After quite a quiet winter of weather we have now had two serious Atlantic storms in the last few days. How do we know they are serious? Well apart from the high winds and rain ‘serious’ storms get given names. The first was Doris and today it is Ewan. Names are male/female in rotation and always alphabetic starting with A. So Doris was the fourth since last Autumn and Ewan is the fifth. Last year we had 12 named storms before Christmas!An unusual happening was finding a dead cormorant in the garden. We see them flying over regularly and we think this one may have flown into a power line and dropped into our garden. A beautiful bird and our first chance to see one close up. A pity about the circumstances.
About ten years ago a Bewick swan flew into power lines and broke a wing. I managed to capture it but not without a fight and got Kerry Animal Rescue to collect it where it was rehabilitated. Syra made a painting of the event.
I don’t recommend arguing with swans!
A local musician, William Goodwin, came round with his guitar and when were stringing it up I showed him how I did it which he wanted to copy for the future. I realised years ago that many players (even pros) actually don’t know how to put strings on in a way that will help keep the guitar better in tune as well as being less of a health and safety hazard! So here is a quick tutorial. This applies to most steel string acoustics and solid bodies with normal tuners. There are many effective ways to string a guitar. This is what I do.
To keep tuning more stable the fewer turns there are around the tuning post the better and the tighter they are is better again. Loosely wrapped strings allow for the coils to slip and change tuning.
After locating the strings at the bridge end I place the string into the nut always running it up on the headstock centre side of the tuner post.
I then wrap the string fairly tightly around the post using my thumbnail to hold the coils down towards the headstock. How many times? My rule is simple - for the lowest string one turn for the next two turns, the next three turns until reaching the highest string which, for a 6 string would be 6 turns! This means that the string is held low on the tuner post which gives a steep angle to the nut.
To hold the coils in place and to lock the string in place I feed the free end through the post hole above the coils with the thumbnail still in place and then pull the end tight and wind on to take up any slack .
At this stage for each string I trim the excess from the end. Why? Because I have seen somebody having a string in their eye when the guitarist turned around with long, protruding strings on stage!
So having done the bass strings the same procedure applies to the trebles. Again bring the string up from the bridge, into the correct nut slot and to the inside of the headstock.
For the thin and very sharp treble strings I not only trim the end but also bend them down as it is all too easy to stick a pointy string into your hand by accident!
And a studious William!
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.
Actually, mostly not. Syra and I drove with a trailer to Wicklow to collect some wood that I bought last year which had been air and kiln dried. The round trip is about 450km (275miles) but well worth the effort. I collected some of the finest Irish walnut, 328 year old Irish oak, Irish fiddleback sycamore, Irish yew and, an exciting find, some Irish red cedar. This is the first Irish wood suitable for acoustic guitar tops that I have ever managed to find. Softwoods grow so fast in our damp and reasonably warm climate that the wood tends to be weak with wide spaced growth rings. This wood came from an old tree from the Phoenix Park in Dublin and the outside rings are, I think, close enough for me to use as tops. We’ll see!
Some fiddleback sycamore - I took half of this board which was 75mm (3”) thick and quartersawn.
These are my boards of Irish walnut, wide and quartersawn. Had to cut them to fit in the trailer and think hard about the way to make the cuts that would be most efficient for my final use.
While we are in Pat’s sawmill they were cutting some superb olive ash.
Some of this was multicoloured with reds, and blues as well as the olive colours. I ordered two quartersawn boards of this to collect next year!
And here is the wood back in the workshop where I had to find space to store it! Shelves were the answer in the end as I have no more space on the floor.
This bit is also in the workshop. Customer wanted abalone purfling on the acoustic bass guitar I was making for him. Looks wonderful in place but takes a bit of effort cutting the pieces!
As you may know I am a luthier member of the Leonardo Guitar Research Project whose aim is to show players, makers, dealers and the whole guitar world that you can make great sounding and looking instruments from non-tropical woods. As part of this there have been many controlled, blind tests using both professional players and audiences to see if they could tell the difference between guitars made with tropical and non-tropical woods. So far the results show that neither audiences nor players prefer one type to another when they are unable to see the instruments but just play and hear them. There are ongoing tests again at the moment in the UK, Finland and Belgium and the full results (and some of the guitars) will be available at the Cordefactum Event in Lier, Belgium in April. There will also be an exhibition of guitars made from local woods as well as concerts and lectures. Worth a trip if you could make it.
Just to embarrass him, here is my friend and customer Tim van Roy appropriately dressed testing a sample. He is becoming a regular feature of the Newsletter. But he looks silly!
Our friend and great singer/songwriter Gerry O’ Beirne came up with this one.
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. Stock acoustic badly needed! There is a parlour on the way.
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
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.
Last month you may have seen the back of the canvasses Syra has been working on. Now the commission is finished and collected by the new owner. It is a stunning 5 meter (over 16 feet) panorama illustrating some of the old Irish tale of the Voyage of Máel Dúin. When I saw this first I couldn’t speak! The more I looked the more I wondered. I think it is a masterpiece.
Because I'm limited to the size of pictures I can use in the Newsletter you can't really see the detail. If you want to get a better look go here.
Kerry has this clever device which enables a movie camera to track him while he is out surfing. There is a patch that he wears on his wetsuit and the camera follows this, from some considerable distance, whatever he does. Here are a couple of shots of him. You can see the white patch that the camera follows on his arm.
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.