Rosin by Bob Smakula

Rosin is made from the sap of pine trees. Live trees are wounded, and the sap is collected for processing. The larch conifer is used most often for violin rosin, but only a small portion of all collected pine sap finds it way to the musical world.

Most rosin in its basic form is similar. Manufacturers add compounds to tweak rosin for particular fiddlers’ needs. Dark rosin has tar added to make it softer, which makes the rosin stickier and suitable for colder climates. A small amount of beeswax is sometimes added to help lessen the harmonic squeak caused by

Read the rest

Truss Rods by Bob Smakula

I’ve recently been reading many newspaper and magazine articles on the greatest inventions of the last 98 years. You tend to see the same things over and over: air travel, nylon, transistors, and even Little Debbie Nutty Bars. My personal favorite is one that few people ever see, though most guitar, banjo, and mandolin players rely on it to keep their instruments in shape. This hidden treasure-the truss rod-has saved me countless hours of neck adjustments.

The earliest manufactured guitars were intended to be played with gut strings and neck reinforcement was a minor. As players demanded louder instruments, steel

Read the rest

Repairing Your Instrument Case by Bob Smackula

Yes, I was watching TV. A return of an animal show that we all watched as kids only because Walt Disney was on after it. Jim was wrestling with a giant anaconda while Marlin watched from a helicopter. I was wrestling with a decision on this Old-Time Herald’s instrument topic. Then it hit me – insurance.

What is the best insurance for your herringbone guitar, Tubaphone banjo, or Sears and Roebuck Strad copy fiddle? It is not necessarily a rider on your home owners policy. In fact, it is the case the instrument is stored in when you’re not playing.

Read the rest

D-18, D-28 … What it All Means

By Bob Smakula

You walk into a music store to check out the latest in six string guitars that might be suitable for old-time music. You overhear the salesman talking to another customer and they seem to be talking in some cryptic code: “D-35, triple 0-18, M-36, D-28s.” Should you yell “Bingo!?” No, they are talking about different Martin guitar models.

Deciphering the Martin guitar code is simple. The model designations can be broken down into two parts. Take D-28, or 5-18 for example. The letter prefix “D” or number prefix “5” represents the guitar’s size. The suffix “28” or

Read the rest

How to Build Your Own “Hamdolin” by Wayne Erbsen

A chair rung joins the body to the neck.

Five or six years ago, I was rooting around in a wrecking yard near my home, searching amidst a sea of abandoned cars for an exhaust manifold for my old Dodge van. Call it fate (or just outright compulsive curiosity), but for some reason I happened to peer through the window of an old truck, and I spotted two empty ham cans sitting peacefully on the seat.

A chair rung joins the body to the neck.Well, right off, those pear-shaped tins reminded me of mandolins (we musicians tend to see music in almost everything), and that got me to thinking about the banjo-like instrument I’d once made out

Read the rest