Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter February 2018.
Hello again from the West coast of Ireland,I realise I'm becoming ever more boring and that we don't suffer from extreme weather compared to many places in the world (see Kevin Hall's snowplough later!) but we have now had storm after storm since November. It is either raining and windy or it is just about to get rainy and windy. In Ireland we have a Met Office that gives colour coded warnings
to indicate the intensity of the storms and those that are severe get named alphabetically! So far this winter we have had 7 named storms - the last one was Georgina - and we await Hector. Between the named storms we have regular Atlantic lows that sweep in from the west. The result of this is that the Molly the dog has missed a lot of afternoon walks as neither she nor us wanted to go out the door. Also, as shown in earlier Newsletters, the water around our house continues to rise. With the fact of sea levels rising we have deployed our floodgates at highest tides more this year than any other. So far they have never been tested and we hope it stays like that!
The good news is that I've recently passed the half way mark in my treatment - 6 down and 4 to go! It is not getting any easier and the week after the chemo is grim with me being very tired along with other less than pleasant side effects. A new side effect was that my right ankle became swollen which required an ultra sound to see if there was a blood clot (there wasn't!) and no explanation was given! After the first week I start to become 'human' and can get into the workshop and work at about 50% efficiency for which I am very grateful. One good thing is that the scans after chemo 5 showed that tumours were shrinking and that there was no new activity.
Tech Bit - Fretting Slots for Non-Standard Scale Lengths.
When I started making guitars I used to hand cut fret slots with a depth set saw using a box I had made that held the fingerboard in the right place and had guide slots. With this system it would take about 45 minutes to do the job and the box would need replacing about once a year as the guide slots I was using would be enlarged by the saw.It didn't take me long to realise that this was not the most efficient way to do the job. This was my answer - a sliding jig with accurately cut fret positions that engaged with a fixed peg that is attached to the bed of the radial arm saw. I got a number of jigs made (thanks Jerome) that covered all the 'normal' scale lengths and each jig could have up to two fingerboards attached to it by double sided tape. In this way I could have one or two fingerboards slotted with great accuracy in about a minute!This is what it looks like. You can see the fixed peg and the slots it engages with and a fingerboard attached to the jig.
And here is the jig in action. After each cut the jig is moved up one slot and the next slot cut. The arrow shows the fixed peg slotted into the scale jig.
But not all guitars have 'normal' scale lengths. I have made some long scale, short scale and multiple scale instruments that won't work with the jig. So what happens then?First I have to work out the fret positions for the scale. Years ago I created a spreadsheet into which I can input the scale length in mm, press return and it gives me the accurate position of 36 frets. I don't need 36 frets very often but it is handy to have them!Then these positions need to be transferred onto a blank fretboard. To do this I fix the fingerboard to the bench top with a millimetre ruler. Fret placings need to be accurate if you like playing in tune so transferring the spreadsheet numbers to the fingerboard requires me to wear magnifying glasses and a sharp knife as I attempt to get to within 0.25mm.
The marks need to be small to be accurate and I use chalk to emphasise them. I check the marks against the ruler three times (can't make a mistake here!).
Next I use double sided tape to fix the fingerboard blank to the top of the regular slotting jig. This creates a stable platform for making the slots.
Now to cut the slots using the radial arm saw. This is the most testing bit. Having set the saw to the correct depth (2.5mm works for me) I place a light behind the saw to help me see the cut marks I put on the magnifying glasses and align the blade and the cut mark as best I can. Check again and make the cut. Move to the next mark and cut that etc. So far it has always worked but it is a bit scary to do.
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.
I am slowly working on two guitars at the moment. Not a huge amount done but the first thing that happened when I did go into the workshop the week after chemo was that my wonderful dimension sander would not start. This gets a lot of use so I need it to work. I bought this machine in the USA in the early 1980's. At the time I could not find one in Ireland but realise how much time it would save so imported it. In the end it cost about IR£900 (about €2000 at today's rate) and it was a bargain and probably paid for itself in a year or so.Using a meter I was able to find there was power as far as the input to the machine but none to the motors. Must be the switch then.I stripped it down to get to the switch which was not helped by the fact that all the fixings were USA rather than metric. Also it was not made easy by the construction.
You can just about the see the back of the switch in the right hand bottom corner. The switch was not made to be fixed but I got it open and saw the problem was worn contacts. Cleaned those and then spent at least two hours making it fit back together. And it worked. And I ordered a new switch on the internet! A luthier needs to be able to service his machines!
Ross called by with a Strat that I had made in May 1987 so over 30 years ago. Birdseye maple on mahogany for the body and beautiful flamed maple for the neck. Of it's time it has active EMG pickups with a mid range boost. Still sounds great.
Ross also brought in his harp guitar to show me the flitecase he had got made for it. Great to see this again and hear how good it sounds.
To my embarrassment I have still not been able to put the finish coats on a guitar for a customer in the USA who should have had it before Christmas. I am unable to keep the sprayroom warm enough to allow the lacquer to cure when the extractor fan is working.
Not In the Workshop.
Not a lot of activity here either. Normally I get pictures from customers and links to their music. Not this January. Except......! At the last minute as I was finishing this Newsletter we got an email from our friends Todd and Kelly Brasher in the USA to inform us that Jett Holley Brasher (cool name) had been born on January 15th. Any excuse for posting this picture of the youngest potential customer in a Newsletter. Congratulations to all.
Last month I mentioned that Syra was having some of her work featured in Women In Art 278 Magazine. You can see the magazine online here.
She got a hardcopy and, during a rare sunny evening, chose to show it off wearing rubber boots in one of our neighbouring fields!
You can see more of Syra's amazing talents at syralarkinart.com
There isn't one in the usual sense but here is a Recipe for Biker Happiness!
Kevin Hall is a friend in Canada from whom I get my beautiful spruce. He has an interesting history in guitar making which includes setting up the Martin Repair facility in Canada as well as having his own guitar brand. He is my 'go-to' source on any aspects of acoustic guitars. We have a common interest in old Brit motorcycles as we both grew up riding them. He has quite a collection of bikes and enough bits to make a few more. Recently he got his hands on this - a 1972 Norton Commando fully restored. A stunning beauty!
These are rare animals and he had been looking for one for a while. It was worth the wait. In the background you can see Kevin's Quad snowplough that gets a lot of use.
We often talk about our fantasy bikes and, when I win the Lotto, this is what I will be looking for - a 1956 BSA DBD34 Clubman Gold Star.
People in the know will spot that this one has a retro-fitted electric starter which I would need as kicking one of these over to start them is something I doubt I could do now! I would be scared to take it on the road for fear of dropping it (one like this is valued at up to €50,000) so probably I would hang in on the wall in the living room. I'm not sure what Syra would say to that. I can dream!
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 and I need to order more.
The new batch of the exciting Chris Larkin Custom straps are in stock. I need to order more of these too.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
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 very versatile, 3 pickup, 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.
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 obligatory Molly pic. Here she is with the first bone she has been given since she moved to Ireland. It didn't take her any time to work out what to do with it.
I have ordered a set of Tronical auto tuners
for a customer's guitar and a spare set for another project. Interested to see how these work out.
....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.