CLC Newsletter January 2017

Chris Larkin Custom Newsletter January 2017.

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 Hello again from the west coast of Ireland.

2016 was a strange year. For us the highlight was getting our three children together with their families and us, in Ireland, for the first time. Brilliant experience. Weird but I cannot find any pictures of all of us together - there is always one person missing who, presumably took the picture!  Rather thanleave anyone out you will have to imagine all 12 of us together.

Next, for me, would be exhibiting at the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin sharing time with the some of my favourite people. 

And then, on the way home, hanging out with my Twin and Bibit in Oostende (despite being
hospitalised by a waffle!)

Let us hope for 2017. Happy New Year from Syra and I. I think it is going to be interesting!   


Tech Bit - Fretted to Fretless Part 2. 

This is a bit nerdy. If this is your first Newsletter you might need to look here to see the first part of this piece that was in last month's Newsletter. If you are not a bit nerdy you may want to ignore it altogether!

So we left the bass at this stage with the wooden slips covering the trussrod and carbon fibre bars planed flat.

The fingerboard will be made from Rocklite a material made from sustainable non-tropical wood that has been processed. It is similar in density to ebony but far more stable, more even in colour and a much better choice than ebony for a fingerboard. I don’t use ebony any more. The Rocklite is roughly traced against the removed fingerboard and then hand planed to fit.

Even though this is to be a fretless bass Kieran wanted reference marks on the side of the fingerboard as a guide to intonation. These are pieces of maple that are invisible from the front but can be seen by the player. To insert these a 0.6mm wide cut is made using a jig that is very precise and a saw with depth stop.

While the fingerboard is attached to the jig I drill the holes for the position dots.

The dots and maple slips are fitted and then sanded flat.

The fingerboard can then be glued to the neck using a caul. 

The fingerboard is planed to almost a 16 inch (406mm) radius and then sanded to the exact radius.

The fingerboard edge is scraped to blend with the neck shaft.

After all this work the neck and fingerboard edges will need to be sprayed with clear lacquer. To give a ‘key’ to the lacquer the original finish is sanded and parts that will not be lacquered are masked off.

After the initial 4 coats of lacquer and having cured overnight the surface is fine sanded and the final 6 finish coats applied. It now looks like this, nice and shiny but not shiny enough!

The lacquer is allowed to cure in a room at 20 degrees C (68F) for a week, the masking is removed and I blend the newly sprayed lacquer with the original lacquer on the body where they meet, sand the new lacquer with very fine abrasive to remove imperfections then on to the polishing wheels.  After that, it is really shiny!

A new 3 band active EQ is fitted (the rather good Aguilar OBP-3) with all new components, a new nut made from Rocklite, control knobs and new strings.

Job done and good for another 30 years I hope!!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.

I have started a new batch of  acoustic bass guitars for customers, a lefty 4, a 5 and a 6 string. More will be revealed as I get on with them.

This time of the year the workshop can get cold. Until now there was no heating as the place is amazingly insulated and the machines and dehumidifiers keep the place tolerable. But I must be getting old as I am starting to feel that 13 C (55F) is a bit nippy. Syra had the same problem in her studio, did some research and found infrared radiant heaters online. For obvious reasons I don't want anything that can cause sparks or flames where there is woodworking going on and running costs have to be considered. These infrared panels that fit to the ceiling seem to be just the job. We bought some and fitted them - I roped in a customer to help me! Thanks Mike.

My panel is situated above my main workbench and directs heat downwards. The results are amazing raising the temperature very quickly up to, what are probably the legal minimum for work spaces but feel positively tropical to me. Current drain is 800 watts and an hour's running is all it needs in the morning and afternoon. Great result.

Not in the Workshop.

Last month I wrote about the chaos that has been caused by the CITES Committee determining that all Dalbergia species (rosewoods) would, from January 2nd 2017, be included in Appendix II which means the wood in board, tree, part or guitar form it may not be exported outside of the EU without a CITES export permit. To get a permit the wood must be 'legitimate' that is have a trail from the end user to the source to show it has not been illegally logged. I have not bought any rosewood for years and have some that was maybe bought 30 or more years ago so no chance of a paper trail as none was required until now. In order to legitimised those I have, in consultation with the Irish CITES Authority, sorted out all my full pieces (back and side sets, fingerboards and planks), a pile of scraps (you don't throw these away!) marked them with numbers and photographed them like this.

In the case of the full pieces the dimensions were noted, for the scraps an estimate of the weight and these details were used to create a full rosewood inventory. This formal inventory was taken to a notary where I swore an affidavit that these were my stocks at that date. The pictures (on a cd) and the affidavit/inventory were sent by registered post to my CITES Authority and are now accepted as 'legitimate'. In the future, as I use any rosewood in guitars (I'm building one at present) and want to export them I have apply for an export permit using the numbers as identification. When the permit is issued that number and the picture will be deleted. Complicated but necessary to enable me to use rosewood, if I do. I should say that bubinga species were also added and I have quite a lot of this going back to the 1980's when this was a popular wood in solid body guitars so this was also included in the process.

On a lighter note, here are a few owner's pics received last month. First Ciaran onstage with his ASAPCAW who is obviously singing the blues.

Then Humphrey's Syra Special headless bass and something strange from prehistory. 

And then there is my Twin's son Dieter (which makes him my nephew) who finally got to receive his special through neck strat after many problems not of my making plus the fact he spends most of his time in Columbia at the moment!



The Recipe.

We are vegetarians. This has come about over a number of years and it works for us. We also don't 'do' dairy but miss cow's cheese. This is a recipe for a substitute that Syra came across handmade using almonds. Although it is called cheese I think the almonds would be unable to hold up this position if challenged in court! But it tastes good and what's in a name?

160g or 5.5 oz unroasted, blanched almonds, soaked for 6 hours or more (If you don't have a kitchen scale, the equivalent measurements are 1¼ cups of whole blanched almonds or 1¾ cups of almond flour/meal.)
2½ Tablespoons (36 ml) lemon juice
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ clove of garlic
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
⅔ cup (160 ml) water

Soak the almonds in water for 6 hours or overnight.
Drain and put the almonds into a blender with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and water.
Blend on high until the almonds become as smooth as possible. Depending on your blender, this may take a few minutes. Pause and scrape down the sides of the blender occasionally. If it is too thick and is not blending, add more water 1 Tablespoon at a time until the mixture blends properly.
When smooth and creamy, remove the mixture from the blender into a small sieve that has been lined with fine cheesecloth. Place this sieve over a bowl to catch the draining water and refrigerate overnight. This not only removes the excess water, but also improves the flavor by allowing the flavors to marry.
After the cheese has drained well overnight, carefully invert it onto a lightly oiled baking sheet, removing all of the cheesecloth. You have two options for baking: Bake at 325°F (165°C) for 25-30 minutes for a just set, more spreadable cheese. Alternatively, bake it at 350°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes for a more set, more crumbly, yet still creamy cheese. You can even keep baking it longer at this temperature for a browned look. It may crack slightly but the flavor will still be great and the cheese will even be sliceable. I tend to prefer the hotter, longer baking method.
After it cools down, put in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will firm up a little after chilling.This is how it looks - you can see this is the longer baked version. Yummy!


 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.

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 too long.A beautiful ASAS Archtop Jazzer  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.   


Many years ago Rikiya Hanawa contacted me to order a bass. We corresponded for years afterwards and he taught me a lot about Japan. He later visited us with his wife. He changed career and we lost touch. Every year since then, at Christmas, we receive beautiful flowers with a card from Rikiya but no contact details. We always send him a Christmas card to the last address we had for him but have no idea if he ever gets them. Rikiya, if you see this we would so like to be in touch again! Here are the Christmas 2016 flowers.

 ....Finally, Finally.....

I know I am always giving out about the weather but, in fact, this winter, until now has been very kind to us and dry. I pulled open the curtains at 7 am one morning in late December to see the sun trying to rise behind the Slieve Mish mountains across the bay. Picture taken from Syra's studio.

..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.