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Showing posts from February, 2012

Fret Work on the Western Red Cedar/Bigleaf Maple Classical Guitar and Buffalo Bill Cody

I immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas Pacific Railroad and it was not long before I acquired considerable notoriety.

William F. Cody, aka "Buffalo Bill", 1879

William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill

Enrico Caruso at Will Cody's grave 1920, there's an "x" above Caruso's head.


Visited Will and Louisa Cody's grave site yesterday on Lookout Mountain above Golden, Colorado, it was sort of a pilgrimage for me. My great uncle, Merrill Black, ran away from home around sometime around 1900-02, so the story goes, because he got tired of his father being so strict. He headed for North Platte, Nebraska where he signed on to be a rough rider in Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. My grandmother and her little brother told me that Merrill was quite the rider, used to pick up dollar coins off the ground riding a horse at a full gallop and other tricks. My grandmother wasn't sure how long he rode for Will Cody,…

How to Glue on a Classical Guitar Bridge

Wood is our most versatile, most readily available building material, and a general knowledge of the physical characteristics of the various woods used in building operations is extremely desirable for the carpenter. An intimate knowledge of this subject is only attainable through long experience.

Harry F. Ulrey, Audel's Carpenters and Builders Library No. 1, 1972


Gluing on a guitar bridge is as nerve racking as routing out the binding channels. Placement is important: the proper distance from the nut with compensation (652mm is what I like to use); measuring that the bridge is parallel to the 12th fret and that the holes for the first and sixth string are parallel to the fingerboard. I grow nervous as I do the measurements, I want the bridge to be in the proper spot, it makes you sweat. (See Cumpiano's book for full details on gluing down a bridge)



It takes several tries to get the bridge to align on all 3 parameters and then you have to hold the bridge in place with your &quo…

What I Forgot About Guitar Making, Part 2

On every hand, the machine is doing the work that once called for the concentrated ability of men.

Walter Rose, The Village Carpenter, 1937


Fretting begins (to fret-to be constantly or visibly worried, origin Old English, to devour), 12% nickel/silver fret wire (fret-each of a sequence of bars or ridges on the fingerboard, origin 16th century, unknown)

What I forgot about guitar making is that you have to do it all the time, not just piece work on the weekends or other stolen moments, you have to set aside time every day to concentrate solely on the skills used to complete each task. It should be play, when you play you become absorbed by the work and lose track of time then find yourself revitalized. It is not a job, it is work (Ora et labora-pray and work). It takes practice, when you study a musical instrument you devote time to practice scales and arpeggios properly, you work on problem areas in a piece and you take time to sight read works that are new to you. Skills must be main…

Frets, Fretboard and a Western Red Cedar/Bigleaf Maple Guitar

American child are musical. American adults are not and the chief reason lies in the wasted opportunities of childhood.

Thomas W. Surette, Music and Life, 1917

The last couple of days have been work on scales, arpeggios, Prelude No. 2 in C# minor by George Gershwin transcribed for guitar by Douglas Niedt, Sarabande by Francis Poulenc and trying not to be sloppy, keeping the fingers clear of the strings. We got 32 inches of snow with the last storm, the snow has settled and I don't have to use snowshoes to walk up the gulch with the dogs.


Several hours were spent this afternoon on flattening the fingerboard on the cedar/maple guitar, I forgot that one needs to work at lutherie all the time, it is easy to forget how you should do things like make sure that you have enough sanding blocks the proper length. And make sure that all sandpaper is adhered to the block or you will be surprised by the results of your labor, then you will have to correct your mistake.


I forgot to take a photo…