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Thread: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

  1. #1

    Default Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Hi Everyone

    I've recently started building a Rosewood and Cedar bouzouki for a list member. So here's a photo diary detailing each stage of it's construction. I hope that you find it interesting.

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    Here the neck mahogany has been squared and marked up, truss rod inserted and the headstock inlay fitted.....

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    After bandsawing the excess, carving can start. The offcuts fro the neck can be used for the top block and also the kerfed linings....

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    A Stanley knife and a good sharp spoke shave are the best tools for this job.

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    Here most of the shaping has been finished. Final profiling will done when the instrument is fully assembled. Now the angle of the neck block will be cut very precisely before fitting into the building jig.

    This is probably one of the most important stages as the geometry and positioning of the neck in the jig will setup the playing angle and the height of the strings at the jig.

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    More to follow....

    All the best

    Andy

    PS - any ideas how to make the photos a wee bit bigger ??

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  3. #2
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Andy , Great to see you on board the Cafe. Fellow members, I have 2 of Andy's bouzoukis , standard and large body, they are just fantastic, Andy dont worry about the pictures, when I click on them I get full size which is perfect. I always wondered how these were put together. Just as a matter of interest, both of mine are spruce tops, what do ya see as being the main differences in tone etc between spruce and cedar.

    Keep the photos coming Andy, its fantastic to get an insight as to how skilled luthiers like yourself put their masterpieces together. Whoever gets this instrument is going to be a lucky guy/gal.

    John

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    John

    Western Red cedar imparts a warmer tone across the range of the instrument. One gets an immediate effect after the initial build.

    Great to see Andy's deft workmanship being revealed here.
    Nic Gellie

    Gellie #4 2017 A-5 mandolin

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Great, love theses build diary's ...

  6. #5

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Hi John, Nick's right about Cedar, compared with the Spruces, it does have an immediate warmth across the tonal range, and it's generally accepted that it doesn't need as much playing in either. Having said that I think it does develop and mature tonally with time. I'm certainly being asked for it more these days which is great - it's a gorgeous sounding wood.

    Andy

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    Registered User Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Tobin View Post

    PS - any ideas how to make the photos a wee bit bigger ??
    Andy, when you embed the photos they only show as thumbnails on the web page, but if you click them, you get a nice big blowup of the image! So they're just fine.
    "But wasn't it all stupid nonsense, rot, gibberish, and criminally fraudulent nincompoopery?"
    - Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver

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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Hi Andy, John Burge here up in county durham.............a while before you start my LBB I Know. But,This discussion about cedar v spruce for the top, is there much noticeable difference apart from the warmer sounding cedar, and what advantages if any, are there with spruce over using cedar ?? I'm 50/50 at the moment, but I know I have time to decide etc. John (Ryan) reckons his spruce ones opened up after a few months.I would think there might be possibly more clarity with spruce ??Anyone else out there other than Andy with an opinion on this, put your thoughts forward here on the forum. Cheers off to bed now to dream about bouzoukis again !!!!!!!

  9. #8
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbazgtr View Post
    Hi Andy, John Burge here up in county durham.............a while before you start my LBB I Know. But,This discussion about cedar v spruce for the top, is there much noticeable difference apart from the warmer sounding cedar, and what advantages if any, are there with spruce over using cedar ?? I'm 50/50 at the moment, but I know I have time to decide etc. John (Ryan) reckons his spruce ones opened up after a few months.I would think there might be possibly more clarity with spruce ??Anyone else out there other than Andy with an opinion on this, put your thoughts forward here on the forum. Cheers off to bed now to dream about bouzoukis again !!!!!!!
    John

    I had a Rick Westerman bouzouki years ago and it was a cedar topped instrument. It had a fantastic tone, warm and bright at the same time. My preference is for a western red cedar topped bouzouki. There are also quite a number of USA luthiers who have made beautiful western red cedar topped instruments and they work well.

    Nigel Forster's western red cedar topped ibouzouki sound really good based on very high quality sound clips I have listened to.
    Nic Gellie

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I have built two tenor guitars with cedar tops and lots more with spruce and some with cypress.
    I found the cedar to be a lovely sounding wood, maybe not quite as clear or sharp as spruce. I don't notice much different in volume or sustain but the cedar seems to have more depth, and a more mellow tone.
    I also think the average cedar top looks nicer than the average spruce top!
    However the big difference is the hardness of the wood with cedar being very soft.
    In my case, my cedar toped guitars are well dented!
    Of course a professional builder will most likely produce a much better & harder finish coat that I can manage & dings may not be an issue!
    I think it is nice to be slightly different and as long as you are carful with your instrument, I would highly recommend a cedar soundboard.

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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    thanks for that Fox

  12. #11

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Here are the latest pics for you.....

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    In these images, the neck and top block are being fitted into the jig. Getting the alignment and geometry correct here is crucial.

    Once the jig is setup I can make a start on the back and sides.

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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Anyway, that was a photo of the bending iron I use. I made this probably 30 years ago out of a piece of 3" steel pipe welded to a bit 8mm sheet so I can clamp it into a vice. It's heated with a small gas burner from a camping stove. Once up to temperature it gives a very even heat along the length of the pipe. About 10 or 15 years ago I bought a proper one thinking it would work better - well it didn't and so I very quickly went back to using this.

    So, the back's glued up and the sides are planed to the correct thickness. Time for bending them up...

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    I really enjoy this part of the build - it's the first time that you start to see the instrument coming together.

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    and after a bit of cleaning up, they can be glued into the jig.

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I like your simple tools and jigs Andy. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into it over the years.
    Nic Gellie

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  17. #14

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    I like your simple tools and jigs Andy. Obviously a lot of thought has gone into it over the years.
    Hi Nick, well there's nothing wrong with simple !! The jig system I use seems to work very well for me. It's quite different to a more conventional guitar style mould which is a method that works very well if the neck is joined to a completed body with either a dovetail or some other mechanical join. As I build my instruments with an integral block ie: no dovetail or mechanical join, the method of construction needs to be different. This jig is similar in some ways to the traditional Spanish Flamenco guitar construction where the body is built around the neck and slipper heel. It's a wee bit more complicated to build this way but there are significant tonal advantages in avoiding the dovetail join.

    As for tools, I'll talk more about these later, but I do like my hand tools. Japanese saws and chisels are beautiful tools to use and all of my thicknessing is done with a small Veritas block plane and cabinet scraper - you don't really need much else !! - well maybe a small router, oh and a bandsaw comes in handy too.

    All best

    Andy

  18. #15
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    This is great Andy and really inspiring for all of us would be luthiers!!! or should that be "wood be".
    Its great to see the instrument coming together. Also great to see you using hand tools and your own jigs and bending iron. The integral neck block is a really interesting idea. would you say its used much by luthiers?? Is that just a simple flat piece of MDF under the back you are joining or are there some secrets going on under there!!!

    Cant wait for the next installment!!

    John

  19. #16
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Yeah same here......

  20. #17

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    This is great Andy and really inspiring for all of us would be luthiers!!! or should that be "wood be".
    Its great to see the instrument coming together. Also great to see you using hand tools and your own jigs and bending iron. The integral neck block is a really interesting idea. would you say its used much by luthiers?? Is that just a simple flat piece of MDF under the back you are joining or are there some secrets going on under there!!!

    Cant wait for the next installment!!

    John
    Hi John, No secrets I'm afraid, just a piece of 25mm MDF with a bit of candle wax down the middle of it to stop the glue sticking. It's getting a wee bit tatty now though - I can't think how many tops and backs have been glued up on this !

    As for the style of building, most other bouzoukis I've seen use the more conventional method of fixing the neck to the body with a dovetail, mortice and tenon or some form of mechanical joint, and there's nothing wrong with this at all. The method I use is a bit different but works very well too, and I believe that it does have distinct advantages, tonally and also additional sustain.

    All best

    Andy

  21. #18

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I have one of Andy's 5 course citterns - a really versatile alternative to the bouzouki - shorter scale length which makes it a bit more manageable and the option of a low growling bass when you want it. I know nothing of building and neck joint options but certainly the sustain on this instrument is incredible. It seems to be able to produce a tight percussive (bouzouki) sound or a more open, ringing, chordal tone depending on how you want to use it. Perfect intonation and playability all the way up the neck - which is fairly important, I think, on these instruments as we frequently capo at the 5th or 7th fret.

  22. #19
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I'll second that Cliff, I have 2 of Andy's Bouzoukis, Standard and Large Body, both spruce tops. Great instruments and sensibly priced as well.

    John

  23. #20

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    OK, here's how the bouzouki is progressing.

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    The two halves of the back have been glued together and are sawn to shape. Now the thicknessing can start.

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    I like to use a small finely set Veritas Block plane for this, and then a cabinet scraper.

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    When it's the correct thickness I rout a small 6mm channel in the outside face to take a Kingwood inlay. As well as being decorative, this inlay also strengthens the glue join meaning that an internal reinforcing strip is not necessary. This will make the job of fixing and shaping the internal bracing much easier.

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    Now we can start on the back braces. These are made from very straight close grained Sitka spruce cut from split billets. A slight radius is carved into the gluing face. Again this is all done with the block plane. The braces can then be glued and when dry carved to shape.

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    and the finished back....
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  25. #21
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    This is great Andy. Better than any book on lutherie!! Maybe you should write one!!!! Keep the threads comin...

    John

  26. #22

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Really glad that you like the pictures John. The last one didn't come out for some reason, so here it is...

    Attachment 156106

    So the next job is to fit the kerfed lining to the sides before fitting the back. These are made out of offcuts from the neck and are a right pain to make !! This shot shows the lining fitted and cleaned up.

    Attachment 156108

    Then we have to fit the back to the sides and mark the positions of the back braces on the linings and cut the rebates out. This is best done with a small Japanese saw and sharp chisel.

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    Then the back can be glued on. This is where this style of building jig really comes into its own. These spool clamps fit into pre threaded holes in the aluminium plate. The spool can then be screwed down to the back to clamp it down.

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    Next job is to start work on the top......

    All best

    Andy

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  28. #23
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Tobin View Post
    Really glad that you like the pictures John. The last one didn't come out for some reason, so here it is...

    Attachment 156106

    So the next job is to fit the kerfed lining to the sides before fitting the back. These are made out of offcuts from the neck and are a right pain to make !! This shot shows the lining fitted and cleaned up.

    Attachment 156108

    Then we have to fit the back to the sides and mark the positions of the back braces on the linings and cut the rebates out. This is best done with a small Japanese saw and sharp chisel.

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    Then the back can be glued on. This is where this style of building jig really comes into its own. These spool clamps fit into pre threaded holes in the aluminium plate. The spool can then be screwed down to the back to clamp it down.

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    Next job is to start work on the top......

    All best

    Andy
    Really interesting seeing it all come together Andy....... is this an LBB or an SBB ?

    cheers john burge

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  30. #24
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Slightly off thread ( and maybe Andy wont agree) . For all you lucky Tobin Bouzouki Owners out there, try a pair of Nickle Wound 20s on the A strings. Just put it on me large body, (Bouzouki that is), wow,sounds fantastic or even fantasticker (new word for Oxford English Dictionary) than it did before.

    John

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  32. #25

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    OK, making the top is the next job on the list.

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    so the two halves are glued together in exactly the same way as the backs are on my trusty piece of very old MDF. This instrument will be made with a Cedar top. I remember selecting this piece of wood a number of years ago, it has a lovely tight grain and is especially stiff, I had a feeling it would make far a great instrument.

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    Now it can be thicknessed. Again, the Veritas block plane is the best job for this.

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    This is a lovely tool to use, good and heavy, a really well designed plane. The iron is 3mm thick and from PMV-11 steel - no idea what that means but it works !!

    Now I can fit the rosette. Good circle cutters are hard to find and I've never wanted to go the Dremel drill route, all those complicated jigs and things. I found this cutter in a tool shop over 30 years ago and it works a treat.

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    The arm is from a high carbon steel and I had it hardened. It cuts a beautiful, very accurate circle. The only drawback is that the waste then has to be removed. So it's back to the Lie Nielson chisels.

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    Here the rosette is ready to be glued in.

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    And here is the finished rosette cleaned up. The top is now ready for the bracing to be fitted and carved. As with the back, the braces are made from tight close grained Sitka spruce.

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    Here the main braces have been glued and are being roughly carved to shape.

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    And here is the finished top ready for fixing to the body. Now you may have noticed that the bracing looks a wee bit different from a conventional X bracing most commonly used. Well, I've been using this bracing system for many years now and have over time developed it into the pattern you see here.

    As you'll probably know, the X bracing system was developed for use in guitars and is designed primarily for guitars with pin bridges.

    In a guitar the forces acting on the top are completely different from a bouzouki which has a floating bridge. In a guitar the forces are sheer - ie; the strings are trying to pull the bridge off. On a bouzouki with a floating bridge the forces are of compression - ie; the strings are trying to push the bridge into the body.

    X bracing just isn't designed to cope with this force, especially when you have a weak cross half lapped joint right under the bridge ! This offset transverse bracing is much more designed to cope with the compression force. I know it's unconventional but it's a system that works very well.

    OK - that's all for now, next job will be to fix the top to the body.

    All best

    Andy

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