Last Sunday we went to Muckross House in Killarney National Park for a walk in the woods alongside the lake. This is one of our favourite places for walks. And, after a walk, you might need refreshment so we had a light lunch in the restaurant. As we were eating this beautiful mastiff pup sat down outside the window.
As I said, this is a puppy and wanted to play with every other passing dog and was quite a handful for his owner. Imagine how big he will be when full grown.
The binding on a guitar serves the purpose of protecting the edges of the top and back but, more importantly, it seals the open edge grain of the top and back which prevents moisture and bacterial access. For binding to work it has to be inserted into channels cut into the sides, top and back. Router cutters with suitable bearings (the bearings determine the width of cut) are the easiest way to cut the channels. The channels need to be perpendicular to the sides. For the top this is relatively easy as long as the top is level but, because the back is part of a three dimensional surface the cutter needs to be able to rise and fall with these surfaces and, to do this, I thought of a jig that would allow the router and cutter to do this. Thinking of it is one thing but I'm not an engineer. Luckily my friend Jerome is and, after I explained to him what I needed, he came up with this wonderful device.
The router is held in a clamp and the cutter protrudes through wooden follower that sits on the surface being routed and determines the depth of the cut. The clamp is attached to a framework that includes linear bearings so that if the wooden follower goes up so does the router and vice versa. The weight of the router keeps the follower pressed against the surface to be channelled and there is a sophisticated regulator that allows the weight to be controlled - a luggage bungee! Here is how a cutter and bearing look.
And this is how it looks in the jig with the wooden follower resting on the guitar. This one is cutting a channel for binding on the back of a guitar and you can see how the height of the back changes which the follower will cause the jig to rise as required.
So how to get the surface to be presented to the router jig? Easy. I fix the body (one screw into the headblock and an adjustable clamp at the tail) onto a carriage on wheels that can be moved around the cutter and held against the bearing by pressing the carriage against it. Usually I make three passes of the carriage for each channel to ensure that the channel is of equal depth all around. The follower traces the vertical contours of the back ensuring the cutter is always presented correctly.
For the top things are a little different. The cutter needs to be presented with the sides vertical so the top surface must be flat. I use a depth gauge to ensure the top of the body is level and then fix the screw and clamp to hold it in place with, for security, wedges placed under the back to stabilise the body.
The top of most guitars will have purfling as well as binding. The purfling sits between the binding and the guitar top. I don’t know of any reason why there is purfling except for decoration. The purfling sits in it’s own shallow channel so requires a different cutter and bearing to make this. Since the depth and width of the binding and purfling channels is critical changing two cutters on the one router would be very time consuming and probably not totally accurate so I use two routers, one each for the binding and purfling cutters and change the routers for the different cuts.
If you have a subject that you would like to see me cover in the Tech Bit section please let me know and I'll see what I can do.
I use Dremel routers for some critical jobs including cutting the channels for rosettes and soundholes. Initially I made a jig for this myself but it wasn't very stable so I bought a commercial version which was an improvement but not perfect - it was just not sufficiently rigid. Some years ago I saw, on YouTube, a muscle bound Dremel plunge base. Try as I might I was unable to find a link to this tool. Last year Adrian Lucas pointed me in the right direction to Bishop Cochrane who make it. And here it is alongside the StewMac version that I had been using.
I think the difference is obvious. Beautifully made, very precisely adjustable, rigid and versatile. I love it! Unfortunately this base would not take the newer models of Dremel so I had to find an older type.
For a while I have been unhappy with the way the sprayroom works. The fan, although effective and flameproof, was not really shifting enough air and was open to the overspray (the lacquer that does not stick to the object being sprayed) so needed frequent cleaning as you can see below. I now have a larger flameproof fan which will require me to cut a bigger hole in the wall to carry the exhaust away and also I will need to build a filter system that will protect the new fan from overspray.
When I spray lacquer I use my wonderful DeVilbiss gun - a professional tool that that works brilliantly for spraying bigger areas. For smaller work, like sunbursting, it is not so effective so I have treated myself to a smaller CRS gun with a reduced spray pattern and better control that will be ideal for this purpose. I look forward to using it.
Then the bad news. While using the planer the safety guard came away in my hand - the bolt attaching it the table just sheared. The planer is 25 years old and no longer made nor are spares available for it.
But that should not be a problem to fix. I drilled a hole into the sheared part and, using my trusty stud remover, tried to take the broken portion out. My trusty stud remover broke off inside the bolt. The stud remover is made from very, very hard steel so no chance to drill this out.
At this stage I called my engineer friend Jerome who told me off for not heating the part first (what do I know about metal? I'm a wood butcher!) and told me he would look at it for me. Which he did, removed the sheared bolt end, made a new mounting bolt using threaded rod and saved the day!
Tim van Roy is a longtime customer who has several of my guitars which he uses in his busy professional life. Here is a pic he sent me last month of one of the guitars set up and ready to play with an orchestra at the opening of a new concert hall. The conductor doesn't look to be very healthy!
Tim says "The Larkin chilling out before a modern classical opera in the brand new Queen Elisabeth concert hall... Whenever I play a new €87 million concert hall, I always take the Tele ;-)".
My Friend Kevin Hall in Canada, fellow biker, supplier of my spruce and cedar and general know-all about acoustic guitars, sent me this shot of once endangered wild turkeys on his lawn. This is what he says "Hunted to the verge of extinction in Ontario in the late 1800s these huge birds are making a strong comeback after a campaign of transplanting them from Alberta about a decade ago. Ontario traded Alberta a load of surplus moose for turkeys and elk back then, and both species which were once plentiful here have formed successful breeding stocks." He told me that they must be very tough birds as the temperature was minus 23 degrees!
I see Christmas dinners!
I was looking back through some pics trying to find some for a paper I am writing for The Leonardo Guitar Research Project when I came across this great shot of the great Jacques Stotzem and Gaby when they visited us in 2015.
T-shirts (same old logo and only in black, M, L, XL and 2XL) available. Price is held at €15 each and postage will depend on where you live. These are going well.
The new batch of the exciting Chris Larkin Custom straps are in stock. These are highest quality Levy's Leathers straps custom made with an embossed leather oval. Price is also €15 with the postal shipping costs depending on where you live.
I can't guarantee that these will improve your playing but they will certainly lift your image!
If you would like to purchase either of these items please contact me and we can sort it out.
I try to keep some instruments in the workshop for visitors to try. These instruments are also for sale. Here are some pics of what is in stock at the moment. There are more details and pictures on the Stocklist page of the website. Stock acoustic badly needed! Hopefully before too long.
A beautiful ASAS Archtop Jazzer This is an exceptional instrument with the classic combination of spruce and Irish fiddleback sycamore in a cherry sunburst.
An ASAPB5 acoustic bass guitar with back and sides of Irish walnut, adjustable bridge and RMC pickups. This one is amazingly loud acoustically and has that 'woody' sound.
For solid bodied basses there is a Syra 4, passive in fetching pink...
...and an SC5 throughneck with headstock in figured Irish maple and all the active EQ
These instruments are all available to try if you visit the workshop and if you would like to know more about any of them please contact me and I'll be glad to help.
Strange goings on in the the studio. What is Syra up to? Watch this space!
In the January Newsletter I mentioned that we had got all the children and grandkids together for the first time in April 2016 but I couldn't find a picture to prove it. Well, Cristina found one so here we are in Sligo with Ben Bulben in the background. What a beautiful crew!