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What I Forgot about Guitar Making

Though he lived for years in a Farnham alley, he failed to pick up any of the manner even of a little country town. He was all rustic.

George Sturt, The Wheelwright's Shop, 1923





Yesterday's sunrise. I had to scramble to find the camera.


A friend of mine once told me that he didn't get up early enough to watch the sunrise until his daughter was born. Then he got up to feed her and realized what he had been missing by sleeping in past the sun's greeting to the day. Now he doesn't miss one.


What I forgot about guitar making. I made a beginner's mistake yesterday. I spent about an hour sanding in the profile on the fretboard of the spruce/walnut guitar, I like to sand all the way to 2000 grit so your fingers slip on the ebony. The profile was gorgeous, but I forgot to check across the fretboard for flatness. The mistake. I cut 2 pieces of fret wire and set them, then realized if the board was going to have an arch it needed to be uniform. I pulled the frets and, as you can see the ebony chipped, now I need to fix those chips. Stew-Mac sells sheets of Teflon to make "fret dams" while you fill in the chips with sawdust and super glue, one of today's chores is to call Stew-Mac and place an order for Teflon and pipettes.


What did I forget about guitar making? It is something that I need to do all the time, like anything else, to be good at it you must practice it well. It is something that I should do each day. I got out of practice because I got a full time job as a historic preservation carpenter at Yosemite National Park, I worked 10 hour days and had a hard time trying to make time for myself, to do this thing called guitar making. I forgot what it was like to shoot the joint for the top and back of a guitar, how to smooth the surface of the tonewood with a plane, how to re-saw a board for tonewood and I forgot what it was like to sit and carve the heel on a guitar neck. Those things are too important to be forgotten. Elegant woodworking should be akin to writing a short story or going into the field for plein air painting. Wood working is not dumb or brutish, nor is it something that we should strive to make money at. Yes, I speak as a heretic in this day of pop woodworking rags, but the act of creation is not an act to make something for sale. That is down the road, but it shouldn't be the sole outcome of the act. I want a guitar I make to be played and to make music.

YouTube for the Day: Here is another wonderful young guitarist, Tatyana Ryzhkova, playing the prelude from J.S. Bach's 'cello suite #1, BWV 1007

Comments

  1. excellent post-i think a true artist/craftsman creates because he has too- or a part of him will die- if he sells it so be it, if not so be it- the result to the artist is the same- his own growth and livelihood. I don't think that's selfish, maybe it's more like a beaver chewing wood so his teeth don't grow into his skull and kill him- i don't know, but people have to be creative...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful light on the clouds there, Wilson.
    My, building a guitar is not for the faint-hearted!
    And thanks for the Bach.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rob:

    I guess I'm a little crazy, I revel in mistakes because I learn so much from them. Also, I can't remember which famous Spanish guitar maker said making guitars gets into your blood, you can do nothing else.

    Wilson

    ReplyDelete

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