Skip to main content

Handmade Marking Gauges and Making a Copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez Classical Guitar Bridge

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979



I took this photo a while ago, that is one problem with having a day job, it gets in the way of what you really want to do. A day job is there to pay bills.

The top gauge I made a little over 20 years ago from some Claro walnut that my neighbor, who was a logger, gave me from a claro walnut tree that he had fallen along Cottonwood Creek in northern California. The tree had been cut up for firewood. I got the idea for the gauge from an article in a Woodwork magazine where the author made a gauge from madrone.

The lower gauge, which is really a cutting gauge, is also made from walnut, but the wood came from a tree that my grandfather planted in 1942.

I am always grateful that I made my own gauges, that I never had to buy one. There is something about using a tool that you made for yourself. Click here for an article that I recommend on how to make your own marking gauge.

I've finished shaping the wings on the bridge and tomorrow I will reduce the height of the chordal block (the part of the bridge that anchors the strings) so I can glue on a piece of mother of pearl. In an article in American Lutherie, guitar maker R.E. Brune stated that if you are making a close copy of a guitar by Antonio Torres or Hermann Hauser, and if you want it to sound as close to the original guitar, you need to make an exact copy of the original bridge. I made this bridge according to Roy Courtnall's plans, but because Julia's guitar is narrower than the original, I made the bridge shorter than the original one. I am also trying to keep this bridge as light as possible, right now it is at 20 grams, the mother of pearl will add some weight. A bridge can "dampen" a guitar top, the idea is to let the top vibrate a freely as possible. Check out this article by Ervin Somogyi on guitar dynamics.

It's been a magical experience making this guitar for Julia: the wood is amazing, adhering to the traditional Spanish school of guitar making to assemble this guitar, the French polish and the joy of working I believe are going to make this guitar truly amazing to play and to listen to.

Comments

  1. Neat marking gauges Wilson, and thanks for that link which I have marked for reading later - looks useful.

    That's interesting about the bridge affecting the vibration of the top. You put such a lot of thought into your work.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the comment, Rob!

    I do try to do more than some research on guitar acoustics, anything to help me build a better guitar!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979


So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice


Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…

The Guitar's Scale Length, Your Hand Size and a Chart

I will cite the case of a marvelous concert player, a Japanese lady who is barely 5 ft. tall and with hands that are real miniatures. She plays a 664 mm 10 string guitar and demanded that I build this guitar with an action 1 mm higher than normal, which she handles with incredible ease. This is serious study!


Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990




Here is the hand size and scale length that I found on the forum at delcamp.com.

Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 250+ 664mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 230 to 250 656mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 210 to 230 650mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 190 to 210 640mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 170 to 190 630mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of below 170 615mm scale length



Here is my flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Here is my hand properly placed on the flexible imperial/metric ruler.




Today my reach from little finger to thumb is 240mm. I should more or less be playing a…