Well, I just switched from spraying spirit varnish to brushing an oil based, alkyd resin varnish with a French polished top coat, and I don't think I'm looking back. Takes a bit more time to get there, but totally worth it. Best tone & volume out of the gate by far, and even with the taller bracing. I can't wait to hear what these sound like in 6+ months. Lordy... Fun batch, and most are for pals in the neighborhood. Some BC log & Sullivan Stash Sitka, some Engelmann, all of the commonly used maples, an all Euro build for Bruce Harvie, almost all 1-pc-ers. Hitting #100 in the next batch! I might treat myself to a steak dinner when I get there.
First time with a righteous stash of NH, air-dried, beautifully quartersawn sugar maple I bought from recently retired Steve Andersen in Seattle. I was very lucky to get that call from him. Really, the stash of a lifetime! First time shipping out of the US, too. Massimo Gatti picked up #88. Pretty cool to send one to Italy. A little bigger on the bracing, and I've been happy with the results as I press my luck in that department. Longer break in periods, but after 6 months, I've been pleasantly surprised. This might be my last batch with spirit varnish, as I think I'll be switching to an alkyd resin varnish. We'll see how that goes on the upcoming A batch.
Lots of variety here. Focus and power out of the gate! Changed gears with bracing. Went even taller, and all Adi bars, except for #80. #80 is my first build with redwood & walnut, and it is braced with super strong AK Sitka. That one's for Wood Wiz, Bruce Harvie! Loving what I'm hearing from the redwood! Took more time with the finishing process, doing lighter coats daily with a few extra days added. I'm very happy with this bunch!
This run took longer than I hoped, but we made it. Sitka, Adi & Engelmann tops. Big leaf, red & German maple backs. Bigger bracing all around. Another tweak in the varnish recipe. I snuck an A5 in at #69 3/4, and I'm hanging on to it. Very happy that pickin' wiz Don Julin will be making beautiful music with #72 from this run. Can't wait to hear what happens there! Strong voices, and very playable all around. Very pleased with what I'm hearing!
3 species of spruce, and 3 species of maple mixed in this batch. Quite a lot of fun to voice them all. Somehow, magically, the boxes all sound off in D#. Very happy to have Bob Minner pick up #66 from this run! What a monster picker. This is also the first run with custom Calton cases available. From here on, that upgrade will be available for both models!
Old AK bridge wood, Eclipse Engelmann, tight Ketchikan Sitka from '83, and Hammond Ashley Stash Sitka from '77. Unique voices for different players in this batch. Experiments in brace wood and shaping, too. Pretty dang fun to do! Loving the new design of Rubner tuners! Smooth! Best I've used so far! Slight change in varnish recipe and application. Overall, I'm very happy with this bunch! Folks in on this batch: good buddy Paul B. here in PDX, Mike H. (bronze sculptor on CO), Harry C. pickin' in Nashville, Alan B. in SLC, and C.J. L. with the Po' Ramblin' Boys in east TN. Great folks all around, and had a ton of fun working with them!
I crested 50! All spoken for. My first lefty, first black top, and first build with the Eclipse Engelmann that Bruce Harvie found in Idaho. He claims it's the best red spruce he never cut. Sounds fantastic! More old 1-pc AK bridge wood tops that just crush, and I'm trying to use more and more air dried maple. Very happy to have Grammy nominated CJ Lewandowski jump in on this batch! He talked me out of the black topped #53 that I was going to keep. I can't wait to hear him drive the crap out of that one! Exciting!
All custom builds, again. 3 with the ancient AK bridge Sitka, one Sitka top from the OR coast range I picked up through an old friend, and one build from the Sullivan Stash! What a dang honor to work with John Sullivan's material, and carry that torch! The first one of this run (#44) is the first one built with air dried maple (I think I'm turning a corner with air dried everything , as much as possible), and I put a Noble Fir bar on the bass side. #45 has Noble fir on both bars. Another tiny tweak in the varnish recipe, and carving the tone bars just a bit different. Came out screamin'! Very pleased!
I decided to up the A5 batches to 8. It was work. Very happy with the results! All custom wood selections, and neck shapes. All spoken for. All very assertive. Slight changes in the varnish recipe and the method of application. Rubner tuners and James tailpieces will now be standard. Both mighty fine! I'm keeping #43 from this run. I'm finally keeping one. Don't even try it. It won't happen.
Back to F5's! 3 1-pc tops with AK Sitka that was split in the 1930's, 1 1-pc AK Sitka top harvested by Bruce Harvie about 25 years ago, and one Adi top. Slight changes in body shape, all sugar maple necks, and some fancier inlays. This batch is all spoken for by Bruce Harvie, Corbin Smith, Dennis Benjamin, Nick Blechman and Evan Elkin. Thanks a bunch, fellas!
Meeting Mrs. Griffith
As it turns out, I'm a short drive from the only Loar signed A5 mandolin. The owner is one peach of a human! I was very fortunate to be able to spend a couple of days with her. I had just completed my first batch of A5's when this happened. That's my #30 next to her. Down the road I plan to replicate Mrs. G., but my list just exploded at the end of 2018, and I have a lot of work ahead. I'll carve out some time in the future to make this happen. What a gem! Loud, sweet tone, and very playable. I'm a lucky fella!
After building 26 F5's, I'm taking a little turn. A5's with tone bars. #26 is a custom build with Engelmann & a crazy piece of Big Leaf. #27 & #28 have the same Sitka from the previous batch. #29 & #30 have Sitka from an Alaskan bridge that was decommissioned in the 1930's, and it is the toughest spruce I've ever met (it is freakish). Another slight change in the varnish recipe. I changed my neck joint to a tapered dovetail, instead of the pinned "V" joint (or pinned, tapered mortise and tenon). I have a new logo on the headstock in MOP, and an abalone Fleur de Lis, inspired by the Griffith Loar. I'm ready to hear what this kids sound like! Looking at the 3rd weekend of October for that!
All 1-Piece Sitka tops from the same split block! 2 with X-Bracing, and 3 with Tone Bars. #24 & #25 have back, ribs and necks all from one piece of fiddleback maple that was originally intended to be a cello neck. Sticking with the 12" fretboard radius. Very slight change in neck pitch. We have another small change in the varnish recipe.
All Sitka tops, 4 1-piece backs (including 3 consecutive), slightly taller arching, slightly wider necks, taller ribs, all X-braced, a little twist in the spirit varnish recipe, an addition to the headstock inlay, and 12"radius on the fretboards.
All one piece tops and backs, X-braced, radiused necks and ebony neck stringers. Back slabs 11-13 and 14-15 are consecutive. The tops on 12 & 13 are siblings, as are 14 & 15.