CLC Newsletter December 2016

Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter December 2016.

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Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.

Another strange month when, due to circumstances beyond my control,  I was hardly in the workshop.

We did get away for a weekend in Sligo to stay with Kerry and Cristina. One of the highlights (apart from Cristina cutting my hair) was discovering Hazelwood. This is a beautiful natural woodland on the edge of Lough Gill that is mentioned in a famous Yeats poem. It has the most amazing variety of hardwoods and, in some cases, the largest specimens of some species that I have ever seen. It was a sun and showers day. Spectacular colours, a magical space. Pics by Kerry.


Cristina takes every opportunity to pose!


It was also remarkably dry for November so we had some spectacular sunsets. This pic of our garden from Carol as the sun touches the top of Mount Brandon.


Tech Bit - Fretted to Fretless Part 1. 

Kieran’s 5B with a slab body was built in 1993. The trussrod needed replacing so he decided that while I was at it I should turn it into a fretless bass. The mahogany body core has a piece of superb flamed maple as the overlay.

To get to the trussrod the rosewood fingerboard has to be removed. The way to do this is to heat the fingerboard using, in this case, an industrial heat gun which will soften the glue holding it to the neck shaft. The foil reflects heat from the headstock and protects the worktop surface. The technique is to keep the heat source moving so that no part gets hot enough to burn!

In my opinion glue that softens when heated should be used wherever possible in guitar construction so that separation is possible if ever required. I use Titebond, an aliphatic resin glue, that is about 7 times stronger than regular white woodworkers glue. So how to separate the parts? A thin, blunt edged knife is inserted at the headstock end at a point where the fingerboard and neck shaft meet and gradually moved further down the neck as the heat source is used ahead of the knife.



  This process cannot be rushed so it took a little over an hour to get to the point where the fingerboard separated completely with almost no damage to the neckshaft apart from a few chips of lacquer.


The original trussrod is built into the neck under a hardwood strip that has to be removed to get access to it.


After quite a while carefully overslip the old rod can be removed.


  The new trussrod will be a double acting type that is slightly wider than the old single action version so to enable a clean fitting I removed some of the neck wood to the correct depth so that a piece of hard maple can be fitted and glued in.


  Once the glue is dry (overnight) the hard maple can be planed level with the neck shaft and a new slot of the correct size for the new trussrod can be cut.

The new trussrod and it’s slot.



For the last ten years or so I have been fitting carbon fibre bars into my necks alongside the trussrods. Carbon fibre is stronger than steel for the same weight so a small amount will add extra stiffness to the neck without adding weight. Like the trussrod it is fitted into slots running along the neck.

The slots for the carbon fibre and trussrod are cut 1mm deeper than the height of the components and slips of hardwood are glued in place to embed them in the neck.

  Another overnight wait for the glue to set and the slips can be planed level with the neck shaft.


I think that is enough for one month’s Tech Bit. I’ll show how the job is finished off in Part 2, January 2017 Newsletter.

If you have a topic that you would like to see in the Tech Bit slot please tell me about it and I will see what I can do.


In the Workshop.

Even though I was hardly there there was some activity. I buy my spruce from Kevin Hall in Canada. For years he has supplied me with ready cut tops as well as wedges from which I can cut tops for archtops or speciality tops. As well as being great wood supplier he is also a fount of knowledge on acoustic guitars another making as well as being a biker. Great attributes in a friend! When he sends the packages they come by regular post not by air. It some ways it would be quicker to just address the parcel and throw it in the Atlantic. Chances are it would arrive more quickly. This parcel arrived three months after posting but that is not the most remarkable thing about it. Take a look and see if you can see what I mean!

Kevin told me that when the Canadian Post Office issue a new batch of stamps they use up all the old ones first. I reckon whoever licked all those stamps is probably in hospital with dehydration.

The wood was, as always, perfect.


  Searching through the store looking for some wood for a customer I came across enough Tasmanian blackwood to make a new guitar. I had forgotten I had this. It makes great looking and sounding acoustics. Like this.

Not in the Workshop.

The most important thing for Not in the Workshop was the news that the CITES organisation announced in early October that all Dalbergia species not already within the CITES appendices would be included in Appendix II from January 2nd 2017. This means that instruments with Dalbergia in them or the wood itself cannot be traded without a permit. Dalbergia? That is rosewood to you and me. Why is this important? As far as I am aware Indian rosewood (the most common type in guitar making these days) has not required any paperwork that would give details of where it was sourced and the legitimacy of it's sourcing (no illegal logging) until now. Many luthiers, myself included, would have stocks, large or small, of this wood that they had purchased over the years. Personally I have wood that I bought 30 years ago and have no idea who I got it from. From January 2nd next if I have an order for a guitar with rosewood included (and I do) I will need to be able to show it the wood is legitimate. For export outside of the EU I will require an export permit. As a member of the EGB (European Guitar Builders) I am able to see how other members are handling this in their countries. In some cases it will be necessary for the luthier to make an inventory of their un-documented stock and submitting it to the CITES overseeing Authority in their country who would then declare the stocks 'legitimate'. If a luthier used some of this wood the Authority would then be able to issue a permit to this effect. But, so far, there is no common policy for the EU and the next meeting of the EU group on this where common policy could be agreed is not until February. I would hope to be exporting my rosewood guitar before then!

My own Authority in Dublin has suggested I make an inventory (already done!) and sign a affidavit to the effect that I have had this wood for 'X' years as one way to go.

Watch this space as this is causing chaos in the luthiers' community (and probably with furniture makers) and needs to be sorted.

  Longtime readers will remember the storm in February 2014 that featured in the March 2014 Newsletter and the damage it caused including, despite limited rock armour being in place, tearing up about 200 metres of the only road that allows us access to the rest of Ireland! Looked like this. That is our house visible the side of the red trailer.

Within a few weeks the road and rock armour were reinstated but tidal wear and tear over the last 18 months have caused deterioration and the road was in danger of being damaged again as the rock armour started to sink in the sand and roll back into the sea. This month there was some welcome effort on behalf of Kerry County Council to shore up the defences.


  This is how it looks today some new big rocks moved further out from the road as well aback filling. Let's hope it will withstand the winter and the rising sea levels that we have witnessed since we moved here 39 years ago.


The Recipe.


We went to dinner at Niall and Carol's along with Rebecca and Mervyn. Great food, company and wine as usual. The soup was exceptional and so I asked Carol for the recipe. Rather than write it out for me she photographed it from her recipe book. So here it is in her own handwriting.


She later added: ” I blend the soup and served it with orange zest so you can add that at the end of the recipe.”

   T-Shirts and Now - Straps Again! 

 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.



The new batch of the exciting Chris Larkin Custom straps are in stock. These are highest quality Levis 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.

      The Stocklist.

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.  Stock acoustic badly needed! Hopefully before Christmas.

I removed this beautiful ASAS Archtop Jazzer from the Stocklist last month as I had negotiated it's sale to a man in the USA. After the success of Mr Trump the potential customer changed his mind saying  "After careful consideration I have decided to avoid conducting business with foreign vendors so the deal is off." His loss could be your gain. This is an exceptional instrument with the classic combination of spruce and flamed 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.  


The Isle of Wight was the home of the band The Hillmans. There has been a partial reforming of them under the new name The Moonlighters. Mike the bassplayer uses my instruments so they definitely deserve a link!

 ....Finally, Finally.....

Syra did a major tidy in her studio and found some old photographs. Here are a couple that I have scanned.

 A pair of Norwegians (Halvard Kausland and Jon-Petter Westerlund) in the old workshop so it must be early '90s.

And a cool looking me with dark hair when we were commissioning the new workshop in 1997. We used a huge number of OSB boards. Wish it was that clean now.


....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.