thanks".
This is Tim Van Roy from Belgium. Tim is an ace pro guitarist, journalist and friend. Over the years I have known Tim I have had the pleasure to make him a baritone acoustic and some electric guitars. He has built a new website for which he had some pictures taken. So here is one of him looking moody in a wood somewhere in Belgium with the most recent guitar I made for him last year.
And this is what he wrote for the Newsletter:-
Here are pics of two other guitars I made for Tim. The Superstrat that you can see and hear on the website and a baritone acoustic that has a top and back made from mahogany.
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 movement in this section since last month so less choice now! Each instrument comes with a case. I'll just give a picture and a brief description of each. There are more pics and full details on the Stocklist page of the website.
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?
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.
Last month the blue Superstrat sold. Here is it's successor. 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. This one turned heads at the Dublin Show and, in a quiet moment, was played expertly by a gentleman whose name I did not get. Made me feel proud!
The ASAD 2HB was also very popular in Dublin. One young guy didn't want to put it down but it was a little out of his price range at the moment. Beautiful Irish maple top and 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.
Cristina and Kerry are around at the moment and they suggested this. A South American fish dish that does not require cooking. The fish meat is transformed (cooked) by the acidic action of the juices so saving on energy! They have promised to cook this for us over the holiday so I'm writing this on their recommendation. UPDATE April 3rd. They cooked it tonight and it was delicious. They used cod and we had avocado and tortilla chips with it.
Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare, 3-4 hours to let sit. Always use the freshest fish possible. Make the same day you purchase fresh fish.
• 2 lbs of firm, fresh red snapper fillets (or other firm-fleshed fish), cut into 1/2 inch pieces, completely deboned
And finally, finally....
Last month there was a pic of Tony Hodges my Best Man from many years ago wearing his Chris Larkin T-shirt. Here's an update. Tony and his wife Loretta sold their house in Brisbane and decided to drive around Australia for a while. Here is a pic of their caravan at one of the first stops - the Cotton Tree Caravan Park in Queensland. Not what you expect from OZ!
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.