How to Build Your Own Pedalboard

As a guitarist one of the things you eventually get into is effects pedals. For many years I used the programmable multi effects units and never needed a board. I upgraded to start building a collection of the good reliable and hard working Boss Pedals – also it’s a kind of the best wah pedal for the money. For a while I only ever used two, and so setting them up with a tuner never took long. However, I decided that it was time to make a more permanent setup. So here’s a bit of a guide as to how I did it.

1. Research

The first thing I did was have a look at all the different types of pedalboard out there. Holeyboard was one design I liked in terms of attaching pedals to the board. These designs I also liked in terms of their style and finish. I also saw the DIY boards made from IKEA Gorm shelves. So I decided to make something that was a mix of these.

2. Get all that you’ll need.



Here’s the things I used:

  • lengths of wood – enough for 4 lengths of 600mm approx + extras
  • moulding – for edges
  • wood stain
  • wood glue
  • wood screws
  • polyurethane
  • cable ties
  • drill with drill bits and screwdriver heads
  • countersink drill bit
  • measuring tape / ruler
  • handsaw

3. Layout

The first thing to do with layout was to actually list down the pedals I wanted to put on the board. Then get them written down in order. Ordering your pedals has got some freedom to it, in that everyone’s preferences are different, and you should make your pedals in an order that you like and that you want. As a general guideline however, I found these pages helpful.

After that I drew them in the general layout with the general shape and layout I wanted for my board. I find by drawing it out, I had a better understanding of the spacings I’d need and an idea for the board itself.


Get all your pedals laid out in the order you want. Then work out how long the pedalboard needs to be to fit all your pedals on. Don’t forget to include space for your patch cables to fit as well.

To help with this, there is this website – Pedalboard Planner, which has set sized pedal boards with the matching pedal size laid on top. Very cool tool.



During this process I also took into account some pedal expansion, where I may wish to add on some more pedals at a later stage. On the top row, I can compact the three pedals and fit four along the top. Likewise the bottom row can be moved closer to each other, and allow room (hopefully) for a wah-wah pedal as well.

4. Make the cuts


Once you’ve measured up, it’s time to cut the wood. Make sure you’ve measured twice , so you only have to cut once! When hand-sawing, let the saw do the work, and keep 90 degrees to the wood so you have a cut straight.


5. Spacing Check

It was about now that once I’d made all the cuts I’d better check that there was enough space for the pedals and a little riser for the back pedals as well.



Better to be safe than sorry, and gave me an idea as to how spaced the wood lengths need to be.

5a. Riser


Using the off cut from the riser, I found centre, then made a mark 10mm either side of it to create an even angle. This would allow the riser to tilt slightly forward when assembled. I made sure I checked the height of the risers (plus the top of it) to make sure that it cleared the height of the pedals in front. After all, the purpose for having the riser is so that you don’t accidentally knock the knobs on the front pedals of course.



After playing around I decided to have these risers on the edges of the board, rather than ‘indented’ as per the photo above. Either option works, just comes down to personal preference.

6. Moulding

This is essentially an optional step as you could make a pedalboard without this; but I think you’ll agree it looks a lot better with it.



Measure (twice; three times a charm) and cut this on 45 degree angles, so that they meet flush in the corners. The measurements should be taken from the inside of the 90 degree right angle of the wood. It’s difficult to then get the cuts right, but take your time and it will all come together. Double, triple check before you cut.

7. Bracing

Using some off cuts from an earlier project, I cut my back bracing runners to length and laid them on the back of my 4 lengths that would make up the board. These add strength to the board and keeps the spaces nice and even. It also takes the pressure off the mouldings to hold the boards You’ll notice that I have used some scrap pieces of wood that are all the same width to create spacer guides. This ensures that all the boards are evenly spaced and will stay that way as you do the work. Once in place, I drilled some pilot holes for the screws; one in the centre (approx) of each board. Do this for both runners.



At this stage I also counter-sunk these drill holes, though this is optional. You do want the screws to be flush with the wood, and spending a little extra time with a counter sink was better than risking splitting the wood and having to start all over again.


8. Glue (But not really…)

This is where I made my first mistake of getting too far ahead of myself. In the photos you can see that I glue and then attach the bracing to the boards using the woodscrews. However, once I’d done this, I realised that actually – it was going to be easier to stain all the wood BEFORE I constructed it. Just meant I wasn’t going to have to push and prod at the corners and gaps with a paintbrush.



But keep this in mind – AFTER you stain it, and you’re ready to put it together, glue the wood before you use the screws. It will mean a stronger bond and will help it last longer, especially with all the stamping that you’ll put it through!



9. Attach the moulding

Once you have glues on the bracing, it’s time to glue on the moulding to the edges. (Once again, stain the wood before you do this!)



Make sure you line up the 45 degree cuts that you’ve made with the corners of your board. It will also be important to drill into the edge of the wooden boards. I found that to drill into the bottom of the moulding would mean my woodscrews would come out the top. So I put a woodscrew into the sides of the boards. I even got darker bronze coloured screws to make it look pimping.



As part of the bracing support and the moulding for the horizontal mouldings, it will be necessary to make a couple of cuts in the wood to wrap around the runners.

20140429-104152.jpg 20140429-104202.jpg

10. Base board done

So that should be it for the base board now. Here’s what mine looks like, with the top shown above, and the bottom shown below. (And now magically the staining I “did earlier” has finally come out in the photos!)



And the bottom of the base with the bracing runners.



11. Back row riser

You can now add the top of the riser to the sides supports ready to go onto the base board. Attach initially with wood glue, and then drill four pilot holes with countersinking. Tighten up the woodscrews and you’re ready to go!



If you are going to polyurethane or varnish your board, now would be the time I suggest that you do it.

12. Place riser on the base board.

Figure out where you want to place the riser. Take into account the placement of your pedals at the outset and stay true to that. Changing plans now may stuff up the placement and spacing of your pedals.



Place the riser on, and using sight and alignment, drill some pilot holes from the baseboard through to the riser. Add some glue, and then fasten the woodscrews from the bottom.

13. Cable tie holes



From here, you could go about adding velcro tape to the board and your pedals and you’d be done. But I like the idea from holeyboard – not in the sense that I’m going to add lots of holes in a repeating pattern to serve most sized pedals, but in the sense that there’s nothing stopping me adding more holes later on if I need them. I placed each pedal in the place that I wanted them on the board, and then using a pencil, made a little mark where the cable ties would be coming from each side of the pedal. When I drilled the holes, I measured the hole that a cable tie (370mm) would fit through (snuggly at 4.8mm) and then drilled them slightly on the ‘inside’ of those pencil marks so that the holes are marginally covered by the pedal, but will still allow for the cable tie to fit through.

14. Insert cable ties

Now it’s time to attach your pedals. Slide in the cable ties from the bottom. The holes should be big enough to allow the length through, but should get stuck at the latch head. For this reason, insert it from the bottom so that the head is on the bottom of the pedal board.

20140429-104302.jpg 20140429-104311.jpg

At this stage you probably want to connect up all your pedals with patch cables first, check that the cable ties are in the right spot, check that the pedals are spaced right before tightening up the ties.



As you go, attach the daisy chain and the patch leads. Don’t tighten up the cable ties until you’re 100% happy. And even if you’re not 100% happy, it’s easy enough to replace them anyway! No velcro to peel off, no wear and tear on your pedals, leaving them pristine to sell on to the next musician.



15. Non-slip Rubber Feet

Get a pack of these for a few dollars down at the hardware store. Just stick them on the bottom of the risers – even cover up your woodscrews like I did. And that’s it. Done, a homemade pedal board ready for you to shred out some masterful riffs.


Best of luck!

Don’t forget to share this with fellow musicians when they ask about your pimping new board!





















Make Your Own Digital Music Stand

Over the last few months I’ve been looking at options for setting up a digital music stand. These have been around for a bit, and with the advent of tablets are becoming more accessible. But lets say you have a budget, and a bit of DIY flair. This is a very simple project that with a bit of knowhow, you can do in a weekend.

The Parts

Before you start, you will need the following:

  • Digital Music Stand – Surplustronics
  • Old USB Mouse
  • Box Casing
  • Speaker Wire
  • 2x Momentary Switches
  • Drill
  • Soldering Iron

The Mouse

Find an old USB mouse you aren’t using. The likely hood is, you won’t use it again anyway, so lets put it to good use!
Once you pull it apart, you’ll notice that the click buttons actually link to two (or three) very small switches. Mine looked like this:


Remove the left and right switches using a soldering iron to loosen the two attached stems to pull it out. Remember where the pins go into, as you will have to wire in the new switches to these same points – as you can see below (at the top of the circuit board).


The wires that you wire in place need to be as long as the shaft of your music stand to allow it to be extended. Use speaker wire as this has two wires in one. Solder these wires to some slightly larger momentary switches than the ones from the mouse.

Note: you will be unable to use the standard “footswitches” (see below) that are provided for such projects, as these are latched switches, rather than momentary (meaning that when you click it, it stays “on” until you click it again – essentially holding down the mouse button!)



The Box

The inside circuit of the mouse needs to have somewhere to sit. I purchased a die-cast aluminuim box, which was a little tall, so I had to cut it down to a more reasonable size with a hacksaw. Initially, I was going to mount the new buttons on this box, and have it as a foot pedal box at the bottom of the stand. Ideally, it would then be attached to one of the legs.


A brainwave however revealed an idea to just install the switches on a longer wire that run into the legs of the stand. The box could then be installed up the top of the stand where it is out of the way.

The Switch

To get the switch in the leg, drill a pilot hole with a 2mm drill bit. Then use a bit that is slightly wider than the thread on the momentary switch.

Also, whilst the drill is out, get a bit that is slightly thicker than the speaker wire and drill a hole at the top of the leg mount.

Remove the plastic foot off the end of the leg, and slide a guitar string or other firm wire down the hole to the end of the leg. Attach the speaker wire to the guitar string and pull the wire up the leg of the stand, and up through the hole at the leg mount.


Pull this gently and position the switch in place. It is a bit fiddly, as the switch may not have much room to be put on an angle and slid up into the hole you drilled for it. I used the drill bit again and made the hole slightly bigger so that I could maneuver the switch into place. Wind on the nut to the switch to hold this firmly in place on the leg.



With that in place, you could decide to also run the “back” button (right mouse button) down to an adjacent leg. Just depends on what functionality you want. For the moment, I have kept the “back” button (right mouse button) on a shorted cable and will have it near the top of the stand.

The Stand

The next task is to drill the mount holes into the stand. To do this, I simply got out a drill bit that fit into the holes in the aluminum box, and made quick indents down these onto the stand. After that, removing the box and applying pressure, four drill holes were made.


From there, the box with the old mouse circuit board will be mounted underneath.

Run the speaker wire up from the foot leg and solder into the right spot on the mouse circuit board. Then run the USB cable into a laptop and check that it all works. Then put the circuit board into the box, make sure it all fits, and drill a couple of holes on the edge to allow wires to exit.


Then you can get four bolts and mount the box to the under-side of the stand.


The Software

The best software I have found that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is a little free program called “VirtMus”. It runs using Java, so you do need to make sure that it’s installed on your operating system. This allows it to run on just about any system. Download it from here:

The cool thing about VirtMus is that it allows you to create playlists – or set lists if you will of your songs. It loads in the PDF song sheets and displays them two up on your screen. Clicking on “Go Live” sends you to fullscreen mode. Left mouse click advances the page. Right click goes back to the previous sheet.

That’s pretty much it.

Here’s little video of it in action.

Digital Music Stand – Alpha 01 from Al Ingham on Vimeo.

A Little History…

Over the last few months I’ve been looking at options for setting up a digital music stand. Now, don’t get me wrong; I know these things have been out for years. But being that the most of my live playing is at church, it is a cheaper option to go with the traditional paper set up. In addition to this, I have actually been slowly memorising the songs by heart so that I don’t actually need the music. However, over the last two years, I have begun worship leading on a regular basis, and have found having the music in front of me a new requirement, as I often forget the words!

So, being the technoDIYgeek I am, I set about figuring out how to build one myself. Many of my projects recently I’ve been looking at building things on next to nothing from reclaimed or recycled materials. I was also lucky in this project to receive a $200 gift voucher, which I used some of to purchase the parts.


Worship and Hymns

The worship wars have been a battle fought for decades now. The two sides: pro-hymn and pro-modern stand on two sides of a peaceful fence. But in order to stand on one side or the other, we have to be aware of what each side stands for. We have to understand what defines a ‘modern’ song, and what defines a ‘hymn’.

Definition: Hymn. Worship

The Webster definition of hymn is as follows:

a) : a song of praise to God
b) : a metrical composition adapted for singing in a religious service

The Concise Encyclopedia gives a brief history of the use of the term:

“Song used in Christian worship, usually sung by the congregation and written in stanzas with rhyme and metre. The term comes from the Greek hymnos (“song of praise”), but songs in honour of God or the gods exist in all civilizations. Christian hymnody grew out of the singing of psalms in the Temple of Jerusalem. The earliest known Christian hymn dates from c. AD 200. Hymns were prominent in the Byzantine liturgy from early times, and in the Western church they were sung by congregations until the Middle Ages, when choirs took over hymn singing. Congregational singing was reestablished during the Reformation Martin Luther and his followers were great hymn writers, while the Calvinists preferred setting psalms to music. The compositions of Isaac Watts and John Wesley were notable in English hymnody. The Counter-Reformation led to the composition of many Roman Catholic hymns, and the Roman Catholic church restored congregational singing of hymns after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.”

Concise Encylcopedia

There are also some detailed ideas in Christian Today’s article ‘Pop goes the Worship‘ (March 2011).

Yes, and there are objective criteria for what makes some music better than other music. Sacred music has special demands beyond aesthetic demands. Some musicologists argue that hymnody is actually a subcategory of folk music—distinguished from classical music because classical music is performance music, beyond the capacity of the average person to produce. But folk music, by name, suggests music produced by the people. It’s the way a people join their heritage, and it’s participatory in its very nature. Therefore, I don’t think hymns should strive to compete with Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem or the solos in Handel’s Messiah, because a congregation wouldn’t be able to sing them. [pullquote]A hymn shouldn’t be beyond the capacities of a good, intelligent church to sing[/pullquote]….
Hymns should be easy enough to learn for people who do not read music, so people can pick up the melody quickly. When I was a young child and we’d take drives, the family would sing folk music or hymns. If Mom or Dad started singing “Fairest Lord Jesus,” we sang along, and before long we were harmonizing. And we couldn’t read music. Hymns aren’t too difficult to sing; most of them are easier to sing than the contemporary stuff… They (modern songs) are not really easier to learn than hymns (unless they are profoundly simplistic). They seem easier to some people whose sensibilities have difficulty with anything that is not pop. But musically speaking, they are not, as a genre, substantially easier; they just sound more familiar to our culture. When people describe them as “easy,” what they mean is “familiar-sounding.”

With all this in mind, we can define important traits that we can agree all hymns should have:

  • Hymns are first and foremost a song of worship and/or praise to God.
  • Hymns are created to be sung corporately in worship together.

There are some some traits that are common in hymns, but are not in any type of formal definition. These are from a collection of readings and discussions about hymns:

  • Hymns are usually steeped in history, are sacred, or have some other spiritual significance.
  • Hymns are deeply theological and based on solid foundations of the Christian faith.
  • Hymns are written to teach God’s people biblical truths through repetition, musical memory, and other such faith building devices.
  • Hymns often (but not always) have a simplistic approach making them accessible to people regardless of musical ability or talent.

When we look at the first definitions, we can see that if we were to substitute ‘hymn’ for ‘worship’, then what we call ‘worship’ in it’s musical form fits seamlessly in its place. In modern day language however, we have somewhat exchanged this terminology of ‘hymn‘ for the word ‘worship‘. We know worship is so much more than songs and music, but we often accept this common knowledge and use the term ‘worship’ with this in mind. We call the music we play in church and sing together as a congregation as ‘worship’. If we were to define the term worship in relation to music, it would be relatively similar to that for which exists for the term ‘hymn’.

I am eternally passionate about worship and it’s musical form. I am passionate about deep poetical, creative, and meaningful music and lyrics that engage the heart, mind, and soul of my fellow believers. I am passionate about leading people to meet with God through song, praise, anthem, music, and sound. I am continually renewed by worshipping God. I have burned out over many other things in my life, but the fire for worship through music continues to burn strong and will never lessen – purely because for me, it is my passion.

Because of this however, there are some that say that hymns are much more than just songs we sing in church. They are more than just the ‘style’ that hymns fall into. They have some other traits; of which I have listed above. T. David Gordon says that ‘Sacred music has special demands beyond aesthetic demands.’ (Pop Goes the Worship, March 2011). Aesthetic demands, as Gordon puts it, is what I refer to as ‘style’.

[pullquote]Sanctity (or sacred) seems to be an important factor as to what people will consider a hymn or not. But what makes a song sacred? Is sanctity a man-made attribute or a God-given aspect?[/pullquote] Simply, through a few different readings, describing something as sacred is to say that it is holy, or hallowed. We find these words related to the ground in a couple of places in the Bible. Moses and the burning bush: Exodus 3:5, and Stephen telling the story of Moses: Acts 7:33. Here, it is the Lord God that has declared the ground as Holy. Likewise in 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul says that we are sanctified in the name of the Lord when we became followers of Christ – once again, a status given by God. When we think of a person who is holy, or saintly, we might use the phrase that they are ‘blessed by God’.
All of these factors leads me to think that for something to be considered sacred, it is not something that we as humans can impart, but must be bestowed on by God.

Definition: Modern. Worship

The Webster definition of modern is:

a) : of, relating to, or characteristic of the present or the immediate past: ‘contemporary’.
b) : of, relating to, or characteristic of a period extending from a relevant remote past to the present time

Modern worship therefore is a subjective title given to songs that are of the present time to the immediate past. How long this time is would be relative to each person’s perceptions. When we use the term ‘modern’ worship, we might include songs from the mid 1990’s to the present day. Some may include songs from earlier such as those written in the 1980’s, or even the 1970’s.

Unlike the biblical definition of the term ‘hymn’, the term modern is actually more centred around a particular time, or ‘style’. When we look at songs that we would consider ‘not modern’, we would probably consider the classic hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’ (1779), ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ (1912), or ‘How Great Thou Art’ (1885) in that category. It is not that these are not great songs, but that they are not modern.
Likewise however, it doesn’t mean that modern songs cannot be ‘hymns’. Take modern songs such as ‘I Stand in Awe of You’ (1987), or ‘How Great is Our God’ (2004), both of which I personally would consider to be hymn in terms of the definition above.

But why is modernity important in church today?


The Hymn Style

What I dislike is the ‘hymn’ as a style of music. Often when we use the term ‘hymn’ (or at least when I use it) I am talking about those grandiose, organ filled, old-english songs. Songs such as ‘How Great Thou Art’, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, and ‘It is Well with My Soul’ – great songs. But still hymns. I even extend this to modern day hymns, such as those written by Townsend and Getty like ‘In Christ Alone’, and ‘How Deep the Father’s Love For Us’.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the aim for Christian musicians was to create religious masterpieces that had been previously owned by painters and sculptors of years gone by. They had their instrument of choice – the pipe organ – which could make enough sound for an entire orchestra with the use of only one person. The words, rhythm, rhyme, and melody were all designed to be theologically correct, easy to remember, and find a commonality with reality that allowed people to connect with them and connect with God through them. With the organ, both melody and chord structure merged together and a popular upbeat 3-quarter time was set as the precedent for praise and worship in the church.

Why We Need to Make Hymns for Today

kjv1611Three centuries ago this same time, around 1611, the Bible was translated into English, called the King James version. You may have heard of it. It was the closest translation to the actual Biblical languages that existed, and is still one of the most accurate even today. All English versions of the bible since all herald back to the King James version. It is Adam for English translations, and there is always a link to it in some description when we read.

Why do I mention the King James bible?

Well – quite simply – I see the musical style of ‘hymns’ as the musical version of the KJV bible. It’s out dated. Time has moved on. Language (both English and musical) has developed. It’s changed. All modern songs owe something to hymns, in the same way each English translation of the bible owes something to the KJV.
We can hang on to ye olde times as much as we want, but the world has changed. The church needs to recognise this and stop living in the 19th Century, and begin living in today. Just like we have new versions of the bible today – New Living Translation, New International Version, even the The Message – these are all updated into today’s language – a language that people of today can understand and make sense of for themselves.
Likewise, I believe the songs of praise that we sing to God also need to be updated – written in today’s language – both in speech and in music. They need to be relevant to us.
Now this doesn’t stop everyone having their preference. People choose their preference of bible translation – some still prefer the KJV. Some people look at The Message in disgust. Most people accept that the NIV is down the middle of the road – as a benchmark for all that is acceptable scripture in general church use today. Regardless of this, there is little judgement as to what version of the bible the preacher is using, as long as what they are saying is biblically true.
Yet for some reason there seems to be incredible judgement around the use of (or lack of) hymns in our church services. (I make this observation based on my own experiences, not from any church situation in particular)

But if hymns are like the King James Bible, and modern classics like ‘Here I am to Worship’, ‘How Great is Our God’, and ‘Shout to the Lord’ are the NIV – then why do we continue to insist that we ‘read from the King James’ (metaphorically speaking)? I can’t actually remember the last time I read the King James, let alone go to the King James version of the bible for a better understanding of a scripture. So why would I go to a hymn for a better understanding of worship where I have plenty of modern day songs that I can understand – both musically and the language used? There is no doubt that modern day worship songs are built on the ground that were first paved by hymns – just as the NIV has been build on the foundations laid by the King James Version. That doesn’t mean we have to keep referring to the King James bible in order to understand the NIV. Not at all. So why would we keep referring to hymns to understand worship?


In the article mentioned; “Pop goes the Worship“, T. David Gordon says ‘In every generation, gifted people would write some good hymns, and subsequent generations would enjoy them. Nothing new there. What’s new is the notion that you have to have new music in a worship service. That’s unprecedented.’
He goes on to state that the commercial nature of today’s society – the ‘newer is better’ mentality – has taken it’s hold in church as well. He says that playing hymns using a modern aesthetic is better than dividing a church. ‘But better yet to be entirely unconcerned about whether a hymn sounds contemporary. No other generation was so concerned, and there is no good reason for ours to be so.’. His book ‘Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns’ raises all these questions, to ‘…ask why, for the first time in Christian history, do we feel so cut off from previous hymnody? I think the media ecology answer is largely correct, because we are surrounded by music that has these kinds of musical qualities, and therefore we expect all music to have those qualities. But why should we allow the producers of commercial music to make those choices for the church?’. 

Worshipping God has little to do with our preference, and more to do with bringing ourselves humbly before our God in complete worship.To a certain extent I wholly agree with Gordon here. When we choose which worship song we sing based on our own personal preference, it suddenly becomes about what we want, and not what God wants. [pullquote align=”right”]Worshipping God has little to do with our preference, and more to do with bringing ourselves humbly before our God in complete worship.[/pullquote] If it comes from our heart with the help of the Holy Spirit it shouldn’t matter what the song being played is, because we are wholly and solely focussed on God.
Yet I consistently find myself struggling with singing hymns and getting myself to worship. Maybe this might be the infiltration of the ‘commercial’ as Gordon puts it. Maybe it’s Satan getting a foothold within God’s Church – an unwanted distraction to get us away from worshipping God and thinking about ourselves and our personal preference, just because it doesn’t sound like the music we like and have grown accustomed to. And knowing this, maybe I need to revisit my own heart when I come to worship.

One thing I have come to associate very closely with the word “worship”, is the word “humble”. Worship without humility is nothing. If you are allowing your own preferences to come between you and God in worship, then you are allowing self to be more important than worshipping God. Humility is therefore more than just important in worship. It is paramount.

So remember. Put aside your personal preference, and worship God with all your heart, soul and mind. If you are able to do that then the song, the style, the hymn, nor the words can stop you from basking in God’s mercy and grace. And to God be the Glory. Now, as it always has been, and forever will be.

 Further Reading


Three Songs of Worship

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
Ephesians 5:18-19

At the very core of modern day worship is this call from Paul’s letter to Ephesus; “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves”. It encouraged corporate worship in three forms, mentioned specifically here in the New Living Translation, as with others. It is also in his letter to Colossus in chapter 3 verse 16: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Both times, these three different songs of worship are mentioned.
But how literally do we take this? If we don’t sing a hymn as we know it today, are we following this call? And when was the last time you actually sung any Psalm, rather than read them?

To understand it fully, we have to look through this whole verse, in the context of it’s day, and in today’s context, and apply it to how modern day worship is created and described now.

[spoiler title=”Psalms” style=”2″ open=”1″]


Psalms is a book in the bible. It is a book written by several authors, but many of them by David (of David and Goliath fame). They are stanzas, verses, poems, rhythmical; they are songs. They often are verses of praise; lifting God to the forefront of our minds and giving him all the credit. They hail Him as king over all, and they encourage everyone to join in and do the same. They also deal with the troubles of life, woe is me, and why me God?; but always end up praising God in the end. They were most likely to be accompanied by harp or lyre, or other instruments of the day.
These songs are what we would call Praise songs today. One of the problems that occurred with translating these from Hebrew is that whilst we kept the understanding, a lot of the rhyme, rhythm, or feeling, was lost. Some have been able to write new music for these new English words. Songs like Your Love Oh Lord, Create in me a Clean Heart, As the Deer, and countless more.

Does this mean that we have to sing the Psalms as they were written? In Hebrew? Or English – word for word verbatim? Does it mean we need to sing them with harp and lyre?

Or does it mean we need to praise God through song; with the emphasis on thanking and giving glory all to God – even when things may seem dim? Does it mean we need to thank him, to compliment and to adore Him through song? When we praise God, do we clap our hands, give applause, cheer, celebrate, and recognise God for all of His goodness and His grandeur? If so, is this not the intention of the Psalmists? Is this not what they were in fact trying to achieve when they wrote their songs down – albeit in a different language, and certainly in a different style than we are used to today?


[spoiler title=”Hymns” style=”2″ open=”0″]


Hymns are commonly mistaken. There are two definitions of hymns in today’s culture. It is important to define between these. If we look at the dictionary definition of the word hymn, we find that it is a noun: a song or ode in praise or honor of God, a deity, a nation, etc.

However, we often associate the word ‘hymn’ with the style of music. You know the type: organ, choirs, thee’s and thou’s. Very traditional. Very litergical. Very correct. Very old. The likes of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, and ‘It is Well with my Soul’ all come to mind. These were all written out, often in books that looked rather like bibles and included a variety of hymns for all senses of occasion and theme. This was before the time of OHP’s and digital projectors. This style of song has developed over a couple of centuries. They were written for the common church instruments of the time, namely organ or piano. They are filled heavily with bold chords that follow the syllables, and inspire grandeur and distinction from the depths of one’s stomach.

However, this is not what Paul meant when he used the word ‘hymn’ in his letter. He didn’t mean a certain style of music, based on bold organ chords and ye olde words – lease of all because when the letter was written, this style that we associate with hymns couldn’t have been conceived given a certain lack of pipes and keyboards. Furthermore, the term that Paul uses ‘hymnois’ is used only twice in the Bible – in Ephesians, and in Colossians!

No. What Paul meant is the generic definition of hymn being ‘a song or ode in praise or honour of God’. He meant ‘hymn’ to mean a song sung in church to honour God. Not organ music of the 17th and 18th Centuries.
These ‘hymns’ were often well known songs of the early church; songs that people knew well and possibly didn’t need words as they were learned by heart over time. (see Strong’s Greek)

If we look at the prelude to the Colossians verse, Paul mentions the aspects of teaching and wisdom through these songs. There is no doubt that lyrically, many of the songs from this style have been carefully and poetically constructed, using the common English tongue at the time, making them accessible for the wider public. They are deeply entrenched in theology and are built around the fact that music finds its way into people’s every day lives, and if there are biblical truths being taught through the songs, then this is beneficial to strengthening people’s walk with God. This is where the definition of ‘hymn’ might come into it’s own; where God’s promises and lessons are taught to his people through songs that become part of their memory and every day lives. Almost like when a song gets stuck in your head; except hymns get stuck in your heart as well.


[spoiler title=”Spiritual Songs” style=”2″ open=”0″]

Spiritual Songs

So what are spiritual songs? Obviously this is not a specific term as with Psalms or Hymns – and therefore doesn’t have a specific definition. It essentially encompasses all other songs that are about the spiritual aspect of the Christian life. It’s like Paul is saying ‘et cetera’ at the end of his phrase. Paul is saying that when you come together as the body of Christ, sing songs of praise to God. Spiritual songs essentially allows for other types of song to be included, so as not to limit the thoughts or perceptions that the church has about psalms, hymns, chants, verses, poems, or any other declaration of praise to God above.


Why Three?

Why would Paul use three different terms which all serve the same point? Why would he use three terms if what he meant was for us to sing songs? When we delve into the Greek translation of the word, we find that the three words are all very similar in direct translation. Visiting Biblehub, we find that the greek translation for the word that Paul uses are:

  1. pslamois‘ – ‘a psalm, song of praise, the Hebrew book of Psalms’.
  2. hymnois‘ or ‘humnos’ – ‘a hymn, sacred song, song of praise to God’.
  3. pneumatikais‘ – ‘spiritual; relating to the realm of spirit’.

Even in Greek, Paul has used three similar, common terms for the same thing: songs of praise directed to God. So why use all three? Well one reason is probably to cement his point in the readers mind. Just as I have used a thesaurus for the word ‘praise’ so that I don’t over-use the word, it is entirely possible that Paul too was enfatically making his point by repeating synonyms and encompassing a range of possibilities that corporate worship through song should or could entail.

All In All: Beginning and End

There is only one way to sum up this verse. Some will claim the need for great debate and scrutiny over every word in modern day songs. They will claim a lack of theology within the lyrics of such songs, and a shallowness of meaning that is somewhat pointless. Some will claim that drums are of the devil and should not be played in church. All sorts of personal preferences can be thrown left right and centre. We can spend so much time squabbling over little words in the middle of a verse, that we forget the bigger picture and the clearest message this verse has to give. When we remove all these ‘human’ requirements of worship, what we are left with is the beginning and the end of Paul’s verse. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit…, and make music to the Lord in your hearts.”

That is the call to worship. When all is boiled down we are left with the raw essence of what worship is: Being filled with the Holy spirit, making music to the Lord in your hearts.” Some will dispute and say worship is not just about music or songs, and I agree. But it doesn’t say make music. It says make music in your hearts. This may or may not even sound like songs as we know it. It may not be a sound at all. But as a metaphor, ‘making music in your heart’ creates a beautiful picture of what worship is; where it should come from, and where it should be directed.

So, be filled with the Holy Spirit, and make music to the Lord in your hearts.

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Adding Stereo Speakers


For the last couple of weeks I’ve been focused on my music and in particular my studio set up. After rebuilding an old organ to make it a MIDI keyboard and computer desk, it was time to find some more permanent speakers or studio monitors.
Sound wise, I do have to balance out the tone with some standard songs so that once I record I can get a flat, consistent sound from them.
But here they are, installed by drilling a couple of centred holes, adding in some screws to the wall and hanging them up.


Providing New Music

Historical Hymns

For a while now I have been in conflict with the use of hymns in church today. Is there a place for them? Why do we still sing them? Are they still relevant?
As a church, we are constantly reflecting on whether we are “catering” for all generations. But we still need to be “providing” for specific audiences, or targeting them.

I have been to churches where hymns have been made mandatory. It was a requirement. But the intention behind that was as a token to the older generation in the church who “didn’t have any songs” of their own to sing. This is what I call “providing” for the older generation.
I have heard both sides of the hymns argument. I know them back and front. Part of me agrees that there is a place for them in a service. And then I attend a service where the majority of the songs are hymns and I think why do we have to keep going back to these archaic tunes?

Because of this, I don’t want to get into that debate. What I want to do is come from it at a different angle. I have prepared 5 reasons why we need to provide new worship music for the youth and young people in today’s church.

Top Five

#1: The Future of the Church

I appreciate the amount of time and effort people put into building a church as much as the next person. Countless hours and manpower goes into making services, ministries, and outreaches happen. There is a sense that we owe something to our older generation for that which they have given. Whilst this is the case, believe it or not, the future of the church is actually in the youth of today. Tomorrow, they will be the leaders. Tomorrow, they will be the body of the church. Tomorrow, they will be building the church further.
But I can tell you now, that there are things that keep youth in a church, and things that don’t. Relationships keep them. Friends keep them. Respect keeps them. Having them feel like they are a part of something bigger keeps them. Ownership keeps them. Music keeps them. However, from experience; music also turns them away. Hymns don’t fit anywhere within their iTunes collection. You wouldn’t see young folk with their car windows down with the soulful tunes of yesteryears organ blaring from their speakers. It would be a rare occasion that young people would ever go out to listen to hymns. The local mall even resorted to the musical strategy of playing “Classical” music (of similar era to Hymns) in an attempt to “move along” the young people that loitered outside. The reality is that music will draw people in or move them away. Do we want the future of the church to be “moved along” by using songs from yesterday? Or do we wan tto draw them in and envigorate their faith with music that they find acceptable and useful to worship with?

#2: Where Music Comes From

This next reason could get a bit confusing – so bear with me.
Elvis was 19 when he began recording. When the Rolling Stones hit the stage, Mick Jagger was 19. John Lennon, 20; Paul McCartney, 18; Ringo Starr, 20; George Harrison, 17 when they rose to fame. Neil Diamond was in his 20’s when he began his music career.
All of these now have incredible songs which will last for ages. Some of these will last beyond generations. Some people, like myself, who weren’t even born in these decades will still find their music preferable to today’s popular tunes. And there in-lies the point.

Music is preference. It is an opinion of what is good and what is bad. But the main reason behind this is actually relevance.

But music is created by the peers of each generation. Take one Justin Bieber, One Direction, Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus. All have their followers and fans of today’s generation. Neil Diamond and Cliff Richard still have their own followings, and still have great songs. We need to make the music relevant for the people. Imagine if Neil tried to release a new album using today’s ‘pop music’ model. Tears to well up (of laughter or pain – I’m not sure!). His songs are no doubt great and still have their place in music history, and everyone sings along to ‘Sweet Caroline’; but if all we had was Neil Diamond hits, we would only be drawing in a particular type of person. As a church, we therefore need to diversify the music. But so much emphasis is placed on making sure we meet the needs of the older generation with ‘classical’ or ‘Neil Diamonds’ that we are losing the ‘Beliebers’ and Swift fans.

#3: Give the Youth their Song

“Oh! I remember this song!” “We used to sing this all the time when I was younger!”. These joyous statements are very common among musicians I have worked with when bringing songs of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Songs like ‘Because He Lives’, ‘I Stand in Awe’, and ‘Create in me a Clean Heart’. This is because these are the songs that defined their growing up. They stir up the childhood emotions that they hold onto firmly as the grounding of their faith. They possible learned to play their musical instruments using these songs. It seems ironic that these musicians would also be people who prefer hymns over modern contemporary songs, but I don’t hear that same excitement from singing hymns. Why? Well, because the hits that they grew up with are the ‘Sweet Caroline’ songs for them.

So what for today’s generation? What do we want them to get excited by? What are we providing for them to cherish and remember? Songs from two generations ago? Songs from the middle ages? Or songs that they like; that their peers made; that they connect with? When they are older, do we want them to have that same “I remember this song” moment, or will it be more like “Oh I remember this song that my Mum and Dad sung”. Do we want them to remember how they “used to sing this all the time when I was younger”, or remember how they “used to sing this song because they used to sing it all the time in the 1980’s”?

A wise man called Lloyd Rankin once said (and I remember if because it is so true) that he chose to let the youth in his church have their song. He “chose to be the more mature man”, and let go of his favourite songs in order for the youth to have their songs. At the end of the day, he said, he can always go home and play the songs he wants to hear after the church service. He had the maturity in faith and mentality to put his preferences aside. Maturity that today’s generation can only learn in time.

#4: Coming to God as a Child

Have you seen a child when a tune comes on? They bob, bounce, flap their arms, bend their knees. In due course, many will hum or sing with the melody, others shot out the lyrics when they know them. God wants this. He wants a child-like faith where we come with no adult preconceptions or trying to understand everything. He wants this from us. And worship is what we give to God. It is our offering. God wants us to come as a child.

Now, just as the older generation had their songs that they still love, so too this generation has their songs that they will love. We sing both. But which is more important? An old song that makes the old feel young, but makes the young switch off from God, or a new song that makes the old feel old, but the young switch on like a child? Both are important, but which is more important?

According to Lloyd Rankin, maturity is going to be easier for the older generation, and humility is also a great form of worship.

#5: Sing to the Lord a New Song

My final reason is said several times through the Psalms – the book of songs, largely written by David. “Sing to the Lord a new song”. It is a continuous striving of looking for these new songs that creativity in worship exists. Not once does it say “Sing to God an old song that you like and sing it again and again.”. Developing Worship presenter Sam Middlebrook puts it elegantly where he says “I hope that the best worship song has yet to be written”. It’s a good way of looking at it. We need to keep striving for the perfect worship song, because that is what God deserves. We want to be able to express to God all that He deserves, and we do not have the adequate words to do so. Singing a new song will hope to create this. We sing it because it refreshes our worship. We are not some stuck record that is rolling round the same old songs time and time again. If we don’t sing the new songs because we are too busy reminiscing, remembering, revisiting the nostalgia surrounding hymns and old songs, we will never sing the new song intended for God that comes from deep within us.

That’s All

So that’s it. Five reasons why we need to cater our music towards the youth of today. In conclusion, don’t be deluded into thinking I am saying “Get Rid of Hymns”. I am not. They have their place. But just as Neil Diamond has his place on today’s radio stations, they should be limited, in order to allow today’s music to make their mark and influence for tomorrow. What I am saying is we should be catering for all generations, but providing for todays generation.

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iTunes: Get it to do what you want it to do.

So a while back now I was frustrated with iTunes. I was frustrated at it’s insistance to monopolise my music collection by organsing it for me, but without allowing me to choose just how it is organised.

For instance, when I first started collecting my music in mp3 format, I decided that I wanted my files named in quite a specific name. I decided on [Artist Folder] / [Artist -Album Folder] / tracknumber – artist – songtitle.mp3. This would allow me to keep the tracks in order in Explorer/Finder, and keep the albums separate so all that track 1’s didn’t get all mixed together etc.

Obviously, you can appreciate that I’ve found over the years, the best way to find anything you want on your computer, is to make sure you keep things organised in the same way regardless of what it is. Keeping all my music the same, organised in the same way is important to me. But, along came iTunes.

I still like to get the CD version of all my music. There’s something about having it in physical form that is for safe keeping I guess. So using iTunes, I have enjoyed importing my CD’s as they automatically get added to the library, it’s quick and easy, and it just works. But, whilst I can control the bit rate and the format that the CD is imported in, I can’t choose how the files are named. Likewise, Apple puts them into folders of just the album name, rather than allowing to choose how this is organised.

Until I found Doug.

Doug provides a range of scripts for one in particular Apple app. iTunes.

I immediately found what I was looking for.

File Renamer

File Renamer:

File Renamer does just that. Renames your files, according to the ID3 Tags that the music files have. I set mine simply to “[track number] – [artist] – [title].mp3”. In it goes, renames the actual mp3 files, and tells you that it’s finished! All in about 3 seconds. Faster than I can do it manually!

Re-Locate Selected

Re-Locate Selected:

Re-Locate Selected essentially moves the files to a new location of your choosing. iTunes by default tries to keep it all organised in your Music Folder, and then in iTunes Music, and then in their own folder structure within that. But if you try and move the files behind it’s back (not that iTunes allows you to move the files within iTunes anyway!), then it gets upset. As I keep my Music files on an external hard drive (so that it doesn’t clog up my laptop’s hard drive), this script has become very useful.
Creating a new folder and moving the files across to the External Hard drive in itself is not a difficult task. It is in fact, very easy. But, the problem then occurs when iTunes has now lost where those files are, and you then have to go through ALL of the tracks and click on “Locate” in order to re-direct the iTunes library files.

This script does away with all of that. Select the songs or album you want to move. You can choose to delete or to keep the original files (I usually choose to delete) and then it will allow you to choose the new location for it all, including the option to create New Folders in those locations. In about 10 seconds it is done, and the files are moved, and the iTunes Library references updated automatically. No more lost files when you move them outside of iTunes.


There are many, many more scripts that Doug has written. But for now, these two cover all the shortfalls that iTunes has. I hope you find them as useful as I have over the years.


How to install the scripts: (taken from

  1. Click the red download button. A .zip file will be downloaded to your “Downloads” folder.
    The .zip file should open a disk image (.dmg) file. Double-click the .dmg file to mount and display a disk image window in the Finder.
  2. Now, open a new Finder window and navigate to your[username]/Library/iTunes/Scripts/folder.
    (OS X 10.7+: Option-click the Finder’s Go menu and select “Library” to make the Library folder visible.)
    If there is no folder named “Scripts” there, create one.
  3. Select and drag the files from the disk image window into the “Scripts” folder. Scripts placed in this folder will appear in the iTunes Scripts menu.
  4. Close the disk image window and eject it from the Finder sidebar.

Note: This article was written at the time of release of iTunes 11.0 (Mac). These scripts currently work on versions 10.5 onwards, as well as 11.0. I’m sure that Doug will continue to update his scripts if they suddenly cease to work for future versions of iTunes.

The Worship Conversation

When I worship, I try to open up a conversation between me and God. I praise Him for all He is, and all He has done in my life. I glorify Him with my song and my heart. And then I reflect and meditate on Him, and listen to what He has for me. Often this can be incredibly fulfilling, and uplifting, and convicting, as he speaks deep into my heart and fills it with His love.

When leading worship, I endeavour to do the same thing. To be a worship leader, first and foremost, I need to be worshipping. But secondly, I need to lead both the musicians, but also (and more importantly) the congregation, so that they can enter this conversation with God for themselves.

Like any conversation, it needs to be balanced. We can have our say, through the words in the songs that we sing. But we also need to be aware that God is waiting for His chance to speak into our lives. It’s only when we have space in the worship song to just be, without worry of the song or the words, that we can focus and hear what He has to say.
Too often, we rush through a song; verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus twice, end. And that is our worship. Finished. Get in, get out, as quick as you like. But we miss the conversation. We miss out on what the divine creator wants to input into our lives. And who would want to miss that?

So to allow this conversation to take place, as a worship leader, I need to think about the space I am creating. Is it delicate enough that the still, small, voice can penetrate into our lives? Is it void of distractions that can wisp us away from hearing what God has to say to us? Is it long enough for us to focus away from ourselves and listen to Him?

For me, this realisation of space in worship came about because of this song. In it, some say the space is too vast, that it becomes boring or tedious. But take a moment and reflect. If God had something to say to you, wouldn’t you want that space? Wouldn’t you need that space?
The song is This is Our God by Hillsong. Have a listen. Think about how they create the space throughout the song, and allow for the worshippers to connect with their God, before once again lifting up their praise to Him.

This is Our God

It’s interesting, in a purely human term, thinking about the dynamics in this song. With this song, everyone knows that the “Freely You gave” bridge is coming. Everyone loves it. Too often I’ve seen worship leaders rush into it, and it loses its flare. It loses its impact, because we haven’t invested in creating that space. Whether God speaks to us or not, the anticipation of being able to sing that bridge to the one we love is what makes it work. When we rush through to it, it loses everything we are expecting.

It’s a bit like Watching the World Cup final. If you just watched the last 10 minutes, it wouldn’t be nearly as fulfilling, as dramatic, as tense, or as painful, compared to enduring and watching the entire match.

So take your time. Create the space. Enjoy the space. Don’t stand there looking at the musicians wondering what they’re doing when they head into a musical interlude. Turn your focus from singing songs to worshipping God. Expect to hear from Him. Close your eyes as the instrumental occurs. Ask God to speak to you. And as the music fades into the background, and His words fill your heart, and soul, and mind, you can begin to fully experience what this thing called worship is, and what I strive for every single time I come to worship; both with the Church, and individually.

Worshipping Critically

As a musician in a worship team for nearly 10 years now, I have learned how to play worship songs. I have learned how to create space. I’ve learned how to play by ear. I’ve learned how to play a chorus with power and strength, and then with softness and tenderness, all in the same song. I have learned how to lead others into a space of worship.
But I have also learned how to be critical; to think what needs to improve; to look for missing elements; to think about whether the tempo is too quick, or too slow; to think about whether the guitar is in tune or not; to think about whether the sound has got the mix right as to how I think it should sound; to think whether this is too loud, or not loud enough.
I have learned how to be critical, but I haven’t learned how to turn that off.
You see, being critical when you have a run through practice helps to improve the sound, improve the flow, improve the music we are using to bring our worship to God.
But as soon as the service starts and we are charged with helping God’s people worship Him, the critique needs to stop. For in that moment, the music is as it is meant to be, and our worship should transcend all else.

The trouble I have found in not being able to stop, is not when I am on stage worshipping and leading others in worship, but it is when I am being lead in worship. My mind is busy critiquing all of the things I have mentioned above. I’m busy telling myself how I’d do it differently, even, better.
But what I’m not doing is worshiping God, for all he is, for all he has done, and all that he has done.
You see, Satan uses critique for evil. He slides it in behind the scenes. He makes you think you’re doing what you’ve always done. But he brings it in to distract us, to frustrate us, to block us, from worshipping our one and true God almighty.

So maybe we need to ask ourselves; Am I going to stand and sing the worship songs, frustrated that it’s not to my liking, or am I going to stand and worship God for all of His glory, all of His grace, and all of His love that He so freely gives us.

Lord, help me remember that you made everything just how you like it. This earth has been around much longer than I, and will continue to be long after I’m gone. And You have been there since before that, and will be there after it. You are so much bigger than my small problems and the issues that I face. And because of this I will stand, and I will worship you. May my soul benefit, may my mind now wander, and may it be with all of my heart.


How to build a Mandolin

The following is some of the things I learned along the way of building and constructing my kitset Mandolin. The kitset is a SAGA Mandolin AM-10. I suspect other kits are similar in the pieces they include. Hopefully, you read this BEFORE constructing, and so you don’t make some of the same mistakes I did. The instructions that come with the kit should always be followed above and beyond what I have written here (mainly because there are some steps I’ve left out!). Enjoy!

1. Open the box, read the instructions

This is what I did, cover to cover, so I knew what I was in for. As I did, I made a quick note of all the different things I’d need that I didn’t have (such as glue, sandpaper, clamps etc…). This allowed me to go shopping and get everything, as well as process the procedure for putting together my first Mandolin.

2. The binding

Filing out the edges for the binding, using standard needle files.

Using a small, flat file file down all the uneven bits and pieces in the edge where the binding fits. The glue they suggest is Duco Cement, which I didn’t have any of. I just used some regular UHU multi-purpose glue. Make sure you wipe up the glue if it spills out. My finish wasn’t very pristine because parts of this soaked into the wood and stopped the stain from being able to do it’s thing. I would probably use masking tape to clean up the whole thing.

Use masking tape to bend the binding around the body. Do a little part at a time, gluing as you go.

Wrap the binding around, starting at half way and starting at the bottom of the mandolin top. As you go, stick down what you have glued down with masking tape, taking regular breaks to wipe up glue and catch your breath. Make sure the tape is nice and firm around the binding, as this is going to hold it in place as the glue dries. You can see from this I have taped a little in front to hold it in place whilst I glue down the other side of the binding.

After it dries, remove the tape, and then tidy the binding up, making it flush with the edges of the mandolin with a sharp knife.

3. The tone rods

First thing, sand the inside of the top face of the mandolin. It doesn’t need to be massively smooth, but not rough like it’s just been carved. Follow the instructions in the manual for the placement of these. I found Google quite helpful for converting the inch measurements given into metric measurements.

Once the positioning has been made, tape a couple of strips of sandpaper to the inside of the top. Use a pencil to shade the bottom side (curved side) of the tone rods, and then begin making short small rubbings against the sandpaper. This will slowly but surely shape the rods to fit the curve of the top exactly. Keep checking the pencil markings. As soon as the pencil markings have all gone, then you’ve got an exact fit. Make sure you label top and bottom on each rod, as well as left and right on the two rods.

The two bars in place on the inside of the top of the mandolin. Glue wiped up to keep it neat and tidy.

These need to be glued on with Titebond glue. (Note: the instructions say to use “titebond” glue; with lowercase – which would suggest it is a type of glue. However, this is not a type of glue, but a BRAND of glue. You should be able to get it at specialist woodworking or model making hobby shops.) I used ADOS F2 Glue, which is strong, but permanent, which means if there’s any breaks or I need to reset the neck or anything, then I’m stuffed. Titebond glue allows woodworkers to add heat and steam to release the glue and reset it, whilst still providing a stronger than wood bond.

4. The headstock

Whilst the binding and tonebars dry (overnight, as you want those tone bars to be set and strong), you can begin looking at your design for the headstock. I got my idea from someone else, but made my own choice on it. They have packed an oversized headstock for this reason.

My finished headstock design.

Once you’ve decided on a design, draw it in on the back and the front. I used a paper stencil to ensure it was the same on both sides. Use a coping saw or bandsaw to cut it out. It may also need a bit of work with a file, Dremel, or sandpaper to finish this off. You can finish it off at this point, as nothing else gets done to this area until the end. You can also add an inlay at this point if you want to. I chose not to.

One of the fixes I had to make to ensure the binding was glued down fully at the edge.

5. Fixes

At this point, I had to make some fixes to the binding. Right at the end, up by the neck, I noticed that due to the pressures caused by the curves, that the binding hadn’t glued properly to the wood. I re-applied glue, and then using masking tape, levered and pulled the access, so that the binding was firm against the wood. Once this dried, I cut the binding following the angle of the neck cave and filed to make it nice and flat.

6. The kerfing

Clothes pegs have more than one use…

The next part is to glue on is the kerfing. This is the two strips of wood that surround the inside bottom, to provide more surface area for which to glue the base to the top. First, bend and cut to fit the inside. You’ll have to make account for the base board and the neck cave. Once you are set, begin using Titebond glue to glue the kerfing in place. It needs to be flat against the edge. Use strong spring clothes pegs to hold it in place as you go (a bit like the masking tape).

Kerfing glued in place around the bottom of the sides, ready to glue onto the bottom face.

 7. The neck

You don’t want to stuff this one up. This is the most important piece of the whole jigsaw puzzle. First, lightly push the heel of the neck into the neck cave. Take a pencil and draw around where the neck meets the face and the body of the mandolin. This will leave the areas which you have to glue.

The taped off areas for where I applied the glue to the neck

Tape them off so any glue that does get squeezed out falls onto tape and not the wood. I also suggest you tape off the fretboard so there is no chance of any damages being made to it.

Apply glue to the correct areas, both on the neck, and in the neck cave. Allow a few minutes for it to start to set, and then push it firmly into the neck cave, so that it fits all around. Using a scrap piece of wood placed on the fretboard, tap the neck with a hammer so it fits tightly.

The neck, firmly in place.

Shave the two dowels that came with the kit (there’s no way these will fit without shaving them down a bit!). Cover them with glue, and put a dab of glue in the holes, then knock them in with a hammer. BUT BE CAREFUL. I didn’t know how far to punch them in, and ended up splitting the base wood of the neck cave in the body. If your wood does split, you need to remove the dowels straight away, glue and clamp in strengthening pieces of wood to help with the split (see photo below). Knock the dowels back in carefully. Once you’ve done this, check that you haven’t displaced the neck back out. Once it’s all dry, you can cut down the dowels.

Don’t be overzealous with the hammer. I was, and split the neck joint. Re-gluing was required, and an extra piece of wood for extra strength was added.

 8. The base

The base was tricky. You need to sand it, as per the instructions. Once I did this, I also stained the inside. The reason for this is I wanted it to be quite dark inside the mandolin, as it’s quite a light wood, and I didn’t want that light wood coming back through the ‘f’ holes. I also decided to stick a label on the inside, just like a real guitar or mandolin maker would. Admittedly, I did end up putting it “upside down” and in the wrong ‘f’ hole, but it all works out in the end.

You also need to line up the centre line of the base with the centre line of the sides and neck. I used a couple of staples cut apart so they stuck into the wood to act as guides for getting it in place. Also, turn the mandolin over, so you can see that there is enough overlap around the edges for all of the base. It needs to fully cover the bottom.

Once that was done, I masked off the sides of the mandolin, and then glued around the kerfing. I also glues around the pencil marks of the base and pressed them together, using the guides I’d made before with the staples. Then clamp. Ideally, you want at least 6 clamps, though I only had 5 that would fit.

9. Fixes II

A small gap between the base and the neck.


I found out, after I glued, that the base wasn’t going to match. There was about 2mm gap between the neck and the base. This was because the neck hadn’t been cut quite right and whilst was flush with the top of the mandolin, and couldn’t be pushed down any further into the neck cave, it was not flush at the bottom, causing the gap.

Remedying the gap by removing the piece and gluing it back on.


My solution to this was to cut off the bit of the base. There was enough space for the rest of the base to be significantly glued to the mandolin, and the rest was just for show. I’d cut it, re-glue it 2mm down, and then sand off the base so that it lead a gentle slope down to the glued on bit, hopefully making it so it looked like there was never a gap in the first place.

Attaching the piece I cut off to the back of the neck joint.


A bit of light sanding to even up the joint and it’s fixed.


10. Sand, Sand, Sand

Using three separate grades of sandpaper (#120, #240, #320), sand down all surfaces (including binding) of the guitar. Do NOT sand the fretboard or the top of the headstock. I didn’t take any photos of this process, as I figured it’d be as interesting as a photo of paint drying. At this time, I also used a file to go around the binding to scrape off any glue that was stuck to it.

11. Stained

I decided that my mandolin needed a darker feel to it, rather than the very light wood. The instructions have outlined the various different finishes that you could produce for your mandolin.

Adding stain, like adding paint, is all about the layers.


I chose some wood gel stain to use to darken much of the wood. This was the same colour that I used for the inside of the mandolin (I also used the inside of the mandolin to test that it would work!)

The dark stain for the headstock


Follow the instructions on the bottle for application and drying times.

After adding the dark on the base and the head, I added the honey oak as a lighter tone. To be honest, I could have kept this if I was going for a contrast feel to my mandolin, rather than the vintage feel I wanted. Use a little bit of masking tape to keep the neck that separate colour.


After this layer dried, I added a layer of the darker colour again, and then very quickly wiped it off. In places, I added a bit of spit and polish, and a paper towel to wipe through and give that old vintage feel to the mandolin.

The finished stain

12. Pilot Holes

From here, I marked out all the finishes, such as the tailpiece, the tuning pegs and trussrod cover with a pencil, and drilled the pilot holes for them. Once again, follow the given instructions for these – especially to line up the tailpiece with the neck, so that the strings line up straight.

Placing the finishes in the right place to attach them later.


13. Finishes

The next step was to decide on the protective finishes. The wood gel I used suggested using a particular product (from the same company, as you’d expect) to seal in the colour. I was a little bit undecided whether to go for a matte finish polyurethane, or a gloss shiny finish. I put a layer of matte on, and saw how it was when it was wet, and knew I wanted it to be glossy. Once the layer of matte had dried, I applied the second  layer as gloss, and was very happy with the result.

14. The Bits and Bobs

Once that dries, it’s time to start putting things together. The tuning heads with the rings (you may have to sand back the insides of the holes in the headstock so the rings fit. Truss rod cover, 3 screws. The tailpiece and strap nut, put carefully into the base of the guitar.

The nut needs to be glued onto the top of the neck. But before you do, check the height of it. If it is too high, then the action at the first and second frets will make the mandolin unplayable. You can adjust the height of the nut two ways. You can either use a needle file to make the grooves a bit deeper (but beware, too deep and the strings will buzz in the deep grooves), or you can sand the bottom using a flat surface and a sheet of sandpaper. There are some tips in the instructions as to how high the action needs to be. There are also numerous guides online. Once you are happy with the height of the nut, you are ready to glue. To glue, use a bit of the glue you used for the binding. It only needs a dab as the string tension should also hold it in place.

Now for the strings. This may require a helping hand. The loops at the end of the string don’t always play fair when you then have to tighten the strongs at the other end. Having a friend hold the strongs on the hooks in the tailpiece is invaluable.

As soon as they’ve picked up the tension, slide the bridge under, making sure it is between the middle of the ‘f” holes. This is a “floating” bridge, as it doesn’t get secured anywhere, but is held in place by the tension of the strings. It may be required for you to make several depressions into the bridge for the strings to rest in on the bridge. I made these grooves with a craft knife. Over time, the strings will do this naturally. The bridge also needs to be adjusted up or down so the action at the 12th fret isn’t too high either. I found I had to adjust the bridge quite a bit, as I needed to make the bridge shallower than it would go. So I cut out parts of the bridge to allow it to be adjusted much shorter.

Then it’s just a matter of tuning up your mandolin and you’re away laughing!


Mandolin: Alpha

Last week I ordered my very first (and possibly last) Mandolin kit set. It is a SAGA Mandolin Kit AM-10.

I have begun on this weekend project in order to get me away from the drab boringness of Facebook and TV. So far, none of it has been done in the weekend – such is the blessing of school holidays!

I don’t want to make a “look as you go” blog, where photos pop up as I progress. Rather, I will post many of the photos at the end of the project as one blog article called “How to Build a Mandolin” (which may turn into a How NOT to build a Mandolin!).

Here are a couple, just to give you an idea of what I found inside the box.