CLC Newsletter July 2017

Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter July 2017.

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Hello again from the West coast of Ireland,

We had some great weather for a few days and the vegetables are coming on nicely. We are eating something every day from the garden. Currently we are waiting for the courgettes (zucchini) to form.

Living as close to sea as we do we get a lot of seagulls flying over but seldom stopping in the garden. That is until something edible is thrown onto the grass. Magically they arrive in seconds.

They had eaten the few bread crusts by the time I found the camera and were hoping for some more.


 Tech Bit - Fanned Fretting.


Fan fretting has been around for a long time. The first known examples appeared on the Orpharion, a lute type of instrument, in the 16th century. They re-appeared in the 1970's and are still popular with some musicians. Normal frets run parallel down the neck and perpendicular to the strings and the scale length is technically the same for each string. With fan frets each string has it's own scale length with the outermost bass strings being the longer scale and the outermost treble string having the shortest. So what are the advantages of fanned fretting? For a given note on a string the longer a scale length the more tension is required to reach that note. So bass strings would have more tension on them than the treble strings in a fan frets, multi scale system. In effect this allows for deeper bass pitch and the extra tension stiffens the strings that allows for better articulation. An extreme example is the 9 string bass I made for  Freddy Samsonstuen ten years ago.

Having multi scale fan frets on this bass allow for the strings to be tuned F#BEADGCFA# (where the normal 4 string bass is the EADG section in that tuning) which extends the range of the instrument considerably. Some players also claim that the fan fret system is more ergonomic - but not for me!

Cutting the slots for normal fretting is relatively simple - all the frets are parallel so, as long as you know where to make the slot, the fingerboard just has to be moved across the fretting saw.  Like this.

So how do you know where to cut the slots for a multi scale instrument? Easy actually. Once you know the scale length for the shortest and longest strings (determined by the customer) these numbers can be entered into a box in a spreadsheet that I made years ago, hit enter and the computer instantly prints out all the fret positions for three octaves. Next, using the fret number where the customer wants the vertical fret to be, mark this for each scale onto the dimensioned fingerboard blank. Then mark all the other fret positions on the bass and treble sides of the blank. Join up the lines between the frets and all the in between scales fit in place.

I try to mark to within 0.25mm using a Stanley knife blade with the ruler clamped to the fingerboard and me wearing magnifying lenses to improve accuracy. 

You can just see the marks for the fingerboard end highlighted.

Recently I had to make a fan fretted fingerboard and this is how I did it. Vertical fret and all other fret positions were marked as described above.This is the jig that I used. It consists of a board that is screwed to the saw bed with a piece of plywood screwed to the board and parallel to it so that the fingerboard can just fit under it. The plywood is positioned so that the saw blade runs exactly along it's length.

So the fingerboard is placed under the plywood and adjusted so that the zero fret marks for top and bottom strings align with the edge. A clamp is applied to the plywood to hold the fingerboard in place and, with a pass of the saw, the nut position is created.

The saw height is adjusted to the correct depth required for a fret slot, the fingerboard unclamped, moved to align the first fret positions with the edge, the clamp refitted and the first fret slot is cut. This is repeated until all the slots are cut.

This is the result. My customer chose to have the vertical fret at the 12th position but other players have their own preferred choice.

If you have an idea that you think would make a good subject for the Tech Bit let me know and I'll see if I can include it in a future Newsletter.


  In the Workshop.

A few visitors this month.

Matt Griffin tries the archtop. Nice stretch Matt!

Dave Prickett with cool hat and ASAPB5 bass. Dave and his wife Sue are old friends who are one of the most dynamic couples you could meet. We met through a shared love of woodworking 30 or so years ago. They now live in Durhamstown Castle in County Meath - a great wedding venue.

And Gerry O'Beirne (wot again?) with the pretty Parlour. His Half Moon Bay album is some of our favourite music.

Kenny Zeserson showed me this. He used a mic that normally fits in the bell of his sax and attached it to the side soundhole of his Parlour to amplify it.


Not in the Workshop.

Claudio sent me some great pics of him gigging with each of his Larkin basses. The archtop 6 string.


His first bass, a Bassix. This bass was made so long ago for him that I can't immediately find it in my records!



and the SC6.

A quick report on the KFest that was held in Kilorglin at the beginning of June. Syra was exhibiting along with 146 other artists. It was an extremely well organised event with all the galleries in empty buildings. We stayed  Airbandb so we could avail of all the stuff that was happening in the evenings. Loads to do in the evenings with music in many venues, all free. We had a ball and would do it again if invited. 

Here Syra is talking to customers who came to collect their painting.


This was some guitar art by Mike Ahearn. I make guitars. He cuts them up! (none if them were mine).

And these ladies were part of the entertainment at the party that closed the event.


T-Shirts and Straps. 

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.    

The Stocklist.

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.


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 trimmings.


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.


Although I said we had some fine weather we also had this.

Great pic from The Green Room Bar of lightning striking the hill directly behind our house. You can just see the tip of the workshop roof to the left of the left hand telegraph pole. Close.  

...Finally, finally... 

Syra had a special birthday so we did a bed and breakfast night in South Kerry one of the most beautiful parts of the county. Here are some of the things we saw. A seal swimming in with the tide in Kenmare hoping to catch fish in the estuary. We thought it was a dog at first.

Sneem is a village on the Ring of Kerry which has a lot to offer visitors. This is part of the sculpture park.

And this is the view from the bridge.

Kerry is a special place and we are lucky to live here.   

....So Finally, Finally, Finally....

If you have any ideas for the Newsletter, would like to send me a recipe, an article for inclusion, want to promote your band (if it has one or more of my instruments in it), an event, pics of your Larkin, any YouTube video of you playing one of my instruments or anything else suitable, contact me and I'll see what I can do.  Feel free to forward this Newsletter to anybody who it might interest. The mailing list can be joined by filling in the form at the bottom of any page on the website.