Saturday, 11 October 2014

Custom Acoustic Guitar

My friend and long time customer Shannon Coulomb ( popped into the workshop late last year. He's a great player with a fantastic ear so I was keen to get his opinion on one of my handbuilt guitars.
This was the one he played:

It has a Carpathian (European) Spruce top, Australian Blackwood back and sides and Mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and bridge. I use bone nut and saddle and stainless steel frets.
 I inlay a Piwakawaka (fan tail) in the headstock, otherwise I like to keep it simple.

Carpathian Spruce has a lovely balanced tone with sensitive, strong treble, a chimey bass and just enough mids.
 Australian Blackwood (NZ grown in this case) has similar characteristics to Rosewood.

The materials used are only part of the story, design and construction methods are equally important. You can't buy a guitar purely on the 'spec' of its component parts. That's fine for buying a phone or computer but a guitar made of the best timber but poorly built will not be a good guitar.  The skill, knowledge and experience of the maker are the most important factors.

 I like to build my guitars light - that way they react quickly and sound lively and full - I want them to "fly".

Shannon seemed to rather like the guitar, he was back a few weeks later for another go.

Then in August he was back again, he'd been around all the Auckland shops trying out guitars and couldn't find just what he wanted. So he commissioned me to make him a guitar just like the one he'd tried only with a tiny wee bit more bass.
 So to achieve this I've decided to make his guitar's body slightly deeper across the lower bout.

 Here are a few pictures of the construction process. I haven't finished his guitar yet, but some 'bare bones' pics might be of interest.

 Here are the two bookmatched halves of the back getting glued together with the centre strip.

I mainly bend the sides in my heater side bending machine then finish them off free hand with a bending iron.

The box is coming together.

I've inlaid a very traditional herringbone rosette.

All the braces are jointed together. Most guitars I see have the braces just butted up to each other or even just close. I cut all joints to fit snugly - even the bridge plate. This is much stronger and means the top and braces can be built lighter.

On this guitar I'm using a traditional 'X' brace configuration. All braces are quarter sawn spruce.

 The advantage of a handmade guitar over a factory, mass produced one is in the bracing. I 'tune' the top to match the properties of its components as well as what the customer requires. This is the really fun part - shaving the braces with thumb plane and chisel until its 'right'.
It's a shame all the clever stuff is tucked away inside.

 The neck is mahogany. Here's the heel very roughly shaped - there's a still a long way to go.

If you're interested in a guitar I always have examples of my work at the workshop.



I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups

Saturday, 7 June 2014

New Workshop

I have moved workshop - but I'm just next door to the old one.
The new place is still down the alley between the buildings at the top of Khyber Pass Road.

But now I'm at the end of the driveway.
Walk 10 paces past the old workshop and there it is - my fancy new place.

 I've got a bit more space, fantastic natural light and it's quieter. I've been able to design this workshop specifically for my needs. I have a store room with racking to keep guitars safe and a main work area. It's got a great creative feel to it.
 Here are some pics:

Hope to see you soon



I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Strap Locks

Just a thought on Strap Locks.
There are a lot of strap locks out there and most of them work well.
My favourite of the 'bought' ones are Schaller.
I don't use any of them though. I learned this little trick years ago:

'98 Les Paul std

They're bottle seals from the homebrew shop round the corner from my workshop. They're cheap (20 cents each!), easy to fit and after hundreds of gigs have never let me down. I have a different strap for each guitar and never take them off.
Any strap lock is only as good as the mounting screw so check yours regularly especially with a heavy guitar like a Les Paul.

 Just a thought



I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Bouzouki/Gouzouki – an unusual modification

It was a lovely summers day when Jon Sanders brought this interesting job to me.
It’s an Irish Bouzouki with a guitar body – he calls it a Gouzouki.
It’s a great instrument made by fantastic luthier Davy Stuart in Christchurch, now located near Nelson
The instrument has an undersaddle pickup  so it can be amplified. Jon wanted me to make another pickup for just the bass strings so the signal could be completely separate from the existing one. The plan was to run this through an octave pedal to lower it an octave (or two). I’ve done a very similar job for a friend of Jon’s a few years back – Mark Mazengarb.
That job was for a guitar and Mark wanted both E and A strings amplified seperately.
For that one I took a Strat pickup, cut it down to a third of the size and re-wound it.
You can see (and hear) that pickup on the promo clip on Mark’s site:
So, the two problems I need to solve with Jon’s Gouzouki are how to pick up the sound of just one pair of strings and how to attach that pickup to the instrument.
I decide to go for a magnetic pickup. This can be kept completely separate from the existing piezo undersaddle system and it directional enough to only “hear” what I want it to.
I have a pickup winding machine (I repair a lot of vintage Fender and Gibson electric guitar pickups) so I’m happy I can make one that will sound how I want it to.
Just to spice things up there’s a time limit on this one. Jon doesn’t live in Auckland and I only have a few days to do the job. This means I need to find an old pickup former from my box of bits rather than order a new one.
The most suitable candidate is a Fender noiseless Jazz Bass pickup. I know this will have good quality magnets with the added bonus of being able to make it a hum cancelling stacked humbucker.
You can see in this picture I’ve stripped off the original wire (this was a dud pickup) and cut the fibreboard former down to the size I wanted. I’ve wound the bottom coil and am about to do the other.
I’ve decided to wind 1500 turns of 42AWG wire for each coil. The 1500 turns was a bit of a guess – I’ve wound a lot of pickups and you do get a “feel” for it. If I made it too powerful there’s a danger of it overdriving the amp and distorting, too weak and it would simply be too quiet. On reflection, I’d try 1700 next time but there just wasn’t time to experiment.
An action shot of winding in progress – exciting stuff!
Here’s the second coil half wound.
They’ll be wired together in series, the outer winding of one coil attached to the outer of the other. So the continuation of wire will be from the start of one coil to its end, the end of the other coil to its start. This puts them out of phase with eachother (180degrees) and so cancelling the hum. They are also magnetically out of phase (180degrees) which brings them back to being in phase. It’s not easy to explain.
Once wound I dip the pickup in melted wax to hold the windings together and prevent microphonic feedback.
I need to find a way of mounting the pickup so it “hears” the strings, is height adjustable, not in the player’s way, looks elegant and easily removed if necessary.
I decide to make a bracket that can be screwed to the cross brace under the end of the fretboard. The main purpose of this brace is structural strength (resisting the compression force of the strings) so it will be quite happy holding the pickup on.
I make a hardwood bracket. The 3 holes are for mounting the pickup to the bracket. I can put different thicknessed shims under the pickup to adjust the height.
I mounted the second jack socket just below the existing one. We measured up first to make sure his strap would still fit, an important consideration – he’s very attached to his strap.
After the job was completed Jon came in to test it out with his octave pedal. I had to replace the height adjusting shim – but that’s what it was there for.
Overall. I was very pleased with the result.
The following day he was testing it out at The Oratia Jungle Festival
Have a good gig mate.

Feel free to contact me, text is best - 021912678.
If I don't answer don't be shy to leave a message, it's not easy for me to pick up the phone sometimes.
I very rarely check emails these days, I never seem to find time.

 Drop off/pick ups by appointment only

Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Mention in "The Herald"

Thanks to Peter Calder from the New Zealand Herald for this article:

Calder At Large

Peter Calder on life in New Zealand

Peter Calder: All for the sound and the story

Guitar maker and repairer Glyn Evans says a good luthier should respect an instrument's story. Photo / Dean Purcell
Guitar maker and repairer Glyn Evans says a good luthier should respect an instrument's story. Photo / Dean Purcell
I see Glyn Evans before I meet him. His head is bobbing slightly in the single window of his Khyber Pass Rd workshop as he methodically hand-sands a thin piece of swamp kauri.
It's destined to become what I learn is called a rosette, the ornamented circle of material around a guitar's sound hole. The customer, an American who has settled here, wants "a bit of Kiwi" in the guitar that immigrated with her.
A native of Swansea in Wales, Evans is a luthier, which is a noble old word for someone who makes and repairs guitars. On a chilly mid-week morning, when the door is closed to customers so he can get some work done, he welcomes me into the warm, roughly carpeted space that he shares with Sammy, his big, black and very placid dog.
Stringed instruments are everywhere. A couple of pot-belly mandolins and a balalaika on high shelves await his attention, but they're his and he's too busy looking after other people's instruments to have time to work on his own.
Evans' sanding is revealing a crack in the kauri, which he repairs even as he exposes it, by adding superglue mixed with the fine sand-dust.
"Superglue is useful stuff, all right," he says, which makes me wonder what luthiers did before it was invented. Evans smiles and opens a jar of what looks like nothing so much as raw sugar, though a bit shinier and more golden.
Made from the hooves and connective tissue of various creatures, this is the stuff that gave rise to the expression about sending a broken down horse "to the glue factory". It's truly ancient technology: records of animal glue go back 4000 years. And Evans says luthiers love the stuff because it sounds so good.
"It's more resonant because it goes brittle-hard," he says. "It's ridiculously strong and you can manipulate it - a bit of heat reverses it so I can warm it up and it will release."
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it smells nice too (Sammy loves the smell). And older readers would remember the taste from when they licked postage stamps: "A little bit of warmth, a little bit of moisture and it goes soft."
It occurs to me that, with the exception of an electric polishing machine, most of the technology in the room would seem familiar to Evans' renaissance predecessors. Shellac, made from a resin secreted by bugs in India and Thailand, is his finish of choice as it was for them. People call it French polish, he explains, but actually French polishing is the act of applying it.
"A lot of modern guitars are sprayed with polyurethane, which is what you paint cars with. It's really hard. It doesn't fade with UV light, but it doesn't sound very good either. You're stifling the vibrations with a thick coating of goo, whereas something thin and hard will enhance the sound."
A Baroque-era luthier would recognise most things in the workshop, Evans says, except the plastic handles on the chisels.
"He could start work tomorrow - and I wouldn't have to pay him much either."
A lifelong passion for tinkering - "Meccano is a wonderful thing," he says - was what got Evans into the craft. "I was always playing about with things when I was a kid and then I started to play a guitar and it seemed like a good idea to stick the things together."
Needless to say, he plays too, quite well, I imagine. When I ask him if he's any good, he hesitates before saying he can "get around a guitar" - the kind of modest comment that only good players make.
"I play in a covers band," he says, "but most luthiers are failed musicians."
Before I go, he shows me a 19th-century instrument that he's in the middle of restoring. He describes it as "fairly well rogered", which is something of an understatement. But a striking feature is a deep crater above the sound hole, made by the propped thumbnail of a finger-picking player.
"That will stay," he says. "Damage is fine as long as there's a story attached. You have to show respect for the instrument.
"The guitars I like are the ones with stories, the ones that granddad used to play and they have been in the cupboard for 50 years. Or the Les Paul that arrived in New Zealand having been sold to fund a Russian bride. They're the ones that have a connection."
- NZ Herald

   I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups