2016 Archive

  • Inlaid Custom 12 String
  • Blues singers looking for work
  • Rosewood logs and regulations
  • Banjo for John Smith
  • Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall
  • MBE
  • Charlie and the Chocolate factory
  • Will and Luke in our Garden
  • HCA Award
  • John Martyn’s 12 string
  • Eric Bibb and his Guitalele
  • Odd things to find inside a guitar
  • The Ullapool Experience
  • The Fylde Club
  • THAT party
March: Inlaid Custom 12-string

Just once in a while, I try my hand at a bit of inlay. If I’m not too stressed I actually enjoy it, and I have discovered magnifiers! This is the second time I’ve inlaid a dragon. I must be careful how I say that.

On this guitar, I cut the inlay and did the engraving, and Alex cut the recess in the fingerboard and put the inlay in position. Division of labour, gets us all involved and interested. Paul’s turn soon.

March: Blues singers looking for work

Perhaps these two might qualify? John Belushi out on the town with his new dancing partner.

March: Rosewood logs and regulations

You might have seen diagrams of how timber for the best guitars is “quarter sawn”, so that each slice has the growth rings almost square to the surface of the cut face. The picture shows what happens when the log is not perfectly round or even regular in shape. This is a small half-log of Indian Rosewood, after it has been sawn into useable “slices”. Each cut changes the size and the grain direction of the next slice, and the angle of cut has to change to keep the growth rings “square”. It's a skilled job, with a lot of judgment.

This is a log of Brazilian Rosewood that has been sawn “through and through”, so that only the slices through the centre of the log are quarter sawn, and the rest of the wood is “slab sawn”. This log was too small to be sensibly quarter sawn, but it has yielded some useful high quality sets, It was imported into this country in about 1960, and I have managed to obtain the proper CITES paperwork to enable me to use and sell it legally. It is already nicely dry, but I will not use it for several years.

It’s not going to get any easier. Brazilian Rosewood is still available, legally, and in high quality. There is also a lot of rubbish. The paperwork and “hassle” was a challenge and fun for a while, but it is now becoming a lot more stressful. It’s a shame, because there is still a lot of wood in old joiner’s workshops, (That is either the workshop of an old joiner, or an old workshop belonging to a young joiner- take your pick) but it is getting more difficult to get such timber onto the legitimate market. I've done it a few times, I think I am the only guitar maker who takes it seriously and tries to do it properly, and I seem to be trusted by officialdom, (they have even said they wish everyone was as careful and helpful as I am) but I'm not sure I'll do it again.

There are two major steps in getting the proper certificates. One involves proving the age and history of the timber- not at all easy after passage of time. The other is proving the actual species of timber. Most people who have been "in the business" for as long as I have, are confident of their identification skills, but it is one thing being 100% sure, it is quite another "proving" it to the authorities.

Kew Gardens have now developed their own tests, "LC- MS", Liquid Chromatography - Mass Spectrometry, which look for specific compounds in the timber. I recently asked them to carry out these tests on the two pieces of wood pictured above.

The tests are expensive, and require a significant chunk of wood, not the sort of thing you can do to an existing guitar. I'm thinking of visiting Kew one day and checking out all the lovely toys! If I do, you will hear about it!

April: Banjo for John Smith

I shall have to be careful, this will be two banjos in three years, it might become a habit. John is planning a new album, so hopefully this will be part of it. I can’t wait.

May: Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall

I’ve written before about the way the Small Folk Collider works (March 2014 newsletter). If you want to meet somebody at the Albert Hall, just walk clockwise, and if your friends walk anticlockwise, you will inevitably meet up. It is important to agree to walk in opposite directions though; otherwise it becomes a sort of never ending race.

It also occurs to me that if everyone at the Albert Hall would run round in the same direction, the Small Folk Collider would turn into the Large Folk Gyroscope. That might be useful if we ever needed a Large Folk Navigation System.

Moira and I were given a box overlooking the stage. Sharing “our” box were Wizz Jones and Ralph McTell. If we’d had a video camera, we could have made our own version of Statler and Waldorf. I could easily build this into a sort of “Hello Magazine” feature - lots of pictures of me with lots of different people. Fortunately for you, the pictures were not very good.

June: MBE

This has been a revelation - I’ve seen some of the letters of recommendation. I’m not quite sure, and nobody said anything, but I think I might have blushed.

I’ve had about 500 emails, and I’ve replied to them all, in fact I think I replied to some of them three times. There were also lots of messages on facebook, but Moira responded to those for me because I’m terrified of sending something inappropriate to all my children’s friends. I’ve had lots of phone calls, lots of cards, a couple of bottles of bubbly, various letters from Lord Lieutenants and government ministers and lots from proper people as well.

Everyone has been very nice, even those who don’t agree with the principle of awards have said, “well done, well deserved” etc. I’m particularly grateful for that.

The chef at my local pub came out to shake my hand, but he didn’t really know who I was, so he shook my mates hand instead. The postman came inside to say congratulations, the local café gave me a free sausage sandwich, and the guys behind the counter at “Ace Fixings” all bowed down when I went to buy some nuts and bolts. Americans now call me “Sir Roger”, bless them, and I’m not going to put them right.

I even signed myself “R. Bucknall MBE” for a Fedex parcel, just for fun, and I’m wondering how long it will be before Moira gives me a smack, but I think she’ll wait until she has her new hat.

I am really enjoying myself. Thank you, everybody.

Moira, Charlotte and Sophie escorted me to Buckingham Palace, after seriously damaging my credit card in an attempt to challenge my own sartorial elegance. We had to book an extra seat on the train for Moira’s new hat.

When it came to “my turn” to have the shiny medal pinned to my chest by Prince Charles, my girls cried buckets. Then one of the attendants whispered in the Prince’s ear, I was gently nudged to my correct position, and made the required little bow and two paces forward. Two Gurkhas moved quietly in front of me, five Beefeaters formed a cordon behind, armed police twitched nervously, and several Coldstream Guards might possibly have moved very very slightly. The Prince leaned towards me, I leaned towards him, and I just about heard him say “Tell me, how does one tune a 12 string?”.

June: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Part of the package when we go to London is to justify the train and hotel by taking in a show. As luck would have it, I had a call from Dave Holmes about a new guitar, and he is currently playing guitar for this show

Dave and I have lots of connections, in fact he was inspired to take up acoustic guitar after seeing Gordon Giltrap play live, and bought his first Fylde shortly after. His next guitar from me will take him to five instruments over the years, although we had never met before.

There is a lot to see on Dave’s site - spend some time.

All the Bucknall family are made partly (largely?) from chocolate, and when Dave said he was able to get us tickets, it became another of those “guess what happened” things.

It was a great show, the 17-piece orchestra were spot on, and we were amazed by the stage sets, but even more amazed when we went back stage afterwards.We also saw the rather scary orchestra pit, and the tunnels that allegedly Nell Gwyn used to meet up with Charles II, then we all went to the pub and met up with David Buckingham

June: Will McNicol and Luke Selby

The boys were playing at Ireby, our local festival, and dropped by for a cup of tea and a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer (Hooray), on their way home. Our house is not exactly in a straight line from anywhere to anywhere else, so it required some effort.

Of course, they had to play Ukulele and saucepans on our lawn in the sunshine, it’s compulsory.

August: HCA award

In early May Moira and I stayed with Colin and Lucie Henwood on our way to the Heritage Craft Association at RIBA in London. It was the HCA, spurred on by the Henwoods, who initiated the whole MBE thing, and they wanted to give me their own award – a very nice certificate, thank you very much.

September: John Martyn’s 12 string

John wasn’t known for playing 12 string - “There's only one 12-string that I've ever played that I really liked, and that belongs to a chick named Bridget St. John. She won't give it to me!”

That guitar was of course, a Fylde, and in 1979 John asked me to make him one. There is no trace of him ever recording with it, but it must have been well used, or at least ab- used as it was salvaged from a pile of stuff thrown out of John’s studio when he moved to Ireland. The tuners had been removed, the soundboard was badly broken, and the neck was damaged. It was stored again for several years before being brought to me about six years ago. The work involved was only justified because it had belonged to John. I fitted a new neck, and we put the soundboard back together as best we could. It’s an Orsino, very light and responsive, not at all like other twelve strings at the time.

October: Eric Bibb and his Guitalele

This is all I have so far - Eric says “what a gorgeous little guitar - it’s beautiful”, I just hope he gets to record with it as soon as possible, and then sends me the album so I can tell you about it

October: Odd things to find inside a guitar.

I am sure I’ve mentioned this before, we once had a guitar in for refretting, and found a pair of men’s underpants inside it. I did not take pictures.

The owner did explain, and I believe him. I do. Honestly, I do. No doubt whatsoever. None.

This is another one - and this time I did take pictures. The owner did say something was stuck inside - but didn’t explain what, why or how. I will ask.

October: “That must be Roger then”

On our 2-day journey north to Ullapool, we stayed at a lovely hotel that had a secure car park that wasn’t secure, and memory foam beds that didn’t remember us, in fact they didn’t even know who we were in the first place. Our friend Margaret pointed out that there is something unsettling about sleeping in a bed that remembers the shape of the previous occupant. Note to self: start new business called Bed Advisor.

Once we arrived at the Festival, a nice customer presented me with a special bottle of whisky. He had taken the visitor tour at Edradour, and asked the guide what he would recommend for someone interested in wood and guitars. Edradour is a very long way away from Ullapool, but this was the guide’s reply - “That must be Roger then”. True.

Then Richard Lindsay presented me with a bottle of Clynelish as a thank you from the Festival, and our new guitar making friends Giulia and Giulio gave us a bottle of their best local wine as a thank you for “inspiration”.

I like this job.

October: The Fylde Club

Keith Beardmore took this picture at a quiet moment.

Clockwise from left. Adam Bulley, John Smith, David Buckingham, Elliott Morris, Tristan Seume. Will McNicol, Chas MacKenzie.

November: THAT Party

I’m still in shock. I had absolutely no idea. We are still talking about it, and I am still writing thank you emails. One friend in the audience cried because he had never expected to see Nic Jones perform “Canadee–i-o”, and I cried because I never expected to see any of it, and I cried again when I saw the bar bill. I was particularly shocked to see how many of these young tearaway guitar players actually drink Prosecco, even the bearded kilted Scots. I’m sure I should report them to somebody. Culture under false pretences, not supporting national industry etc.

Mike English thinks this will be the end of my celebrations … Mike, it won't. I do want to say how much I value Mike's massive input into everything, but particularly his huge support for Moira during all this, and never letting on. I am astonished. And Moira - well, what can I say. MBE. Moira Best Ever

If you want the full story - Look at the “Fyldestock” Newsletter

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