Saturday, September 8, 2018

An old Neopolitan Mandolin comes in for repair.

I found that the neck joint had failed, the frets were worn, the saddle height and
intonation were going to need adjustment after the neck joint re set, the finish
was scratched and the strings needed replacing.

Buckled tail piece.

Failed neck joint

The dirt of ages.

Stripped and ready for repair.

Neck removed using a hot clothing iron and spatula.

Neck joint block is Poplar, not a particularly strong timber for this application.
The wood grain failed rather than the glue joint.

Next remove all traces of hide glue.

Mask and ready for glue.

Clamp joint in 2 dimensions.

While I was at It I decided to restore the case as well.
When I received it the mandolin fell out of the separation between base and the sides of its
original cardboard case, I removed the hard ware and re glued the separated parts and re papered
the exterior with Black Japanese paper and replaced the green felt lining.

Frets levelled, crowned and polished, intonation, string height, all spot on.
Re activated the shellac finish. What a surprising volume and tone this little  mandolin reveals!

One happy customer!

I coated the case with epoxy varnish to protect the paper finish. Looks like new again.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Baby Taylor Disaster.

My latest mission?

To repair this.

Baby Taylor after altercation with Airport Baggage Handlers. Gig bag protection is just not enough folks!

Sound board separation

Bridge separation

Neck joint separation and neck fracture
 The owner of this guitar had attempted a repair to this neck joint but failed to make a proper connection. I wrapped the joint in a damp towel over night which softened the PVA wood glue.
Luckily for for everyone it separated cleanly.
Neck Joint separation

Neck joint separation.

Neck and head stock separation.
Head stock finger joint

Neck finger joint
Bridge removed
 The bridge was partially lifted on account of the distortion of the sound board so I removed it using a pallet knife and a hot clothing iron. I discovered that Taylor attached this bridge with double sided tape! The problem with this adhesive is that it is terribly difficult to remove. The tape residue is rubbery so all traces have to be scraped off before the bridge can be re-glued with wood adhesive.

Sound board re glued
The threaded rod is used to push the rib of the lower bout back outward under the edge of the sound board. the damage to the guitar plus the lack of kerfing meant the the rib had distorted inwardly. I made an adjustable rib thruster by running a nut and washer along the length of threaded rod and adjusted it until the rib and to aligned perfectly.

detail of neck finger joint fracture repair.
 The Neck fracture was a problem. The crack runs at an angle to the grain, lifting the finger board between the nut and the first fret. The crack also distorted the fit in the first finger joint grove.
Detail of neck finger joint repair
I drilled a 3 mm hole into the valley of the first finger joint, deep into the crack. I then fitted a PK screw into the hole to force the joint apart. I was then able to clear the splinters. I then removed the screw and forced wood glue into the hole then blew the wet glue into the fracture with compressed air
Clamping Jig for neck joint repair
 I built a jig to support the neck in every dimension to allow clamping force to be applied to the freshly cleaned finger joint. I made a tiny sanding board with which to sand the inner surfaces of the finger joint to remove all traces of glue. I dry fitted and trial clamped the joint, spot on!
Clamping Jig for neck joint repair

Clamping Jig for neck joint repair

Detail of neck Joint repair

Detail of neck Joint repair

Detail of neck Joint repair

Sound Board lower bout repaired

Checking lower bout sound board repair interior.
Note lack of kerfing blocks

Sound board reconnected and bridge re-glued.

Refinishing soundboard
The Baby Taylor guitar is getting a refinish on the neck and sound board. On the Taylor website the Baby Taylor and a number of other lower end guitars in their range are finished in what they call Varnish. I can confirm that Taylor's so called "Varnish" is in fact shellac. The surface finish is soluble with Methylated spirit. Shellac is hellish to sand as it galls up sand paper very quickly.

Baby Taylor with fresh shellac finish.

Baby Taylor with new set up and new strings. The saddle had never properly fitted the pocket in the bridge. Once I began adjusting the fit it dropped right in to the bottom of the slot and resulted in ultra low string height. I shimmed the saddle up with copper which brought the saddle height up by 2 mm!
Now it's all tuned up and settling in nicely. it has a big sound for a small guitar, the lack of bracing and kerfing probably accounts for that.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Jews Brothers Band. The Full story from The Jews Brothers Website.


Twenty years ago, inspired by a klezmer tune playing on
an Auckland cafĂ©’s stereo, Hershal Herscher picked up his
accordion and started playing the music his grandfather
Harry had brought to New York from the Ukraine.
The rhythm he was pumping out acted like a magnet on
three musician friends who were in the caf that day, fellow
Americans Nigel Gavin (mandolin) and Kelvin Roy
(trumpet), and Kiwi singer Linn Lorkin. Next thing you
know they were all jamming along. From that nucleus The
Jews Brothers Band was born.
The owner, Gerhard Lottermeyer, was intrigued by the
sound and offered them a regular Sunday afternoon gig at
his cafe in exchange for a croissant and coffee each and, as
if by magic, people came out of the woodwork to check
out this new “exotic” music played by a rather
eccentrically named band. Even the local rabbi appeared
surreptitiously one Sunday, (asking Hershal to remain
stumm about it since the cafe was not kosher). The
Sundays at Gerhard’s Cafe became a rousing success.
After a short time tea-chest bass (Harmen Hielkema aka
“The Dutch Clutch”) was added to the line-up and the
band asked Gerhard for a raise: he offered them two
coffees and two croissants. (Don’t laugh, they accepted!!!)
This all occurred in the mid 90s at the height of the
klezmer music revival in the USA. No Jewish bands as yet
existed in New Zealand and very quickly The Jews
Brothers Band cornered the Jewish mitzvah market
(weddings, bars and bats) both in New Zealand and
Australia. While not strictly a klezmer group, (for one
thing they had neither clarinet nor fiddle, the two most
essential klezmer instruments), their original repertoire
was loaded with Yiddish wedding horas and some other
Yiddish favourites familiar to Hershal from his childhood.
Over the next few years the band’s repertoire morphed
from traditional klezmer tunes to originals with the same
vibe although the band still begins each concert with a
medley of old wedding staples. As Hershal puts it, “I
believe that by starting with a few of the oldies it not only
reconnects us with our roots but also helps ensure the
stamp of approval from the audience. People like to know
they are getting the real deal”.
The largely original repertoire that sprang from the songwriting
talents of Herscher, Lorkin and Gavin (with
additional material by local song-writer Arif Usmani), may
have taken them away from pure klezmer music but at the
same time is reflective of the fun and comedy schtick that
has always been a part of Yiddish-American music and
theatre. With jazz-style improvisation and swing rhythms
added to the mix and an emphasis on interesting and
charming vocal arrangements the band is in a sense reinventing
the genre.
The line-up has changed too: mandolin has become guitar,
trumpet has turned into saxophone and the tea-chest bass
has been replaced by upright double bass. There’s a good
mixture of nationalities here: two Jewish New Yorkers
Powered by Squarespace
(Hershal on accordion and Nigel on guitar), a Jewish
Londoner (Peter Scott, the bassist) and two non-Jewish
New Zealanders, Neill Duncan on tenor and drums and
chanteuse/ melodica player Linn Lorkin.
Duncan’s experience with the New Orleans style “Blue
Bottom Stompers” has made him an invaluable player in
the JBB which emphasises the ‘swing’ rhythms that were
part and parcel of American klezmer bands in the 1930s
and 40s. Add to that the virtuoso playing of Gavin, (ex
Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists), the groove
slap bass of Scott ( ex Madness), Herschel’s pumping
accordion and Lorkin’s passionate singing and you can see
and hear why this group has been described as the ‘best
swing band in the land’.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eddie Rayner. On the Couch. November 2017

My good friend Eddie Rayner was interviewed in Melbourne Australia recently ahead of his latest ENZO tour.

He talks about people who inspire him. The person he refers to is me. I am very humbled and flattered that he should chose to do this.

On the Couch with Eddie Rayner 

Eddie Rayner Arts Review On the Couch
Who is Eddie Rayner?
Tim Finn’s description: “Eddie’s a true larrikin with a musical sensitivity second to none, and a gift for goonery that surpasses all…” My description: a collaborator, a labourer of love, an amiable redneck, a team player, a musical tinkerer… My wife’s most recent, and accurate, description: old age pensioner!

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Get up early and exercise before volunteering at the City Mission. Wouldn’t drink, and consume less sugar and more salads… Learn how to read and write music, and practice yoga. Of course, most of this won’t happen.

Who inspires you and why?
I do get inspired by ordinary people who do awesome things. I have an old friend who’s a genius on one-string bass, which he made from native timbers and mother of pearl. He’s an expert in building and sailing Polynesian outrigger canoes, he paints like a great master, could design AND build you a house, and makes a living maintaining a provincial hospital. His curiosity, wisdom and knowledge are boundless and he tutors art at a polytech. All of this while suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease. Legend!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I try to create goodwill, (truly!) and am aware that every encounter is a chance to teach, and learn. I also believe in small actions (as opposed to grand gestures), such as recycling and refurbishing. It may sound sanctimonious, but I do try to make the smallest practicable negative impact on the world, and basically, to be good and kind.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
A different set of pictures can be refreshing, but holidays are more about who I’m with than where I go…so anywhere can be a destination. I don’t tolerate queues, airports, planes or heat well, which puts many holiday destinations out of the question. But I do love a good road trip to anywhere where it’s cool, clear, reasonably unspoiled and unpretentious.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
For a 360 degree view of Auckland I’d walk them up Mt Eden (an extinct volcano in a suburb where I live), possibly up Rangitoto (another island/volcano in the harbour), out west to Karekare Beach for a taste of the rugged, feral nature of the West Coast.

What are you currently reading?
In recent years I’ve developed some weird disorder which makes it physically hard for me to read text… hence reading books or spending much time in front of a screen is difficult these days. But still, I’m chipping away at a history of the Knight’s Templar, and delving into my family’s genealogy.

What are you currently listening to?
I spend most days in my studio, mucking around with my own compositions and my band’s improvisations, and producing/mixing material by other artists. Constant ear-battering in the studio leaves me disinclined to listen to music recreationally… but I’ll always jump on Spotify and have a quiet listen to stuff that is recommended to me. Bands and songwriters are always wanting me to critique their demos… but mostly, I hear music, all genres, randomly.

Happiness is?
An elusive and ephemeral state. Contentment is enough… I’m always a bit suspicious of people who say they’re happy.

What does the future hold for you?
My Mum and Dad and sister died very early, so every day’s a bonus and, touch wood, I’m keeping reasonably well. But I confess to have become increasingly aware of my mortality. We’re moving out to an east coast beach in December… recently I’ve finished mixing 70 unreleased ‘live’ Split Enz songs for release next year.

I’m hoping to do more ENZO shows next year… I’m working on a new album by Space Waltz, and have several other production jobs in the pipeline… my jamming band Dark Horse is going strong… and I’d still like to make an album of instrumentals to rival the best of Ennio Morricone and Henry Mancini. Wish me luck, I’ll need it!
The original Split Enz keyboardist, Eddie Rayner will star in ENZO: The Songs of Split Enz in a Melbourne exclusive at Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne on Friday 17 November 2017. For more information, visit: for details.
Image: Eddie Rayner (supplied)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Taylor AB1 Back in one piece. See previous post for the full story.

Spray finish freshly applied

The repair is much more visible in daylight.

The hum has disappeared, the action is spot on, looking good and most importantly, playing and sounding fantastic!

Taylor AB 1 stripped down to it's basic components for repair.

I know, risky business making repairs and modifications to such a beautiful instrument!

Luckily I know what I'm doing.

Lately a hum has developed in the Fishman electronics so I decided to install an earth from the bridge to the tail pin jack plug.

I've seen some rather clumsy looking modifications done to other Taylor basses (online) and decided to design my own earth network.

When stripping the Fishman preamp I noticed that the input cable from the Piezo pickup was loose  in its connector so this was a great opportunity to put this right. I you are having issues with this preamp as some folks have reported, then this is the first thing to check. The connection to the preamp board is made with a screw clamp which may need to be tightened.

This image shows how discreet the earth/string contact is.
I hammered a trough into 3mm x .3mm copper ribbon to accommodate the radius of each string in its pocket. I then soldered the 4 short lengths of this prepared ribbon on to a spine of the same material at the same spacing as the strings. 
I drilled down vertically with a 3.2mm drill bit into each of the string anchor cavities to make access through to the underside of the sound board.
The newly fitted copper saddle comb can be seen straddling the brace with the brown earth wire soldered to it. Each of the 4 prongs protrudes through the sound board  into the bridge string anchor slots. The earth wire is soldered to the 1/4" jack socket earth tab. The black wire is connected to the under saddle piezo pick up to the onboard Fishman pre amp.

 This image reveals the experimental, phenolic treated, wood saddle material I installed last year. It is by far the best saddle material I have used to date.I found a piece of this material in the workshop of a retired Navy boat builder. He told me it was the step tread material from a WW11, RNZN frigate. This material was once wood which has been pressure impregnated with formaldehyde resin. It is so heavy that it will not float. I have a 12" x 1" plank of this stuff 3' long which will last me a very long time.

Next job I wanted to do was to repair 2 cracks that had developed over time in the rib of the guitar body near the venetian cutaway. This is a problem area for these basses which may have been why Taylor decided to discontinue production in 2003. These guitars were built in El Cajon in California where the humidity is relatively low. My bass was exported to NZ in 1998 and encountered a very different environment. The humidity in Northland NZ runs to 100% at times and the climate is best described as sub tropical. The high humidity as put a great deal of stress into this guitar. Now that the guitar has reached 20 years of age it should have stabilised.

My solution was to unbolt the neck and drill down through the neck reinforcing block behind the crack (which ran vertically down the join in the rib panel, under the neck).

I then fitted a hard wood dowel of the same diameter and glued it into the hole with epoxy glue. The glue forced itself into the crack under the pressure of the close fit. Once set this connection is intensely strong. 

A secondary crack appeared in the rib from the neck pocket, out across the venetian cut away, parallel to the wood grain, in line with the sound board lining. 
Showing the repaired cracks in the rib.

I then sanded the outer surface to flush and then refinished the coating.

Last job: revisit my de-fretted neck. 
Steve Klien's ivoroid inlaid signature is clear to see.

The Taylor bass has a compound radius finger board so the sanding of the ebony surface requires a sanding beam (in my case, fine sandpaper double sided taped to the edge of my long spirit level.

I filled the old fret slots with Walnut veneer which gives me a visual reference when playing. I'm not so good that I can move from my Jazz electric to this bass without this visual aid for accurate intonation.