Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Northwest Guitar

  I recently finished with this one.  It's a ladder braced parlor guitar, based on a circa 1910 Washburn.  I built it a bit sturdier than the original to hold string tension better.  It is made completely of woods local to the Pacific Northwest.  The sound is large, with clear treble and full bass.  Being a finger picker myself, I love how it sounds for fingerstyle rags and country blues.  I've been playing it and bringing it to festivals a bit this summer and also got to back up some fiddle tunes and hear others on it, and boy is it a sweet sound.  Punchy yet warm.  One of the best times I got to hear it was W.B. Reid (of Seattle's Tall Boys and The Todalo Shakers among others) playing it and joyously thumping out the bass runs on a Gus Cannon song. 

  The top is Western Red Cedar.  The back and sides are Pacific Madrone (some call it Madrona).

    Curly Maple for the binding.

Here's a full sun view of the Madrone back.

            That's a three piece neck of Poplar (a great stable neck wood!) and Walnut.  
                                          Golden Era tuners on a solid peghead.

Walnut for the bridge and fretboard.

Rain drop style mother of pearl inlay to go with the Northwest theme.

  The braces (not pictured) are made of some nice tight grain Yellow Cedar.  The Madrone was a joy to work with.  I had some nice straight(!) and seasoned boards that Doc of Doc's Banjos had given me 5 years ago.  I wasn't sure how it would bend up, but it was smooth and easy going.  I didn't stain the body other than a light base coat of garnet shellac.  I did stain the neck a reddish brown.  The whole thing is finished with an oil based varnish, and then french polished with blonde shellac.  Overall it is still a very light finish, so I added the pickguard to help protect the Cedar top. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Brilliantone Mandolin

  I have this old mandolin that I love to play.  It's a L. H. Leland Brilliantone Mando from perhaps the teens.  It's really a thing of beauty and sounds sweet to my ears.  I've heard tell that they were actually built by the Larson Brothers.  It has a neapolitan or bent top made of spruce, and nice brazillian rosewood back and sides.  Mahogany neck, and a new ebony bridge which I made to replace the original busted one.

   Like other mandolins of the era (and Martins for decades), this one has a bent top and relatively flat back.  I love this style of mandolin, and to me it sounds great for playing rags, blues, and old time stringband music.

   Pretty cool inset tuners with this big decorative coverplate.  They still work good!

  I decided to try my hand at making a similar style mandolin, so using the Brillantone as a model to go off, I've set about to cutting, carving, and gluing.  I'm using oak for the back and sides, and spruce for the top.

  Right now the body has just got it's base coats of shellac.  I decided to inlay the pickguard like on the original.  Producing the bend in the top was not too difficult.  I studied this one and another similar mando as well as I could from the inside with mirrors, and researched more about bowl backs which use this style of top.

  I love the look of quarter sawn oak.  Some of my favorite old instruments are made with it, and not only is it beautiful, but it sounds great.  That's koa binding.

  The neck is being carved now.  I can't wait to get it finished so I can play it!