Stay in Tune vol # 88
By luthier Patrick\ Podpadec
St. Paddy's day has come and gone!. That is the way I can tell that Spring is almost here. I know it won't be long before I'm rototilling the garden and planting flowers and vegetables. I'm really looking forward to a very productive summer for the garden and for my shop.
I have been very lucky this year to have gotten some recognition for my instrument building skills and I have already been rewarded with 4 new commissions to build instruments this year so far. This is a very exciting time for me . As you know , I always like a challenge and this latest commission should prove to be another good one. I will be building a 8 string ukulele. Although this type of instrument is already being produced by companies such as Lanaki and others , most of the 8 strings are done in a Tenor size. This one that I will be building will be in Concert size.
What I like about building new and an different (from the norm) instruments is that it gives me design challenges that helps me to be a better or at least a more diverse builder, which gives me a larger bank of skills to pick from. Trying to figure out how much more tension that the added strings will effect the the vibration of the top and what bracing must be altered to accommodate that tension, is just the beginning of the challenge. I will have to extend the width of the fingerboard a little to fit the added strings on to the nut.. I believe that the headstock will have to be built with a slotted headstock, because if I were to use 8 mini tuners the extra weight and size that it would add to the end of the instrument would be very uncomfortable and distracting to the player. All of the little details will have to be taken into account before any of the production takes place. I will have to make sure that the new bridge and saddle will properly fit the added string width and that everything will fit aesthetically to the “Concert “ size. This of course means that a full scale drawing must be made and and studied and revamped to make sure all thing go well . I know some people may say “Just go ahead and build it, it will be o.k.” I'm not one of those guys. I would much rather make all, or at least most of my mistakes on paper first (cause erasers are cheaper than exotic woods). The extra hours that are spent in the design phase of an instrument will be paid for at the end with a good sound and a great big smile from the customer.. That alone is worth what ever extra time it takes.
I have realized that with all of the new building projects that is starting to occur and a increase in repair volume that it would be a good time to consider the possibility of some help in the shop. I'm thinking in the terms of a apprenticeship. I have tried this approach before, and although some parts of the arrangement worked, there were other parts that didn't. I'm willing to try it again, but this time making sure that all of the details of the arrangement will be figured out and agreed upon by both parties first before the “party” starts. I would be looking for someone that has an incredible love for music and has the burning desire to build stuff. I know that might sound crazy, but with out those two attributes it would be impossible for anyone to do the things that are required to do in the day to day operations of a luthier. Some other things that would be very helpful would be to have a working knowledge of tools and a border line “anal” approach to detail ( not literally, but I think you know what I mean) And of course last , but not least be willing to work for little or no pay. You must understand that this is an apprenticeship, not and employee position. There will be benefits , but not in the traditional forms of dollars and cents. You can think of it as going to a “trade” school without having to pay for it. The knowledge that you will absorb (hopefully) in all of the many different daily tasks will be useful for many jobs in the future. Some of the things that you will learn is “How to setup musical instruments ( guitars, mandolins, violins, etc,) for optimum playability”, a working knowledge of tooling (building and setting up jigs and templates) for working in different mediums, such as woods , plastics, and finishing applications . Some electronics along with the knowledge of and ability to determine the correct diagnosis for instrument repair will be just a tip of the iceberg that you can walk away with with this apprenticeship opportunity. One of the other main requirements that I forgot to mention is the you must come with a good work ethic and have the uncanning ability to be able to get along with me in the small quarters that I call my “Shop” . It has be said that if you can do that you are automatically eligible for Saint Hood. How about that for a benefit?
I also will be attending some very cool Music Festivals this year that I will be needing a hand with. ( another great benefit) I'm currently in the middle of building a beautiful guitar that is to be raffled off at the Riverside Music Festival on April 19-21. Please check out www.riversideinn.com for more details. You can also check out my website for pictures of the guitar that I am building for the Festival. http://www.wood-n-strings.net/liam-guitars/guitars/acoustic.html .
Patrick from Liam Guitars/Wood-n-Strings