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My Tool Sharpening Kit

Just as sharpness can mean different things to different woodworkers, so too the ways in which we go about getting tools sharp are different.

James Krenov, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, 1977

Sharpening, for me, is something that should be fast and easy. Over the last 25 years or so, I have tried and used several different sharpening mediums - Carborundum stones, wet/dry sandpaper on plate glass,  Japanese style water stones, etc., etc., - some worked for me, some didn't.



My sharpening system now consists of three different grit diamond sharpening stones, a vintage Eclipse sharpening jig, newsprint paper with green and jeweler's rouge honing compounds.





The iron on my Stanley No.5 jack plane needed sharpening. I use the traditional sharpening angle of 25 degrees on this iron, and yes, I have used the "15 degree only" angle, back bevels and micro-bevels, but the angles that are recommended in the woodworking books from the turn of the 20th century work best for me. I d…
Recent posts

On the Workbench - Redwood/Curly Walnut Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Part 1

...the graceful lines and the splendor of the guitar's body possessed my heart as swiftly as would the features of a heaven-sent woman suddenly appearing to become the loving companion of a lifetime.
Andres Segovia, Andres Segovia, An Autobiography of the years 1893-1920, 1976


I made this neck more than a few years back with the intent of building a nice guitar with a 640mm scale length. It languished in "the wood pile" until recently when I pulled it out and paired it with a back and side set of curly black walnut.




The walnut bent like a dream and unlike some walnut that I have worked with in the past, it didn't spring back, a definite bonus! I thinned the sides down to 3/32" and the waist area down to a tad less that 1/16" to help with the bending process. I find with walnut that the bending iron temperature needs to be between 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit, any hotter and the wood gets too bitter and will fail.




I have discovered that I have a knack for mak…

Be Your Own Apprentice

Daiju visited the master Baso in China.
Baso asked: "What do you seek?"
"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.
"You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?" Baso asked
Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure house?"
Baso answered: "What you are asking is your treasure house."
Daiju was enlightened! 
Ever after he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those treasures."

 from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, complied by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, 1957

"What maker did you study with? What was his name?" This was a question I often get when I attend guitar festivals as a vendor.

"Myself," was my reply.

"Really? How?"

"I read a few books on guitar making, pulled out some old tools I inherited, bought some wood and went at it," I replied.

"Wow! Really? How did you know how work the wood into a guitar? I don't think I could make anything like this unless someone taught me …

The Best Ingredients for a Fine Wood Finish

When I first started down the road of lutherie back in 1992, I had several spectacular finish failures. Some where I had read that you could use tung oil on a mountain dulcimer, and I found out that you can, but it killed the sound of that very first dulcimer. I hung it up on the wall.

All the wood working books and catalogs of the era seemed to state that wipe-on finishes were the best, or that it was better to buy some fancy brush-on finish that self-leveled was best to use on guitars and dulcimers. I bought brush-on varnish from a big name wood finish supplier and smeared it all over a "custom" dulcimer I made for a friend. I level sanded with wet/dry sandpaper and mineral spirits, but no matter what I did, the white dust from sanding adhered itself to every little nook and corner of the dulcimer. No matter how hard I tried I could not get rid of the white dust specks. My friend like the instrument anyway and was very happy with it.

After making several dulcimers I took t…

Building an Eight String "Brahms" Classical Guitar, Part One

Among God's creatures two, the dog and the guitar, have taken all the sizes and all the shapes, in order not to be separated from the man.
Andres Segovia, classical guitarist



Early this year, a young composer/guitarist asked me if I would make him an eight string guitar, the so-called "Brahms", or cello, guitar. It has an extra treble string and bass string, this extends the musical range of the classical guitar in a tremendous way. This guitar was developed in 1994 by the luthier David Rubio for the guitarist Paul Galbraith, and if you wish to read more about how this guitar came into existence, please go to Wikipedia or Paul Galbraith's website to learn more.
There are no plans, that I know of, for this guitar, I knew that the first Brahms guitar had a bass string length of 660mm and the treble string length of 630mm, and today most makers use 650/615mm string lengths. I chose a 650/620mm string combination and pulled out a roll of brown paper to start my layout.



M…

The Beauty of a Simple Butt Joint

The strength of a butt joint is merely that of the glue employed...
Bernard Jones, The Complete Woodworker, 1980 edition


I made this guitar neck about five years ago, and for some reason, I never got around to building a guitar on it. It is made from a nice piece of Spanish cedar with a slice of East Indian rosewood on the headstock. Earlier this month, I decided to pair this neck with a redwood top and flamed black walnut back and sides, but there was one repair that needed to be done before putting the neck to use.




I accidentally left the rosewood veneer a little short, it was about an eighth of an inch shy of the where the headstock slope meets to horizontal surface of the neck. Usually, I run this veneer a little wild and trim it back after the fret board is glued on and I am ready to install the bone nut.




I was afraid that I wouldn't have any rosewood on hand to match the original, but I got lucky and found a scrap pieces that was a fairly close match.





The repair was pretty s…

An Unorthodox Nicholson-Style Workbench

For the convenience of planing, and other operations, a rectangular platform is raised upon four legs, called a bench.

Peter Nicholson, The Mechanic's Companion, 1831

If our shop is where we live, then our workbench is where we think and feel, where we do what is most satisfying to us as craftsman.

James Krenov, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, 1977

I built my workbench in 1995.

The top was made from big incense cedar tree that I felled and then milled with a Granberg Alaskan mill attached to a 1960's era McCulloch chainsaw sporting a twenty eight inch long bar with 3/4" pitch chain. The legs are also incense cedar and the cross pieces were milled from a black (red) oak tree that grew about twenty from the incense cedar.

The idea for the bench came from Roy Underhill's The Woodwright's Apprentice, at the time I needed a workbench that I could transport.




I didn't mill enough wide boards from that cedar tree, in order to make the bench top wide enough for my use, I…