Ending 2021 with a small batch of three Gatekeeper mandolins, started earlier this year. This model is a little bit larger than the fritillary model and has a slightly longer scale.
The woods used are premium Spruce and Red Cedar, English Walnut, Maple and Ebony . Custom features are a handmade brass tailpiece and decorative features include lacewood bindings and dots. One is now sold and all now are approaching completion. Here’s a few photo’s of their journey…
Ovations tend to polarise opinions for sure. At the time of their introduction in the 60’s it was a bold approach to guitar making that gained a lot of ground with the broadminded.
This Legend is a design from those early days, very similar to the Glen Campell model.
Having spent a couple of years working for Kaman (the original parent company of Ovation) as their guitar tech in the UK I had to get familiar with the construction methods and materials used. So I spent a week training in their repair department in Connecticut back in the 90’s observing repair procedures and getting some hands on experience. The guys there were great, necessarily well skilled and had many purpose made jigs that the factory had conjured up. Some of the guitars that were coming back were often over 20 years old and still being repaired under warranty. That was extremely meritable and typical of their customer service.
This particular Legend turns out to be a pretty good sounding one from the 80’s that’s had regular use and has served its master well.
Here’s the main issue;
The top is looking worse for wear.. there is a long crack running right through the top on the bass side. Its just outside where the bass side main brace lies.
Generally Ovation guitars have issues over time with distorted tops. Not unusual for acoustics of all makes to move a bit, its to be expected, however most Ovation tops do warp in some way, sometimes quite considerably and it can look a bit worrying.
Below is the ‘inside out’ views. Note the use of an aluminium section that reinforces the buttress joint between outside struts.
The repair itself entailed realigning the surfaces, gluing and studding the crack. I also reglued the lifting rosette.
Here’s the finished repair;
and here’s Glen putting a later elite style model to work;
Another regular turn for repairers…the gap under the bridge scenario.
The bridge is a crucial element inherently under stress and needs to be structurally sound, as of course it’s a big factor in transferring energy from the strings to the top for ‘the sound’.
The gap thing is more commonly seen on mass produced acoustics from the (ahem..) far east than on anything that has had the necessary attentive amount of handskilled work involved. Its where the bridge seems to have gradually developed a gap between it and the top. Sometimes its just a small seperation appearing to be of hardly any consequence; a hairline gap, or perhaps its the thickness of a piece of paper, but sometimes its worse. An extreme example is this Tanglewood which came through the workshop recently.
The only course now was to remove the bridge.. as lurking underneath was some rather nasty damage to the western red cedar top
now it was necessary to repair the top before refitting the bridge. This meant making a new cedar patch and setting it into the top, in order to repair the structural damage that had occurred just in front of the pins. If not for any other reason than without it the ball end of the strings would pull through.
now the bridge patch has fitted, glued and clamped
now the bridge has been cleaned, refitted and glued ..
just a restring and job is done. and the bridge toll ?.. £75.
The trouble with doing a blog is that if you don’t do one regularily it looks as if you’ve been doing nothing… and thats not the case, its been hectic. So much so that I regret to say that I am not in position to take on any more major restorations and build projects until later in the year as I am way behind at the moment and must catch up.. otherwise I will have some good customers throwing the towel in and we can’t have that.
I am still able to do quicker turnaround jobs like setups and refrets which essentially help oil the workshop wheels.
Anyway that said, here’s a new swamp ash Esquire body being worked on the pillar drill a couple of days ago to meet a customers specification for a ‘minimalist’ no knobs, bells or whistles guitar. Just pickup to an endpin jack.
And here’s a new meaning for a 3 piece neck;
headstock back on
just the other end to do
On the bouzouki front Jimmy Crowley now has his zouk back and early communications are that its as good as ever after the restoration work, customising and new top. “I’m giving you first class honours, Grade One for t bouzouki. It s a beautiful instrument now & t tone is wonderful “. I know its a bit of a puff to include it here but it always gives a real buzz when you really know it has all worked out. Thankyou Jimmy.
Another fine musician is Stevie Lawrence (photo credit -Stefan Staudenmeier) who has just informed me that his zouk just celebrated its tenth birthday.
Stevie wrote, recorded and kindly sent me this lovely tune ‘beyond the river’ when he first received the zouk..and I’ve been meaning to get it on the website ever since..
The zouk gets outings with the Red Hot Chiili Pipers;
(photo credit; Euan Ramsey)
(There are some vids on Youtube for the Pipers..)
Stevie reports that the zouk has proved itself a workhorse both live and in the studio;
As a footnote to this blog and bouzouki’s I have to sadly relay the passing of Pete Fyfe earlier this year. Without Pete’s encouragement I don’t think any of the bouzoukis would ever have found there way into such great musicians hands. Pete was a very fine well respected folk musician himself and his opinion counted when I needed advice on the development.
A small departure from the norm, with this very nice victorian box in satinwood, inlaid with tunbridge ware stringing. I was asked if I could fit some new ebony pieces to the edges. Well why not.
Back to business.
Jimmy Crowley bouzouki repair works are now completed, this included a new sitka top and green fish eye inlay amongst other things. I’ll be adding some more info to the website in due course about the Irish bouzoukis with some sound clips.
In the meantime heres Donal Lunny back in the early 90’s using a lefty zouk with Paul Brady;
Moving on to the Om guitar; I was pleased to meet up with Gareth Whittock in the workshop to discuss the project a couple of weeks ago; here’s the piece of reclaimed london plane that is being used. The design might break the world record for number of pickups we’ll be using if we can get round hum issues. Last count was eight.
Amongst other Gibson repairs this month was this early 1970’s J40 which had a couple of sprung braces on the top causing a distorted top.