Gatekeeper mandolins

Gatekeeper mandolins Charles and I have just finished. All have back and sides of rare dark English walnut. 2 feature tops of, at least, 40 year old prime western red cedar, cut from a piece given to me back in the 80’s. Previously it was earmarked for use as part of a double bass top. Thats a story in itself. One mandolin features best grade Caucasian spruce top with a mahogany neck, the other two have walnut. All are 3 piece construction, having a maple centre and a single action truss rod,.. which is all that is needed. Decorative features include herringbone, crow’s foot inlay, London plane for bindings and various black and white lines. The tailpieces are brass, which we handmake to our design. Bridges are selected ebony accurately fitted to the arch of the top for best volume and tone and are fitted with bone saddles.

Here Kevin Basset of Craic Heads takes ownership of one.

The spruce top one is also now sold.

Currently we have just the herringbone sound hole inlaid, cedar top one remaining –

Gatekeeper Mandolins

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…

A short video of a 2020 Gatekeeper mandolin


Walnut mandolin
Rick Parfitt tele replica
R8 refurbishment

snapshots of 2019

spraybooth installed
Hofner pick up repair/rewind
more spraying
visit to Henry Moore’s workshop
lacquer work
shielding work
waiting for a bus…
burns truss rod
Baja for reworking
R8 for reboard
‘oh, come off it’
using a sacrificial bolt to extract the locating pins
cleaned up surface
truss rod anchor repair
sideboard reclaimed for stock
mahogany set free. Save our sideboards! (and trees)

new and old

Some workshop images from 2018

National Trojan neck reset
replacement fingerboard for Michigan resonator reusing old frets.
Gluing up the top
Adjusting the sides to top and bottom blocks
repairing a sprung fingerboard
reinstalling a loose inlay

2017 the first and last post

The rear view; just a few of the activities of 2017,

70’s Guild bass;

Vintage pot repair;


50’s Gibson soapbar;







A trip out to The Forest of Dean, a wonderful place for trees in their glory;

Here’s Flint, getting in on the act;







On a trip out selected  a Western Red Alder plank;



For this end;

EC electronics, rear battery compartment (no trem) strings though body anchorage;

Some pine amp cabs made for my friend Denis Cornell;


Drilling for side dot markers;

A long overdue visit to the Asmolean Museum to view its display of fine historic guitars;









Gibson Gary Moore Les Paul with a high arched top;

Finally, one for the road, courtesy of Ronnie Lane;

life is a minestrone

10 cc served this up with parmesan cheese. ‘orrible.

Here is some of the stuff that’s been served up in the workshop lately;

Firstly, completed just last week is this 5 string mandolin.

This is for sale direct at £400 and is the last one of a batch of 6. All custom hardware and pickups made in the workshop. Please contact me if you are interested or want further details.

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Other luthiery work  pics below;

Gibson firebird refret using Dunlop 6105,

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Les Paul bone nut fitting

vernon 9

70’s Hummingbird finished nut replacement

hum 4

Fingerboard shoot and undergoing stainless refret , medium Fender spec for Strat

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Gibson 339 neck break repair finished

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Jeff Beck sign strat fretwork on the go

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Gibson Flying V neck break repair

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Something that proves you are never too old to learn. I was unaware that the Seymour Duncan Invader bridge pickup has a discreet capacitor. I had thought the coil was open circuit.

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ovation legend

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;

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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.

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The repair itself entailed realigning the surfaces, gluing and studding the crack. I also reglued the lifting rosette.

Here’s the finished repair;

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and here’s Glen putting a later elite style model to work;


bridging the gap

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.

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The only course now was to remove the bridge.. as lurking underneath was some rather nasty damage to the western red cedar top

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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.

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now the bridge patch has fitted, glued and clamped

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now the bridge has been cleaned, refitted and glued ..

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just a restring and job is done. and the bridge toll ?.. £75.

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blog for life

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.

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And here’s a new meaning for a 3 piece neck;

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headstock back on

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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.

Irische Nacht 2015 106

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)

photo 2

(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.