July 2020 Newsletter

  • Vanuattu Custom Guitar for Sale
  • Martin Simpson, Icarus
  • Will McNicol Academy
  • 2 Mandolins for sale
  • Another secret event
  • Tristan Seume
  • Nancy Wilson
  • New Workshop Videos
  • Shaping a mandolin Neck
  • Megan Henwood. Doors
  • Jethro Tull "Fat Man"
  • Antonio Forcione
  • Toby Hay
  • 18 string guitar
  • Music delivered to your home
  • Rosewood restrictions backfire
  • A little comedy
Vanuattu Custom Guitar for Sale

This is one of the five guitars we made last year to investigate perceptions of different tonewoods (again). I've been asking some of the best guitarist's around to give me their opinion. I had a few more professional players visit to play them at the end of last year, and then I allowed four of the guitars to leave home and make their own way in the world. Since then, the current "complications" have got in the way, but I think I now have all the information from all the players who took part, and I'm going to try very hard to write about it next month.

I've kept this one guitar as a reference against some new guitars that we are working on, and they are now finished. So - the one remaining guitar, perhaps the best looking one, can now be allowed to leave home. Do you have a spare bedroom?

Gorgeous, very rare Vanuattu Blackwood back and sides (a relative of Koa). Cedar top. Long scale 12 fret neck to put the bridge in the best possible position and get maximum tonal range. Cutaway to keep the professional (showing off) fret access. Laminated neck with carbon fibre reinforcement and truss rod adjustment through the soundhole. Pearl diamond inlays. Ebony bindings. It's a development of ideas that I've been trying with people like Will McNicol and Martin Simpson. It sounds wonderful. Loud and very even. For sale £4,800

  • Vanuattu Custom Guitar for Sale
  • No3-LC1A7890
  • No3-LC1A7896
  • No3-LC1A7892
  • no3-LC1A7898
  • LC1A8335

Martin Simpson, Icarus

Martin played a great youtube concert recently, and he gave me permission to post individual parts of it. He used three guitars in the concert, his trusty Stefan Sobell of course, a PRS, and this one, the second of three similar guitars, this one being made from " Mike Waterson" Brazilian Rosewood.

Martin's website

Will McNicol Academy

This is a staggering achievement, perhaps it couldn't have happened without the enforced lockdown and the spare time which every musician has had, but not every musician has used the time as effectively as this. Stay at home, go to college. How convenient to be able to do both.

The College at Will's website

Two Mandolins for sale

One Standard Touchstone and one Walnut Touchstone, both very close to being finished and available for sale in about two weeks’ time.
£920 and £1350 respectively. Don’t delay, they won’t be here long.

  • Standard Touchstone Mandolin
  • TT_Mandolin1
  • TT_Mandolin2
  • Touchstone Walnut Mandolin
  • wt1
  • wt2
  • wt3
  • wt4
  • wt5


I did warn you this would be coming. Link to videos

A long-awaited edit of the footage from my secret MBE party in 2016. Just look at my face! That's how I look all the time nowadays, surprised, worried, it's my "what's Moira going to do next" face. To save writing it all again, you can read the story here: (Actually , I didn't write this bit, Mike English did).

Included is a video of the "after party - party". You are all very privileged to be able to see some of this, and it doesn't cost you anything! Please feel free to make a donation to your favourite charity.

Another secret event

Going back to the "what's Moira going to do next " theme, there has been another secret event since then. The picture is a clue. I was taken on a magical mystery tour.

I was supposed to be flying a Spitfire over John Smiths house ( I did tell him), but of course, everything was cancelled, so the Spitfire became my Audi, and Biggin Hill and surroundings became the Lake District. The driveway from our house is a bit like "taking off" and If you try very hard on narrow winding roads, an Audi Quattro can feel quite like a Spitfire. Moira was waving her arms and saying something, but I didn't quite catch what it was, those Merlin 12 cylinders are very loud when the cockpit is open, and the silk scarf makes an awful flapping noise. I suppose the goggles and leather helmet were a bit over the top, but I had a lovely time.

Tristan Seume

Tristan has become very comfortable with his fan fret Goodfellow and is getting a lovely tone from it. I've said this many times, it's great to see him playing so much, he's a special talent.

Tristan's website

Nancy Wilson

There is a reason why I've put this picture next to Tristan's video. He's a big fan. The picture was taken at the home of a mutual friend in Santa Rosa CA, the guitar is a "Custom Eric Bibb"

New Workshop Videos

Brian Saunders of Fretboard Journal suggested that I make a short video tour of the workshop. Lots of other makers have done this on their smart phones. What he didn't know is that I am the only person in the world who does not have "a phone", so I couldn't do what other makers have done (do I ever?). I am also very fussy about quality, so I waited until Mike and Sam English could escape from lockdown and bring all their fancy video gear, including a drone, and yes, they did fly it inside the workshop!

Fretboard Journal's website

Shaping a mandolin Neck

Here is one of the videos they made.

The factory inspector won't like a lot of this. Oh well, who's going to see it? I'm sure you won't tell him.

I made the drawknife from an old planer blade more than twenty years ago. It's a beautiful, sensual tool to work with and as long as the wood grain is reasonably "friendly" I can get very close to the finished shape with the drawknife alone, just allowing a fraction for the final sanding. The neck shape is very important, critical even, and I think the video makes it look a lot easier than it is, but I've shaped about eight thousand necks this way over a period of fifty years, and it's one of my favourite jobs.

A machine does not gain any experience or learn any new skills, not even the very expensive Fadal VMC which you can see in the background, which I've had for twenty years, but apart from a few truss rod covers has never been used. I can't get  it out now without taking the roof off.

Megan Henwood. Doors

Megan was in touch just before she made this video, asking for pictures of our front door, open and shut.  But it was raining here!

Great song Megan.

Megan's website

Jethro Tull "Fat Man"

This is the only record I have of Ian playing his early "Lucetta" Mandolin. The band used to rehearse near to my workshop, and I made the very first " Ariel" model for Ian. Dave Pegg on bass is an old friend from Birmingham, Martin Barre was an early and more recent customer. My guitar salesman Tony Matthews played bass for Tull before Dave Pegg took over. I was in Partnership with Barry Barlow in the Pack Leader business, and later on, their "stuntman" Ryan O'Donnell became a customer before joining “Sunny Afternoon" and "Tina". One way or another, I sort of "own" Jethro Tull. I don't seem to get any royalties though.

Jethro Tull Website

Antonio Forcione

What a great guitarist Antonio is. He demonstrates sounds and techniques we don't get from any other player

Antonio's Website

Toby Hay

I don’t think I need say much about this, it's a sit back and relax piece. So, sit back and relax. Toby's Facebook page

18 string guitar

Made in 2015, and I've been waiting for this video ever since. " Next week Roger". "Just a few more days Roger". “I need to change the strings Roger". I knew it was going to be good though. Ron Cottam is a friend from the 1970's, you can read more about him, and the guitar here.

I can add a little to that. It's in " standard" tuning except that the neck "starts" at the fifth fret, so it’s a - A. Notice the darker tuner buttons for the "note" strings. What a good idea, who thought of that?

Music delivered to your home

The streaming experience is still blossoming. I know of a few artists who are really enjoying the "format" and plan to continue.

Moira and I tried to view "Waiting for Godot" this weekend, with Michael Palin, Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley, but it was sold out. The internet was obviously full, or maybe social distancing itself from us.

Friends who are offering some form of online music or tuition in the near future include Steve Knightley, Clive Carroll, Will McNicol, Fairport, Remi Harris, Martin Simpson etc.

See them all here ...

Rosewood restrictions backfire

First, I'll mention Ivory, and I'll start off with a simple personal statement.

 "The only place where Ivory belongs is on an Elephant".

But I don't agree with the regulation. Mostly I think it's very badly thought through, and I certainly can't accept the logic of destroying Ivory stocks in order to save the Elephant. 
I have similar thoughts about Rosewood,  and I'm not the only one: Read this.

A little comedy

A time lapse sequence, taken while we were photographing some guitars on Pauls bench. I was thinking of pretending this was how we work on a normal day, but that would be silly. I'm going to try and measure how far I walked. Note that Alex is keeping well out of it.

Music by Snake Davis. Snake's website

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