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Monthly Update 
November 2009
In This Issue
Product Highlights
Luthier's Tip
Quick Links
More About Us

Luthierie Camp
2010 Luthierie Camps...

F5 Mandolin Construction:
  Feb. 21-26, 2010
  April 25-30, 2010
  Oct. 10-15, 2010

H5 Mandola Construction:
  July 18-23, 2010

Please visit our website or email Kali for more information about these programs.

Dear Luthiers,

Last month I reported that our first Siminoff's Luthierie Camp was a very successful event for us and for the campers. Our six attendees experienced an intense week, working 12-hour days (enjoying every minute), and leaving with an assembled white-wood mandolin in their hands. I am pleased to announce that our web site now features a section about our luthierie camp. It is a quick link from our home page or you can click here to learn more about the program. Our next Camp is February 21-29, and we are extending the deadline for applications. If you are interested in attending, please go to our site and download an application form or give our Camp Director, Kali, a call at 805.365.7111 to get your name on the list (she can also mail you an application).

Regarding our product line, we recently added binding tape. This ribbon-like fabric is helpful in securing binding in place during the gluing process, and since it isn't a sticky "tape" it doesn't lift the wood's fibers. In our constant effort to provide instructional material, there is now a free download of the instruction sheet for our binding tape, and you can find it at the bottom of the first set of instruction sheets here.

The art of luthierie has so many interesting facets. It is a field that involves history, botany, woodcraft, acoustics, science, eye-motor skills, and much more. I am thankful to have luthierie in my life as I hope you are to have it in your life. I am grateful to have my many luthierie friends (if you are reading this, you are one of them). And I am deeply appreciative to the team that works with me every day for the camaraderie and fun we have. As we near Thanksgiving, I hope you find joy in similar things, and of course, in your family and personal matters.

All of us here are wishing you and your family a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving.

Thanks for building with us...

How original was Orville?

Familiarity is an interesting thing. The more we become accustomed to a design or shape, the less unusual it becomes. But I wonder what your initial thoughts were when you saw your first F-style Gibson mandolin. Clearly, the design is very unusual. The instrument is not symmetrical. It has bumpy and pointy sides. The peghead has little squiggly parts, and there is a big conch-like scroll stuck on one half of the body. Who would play such a thing?


Well, of course, we know very well who would play - and love - such a thing!

But, I've often wondered how Orville Gibson arrived at such a design and what influenced him to create an instrument that was not symmetrical. I don't have hard facts, but from my 40+ years of focusing on Orville's work, I do have some suppositions. In an article I wrote for Pickin' Magazine in the mid 1970s, I pointed out that Orville was left-handed and that may have influenced having a flush mount pickguard attached to the soundboard that ran all the way across the strings on the early instruments. I also suggested how the "Gibson" logo very closely resembled the "Gibson" of Orville's signature. But I was puzzled about the scrolls, binding of the scrolls, and asymmetry until I visited Musik Messe in 1976. Musik Messe is the world's largest music trade show filling about 20 buildings at Frankfurt, Germany's fairgrounds (messe). While at Musik Messe I came upon a Swiss Zither that had many of the features that were in Orville's work; body points, rounded body, body scroll with volute, an upper scroll like Orville's peghead scroll, and bound all the way around the front and back, including binding up into the body scroll. When I first saw the zither, my immediate impression was that someone made a zither that looked exactly like an F4. I took a picture of it - but alas that was over 30 years ago, and I just can't find it.

Here is another zither, just to help you envision something similar to what I saw. (This one, while a lot fancier than the decorations Orville incorporated, is on display at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD.)


Maybe it's just coincidence, but I wouldn't be surprised if Orville saw a zither and used it as the basis for his work.

Who knows? But it's fun to dream.
Product Highlights

DTF5 Templates Template and Fixture Drawings - This set of ProSeries Drawings can be used for preparing the templates and fixtures necessary to build an F5 mandolin. The set consists of 14 full-size fixture drawings that include peghead shaping, truss rod slotting, tone bar gluing, body assembly, dovetail joint cutting, V-joint cutting, fretboard binding bending, and several templates. The Drawing set is part #DTF5 and is $24.95 plus P&H.

Physics of Music
Notebook from Lloyd Loar's Class -Lloyd Loar was a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois during the last 13 years of his life. Loar's wife left in my care a student's notebook from Loar's last class (summer of 1943) entitled The Physics of Music. We have transcribed the notebook verbatim and scanned all of the original drawings. It is about as close to sitting in class with Professor Loar as you can get. Annotated by Roger Siminoff, spiral bound, 44 pages. This book is part #508 and is $24.95 plus P&H.

Fingerrest Kit Fingerrest Kit - Our F5 fingerrest kit includes a fully-shaped 1/8˝ tortoise-shell plastic fingerrest plate, shaped tortoise-shell plastic lower support, w/b/w .060" real celluloid binding, pyramid-shaped tortoise-shell plastic support block, threaded support shaft, b/w/b support link, threaded ferrule, threaded thumb screw, two support pins, and a round-head slotted-head wood screw. Our fingerrest kit comes with complete instructions and is available with either nickel (Part #610-N) or gold (Part #610-G) hardware. The fingerrest kit is $59.95 plus P&H.

NOTE: Please consult the Shipping & Returns page on our website for a P&H table.
Luthier's Tip...

Aside from creating smooth curves and well fitted glue joints, one of the key elements in binding is making well joined seams where the ends of the binding meet. Often we are fortunate when the binding makes a perfect end-to-end (actually a side-to-side) connection, but there are those times when the binding joints don't close perfectly.

One way to fill those small gaps between the binding is to use a celluloid paste. Celluloid paste? Yes, it's rather easy to make a paste of real celluloid and here's how: Use a sharp razor blade to scrape small shavings from the surface of a piece of celluloid binding. Place the shavings in a small glass dish or cup. Pour in a very small amount of acetone (about one half tablespoon) and use a small screwdriver or wood stirrer to blend the pieces and acetone until the celluloid dissolves in the acetone and turns into a paste.

Luth Tip

You will have about 10 minutes to use the paste before the acetone evaporates. During this time, you can use a small screwdriver as a spatula to force the paste into any open binding joints. The paste will bond with the binding (because it, too, is celluloid), fill the gap, and join the binding pieces. You can then sand or scrape the binding as you would during normal dressing of the binding.

CAUTION: Both acetone and celluloid are very flammable, and acetone vapors are hazardous to breathe. Use only in a well ventilated space and avoid any open flames or ignition sources. And, if you smoke, don't while you are working with celluloid or acetone.

Product of the Month: Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary

Luthiers GlossaryHave you begun your holiday shopping yet? Here's an information-packed gift that a well-deserving luthier will enjoy. Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary is a 206 page book with over 850 explanations of luthierie terms. The book features more than 200 illustrations, 12 technical tables, and more than 30 color plates of wood samples in an un-lacquered and lacquered appearance. And, as a special treat for your holiday giving, Roger Siminoff will autograph the book as you indicate in the COMMENTS field of your on-line order. Until December 25, if you enter promo code signgloss, you'll get a bonus saving of $5.00. Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary is part #509 (regularly $24.95), is $19.95.

$5 off!
Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary
November's Product of the Month: Get an autographed copy of Siminoff's Luthiers Glossary AND get $5 off! Not valid with any other offers or promotions. Use the promotion code signgloss when ordering online.
Offer Valid: November 23, 2009 through December 25, 2009