CLC Newsletter November 2016

Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter October 2016.

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Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.

Apologies for this being a day late. Problems with our internet provider.A strange month! We set out from Ireland to travel to The Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin via Oostende. Somehow things conspired so that we didn't get back home until October 18th! And, since then, things have conspired again so that I've hardly been in the workshop since then and I'm unlikely to be there full time until the second week of November. I should be fairly refreshed by then! Kerry, Syra and Daisy did some garden work - planting gooseberry bushes.


And putting seaweed on part of the veggie plot ready for next Spring.

Do luthiers have sensitive feet? When I make the breakfast it is in my dressing gown and bare feet. One morning soon after we were home I thought the floor felt warmer in one part of the kitchen than the rest. A second day and I was sure of this. It had to be a leak of the hot water under the floor. Call Pat the Plummer who agreed and started digging. First hole showed water but not the leak.

More digging found the culprit which was a broken pipe at a junction. It must have been leaking for ages and gradually getting worse.

Pat fixed it neatly.

And this was the problem.

Th bad news is that this is the second underfloor leak we have had in a year. Pat has warned us that the copper pipes that were originally fitted in 1982 are likely to be deteriorating all over the house and will require replacing eventually. Oh joy! I was of the opinion that copper, like diamonds, was forever!

      Tech Bit - Bobbin Sanders (and a bit of a rant!)

Bobbin sanders are really useful in guitar making as they make sanding and shaping curved pieces easier. Basically they are machines with a vertical cylindrical tube with a covering of abrasive paper that rotates and also moves up and down. The reciprocal movement lessens the chance of leaving sanding marks. I bought this one 20 years ago from APTC in the UK.

Lovely machine and has been involved in the making of hundreds of guitars. Notice the tube next to the vertical drum. This is called a loading and is a roll of abrasive paper that is a very close fit to the drum. The loadings, available in different grits, wear out after a while and need to be replaced. So, until last year, I was able to buy fresh loadings from APTC as I needed them. But the last time I asked for them they told me there were a few left and they would not be making any more as they had a new machine and the loadings were not transferable. I bought all the loadings they had. Recently these were worn out so I had to but a new bobbin sander. This time I bought a Triton from IeDepot in Galway.

Lovely machine with a wide variety of bobbin sizes and loadings which actually runs faster than the old one and has a deeper oscillation. I'm happy to have it but the old machine is in perfect working order - the only problem was getting the loadings (not expensive) to fit it. I did try to get loadings from another source but, although they were nominally the same sizes, they were not a good enough fit to be useable. So this is my rant. I have had to spend good money to replace a perfectly good machine because the makers stopped supporting this - a parallel with computer software! Planned obsolescence?

Anyway, Kerry and I commissioned it and launched it with a bottle of Belgian beer!

  If you have a topic that you would like to see in the Tech Bit slot please tell me about it and I will see what I can do.

  The Holy Grail Guitar Show.

The Holy Grail Guitar Show is held in Berlin for the last three years. It is a professional luthier only show (no large manufacturers) organised by the European Guitar Builders which you have to be invited to. Each maker gets the same space (a table 2m x 1m) regardless of their reputation. It is a great concept which is fantastically organised over a weekend by volunteers headed by Tania the HGGS Queen. I was lucky enough to have been selected last year an surprised to be asked again for 2016. I need to have 4 instruments to fill my table and set out about three months ago to make three and asked Claudio if I could borrow one of his basses for the fourth. To do this I was working 6 (and sometimes 7 ) day weeks with an extra 2 hours in the night after work. I actually finished at 7pm on the Sunday night and we were leaving on the Monday morning! These were what I made.

From the front, an ASAS Semi in Irish fiddleback sycamore, an ASAP Parlour in 350 year old Irish oak and am ASAP Twinneck (6 and 12) with a body of Swiss flamed maple. No tropical hardwoods in any of them.

The ASAS Semi has a hand carved top and back with a neck of flamed maple, two Seymour Duncan pickups, a Rocklite fingerboard and a Floyd Rose FRX trem. The sound holes were designed by Geert and these are his pics.  He remembered to put the trem arm in unlike me!

The Parlour also has a fingerboard of 3-5000 year old bog oak, Irish walnut for the bridge, head plate and bracing and Irish fiddleback sycamore in the neck - every wood is Irish.

The Twinneck acoustic (a first for me) has a midnight sunburst finish which brings out the figuring in the Swiss flamed maple. This was a colouring I used many years ago on solid body guitars. Despite the large body, twin necks and 18 tuners it balances well and sounded amazing. It got a lot of attention. Pics from Nicolai at Vintage and Rare.

The fourth guitar was Claudio's ASAPB6 archtop fretless bass from last year. Claudio was kind enough to bring it to the Show and let us use it. Pics from Nicolai again.

And here is Claudio, pic from Bibit.

So this was our stand. Pic from Bibit.

And here is Geert inviting the world to see it!

And these were the 'volunteers' wearing selection of old and new Chris Larkin T shirts.

L to R we have Claudio, Karin, Christoph and Geert same as last year. Bibit has not yet been caught on camera but is a very important part of the team!

One of the best parts of the Show was the Local Wood Challenge where makers were asked to make an instrument from local woods. The results were a spectacular array of great instruments of all types. This is the display that was set up at the entrance to the Show on the Sunday morning. My parlour is in there somewhere!


And here is Syra taking a closer look with Hermann behind her.

One of the great things about the Show is meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Here are a few examples.

Joe Berger,

Adrian Lucas,

Andy Manson,

Rainer Oleak (with his new guitar),


Rauno Niemenen (comparing hair with Syra),


 George Lowden.

And Queen Tania!

Apologies for the many (including Brian and Jacky from The Leonardo Guitar Research Project who I could not find pics of) who are missing.

Without the help of my Twin Geert and TLOHL Bibit it wouldn't have been possible to 'do' the Show. Without Queen Tania and her staff it would not have happened anyway. So big, big thanks to those guys.

So, we went, we had fun (impossible not to with the company we kept) and we did business. What could be better than that?

This could go on and on so I'd better stop. There are thousands of photographs and videos about the amazing event on the internet that will give you different views of the Show.  A good place to start would be The Holy Grail Guitar Show FB page, Vintage and Rare, The Guitar Channel,  Geert's FB Page,  Adrian's FB page  or just Google it!

  The Recipe.

While in Berlin we stayed at the Hotel Britz again (which is excellent) and we ate almost every night at the Mona Mia restaurant which gave us great food and wine at very, very good prices - the last night we had a table of 15. We always started with bruschetta for which they charged 50 cent per portion! When did you last se anything on a menus for 50 cent? Well it was so good here is a recipe for it!

Ingredients for Balsamic Bruschetta to serve 8.

Plum tomatoes 8 roma, diced.
1/3 cup  fresh basil chopped.
1/4 cup  shredded parmesan cheese.
2 cloves  garlic minced.
1 tablespoon  balsamic vinegar.
1 teaspoon  olive oil.
1/4 teaspoon salt.
1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper.
1 loaf  french bread toasted and sliced.

What to do (very complex!).

In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, basil, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. Mix in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve on toasted bread slices. Yummy!


T-Shirts and Now - Straps Again! 


New batch of T-shirts (same old logo and only in black, M, L, XL and 2XL) arrived. Price is held at €15 each and postage will depend on where you live.

At last a new batch of the exciting Chris Larkin Custom straps are in stock. These are highest quality Levis 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.  Stock acoustic badly needed! Hopefully before Christmas. 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.


On the way back from Berlin we stayed for a couple of nights with our daughter Katrina and her family in Crouch End, London. All the family are multi talented, naturally! Her husband Murray is a great cook, a great artist, a fine musician and also the proprietor of Murray Store. Murray Store has all the apparel and accoutrements that a gentleman could wish for. So, if you are in Crouch End and looking for that certain something that will set you apart from the common man set your sights on 142 Crouch Hill and find it there!

Something else that sets it apart from the ordinary run of shops is the pub style sign that Murray painted and hangs outside the shop - a self portrait of the man himself!


....Finally, Finally.....

The journey back from Berlin included a stopover in Oostende which was extended after three of the four of us suffered from food poisoning!. The common thread was waffles that three of us ate while one did not. The waffles were recommended to us by luthier Ralph Bonte! I should add that if ever you need to go to hospital to be re-hydrated then Oostende would be a good place!

   ....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.