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Thread: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Tobin View Post
    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
    I have 2 Sobell instruments - a ten string mandolin and an octave mandolin, from the 1980s which are cedar/rosewood and that seems to suit me fine.
    I also got a cedar/rosewood Lowden guitar about four years ago. Very responsive and easy to play, but actually I almost find it TOO loud.

    There seems to be a school of thought which suggests that cedar is good for fingerstyle guitar playing but spruce is better for strumming. I don't know what you would think of that, Andy.
    Having said that, I think some of my favourite Celtic rhythm guitar playing is by Donogh Hennessey on early Lunasa albums and Ross Martin from Scottish band Diamh. As far as know they are both cedar topped Lowdens, and judging from the amount of wear on their guitars they were definitely being used pretty hard!
    David A. Gordon

  2. #27
    Registered User Reinhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Great stuff Andy. How thick does the soundboard end up when you're finished?? Is it uniform thickness or does it vary.?

    How do you know when to stop shaping the bracing?? Might sound like stupid questions but this whole thread is just so inspiring for those of us with dreams to build their own instrument.

    Keep up the great work Andy. This has to be the best builder thread on the cafe!!!

    John

  3. #28

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    Great stuff Andy. How thick does the soundboard end up when you're finished?? Is it uniform thickness or does it vary.?

    How do you know when to stop shaping the bracing?? Might sound like stupid questions but this whole thread is just so inspiring for those of us with dreams to build their own instrument.

    Keep up the great work Andy. This has to be the best builder thread on the cafe!!!

    John
    Hi John, I'm really glad that you're finding this interesting and inspiring. I think you're right, many people would love to have a go at building their own instruments, I hope that this helps to demystify some of the processes.

    I usually take my soundboards down to about 3mm at the centre, then the edges are feathered down to anywhere between 2.5-2.8mm. I want to keep the top fairly stiff in the centre, but more flexible at the edges - a bit like a loudspeaker cone, it has to be flexible enough to respond to the lightest of touches, but also strong enough to cope with the string pressure.

    As Cedar is a softer and less dense wood than the various spruces, I'll make these thicknesses about 10% bigger.

    As to the shaping of the braces, and how far to take the carving, this is where it does get a wee bit airy-fairy. For me, much of it does comes down a gut feeling, and I'm afraid that much of this comes down to experience. How it looks and feels, you get a sense when it's right, and this is reinforced by tapping. I do this a lot when I'm tuning the top - the tone of the top will tighten and ring more when it's right, you've just got to remember to stop at the right time !!!

    All best

    Andy

  4. #29
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I like the simple tools again in the process of preparing the top. They might be a bit slower and require exacting attention to detail but they seem to do the job well.
    Nic Gellie

    Gellie #4 2017 A-5 mandolin

  5. #30

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by johnbazgtr View Post
    Really interesting seeing it all come together Andy....... is this an LBB or an SBB ?

    cheers john burge
    Hi John, sorry, I forgot your reply - this is an SBB with a scale length of 632mm. Hope that helps - Andy

  6. #31

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    OK, the top's all finished now, so I need to get the body ready so I can fit the top. So after cleaning up the edges of the back with the router, it's time to take the body and neck out of the jig. There may be a bit of excess glue so there's a wee bit of cleaning up inside first, then the kerfed lining can be fitted.

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    I make the kerfed linings out of offcuts from the neck blank. Mahogany is a good wood to use for this, although they could be from spruce, lime or poplar. Although these can be bought ready made, they're much better if you make them yourself - they're a right pain to make though !

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    Here the linings have been glued in place. I use clothes pegs to hold them in place.

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    Sometimes these instruments can get a bit of a hammering and as the sides are made from a solid but thin section, they'll need reinforcing across the grain to hep reduce the risk of splitting. I make these reinforcing strips out of offcuts of rosewood planed down to 2.5mm.

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    So here's the finished body ready to have the top fitted. I glue in the label at this stage too. Fitting the top is the same process as for fitting the back. The positions of the braces are marked and the small rebate is cut using the Japanese saw with the excess being chiselled away.

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    Then the top can be glued on using the same spool clamps I use for fitting the back. I'll set this aside now for a couple of days before making a start on the next jobs of fitting the purflings, linings and fingerboard.

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  8. #32
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Hi Andy, did you make those spool clamps yourself??? also how many reinforcing strips do you install, is it always in or around the same area as the braces meet the sides?? great to see how the mysterious of the instrument takes shape!!

    John

  9. #33

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    Hi Andy, did you make those spool clamps yourself??? also how many reinforcing strips do you install, is it always in or around the same area as the braces meet the sides?? great to see how the mysterious of the instrument takes shape!!

    John
    Hi John, yes I made the spool clamps. They're really useful things to have in the workshop. Very simple to make - just some 35mm dowel with a hole drilled through the middle and a 6mm nut embedded in one end. Then they can screw onto a 6" length of 6mm studding. I fit 4 of the reinforcing strips per side at equal spacings which happens to line up with the 3 of the back braces.

    All the best

    Andy

  10. #34

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    OK, it's time to fit the purflings and bindings to the body. But before I do that the body will need a good tidy up first. Use a router to trim away the overhanging excess from the top and back and then clean up any glue overspill from the sides.

    Now it's time to cut the rebates for the purflings and bindings. There are various ways you can do this and by far the easiest and most accurate way is with a router. One way of doing this is to set the router upside down in a table - so you've basically got a small spindle moulder. The cutter can be adjusted for height and depth and the instrument is run against a stop.

    But I like to cut the rebates using a small hand held router using a bearing follower. I just find this method easier and more flexible - also it's one more bit of equipment you don't need to keep in the workshop. The router I use is a small Bosch POF52. This model was discontinued years ago - amazingly mine is still going after 30 years. I had to change the bearings on it a good 20 years ago and it still runs perfectly.

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    I also need to cut the vertical rebate which links the top and back bindings together with mitred joints. This photo is a close up detail showing the rebates all cut.

    So the next job is to glue them all in. The rosewood bindings will need bending to the body profile first. The purflings are flexible enough and they don't need bending.

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    While the glue is drying the bindings and purflings are held in place with a low tack masking tape. They only need to be held for 10 minutes or so, until the glue has 'grabbed'. Then set the instrument aside for a good day or two until the glue has dried fully.

    After all the tape has been removed and the glue has dried fully the fingerboard can be fitted. The fingerboard is cut to the finished shape and the fret slots are cut too, but the surface is left flat. It makes it much easier to glue and get an even pressure right to the edges if the fingerboard is flat. Also, no matter how careful you are with your gluing and clamping, the drying process will always leave a very slight positive or negative bow in the neck which can be dealt with later when the fingerboard profile is cut.

    Now it's time for a big clean up !!

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    So next is the fingerboard and fretting......

    All the best

    Andy

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  12. #35
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Wow, really taking shape now Andy. Just a few questions if ya dont mind!!

    Whats that little wedge where the bottom body meets the neck? do you use the same type of glue for the bandings and purflings as you use on the rest of the instrument. Would it be easier to rout the channels for the bandings before you attach the neck??

    Keep em comin Andy. This is great stuff and really explains some of the mysterys of the dark art of lutherie!!!

    John

  13. #36

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    Wow, really taking shape now Andy. Just a few questions if ya dont mind!!

    Whats that little wedge where the bottom body meets the neck? do you use the same type of glue for the bandings and purflings as you use on the rest of the instrument. Would it be easier to rout the channels for the bandings before you attach the neck??

    Keep em comin Andy. This is great stuff and really explains some of the mysterys of the dark art of lutherie!!!

    John
    Hi John, yes it's coming together now. Well spotted, after I took that photo I was wondering if anyone would figure out what the wedge is for !! Well, when I'm cutting the vertical rebate for the binding and also cleaning everything down, it's really handy to be able to fix the instrument into a bench clamp. The wedge provides a surface that is parallel to the surface of the fingerboard - makes it much easier to clamp then.

    Glue - yes, the same glue for just about every job really - I use Franklins Titebond.

    The neck is the first component to go into the jig and the body is built around it, so it's part of the body from day one really, so the binding and purfling rebates have to be routed with the neck in place. Actually the routing is made easier with the neck in place anyway, especially for the back as the instrument can be clamped down by the neck with a couple of G clamps which holds everything steady.

    Routing the rebates is a very quick and easy job to do - although it can look like a scary one ! If the router is set up properly, and the cutter is set to the correct depth, and the bearing follower is set, very little can go wrong. Always do a test cut first though on some offcuts. And another tip - always use a HSS cutter rather than a TC one. TC cutters are fine when they're new, but the edge goes much quicker than you'd expect and they're difficult to sharpen. HSS cutters are much easier to sharpen and you'll get a much better finish, especially on softwoods like spruce or cedar.

    Hope that helps.

    All the best

    Andy

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  15. #37
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    C'mon Andy, We're all waitin for the next installment!!!!!!! Meant to ask, do you ever use plastic bindings? I've heard these are really easy to shape. You'd probably need different glue though would ya.

    John

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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Remember John he needs time to build it first and I also think Andy liked to create a bit of excitement and anticipation.
    Nic Gellie

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  17. #39
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    You're so right Nic!! This is like a suspense thriller!! I'm particularly interested because I'm a Tobin addict and owner!! Its great to see how the instruments are put together, I had no idea that Andy used that integral neck joint for instance, it seems to be a major factor in how he gets the great sound. Believe me, the instruments are fantastic, beautiful tone, sustain and volume. I'm hoping to make a copy of one myself. This thread has been invaluable but I can guarantee you 100% that mine wont be half as good as Andy's particularly as I've never built an instrument before!! I'm just doing it as a personal project as I've always wanted to see if I could actually do it.. I'm nearing retitrement ( 2 years 10 months and 3 days, but who's counting!!). Want to keep busy even if it is only destroying perfectly good pieces of wood in my attempts at mastering lutherie!!!

    Seriously though, I've always had a big interest in how instruments were put together but just never had the time or guts to pursue it. I'm not getting any younger so its now or never!!

    Would love to see some videos of the finished product when its done. Looks like a fantastic instrument. Love the look of the cedar top as well. Mine are Spruce tops, beautiful as well. Andy must be busy putting the finishing touches to it. I'll just have to be patient!!

    John

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  19. #40

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Sorry guys - been a wee bit distracted here, the sheep are playing havoc and the builders are busy turning the house into a pile of rubble !!

    Anyway - where did we get to - Ah yes, final tidy up and then fingerboard and fretting...

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    The body's all cleaned down now, purflings and bindings are finished, so now the neck profiling can be finished.

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    Once all of the carving and spoke shaving is finished, the neck can be sanded down with some 80 grit paper spray mounted to a bit of MDF. This will give you a good flat and straight surface.

    The fingerboard can now be profiled. I start off by taking the edges down with the block plane and then put the finished radius with a 16" radius extruded aluminium sanding block. This is a great tool from StewMac and makes this job a doddle.

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    Now we've got a perfectly flat and smooth fingerboard the Mother of Pearl dots can be glued into the drilled out holes with a bit of superglue. I use 4mm up the face of the fingerboard and 1.5mm dots in the edge.

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    The next job is the fretting. As the fingerboard has now been profiled, the fret slots must be recut to the correct depth. I like to use a Japanese Hassumne crosscut saw for this. It makes a beautifully smooth cut the perfect width for fretting. The sharp top edges of the cut will need to be filed away slightly. This will help the frets seat properly.

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    So now cut the frets slightly oversize and hammer them in. If you start at the edges of the frets and then move into the centre they will be more secure. I start fretting at the nut end and work my way to the sound hole. You don't need to hit the frets hard with the hammer but when you get to the part of the fingerboard that is over the body it's a good idea to support the inside with a small block of lead. This will absorb most of the shock and not damage the soundboard.

    If the fretting is done properly you won't need to use any glue. Bear in mind that every instrument at some point in its life will need refretting and believe me, it's no fun at all taking out frets that have been glued in !!

    Once all of the frets are in, clip the ends flush, file smooth and then file in a bevel.

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    So we're nearly all done now. Finishing and assembly next....

    All the best

    Andy

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  21. #41
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    I like the fact that you use such simple tools to make such a great instrument. I am doing much the same myself and may I say I am getting some of those tools. I found my spoke shave BTW today.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    John

    Andy is planning some videos with his new video camera. Just a reminder Andy!
    Nic Gellie

    Gellie #4 2017 A-5 mandolin

  23. #43

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    John

    Andy is planning some videos with his new video camera. Just a reminder Andy!
    Hi Nick, Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the videos. I've figured out how to take the video on the new camera and get the clips onto the laptop, but haven't got a clue what to do with it from there. Any help greatly appreciated - please......

  24. #44
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Tobin View Post
    Hi Nick, Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the videos. I've figured out how to take the video on the new camera and get the clips onto the laptop, but haven't got a clue what to do with it from there. Any help greatly appreciated -
    please......
    What Computer OS do you use? The camera should come with a USB to camera socket cable. Connect the camera to your computer using the cable and you should be able to see the files in the files window. The movies will be in a special folder. From the camera's manual check what format your camera takes movies in. Check the files by date and time and copy the one you want to your computer.

    You should be able to double click on one to view it.

    Then use the upload feature above the quick reply window to put them on the cafe. You should see a little movie icon above the typing area. Click on that and find the file you want to upload. Click on it and then upload and it should load alongside your reply text in special formatting characters.
    Nic Gellie

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

    Hi Andy, really taking shape now. lookin great, cant wait to see the finish on it. do you just use the stanley knife for carving the neck where it meets the headstock?

    John

  26. #46

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    This has been fascinating from start to 'nearly at the finish line' and I just wish I was watching my own instrument being made. Guys, I took delivery of one of Andy's LBBs a few short months ago and I have to say that it is the best instrument I have ever purchased! Now I understand more fully where that brilliant sound comes from.
    BTW Andy, just tried some Elixir strings last time around and I'm delighted with them. Holding that new sound so much longer, even with my 12-string strumming style not holding back on them... Looking forward to seeing the next few steps. Keep up the excellent work and I hope your waiting list is growing and growing....

  27. #47

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    Hi Andy, really taking shape now. lookin great, cant wait to see the finish on it. do you just use the stanley knife for carving the neck where it meets the headstock?

    John
    Hi John, Yes I use the Stanley for the heel as well as for the bit at the nut end - I think it's called the 'volute'. In fact I use it for loads of jobs. It's a really useful and underrated tool and everybody should have one ! I'm sure over in the States they'd probably design a complicated jig and router method to carve the heel.

    Only a bit more to go on the thread now.

    All the best

    Andy

  28. #48

    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Quote Originally Posted by brendan456 View Post
    This has been fascinating from start to 'nearly at the finish line' and I just wish I was watching my own instrument being made. Guys, I took delivery of one of Andy's LBBs a few short months ago and I have to say that it is the best instrument I have ever purchased! Now I understand more fully where that brilliant sound comes from.
    BTW Andy, just tried some Elixir strings last time around and I'm delighted with them. Holding that new sound so much longer, even with my 12-string strumming style not holding back on them... Looking forward to seeing the next few steps. Keep up the excellent work and I hope your waiting list is growing and growing....
    Hi Brendan, Great to see you on the Café and I'm really happy to hear that the LBB is going well for you. Interesting what you say about Elixir strings. I've not used them before on the bouzoukis, I've always used D'Addario Phos/bronze but I've just had an old instrument in for a service and strung it up with a supplied set of Elixir strings. They sounded really good.

    All the best

    Andy

  29. #49
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    Great thread Andy.

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  31. #50
    Registered User Mando-Mauler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Andy Tobin Cedar Bouzouki Build Diary

    G'day Andy...following this thread has been very instructive. Every builder has his/her own particular methodology and timbers/materials. I agree with the choice of WRC (Western Red Cedar) - it's a beautiful timber & I am surprised it is not used more often. Builders don't push the envelope enough. I have spent some time researching the construction and sonic theories of Greek & Levantine stringed instruments, including the various styles of bouzouki. There is an amazing number of geographical variations. One thing struck me as being common to most, this being the use of mulberry wood for sides and backs, especially the species generally known as Black Mulberry. A beautiful and visually striking wood with colours in a single piece ranging from a gentle creamy tint immediately abutting a startling chocolate/dark brown with no gradiation between. Check it out! One of these days (ha ha), I will try an experimental mulberry mandolin or mandola body construction with a gutsy top to match - something with cohones like red cedar or King Billy pine. I've tucked away some slabs of black mulberry in the back of my shed which has drying for about 40 years...should be about ready. Should be different. BTW, has anyone out there tried mulberry for any of the mandolin family?

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