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Thread: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

  1. #1
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    One of my students, Zach Dease, and I received a generous Folklife grant from the North Carolina Arts Council to build a matched quartet of our choice from all North Carolina woods. This is my second matched quartet; a manner of building that I enjoy and has me thinking much deeper into how all the instruments work together as a cohesive unit. Most of my builds are from the last of the Lorax trees that were cut 50-100+ years ago and were coveted by several other luthiers before I purchased them from their widows. I've been wanting to get away from that and this local build was a great opportunity.

    After a lot of deliberation, we've settled on a double bass, flattop baritone guitar, 16" L5 guitar, and an F5 mandolin. A slightly non-traditional combination that represents the spectrum of lutherie and musical possibilities that we wanted to build. An octave mandolin on the 16" L5 body was a strong contender, but in the end the L5 guitar won out. I couldn't imagine a North Carolina grouping without and F5, even though the fiddle was considered. In my double bass heavy world, nothing but a big double bass is even an option....no fretted small bodied mandobasses or long scale hurdy gurdy or mandocellos or any other close but no cigar substitutes. Those may work for some folks, but I play at least 75 gigs a year on the upright bass to a room full of rockin' grindin' dancin' beautiful fit sweaty hipsters run through a giant PA system and my big bass OWNS the room.

    Here is a little sneak preview of the L5 fingerboard from local persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana). It is from the same log as the binding and rest of the fittings.

    'Shoutout to the North Carolina Arts Council for all of their support and always to the Hampton Brothers for the finest tonewoods in the nation from the coolest guys in the business, many sourced locally right down the road from me.


    More to come.....
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  3. #2
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet Persimmon fittings

    Here are couple of other ideas from the same log, the bass top, and the F5 top that I torrified here in the shop.
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    A couple more of the F5 parts and one of Zach routing the binding channel for the L5.
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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Persimmon binding on the L5:
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    What's the blue strip in the binding? Gorgeous work, beautiful woods. What a cool project!
    Clark Beavans

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    Registered User J.C. Bryant's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    I have heard that persimmon is a close relative to ebony and was/is sought after by the makers of golf clubs. It is a beautiful wood and work! thank you

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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Look forward to seeing all this come together. Interesting touch on the F5 lower point.

    Adam

  13. #8

    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    One of my students, Zach Dease, and I received a generous Folklife grant from the North Carolina Arts Council to build a matched quartet of our choice from all North Carolina woods. This is my second matched quartet; a manner of building that I enjoy and has me thinking much deeper into how all the instruments work together as a cohesive unit. Most of my builds are from the last of the Lorax trees that were cut 50-100+ years ago and were coveted by several other luthiers before I purchased them from their widows. I've been wanting to get away from that and this local build was a great opportunity.

    After a lot of deliberation, we've settled on a double bass, flattop baritone guitar, 16" L5 guitar, and an F5 mandolin. A slightly non-traditional combination that represents the spectrum of lutherie and musical possibilities that we wanted to build. An octave mandolin on the 16" L5 body was a strong contender, but in the end the L5 guitar won out. I couldn't imagine a North Carolina grouping without and F5, even though the fiddle was considered. In my double bass heavy world, nothing but a big double bass is even an option....no fretted small bodied mandobasses or long scale hurdy gurdy or mandocellos or any other close but no cigar substitutes. Those may work for some folks, but I play at least 75 gigs a year on the upright bass to a room full of rockin' grindin' dancin' beautiful fit sweaty hipsters run through a giant PA system and my big bass OWNS the room.

    Here is a little sneak preview of the L5 fingerboard from local persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana). It is from the same log as the binding and rest of the fittings.

    'Shoutout to the North Carolina Arts Council for all of their support and always to the Hampton Brothers for the finest tonewoods in the nation from the coolest guys in the business, many sourced locally right down the road from me.


    More to come.....
    James, based on your description of your 75 gigs a year, I'm presuming you play in a contradance band. Which band are you in? When I'm up there visiting next summer I'd love to dance to your band. -BB

  14. #9
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
    What's the blue strip in the binding? Gorgeous work, beautiful woods.....

    Luthier's tears....


    'Never played in a contra dance band. I usually play with the heavy jazz guys, the Django heads, this week with The Dirty French Broads at the Grey Eagle, and once or twice a year Tree and I get together for a beautiful weekend jam up in the Great Smokies in the Joyce Kilmer forest!

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  16. #10

    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    I have heard that persimmon is a close relative to ebony
    It is in the same genus (Diospyros). Persimmon lumber is mostly composed of pale sapwood, but occasionally has some black that is essentially "American ebony".
    John

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  18. #11
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Hey James: are you making the standard instruments or your own wonderfully creative designs?
    Jim

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  19. #12
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Hey James: are you making the standard instruments or your own wonderfully creative designs?
    Ha! Have you ever known me to make copies of the same old same old baby $#!t brown 10,000,000 already done instruments?

    The North Carolina Arts council is very encouraging of individual creativity. This a joint project with Zach and I, so we will combine ideas.

    In the past the council would a write blank check to qualifying artists who were accepted into the program, essentially to keep doing what you were doing. This year they changed the format. An upcoming artist and a seasoned mentor applied as a pair and the grant is split. Zach and I have been working together for about five years and built a number of instruments together. The regional tonewoods conversation was something we had been thinking about for a long time. The cost and scope of a full quartet would be very high if commissioned. The Folklife grant basically underwrote the materials and expenses and provided an opportunity for us to continue working together. Just materials alone for a double bass tend to get up to around the $3-4000 range, and that is if everything goes well. I could make 20 nice mandolins from one bass top!

    The grant covered most of the materials, but materials alone were not enough. After parting with my Yates Y30 a couple of years back, I realized I needed a larger bandsaw to continue, so the rest went into a 30" wheel 1951 Oliver 217. It took a while to get it up to speed, but oooooohhhhhhh is it running nice now. As a mandolin builder, smaller saws work fine. As a double bass builder, each half of a top is about 17" wide. I also do a lot of complicated laminate and veneer work these days, so it is a necessity for making my own. Everyone that visits knows that I basically have a vintage tool museum for a workshop.
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    Last edited by j. condino; Nov-20-2022 at 11:28pm.

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  21. #13

    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    James, what an incredible project! Great to hear about the L-5 in the mix. I especially love the use of persimmon, which as a true “American” ebony has always fascinated me. It has been used historically on shoe lasts, and as the striking surface on wooden golf clubs. The dark-streaked pieces are beautiful.

  22. #14
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    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    James, great project and the wood choice is sweet. Have you used persimmon in the past?
    Bob Schmidt

  23. #15

    Default Re: Carolina Quartet & Persimmon fittings

    Excellent project and workmanship! Congratulations on receiving the grant. I love persimmon and would love to hear the final results. I had an old, large persimmon tree fall down in my yard about 20 years ago (missed the house and landed perfectly on a sidewalk). I cut up some of the base section of the trunk and found it to be a beautiful black striped dark wood that I used for a number of bridges and other small repair pieces. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to get someone to look at it to saw it up (about 1 year) the wood in the log had rotted. Too bad... there was a lot of wood there!

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