Monday, October 24, 2016

Ponderosa Pines, the Morning Walk

Of all the pines, this one gives forth the finest music to the winds.

John Muir, naturalist

Now, to work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dismantling the Old Workshop

Many established guitar makers began their careers in humble surroundings; working in cramped conditions without much light, and lacking basic items like a sturdy workbench or a warm room. If your enthusiasm is great, then almost any obstacle can be overcome.

Roy Courtnall, Making Master Guitars, 1993

I dismantled the "garage".

It was a simple 14'x20'building, framed in 2x4's, covered with 1/4" thick exterior grade plywood with no foundation, just a dirt floor. The wall bottom plates sat on simple cinder blocks or on the ground and most of those plates were starting to rot. The original owner had the building constructed about 1966 to protect his Cadillac when he and his wife lived here. When we bought the place five years ago, instead of dismantling the garage I framed a floor in it and added a double door for additional light. It was a good storage space for tools, firewood, chainsaws, etc., but the time has come to take down the building.

There are enough framing materials from this building to make a small 10'x12'shed, all I need to buy is the subfloor and roofing OSB sheets and 2x8's for the roof rafters. Once this shed is up and filled with all my "other" tools, the plan is to re-build a building on the site of the garage with the same foot print as the original. I know many people think that a 280 square foot building is too small for a workshop, for me, however, after working in 9'x10' spaces for the last 20 years, this new workshop will seem as large as our national Capitol building.

And it will be heated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Late Summer, Early Fall and a Spruce/Ziricote Classical Guitar

Thus begins what many residents feel is the Southern Rockies' most beautiful time of the year - Indian summer.

Audrey DeLella Benedict, The Southern Rockies, 1991

It is sunny today with bluebird skies highlighting the golds and oranges of the aspen trees.

Fog covered our little hollow all day yesterday, the sun came out at exactly 4:45pm and shone upon us for fifteen minutes, then the clouds came back.

The aspens and ferns in the backyard...

A few wildflowers are blooming, like this harebell...

Our little flower garden is going to seed...

I dropped six ponderosa pine on our property last week for firewood and fire mitigation, as you can see I have much work to do splitting and stacking the firewood.

This is the latest guitar on the bench, a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado style guitar, with a Colorado Engelmann spruce top...

and ziricote back and sides.

I am in the process of pore filling, later this week I will start the French polish.

It has an incredibly loud tap tone, it will be wonderful guitar.

Now, get out to your shop and make something!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I Made a Wooden Toothing Plane

In the days before the belt sander, a cabinetmaker also used a toothing plane when smoothing such heavily figured woods as curly and bird's-eye maple.

Michael Dunbar, Restoring, Tuning & Using Classic Woodworking Tools, 1989

I bought several toothing blades to use in my No.3 and No.5 Stanley planes to plane some "lower" grade East Indian rosewood back and sides. The irons work, but I have to be aware of the cutting depth of the iron, grain tear out is still possible using a toothed iron in a standard plane.

At the time I made this plane, I couldn't find any decent wooden toothing planes for sale on the internet. That's a good enough reason to make time to build one.

Following and adapting the plans for the "sandwich technique" found in Wooden Planes and How to Make Them, by David G. Perch and Robert S. Lee, which you can buy here, I started with a piece of 3x3 inch oak I had in my wood cache.

I ripped the sides from the main stock on a table saw, then sized the main body with the same saw, took all the pieces back to the bench and jointed everything with a No.7 jointer and a flat sanding board.

All angled pieces were cutting with my Bosch sliding compound miter saw. The cheeks to hold the wedge in were cut by hand with a handsaw.

I glued the whole thing together with hot hide glue, not the hide glue that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle, but the glue I made in my little brass glue pot and applied with a brush.

The plane does work. I made the width of the plane a little too wide for the iron and the iron chatters a bit. I think I will make another toothing plane, but this time I will make cap for the iron to see if that reduces the chatter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Miter Joints in Guitar Making

The object of using this joint, which is constructively one of the weakest used in joinery, is that moulded surfaces that have to be changed in direction shall not be stopped abruptly nor continued in unsuitable curves.

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902

Miter joints in classical guitar making are purely decorative.

Most joints are butt joints. The sides are joined to the heel of the neck in slots, a scarf joint is used to make the head/neck union, some makers use a fancy "V" joint for that union. Click here to read more about the "V" joint.

The only place where I use a miter joint is where the bindings meet the end graft.

The binding runs over the top of the end graft...

...and a miter joint is used to join the side binding purfling to the purfling in the end graft.

As you can see in this photo, the bindings are butted together. Some makers use a scarf joint to join the ends of the binding.

Fancy binding and purfling schemes don't make a guitar sound good, that sound comes from how the wood is worked.

Pretty binding makes for a visually pretty guitar.

My goal is to make a guitar that sings so well your heart melts.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Making Saw Handles

The saw cannot be classified with any other tool.

Paul N. Hasluck, The Handyman's Book, 1903

I inherited my grandfather's Warranted Superior crosscut panel saw quite some time ago - it is twenty inches long, 10 points per inch, the original handle must have disappeared on some worksite accident in the 1920's (he died in 1952, ten years before I was born). "Pop", my mother and her siblings always referred to him as such, made a replacement handle for it from a piece of oak board. He liked the saw well enough that he used a punch to punch an "R", for Rufus, his first name, into the blade near the handle. Just look it the photo, you will see it. My grandfather, I was told, was an excellent carpenter and when he could afford it he bought the very best tools, or he traded for them. This saw lived in workshop out back of the house when I was young, it was used only to cut down that year's Christmas tree.

A couple of years ago, I removed the original handle with the intent of making a replacement which I never got around to. The dry air of the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrunk the original handle so much it no longer fits the saw.

I do need another panel rip saw, the teeth on my brand new Lie-Nielsen panel rip saw is too aggressive for ripping thin pieces of wood, there was an older Disston "Rancher" crosscut saw left behind by the previous owners of our house. I cut that saw down to match the size and shape of my grandfather's saw.

A friend gave me a short mahogany board which I really had no use for, it was completely flat sawn, but I figured that it would make a good working handle for both saws.

I cut out a piece of that mahogany, thinned it one inch thick, drew the pattern on it and went at it with a brace and bit...

...cut out the handles with a jigsaw..

...then cut the slots with a back saw.

This morning I shaped one handle using files, finished it up with sand paper and applied a coat of Howard's Feed-N-Wax and attached it to the Disston Rancher.

After attaching the handle I discovered I need to teak my design a bit, the lower horn needs a little more depth and sweep and the "finger" that houses the top most nut needs to be a little longer and deeper.

I think I will make those adjustments and make another handle for my grandfather's saw. I would like to find a nice piece of quarter sawn Honduran mahogany to make the handle, I would settle for a pretty piece of alder. I don't plan on using the saw, I do want to build a tool box/chest shrine to house all of my grandfather's tools, to honor him and all those old carpenters I knew when I was a kid.

A nice looking handle! Now, I just need to re-file the teeth on this saw from crosscut to rip.

Now, turn off your computer and go make something!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Stippling a Classical Guitar Headstock

Stippling is the creation of a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. Such a pattern may occur in nature and these effects are frequently emulated by artists.


It's been two weeks since the Guitar Foundation of America's Convention and Competition ended at Metropolitan State University, Denver, I'm still reeling a little bit from the experience. I met a lot of great people, learned a few things and got some wonderful comments from world class classical guitarists about my guitars. I do plan on posting about the experience, I just have to make the time.

Today, I drive down to Boulder to purchase an air conditioner to put in the studio window, I work in an upstairs room right against the roof and since the roof was put on in the mid 1960's, there is no roof vent on the peak. That means it gets really hot in the space. It was 88 degrees Fahrenheit here yesterday, I know that is not hot by any means, but when you live at 8,500', 88 degrees is equivalent to 100 degrees! It was 93 degrees on the studio thermometer and I was lucky enough to get the humidity back to around 40%. The foothills have been under a red flag fire warning the last 3 days, the humidity dropped to 20% in the studio, not good for my guitars!

Putting my "new" Stanley No.2 plane to work

I decided to make another close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado guitar. The headstocks on some the original guitars are carved and stippled, I enjoy the challenge of doing the same.

First, I define the area to be stipple and I ground out with chisels and scrapers. By the way, the overlay is Macassar ebony.

The stippling begins.

The tools I use to stipple - 16d nails and a live oak mallet. Lots and lots of tapping!

The stippling is complete. I will go over the stippled area with a soft tooth brush and then burnish it with an old dish towel, this softens the looks and gets rid of any tiny wood chips that are created with the punches.

On the left, a headstock with the crest that was used by Santos Hernandez on the famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar that was used and owned by Andres Segovia; on the right, the Hernandez y Aguado headstock and crest.

If you want more information on how to stipple, start by Googling "how to stipple wood". When I first trying stippling I found this article to be very helpful, click here to see it.

Get out into the shop and do some work!