Alzheimer’s Disease and Music

A few years ago I was asked to sing a Christmas program for a local convalescent care facility. This facility included residents with Alzheimer’s disease in various stages. At the time I didn’t dwell on that fact — I didn’t know about music’s impact on Alzheimer’s patients!

I chose songs that I remembered hearing as a […]


When I hear the term “unplugged,” I have to laugh. Almost every piece of acoustic music from the 1970’s was unplugged! Then, Nirvana comes along in 1993 with their “unplugged” concert, and people think it’s revolutionary!? And, as you’ll note in this Nirvana video, they still “plug-in.”

Thinking back to folks like Gordon Lightfoot and […]

Mike Rantz & ALCAN Highway

Being born in the Roaring 20’s might have a touch of romance in it, except for the fact that a few years later America would find itself in another World War and this generation gave their all for it.

Robert Rantz (aka Mike Rantz) was born April 9th, 1923. His childhood was a bit challenging, […]

Mandolin Build: Finished Sound

(Prev: String Up)

Here is a sound sample of the finished mandolin.

The sound is rich on the wound strings and punchy on the treble side. I actually use this instrument for bluegrass and folk music. It seems to want to play both equally well.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the mandolin is how the […]

Uke Build: Finished Sound

Here is a sound sample of the finished tenor ukulele.

Mandolin Build: String Up

(Prev: End Pin)

The builder waits for weeks to live in this moment… what will it sound like? Will the top bracing hold 160 pounds of pressure without collapsing? Will all of the work come together to make a fine and unique mandolin?

I’m actually pleased with the sound. I have the string height set at: […]

Mandolin Build: End Pin

(Prev: French Polish Neck)

I took this picture to show how nifty inlay looks with maple, ebony, and rosewood.

The end pin is ebony, the vertical strip is ebony, the binding is rosewood and the body, maple. Quite the contrast, eh? One must be cautious of “bleed” from rosewood, however!

This is where shellac really shines! The […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Neck

(Prev: Bridge)

Looking at the back view you can see the shine of the shellac across the back and up the neck. The necks are neat because the maple’s grain really “pops” when the finish is applied.

Most necks are left unfinished because of shellac’s solubility issues with water (or perspiration). I finished my neck just […]

Mandolin Build: Bridge

(Prev: Headstock)

Here are a couple of pictures of the mandolin bridge resting in position.

The advantage of a “floating” bridge is that it can be moved to allow for excellent intonation of the strings. The disadvantage? Because it moves around on the top of a compound curve the feet will never be in perfect contact […]

Mandolin Build: Headstock

(Prev: French Polish Back)

Here you’re looking at the headstock overlay on mandolin #1. Smaller surface areas can be difficult when applying a French polish – especially with an obstruction. In this case the nut was in the way of a smooth stroke across the headstock.

The only option I had was to wipe away from […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Back

(Prev: 15th Fret Marker)

Again, French polish on the back, but far easier to apply – nothing’s in the way!

The box in the background of the picture is the pumice stone, the small glass jar holds the mixed shellac and the small plastic container keeps the “rubber” moist when not in use.

(Next: Headstock)

Mandolin Build: 15th Fret Marker

(Prev: French Polish Side)

This was a tricky little area to construct …

Normally, the 15th fret marker has no trim – it’s just a white line of plastic. Of course, I wanted to be different!

So, I added a piece of rosewood trim in front of the 15th fret marker to complete the look of the rosewood […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Side

(Prev: Fret Board Inlay)

Here’s a good look at the side of mandolin #1. I figured I’d go for broke and try installing a rosewood binding. This has to be done with care – take too much off the body and the sanding process relieves too much material, leaving the side too thin in some […]

Mandolin Build: Fret Board Inlay

(Prev: French Polish Top)

Again, one of my “signatures” on my hand-built instruments is abalone position markers.

This is a picture of the abalone inlay on mandolin #1. I use smaller 5mm dots, as opposed to 6mm, for this application. I like the look of the dots to be comfortably inside the frets. The larger dots […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Top

This is the first time I’ve attempted a French polish on an instrument. French polish is simply a term for shellac. The shellac is purchased in a dry, crystal form and Everclear grain alcohol (190 proof) is added to a set weight of the shellac as a catalyst to dissolve the crystals. Under normal […]

Uke Build: String Up

(Prev: Bridge Install)

All that’s left is to cut the nut slots and make the saddle.

This ukulele plays extremely well and the intonation is superb! I like the traditional “look, sound, and feel” of it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on ukulele construction. If you’ve read to this point and have further questions, or would like […]

Uke Build: Bridge Install

(Prev: Tuner Install)

Here are a few pictures of the bridge being glued in place.

The tape came off without a problem and left a nice gluing surface for the bridge.

At that point I set the bridge in place with the tooling and, with masking tape, taped off the location of the outside bridge perimeter. I marked […]

Uke Build: Tuner Install

(Prev: End Pin Install)

Here you see the four tuners being located and installed. I like sealed tuners for less maintenance.

Oh, some questions seem to always arise about how the tuners are installed so as to sit parallel. Simply take a small straight edge and place it across the top of the tuner bodies. That procedure […]

Uke Build: End Pin Install

(Prev: Tru-Oil Finish)

With the correct reamer this is an easy job! I like wearing a strap with my instruments – this is about the only aspect of this ukulele that’s not traditional, short of the neck bolt assembly.

(Next: Tuner Install)

Uke Build: Tru-Oil Finish

(Prev: Bridge Gluing Position)

Here are some shots of the Tru-Oil being applied. It is so easy to work with – just apply small amounts with the finger tips and rub the oil on the surface. No sanding was needed, I didn’t use a grain filler on the body as I like the look of the […]