CLC Newsletter December 2017

Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter December 2018.

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Hello again from the West coast of Ireland,

It has been cold and wet. The field in front of the house is under water a bit earlier than we might normally have expected. Although this 'lake' (Irish word is turlough - a dry place!) is connected to the sea (it eventually runs out into Tralee Bay) this is rainwater that collects on the higher land to the south west of us and runs down to collect on the lower ground. Unfortunately, at the moment after some high tides, the outlet is blocked by sand and seaweed so the water hangs around.

Molly is fascinated by horses, possibly because she would not have seen many of them when she lived in London. If they get close to our boundaries she rushes up to the fence and barks loudly at them. They pay absolutely no attention to her! But I think she feels she is protecting us from them so she keeps an eye on their movements.

Medical Report.

Now on my third session of chemo (every three weeks on a Tuesday in Cork which is a 12 hour day) I thought there was a pattern emerging - the day after the infusion I'm incapable of doing anything but, as the week progresses, energy comes back and by the late weekend I am almost normal. This allows me to work for the next two weeks which I am happy with since many chemo patients can't work at all. This time (infusion on November 21st) it was different. On day 3 I felt good enough to sit at the computer and do some paperwork. Bad move! After two hours I was unable to concentrate or type. The fatigue was such that I put myself to bed for the afternoon. I didn't try to do anything for the next few days but still had to rest in the afternoons. Today is Monday and I'm able to start the Newsletter but not able to feel safe to work with tools. On Wednesday I was back in the workshop.

Really the side effects so far have not been bad - I may have managed them badly! The worst is the fact that my tastebuds don't work from Day 2. This is a problem for somebody who loves his food, wine and coffee and, especially, since I'm married to a great cook!
Speaking of Syra she has updated her website - you can see it here.

So chemo has some surprises with, I expect, more to come down the road. It seems that some of the numbers that matter are dropping showing that the treatment is having an effect.    

Tech Bit - LEDs as Fret Markers.

In the past I have had customers who had trouble seeing fret markers on a dark stage. My usual answer was to fit fluorescent dots. These are made from a special material that absorbs light (natural of artificial) and then glow to slowly release it. This idea was not what a customer wanted so I suggested fitting LEDs instead of markers which he accepted.

Great idea Chris since I knew nothing about them except it could be done! I went to Ken Wittman for advice. Ken, apart from being a great bass maker/player, is also a fount of knowledge. He sent me some LEDs, resistors, cable and one of his amazing handwritten instructions which would challenge an Egyptian hieroglyphics master!

I soon realised that the 5mm wide LEDs he sent would not fit in my normal fingerboard unless I made them much thicker which I did not want to do. So I ordered some 3mm types which were more suitable. I also realised that my normal practice of fitting the fingerboard un-radiussed to my necks wouldn't work with this system so some serious thinking and prototyping was required. So after some trials with slotted and radiussed dummy fingerboards I used the lessons learned to 'do' the real thing.

I determined I need to start with a fingerboard thickness of 7mm (normally mine are 6mm) which I slotted and radiussed. The 3mm LEDs are 3mm diameter (who would have guessed?) so I marked and drilled 3mm holes for them from the face of the fingerboard. Using these as a guide I routed the wiring channel 3.5mm deep and 10mm wide from the from the inside of the fingerboard. 

At the base of the LED is a collar of 3.5mm diameter so I drilled a 3.5mm indent 1mm deep to allow for the LED to fit snuggly in the
3mm hole.

With the dimensions of my fingerboard this ensures that the domed head of the LED shows above the surface of the fingerboard. I did not glue the LEDs in at this stage in case there were any faults with my wiring later!.

There is one more set of holes to be drilled. Rather the using a second set of LEDs for the side markers I used fibre optic cable to channel light from the LEDs to the fingerboard edge. This requires drilling a suitable hole from the fingerboard edge at an angle towards the top of where the LED will sit - the higher the better as this is where the maximum light is created.

With the LEDs in place (not glued!) with the leads trimmed I did some fiddly soldering! Each LED needs a 9v+ supply on the anode (the longer lead) and then a 470 ohm resistor on the cathode 9v-. If you are buying resistors get the smallest possible size as the space is very limited. With great care being taken to prevent any possible shorts it was time to do a test. To my surprise it worked first time. Pretty blue!

I then glued the LEDs in place with a drop of superglue from the top. The domes of the LEDs could then be levelled with the fingerboard. You need to be sure of your dimensions when doing this because if the dome protrudes too far you can remove too much and the LED will be damaged and fail - not good when everything is glued in place!

The fibre optic cable is inserted, glued in place and levelled with the outside of the fingerboard. A final test.

Last job is to make sure that none of the wiring protrudes from the underside of the fingerboard and the fingerboard can be glued onto the neck. And it still works!

Obviously you have to fit a 9v battery in the guitar with a switch to turn the LEDs on when required. LEDs can come in three colours (red, green and blue) which are switchable if required but I didn't fancy that. What I will do is have a three way switch with an additional resistor that allows full power, half power and on/off.

 If you have an idea that you think would make a good subject for the Tech Bit let me know and I'll see if I can include it in a future Newsletter.   

 In the Workshop.

One of the most useful tools in the workshop is a caliper. For more than 30 years I was happy to use a vernier version (goes back to my science training!) which requires a bit of thinking to get the reading from it. About ten years ago I got a cheap, digital version from either Aldi or Lidl. It made taking measurements so easy. Just recently this one started to re-set itself during measurements which made it quite useless! Time for a new one and one with a larger screen. Love it so far.

I received an advance sample of the newest fingerboard material from Rocklite. I have been an advocate and user of their Ebano which is their ebony substitute for several years. They have been researching a substitute for rosewood and this is it.

It has the look, the stiffness and, I'm told, is more stable than rosewood. It will be available generally in the New Year. I'm hopeful that it will be as good as it looks.

  Just delivered this Tele style guitar to a customer who wanted a Tele that sounded like a Gibson! So a glued in neck with the most expensive humbuckers I have ever had to buy (Seymour Duncan Custom Shop 'Joe Bonamassa Skinnerburst') with a Gibson style bridge and controls. How to create sustain? The body and neck are made from some figured, Cuban mahogany that I had collected about 30 years ago - very, very dense. In the end it weighed in at 4.9kg (almost 11lbs). The Bigsby would not help with sustain but the weight carried that. I think it delivers what the customer wanted. Some pics.




Not In the Workshop.

But in the living room! Hakan with (temporary?) beard does some fingerpicking.

Some other pics from customers that I was sent this month. Three more professionals in this one! Chuchi, Miguel Angel Azofra and Joaquín Garcia. And no, I didn't make the double bass - he has an acoustic guitar too.

Apart from being a fine bass player Joaquín is also the owner of probably the best bass guitar shop in Europe in Burgos, Spain - Dr Bass.

Moody black and white shot of Albhertic Carlub Dominguez Peral.

And a throw back from the nineties Denny Ball with Wolfie Witcher.

The Recipe is Back!

This for Lincolnshire Fruit Loaf from Jill Maynard from Lincolnshire who was a colleague in the Leonardo Guitar Research Project. Thanks Jill.

Lincolnshire Fruit Loaf
12 oz mixed dried fruit (sultanas and raisins work well)
4 oz demerara sugar
71/2 fluid oz hot tea (quite well stewed but with no milk)
! egg
8oz self-raising flour.

Add all the fruit, sugar and tea to a bowl, (replace a small amount of tea with a little booze if you wish - a few drops of rum, sherry or cherry brandy work really well). Leave to soak overnight. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Lightly beat the egg and stir into the fruit mixture Add sieved flour, stir and pour into the tin.
Bake at 180C or gas 4 for 75-90 mins. 

Slices are nice and moist on their own but it goes well with butter (or cheese if you’re from Yorkshire!)

Please send in some of your recipes. I like this section!

T-Shirts and Straps. 

T-shirts (same old logo) and only in black, M, L, and XL (all the 2XLs are gone) 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. 

The Stocklist.

From time to time I have instruments for sale directly from the workshop. Here is what is available now - all basses!  

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.

A solid bodied Syra 4, passive in fetching pink...


...and an SC5 throughneck with headstock in figured Irish maple and all the active EQ trimmings.

If you would like to see other shots of these instruments and get more details on them you can at the Stocklist page

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. 


In the storms last month an ash tree was blown over on the family farm in Wexford. My cousin Seamus and Yvonne his wife send me the news and a couple of pics of it. 

Not just ash but olive ash with beautiful colouring. And olive ash makes great guitars. They are going to keep some for me and I hope, in the future, to use it to make some guitars from the family farm and from a tree I would have played around and climbed when I was a boy!   

...Finally, finally...!

 Earlier in the month Kerry and Daisy, his German Shepherd, stayed for a while. When they returned to Sligo Daisy's kennel had a new occupant who did not want to leave!


....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.