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Showing posts from December, 2010

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, Part 1?

My grandfather himself used to say that if a guitar maker did not die in a social welfare hospital, it was because he did not have the means to get there.

Jose Ramirez III, Things about the Guitar, 1994


Rain again today, flood warning until 11 am, thought I would go out to the shop and tidy it up a little. This gave me the idea of what a basic tool kit would be for guitar making, because when I made my first guitar I didn't have much. People back then would ask me if I would show them how to make a guitar (they still do) and would they need a shop full of power tools? As soon as I told them that they could build a guitar with hand tools, their faces would go blank, they'd take a step back and mumble something about going home to see if they left the iron on.

I revised and updated this list December 12, 2013. Please click here to see that post. Thanks!

This is not a definitive list, just a place to start (please note that all of these tools are in the above photo on the work b…

How to Make Guitar Bindings from a Baseball Bat

The craft of the wood-turner is ancient. Turners are recorded as having reached England at the time of the Norman conquest and they introduced the pole lathe at that time.

Tom Crispin, The English Windsor Chair, 1992



A while ago I bought a maple baseball bat blank from Rockler with the idea of making bindings, because it gets a little pricey buying pre-made bindings from LMI. I carefully ripped the blank down on my table saw into 1 1/2 inch wide strips and ran those through a thickness planer.



These are the tools I use, a cutting gauge and a Frost knife. The holey board that you see is my shooting board, once I cut a binding off the strip I joint the strip to have a straight edge to register the gauge on for the next binding. This also makes the edge that will go against the shoulder of the rabbet on the guitar.



First, I mark the strip with a cutting gauge on both sides of the strip. These bindings will be a 1/4 inch wide.



Then I take a knife and make the cut deeper working from both sides…

Getting Ready to Install Guitar Bindings

The woodcraft way is the simple way. Few tools, and simple tools, supplemented by a helpful gadget or two fashioned in the woods, plus a little ingenuity! The pioneer with few tools, sometimes none besides his ax, applied his intelligence to the task at hand and figured out some way to get it done.

Bernard S. Mason, Woodcraft, 1973




I like to tape the binding in at the waist and work my way back to the end block, simulating how the binding would be glued into the rebate. This way I know exactly where to trim the binding's end.



A butt joint. I shave it a few times with a very sharp chisel to get it right. I guess I had better take a photo of the finished joint and post it!



The bass side binding has been glued into place and looks good! Honestly, it does! I didn't mean to set the block plane right in front of the guitar, I'll post some more photos later!

How to Make Guitar Purflings

The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree.

Wendell Berry, Landscape of Harmony. 1987



I am such a process freak.

It's been quite a few years since I have bought pre-made purfling, I bought one sheet each of white and black veneer from LMI, made a cutting gauge from a piece of walnut on hand and made a board for cutting the strips. The board came from watching an episode of The Woodwright's Shop where Steve Latta showed how to do traditional Kentucky style inlay with holly strips, etc. Here's shot of the board, veneer and cutting gauge.



The process is pretty simple: set the fence to the width of the strip you want and start cutting. Be sure to pay attention to the grain of the veneer, it can change directions quickly and you'll end up with a strip of uneven width.



All the strips cut, ready to be glued in with the maple binding.

The Best Books on Classical Guitar Making

Skilled use of the knife and ax is seldom described today because there are few persons who master these tools. Those who do are often more articulate with their hands who master these tools.
James Rudstrom, from the introduction to Swedish Carving Techniques, Wille Sundqvist, 1990



If you want to make a classical guitar these are the two books to get!

Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall is like having an old master looking over your shoulder prodding you to listen to him, because he knows the most efficient way to do it. Besides, it is tradition! I love this book!

Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jon Natelson, is "the" book that I used to make my first guitars and I still reference it. I have leafed through it so much that the pages are falling away from the binding!

I can't recommend John Bogdanovich's book Classical Guitar Making, it is for someone who already has a well-equipped professional cabinet shop that is capable of turning…

How to Make a Guitar

By its very nature and design, a good, well-tuned, well-sharpened and well-maintained chain saw is a very precise tool that can be used by almost anyone to make almost anything.
Walter Hall, Barnacle Parp's Chain Saw Guide, 1977



Many apologies to everyone, it's hard to keep up with a blog when you have a full time job (I am gone from the house 12 hours a day!), plus I am enrolled in a historic preservation certificate program at Bucks County Community College in PA. Now that the historic planning and sustainability class is over and with two weeks off from work for Christmas, I thought that I would try and catch up with the blog.

The above photo the laurel/douglas fir guitar, based on a guitar by Rene Lacote, circa 1830, that I am working on. Last night I bent the maple binding and glued it on this morning, I will try to bend and install the other top binding today. The purfling is BBWBB, I thought that if I went with a BBWBBWBB like what is around the sound hole the guitar woul…