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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…
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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…

Want to Hear What a Wilson Burnham Guitar Sounds Like?

Want to hear what one of my guitars sounds like?

Click here.

I have a 2017 Redwood/East Indian Rosewood classical guitar at Savage Classical Guitar and
Rich has posted this recording of him playing the guitar.

He comments on the sound and playability as he plays.

It is a wonderful recording. Thanks, Rich!





Off the Bench and For Sale! 2017 Redwood/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

Hi, Wilson, guitar arrived in excellent shape. I'll be photographing and listing almost immediately today. She's a beauty, brother. Very nice.

Richard Sayage, owner, Savage Classical Guitar

I shipped a very nice redwood/East Indian rosewood classical guitar to Savage Classical Guitar on Monday, and it arrived in Bohemia, New York, this morning!

This is really a wonderful guitar, it is loud with a beautiful bel canto voice, all notes are very even up and down the fret board, and, as my wife pointed out, every note is clear, clean and crisp. It is one guitar that I wish I could keep for myself, but it needs to be in the hands of a player that wants a truly outstanding guitar.


The bracing is an adaptation of one used by Jesus Belezar, Manuel Hernandez's son-in-law. I purchased the redwood top from Luthiers Mercantile.



I bought this set of East Indian rosewood back and sides sometime around 2002, I wish I had bought more back then, it is really hard to find rosewood this nice …

My Forty Year Old Shaving Horse

I've made all my tools, matter a'fact, everything I got. Well, this shaving horse I guess is about fifty years old.
Alex Stewart, bucket and butter churn maker, Foxfire 3, 1975

I made this shaving horse in 1978, when I was fifteen years old. I was tired of trying to hold stock in the leg vise on our grandfather's workbench, sticks of wood often would slip out when I took Grandpa's drawknife to it, and the jaws limited access to the wood I was trying to shape. I saw a photo of one in Foxfire 3 and decided I could make one.



My parents had all sorts of pieces of wood cached up in the attic of the old workshop, both were children of the Great Depression, they squirreled stuff away "because you never know when you are going to need it!" There was a five foot long piece of chainsaw milled incense cedar, pieces of old painted window, miscellaneous Douglas fir 2x2's and one piece of old growth Douglas fir that was just right for the bridge table.




I can't reme…