Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter April 2017.
Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.
A bit of a delay this month as I was out of commission for a few days.
A couple of days of sunshine and the garden looks like it needs some work. We have a shelter belt on the west side of the garden which comprises of shrubs and trees that can withstand the storms, sandy soil and the salt laden air. It took over 30 years to grow and is still a work in progress. We decided that one cordeline tree was growing too close to the overhead electric line and the extra growth was acting as a sail to the wind that was making the whole tree to bend over.
A couple of boughs had to go!
The Japanese pull saw is really effective working in close quarters and in no time the tree looked better and safer.
At the same time there were some side branches of olearia that were obstructing our view from the conservatory so they had to go too.
This was my first time cutting olearia and I soon discovered it is very hard. Looking at the cut end you can see why.
After 30 years of growth the rings are so close together as to be almost invisible. I am keeping this piece and will dry it. I think it might be useful for inlays in future guitars and, if a larger bough became available, it might make fingerboards.
Tech Bit - Inexpensive Tools That Have Made My Work Easier.
I have been lucky enough, slowly over the years, to have built up a well equipped workshop and, certainly, some of these tools were expensive. But I didn't have to spend a lot of money to find many that made my job easier. The more I thought about this idea the more tools that would fit the bill came to mind. Here are the three I have chosen.
At one time I was gigging a lot but I rarely changed strings so it was easy enough to wind the strings onto the tuners by turning the tuner buttons about twice a year! These days when I have an instrument finished and need to set it up I may have to wind on the strings on and off 5 times before the set-up is complete. This when a humble string winder is essential.
And this is how it works in case you didn't know.
It is so speedy and useful that it is an essential.
It should be obvious that the bass strings on a guitar are wider than the treble ones. So if the nut slots are cut at equal distances the gaps between the strings decrease from treble to bass. The string spacing rule is a clever tool that shows where to cut the nut slots to give even spacing.
So how does this work? When creating the nut slots the first thing to do is to make a mark where the two outside strings will sit. You move the ruler along the nut until you find two marks on it that align with these outside positions and then the exact placing for the other strings are shown.
The computer calculated spacings work for guitar and bass nuts. Before I found this tool I would often discard two or three nuts before I was happy with the spacing.
Another essential these days is my squirty glue bottle.
This tool enables me to quickly and evenly spread glue when laminating wood or gluing on a fingerboard far more efficiently than using a brush.
Squeeze the bottle and glue coats the roller.
Run the roller along the gluing surface and an even film is distributed quickly. Saves glue and makes for better jointing. Brilliant!
If you have a subject that you would like to see me cover in the Tech Bit section please let me know and I'll see what I can do.
In the Workshop.
A few visitors this month. Mike Huddart came over from England to collect his ASAPB 4 fretless lefty.
With back and sides of Irish walnut and top of spruce it was always going to look good.
Mike requested La Bella nylon coated strings (a first for me) and they sounded great acoustically. The RMC piezo pickups in adjustable saddles with the RMC bass preamp took care of the amplified sound. After gigging with the bass Mike tells me it sounds as good as it looks! This bass joins his Syra solid bass and his ASAPJ guitar all in Irish walnut to make the full set!
Tony Owens and Pat came by to give me a piece of very old birdseye maple that he had found amongst some other woods that he brought over from the USA when they moved here. This is part of a stash of similar wood that he rescued from a barn where it had been sitting for probably over 100 years. When dried there should be wood for a couple of nice acoustics in this board.
Gerry O' Beirne can smell us making coffee from Dingle and always arrives at 11am. This month he smelled the coffee twice! Below he is playing Hermann's 7 string baritone which I made in 2015 that was in the workshop for some adjustments. Jumbo body, long scale (720mm/28.3") with strange tuning - the equivalent of DADGAD but starting with F# below B below regular E! Very full sound with loads of overtones. Something special which is now back home in Bavaria. Hermann calls it The Irish Beast!
Later in the month he was back and tried the latest parlour and pronounced it his favourite of my parlours that he had played.
Gerry left a recipe behind him - see below.
I'd not seen Brendan Williams for a while so it was great when he dropped by. A fine player seen here trying my personal ASAD Custom.
Not in the Workshop.
Received some pics from customers with their guitars over the month. Here is Denny Ball with Wolfie Witcher in The Marquee in 1992. Denny, now an Australian resident, is playing his early model Reacter 5B bass. He tells me it is still his favourite.
Speaking of 1992, this is Carlo who has just bought this 1992 ASAD RS with top of burr redwood. It looks almost unplayed and he looks happy!
Probably the youngest owner of a Chris Larkin here is Olivia with her Parlour which lives with her in Australia. As you can see from her room she is a very musical lady.
Ed Hooke sent me a link to a video he had made with beautiful pictures of his local area accompanied by music he had written and played on his 1999 ASAP.
From Gerry O’ Beirne. Comes with a story.
Annie was the first great cook I ever met and maybe the best.
I was in a band called Midnight Well with her daughter Janie, and they lived with Janie's siblings on the shores of Ballysodare Bay in Co Sligo, in a cottage with no running water but with a good well outside. Janie was rumoured in Sligo town to be in the habit of bathing naked in the well at night, hence the name of the band. Annie used to make magical dishes from foraging , like blewit stew. She had moved to Yeats country from San Francisco with her brood to do a thesis on Yeats which took about 20 years to not complete. She's in her nineties now and lives on Whidbey Island in Washington State. I make her crab cakes at least once a year and always think of her.
CRAB CAKES ANNIE CRIBBS
2lbsfresh crab meat
one quarter cup peanut oil
2 medium size onions minced
quarter cup celery minced
handful chopped cilantro or parsley
2 ts crushed hot red chile
half ts thyme
4 tbs mayonnaise
2 eggs beaten
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Place crab meat in a bowl. Heat 1 tbs peanut oil in frying pan and cook onions and celery till soft. combine crab, onions and celery and remaining ingredients except half the bread crumbs - mix well and shape mix into cakes and roll them in remaining bread crumbs. Heat remaining oil in fry pan and cook on moderate heat till browned on both sides, about 10 min altogether.Serve w/ hot sauce.
SAUCE FOR FISH OR CRAB CAKES
2 med onions chopped coarse
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes peeled,seeded & chopped
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 ts ground hot chile
half ts ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in bowl of blender and grind to thick sauce - cook in small saucepan for 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
T-Shirts and Straps.
T-shirts (same old logo and only in black, M, L, XL and 2XL) available. Price is held at €15 each and postage will depend on where you live. These are going well.
The new batch of the exciting Chris Larkin Custom straps are in stock. These are highest quality Levy's Leathers straps custom made with an embossed leather oval. Price is also €15 with the postal shipping costs depending on where you live.
I can't guarantee that these will improve your playing but they will certainly lift your image! If you would like to purchase either of these items please contact me and we can sort it out.
I try to keep some instruments in the workshop for visitors to try. These instruments are also for sale. Here are some pics of what is in stock at the moment. There are more details and pictures on the Stocklist page of the website.
For some time (months!) I have been trying to get an acoustic guitar made for the Stocklist and, finally here it is - an ASAP Parlour. So new I have not had time to take 'proper' pictures or to add it to the website. Made with all Irish woods the back, sides and top are flamed Irish ash from Kilkenny, the neck is a laminate from the same ash with Irish walnut stringers and two pieces of flame beech from Northern Ireland. Fingerboard is laburnum while binding and rosette are Irish walnut.
The extra soundhole in the side directs the sound directly up into the player's ears so the player can actually hear what is being played the same as the audience.
Here are the other Stocklist instruments.
A beautiful ASAS Archtop Jazzer This is an exceptional instrument with the classic combination of spruce and Irish fiddleback sycamore in a cherry sunburst.
An ASAPB5 acoustic bass guitar with back and sides of Irish walnut, adjustable bridge and RMC pickups. This one is amazingly loud acoustically and has that 'woody' sound.
For solid bodied basses there is a Syra 4, passive in fetching pink...
...and an SC5 throughneck with headstock in figured Irish maple and all the active EQ trimmings.
These instruments are all available to try if you visit the workshop and if you would like to know more about any of them please contact me and I'll be glad to help.
Syra has 3 postcard size pieces of Art for auction in The Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation Art Auction “Incognito”. The postcards can all be viewed on line so take a look and see if you can guess which ones are Syra’s.The Jack & Jill Foundation provides nursing care and support for children with severe neurological development issues, as well as offering some respite to the parents and families and very worthy of your support.
I am really looking forward to the Cordefactum event in Lier, Belgium later in the month. I'll be giving a talk on the Saturday and the Irish ash parlour will be part of an exhibition of local wood guitars. But there is much more than that going on. More details here.
There should be a report on this event in the May Newsletter.
....So Finally, Finally, Finally....
If you have any ideas for the Newsletter, would like to send me a recipe, an article for inclusion, want to promote your band (if it has one or more of my instruments in it), an event, pics of your Larkin, any YouTube video of you playing one of my instruments or anything else suitable, contact me and I'll see what I can do. Feel free to forward this Newsletter to anybody who it might interest. The mailing list can be joined by filling in the form at the bottom of any page on the website.