Sunday, 28 June 2020

New site

I've started a new site on Wix to talk about my work.  Go here:

I won't be keeping this domain for the moment.  When it expires this coming January this site will disappear, sorry...

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

I'm still here...and been busy!

Wow, it's June already.  I have been busy however from now on I'll try to do weekly updates of what I have been up to.  I'm a busy fellow and don't always get the time to post here regularly.  I want to talk about #49...the Kabosy commission.  A while ago I bought some Australian Cedar (Toona Ciliata) boards.  I read that Aust. Cedar made an excellent tone-wood  It's quite of soft timber, very easy to work and reminds me a lot of the Mahogany I have worked with in the past.  It's a lovely brick-red color and bends well.

I had some King William Pine that I have had for a while And used that for the soundboard.  The neck is made of Pine and the fingerboard is Ebony, yet to be fretted with the unusual half and quarter frets that Kabosy are fitted with. 

Here are some pics of #49 as it was last week:

     Yes, I know the headstock looks very messy.  This is because the Pine is too soft to to hold wooden tuning pegs so I fitted hardwood dowels to be bushings for the pegs to bear against.  The dowels will be flush cut then a veneer will cover the front and back of the head-stock so it will look neat. 

More soon...

Friday, 7 February 2020

It's been a little while

Someone asked if I could show the results of varnishing number 26 with the Grass Tree Resin varnish.  Today I rubbed out the cured varnish...this varnish being made to the recipe I previously published.  Last year I brushed on about 10 thin coats of the mixture with a camel hair brush then padded on more layers French Polish-style using Walnut Oil as a lubricant.  This was to try and level the finish as the brush left a bit of unevenness.

I waited a few weeks for the final finish to cure then today rubbed it back first, with 0 steel wool.  Then I rubbed it with 0000 steel wool.  I used a fair bit of elbow grease.  Then I rubbed it again with Tripoli powder mixed with mineral oil and beeswax until I had removed the scratches caused by the steel wool.  Once again I used a lot of elbow grease.  Then I rubbed it with Turtle Wax Scratch-and-Swirl Remover using elbow grease.  Then finally i finished it with Meguiar's Show Car Glaze. 

I got a great shine!!  Not quite a mirror but nearly there.  I love this varnish and will certainly use it again.  It's a glorious red but doesn't cure as quickly as Shellac alone, one thing to be aware of when using my recipe.  It's also VERY time-consuming.  I'm sure I'll be experimenting more with application methods for this varnish but the recipe seems to work pretty well, for me anyway.  Please note, if you want an easy finish this recipe is not for you!  But if you like the idea of doing everything yourself and want something different then give it a try...and if you live where Grass Trees grow

you can even gather the Grass Tree Resin yourself!

Friday, 3 January 2020

A long-overdue update

Life got in the way and I've been neglecting this.  I have been very busy though, unfortunately much of it not to do with lutherie.  Nonetheless, I'm hoping that I will have more time for this in 2020.  I have received a commission to build a Malagasy Kabosy and dutifully ordered the plan for this unusual instrument from Luthiers Mercantile.  It took about six weeks to arrive from the USA and after reviewing the plan I realised that it would be easier for me to build a guitar-shaped instrument rather than the rectangular shape that most kabosy are made in.  Their are guitar-shaped Kabosy in existence so I'm not doing something sacrilege.  Here are some links regarding traditional Kabosy:


More tomorrow, including where I am at with the Grass Tree resin varnish...

Saturday, 29 June 2019

What I've learned about Grass Tree resin

Above is what I collected this morning.  I found a patch of bushland near my home which featured a few mature Grass Trees (by my estimation the species Xanthorrhoea drummondii).  Grass Trees are very familiar to anyone living in the Perth metropolitan area surrounds.  They are commonly found in suburban parks and are a common garden tree.  For those who don't know about Grass Trees go here:

The resin balls vary in size from that of a pea to that of a small tennis ball.  If you want to collect Grass Tree resin the balls protrude from the exposed trunk and should break off easily.  If they don't snap of easily leave them as I'd hate to be encouraging people to damage the trees.  Snapping them off won't harm the tree.  Indeed Aboriginals have been collecting the resin in this way for thousands of years.  The resin had many uses such as melting and reducing it into a powerful adhesive.  However my intention is to use the resin for making varnish.  The stuff dissolves well in alcohol and is both a lovely natural red stain as well as a substitute for shellac.  However I will include shellac in my recipe.  This is the recipe that I currently use:

50g shellac (I like garnet shellac)
200ml alcohol
5g gum sandarac
50g Grass Tree resin
7ml eucalyptus oil

Violin makers would recognize this as a variation on the famous 1704 spirit varnish recipe.  I used eucalyptus oil instead of lavender spike oil to give it an Australian flavor.  The recipe flows out quite nicely with a good quality artist's brush.  It's definitely not as easy to brush as store-bought varnish, though.  It requires practice. 

Tomorrow I'll post some pics of guitar number 26 with the current progress on varnishing. 

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Number 39 as at 16th June 2019

I've been neglecting number 39.  This is a new design for me, taken from Graham MacDonald's book "The Mandolin Project".  The soundboard bracing is designed to resist any distortion of the soundboard than can occur over time to flat-top instruments.  The soundboard is Sitka Spruce, the back and sides are Western Australian She-oak, the neck is Phillipine Mahogany and the fingerboard is Jarrah.  The clothes pegs are for clamping on the linings while the glue dries.  More work to be done!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Further adventure in varnish making

So today I walked down to my local park in suburban Perth to look for some mature Grass Trees.  Found a few and even, to my amazement, found three balls of resin at the base of one large tree.  I didn't expect to find this so easily as I expected that someone else would have been there before.  Grass Tree resin is an ingredient in incense and is used in aromatherapy I believe.  So I took my discoveries home and dissolved them in methylated spirits in a jar, added a little sandarac and tomorrow I will add some orange shellac to the mixture.  The orange should go well with the red/brown color of the Grass Tree resin.  Above is a short video of where I was at with it before dissolving the resin.