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.

Wikipedia


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!


Monday, June 13, 2016

A "New" Stanley No.2 Plane, Port Orford Cedar and Thunderstorms

Shining and gracious in youth, gigantic and glorious in age, possessed of a fragrant wood of great beauty and scores of the most valuable uses, the Port Orford Cedar has but one defect with which it can be reproached: there isn't - and never has been - enough of it!

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1950

The shop hygrometer reads 54% RH, way too humid for me to be glueing rosettes into guitar tops.

A big thunderstorm is moving in, I hear the rain on the roof and wonder when I will have to turn off the computer because the lightning strikes are getting too close. We need the rain, last week the daily temperatures were up in the mid 70's, that is warm for 8,500', the pine needles on the forest floor were getting crunchy and with all the "campers" coming up from the Denver metro area to camp in our backyard, Arapahoe National Forest, which borders our property, there is concern for wildfires. Not all who come to the forest believe in listening to Smokey Bear and we don't want another fire season like we had in 2012 when a lot of Colorado's forests went up in smoke and flame.



I picked up a nice little Stanley No.2 hand plane this month to use to plane the sides of guitar neck headstocks. It is also handy to help level a guitar top.

This particular top is reclaimed Port Orford cedar, purchased from Oregon Wild Wood, that is going to be paired with Indian rosewood back and sides. I am using the plantilla of the famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar that was owned and used by the great Andres Segovia for this guitar. I will also be making another guitar on this plantilla with a Western red cedar top and black cherry back and sides.

I look forward to making these guitars.

Why use Port Orford cedar for a guitar top? First of all, the wood's scent is intoxicating, a ginger spice aroma that carries me to the coastline of the extreme northwest corner of California with its wonderful forests; secondly, it is stronger and harder than Sitka spruce and it is just as light making it a perfect tone wood for classical guitars.

Click here for the Forest Products Laboratory Wood Properties (Techsheets) - North American Softwoods and check the specs yourself.


Why buy a vintage Stanley No.2 hand plane instead of a brand Lie-Nielsen? Aesthetics mostly. This little plane has really nice rosewood handles, I like the look of the iron metal with the black japanning and the little "Sweetheart" emblem that is stamped on the plane blade. It also goes well with the rest of my vintage Stanley planes and it is awfully cute!


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Black Hills Spruce/African Rosewood Concert Guitar, Off the Bench and For Sale

...the art of knowing and working with Mother Nature's wood is one of the noblest occupations created for the development and enjoyment of human beings.

Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, 2003



A couple of years ago I purchased two spruce tops from StewMac, the tops were Picea Glauca, aka White Spruce, Canada Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, I wish I had bought more. It is amazing tone wood.


This guitar sings, it has a beautiful voice with sustain. The spruce top is flexible enough that this guitar plays like a guitar with a cedar top, it is almost effortless.



The back and sides are African Rosewood, also known as bubinga, again, this is superior tone wood. I understand that Hermann Hauser II liked bubinga better than Indian rosewood. The back as a fillet of Macassar Ebony.

The fret board is Macassar Ebony, the bridge is Indian rosewood. The guitar is fitted with Gotoh tuners and the strings are Savarez New Cristal Corum 500CR. These are now my favorite brand of strings.


String length - 650mm
Width at nut - 52mm
Width at 12th fret - 62mm
Neck Depth at 1st fret - 21.5mm
Neck Depth at 9th fret - 25mm

$4,700, which includes a hard shell case. Shipping is not included in the price.

This guitar will be at my booth at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention and International Competition in Denver, Colorado, June 21-25, 2016.