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Showing posts from March, 2014

Seven String Classical Guitar: Bending Curly Maple and Attaching the Sides to the Top

Bending wood by hand to the gentle curves of a guitar silhouette is an unusual skill, one that the guitar builder shares with few other wood workers.

Charles Fox, guitar maker, 1998

Some days it seems that no matter how hard you work you just can't get ahead. That was my experience last week.

Gluing one side to the heel block

Sorry, no photos of bending the curly maple. I will say that this curly big leaf maple that I purchased from The Wood Well, click here for the website, bent like a dream. Bad simile, but I have never had a wood bend so easily, it was even easier than California laurel!

Click here for a great discussion on bending sides.

When I started out in this thing called lutherie twenty years ago, every person and book that I consulted on bending wood said to steer away from curly maple. This is the third guitar that I have made from curly maple, this is great wood to work with, though a little difficult to plane well.

I have yet to work with curly rock maple, but somet…


We're supposed to make mistakes...

Billy Joel, You're Only Human, 1985

I made a mistake.

If I had followed through and completed the work I would have looked like a rank amateur who didn't know how to read a measuring tape. I do know how to read a tape, I was lead carpenter/foreman on over ten residential homes and I always checked and rechecked every measurement. I use to find layout mistakes that the architect made on the blue prints.

Where I grew up, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

For some reason, when I was first laying out the project I am speaking of, the number "12" was instead of "12.5". I caught this error on a piece of wood that was going into the project and I fixed it and fixed its relationship to the whole.

Problem is I forgot to look for "12" else where in the project.

Lassen Peak from Kings Creek Meadows, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Talk about getting stuck in La-La land.

The project was taken apart this …

Wood, Hand Tools and Accuracy

You can get so exact that you immobilize yourself with accuracy. I joke about it. You buy this square, and you pay $400 for it and it's accurate to a 10,000th of an inch. Then all you've got to do is get yourself a job with Boeing building 747's and it's great. It's want you want, but it's not a woodworker's measurement and it never will be.

James Krenov, Making Music with Planes, 1997

I had an argument with a friend who is a highly talented furniture maker about accuracy in woodworking. I quoted the above statement and guess what he pulled out of his apron pocket? Yep, a square that was accurate to a 10,000th of an inch. He got a little sore at me when I laughed at his square and then I asked him, "Really? Why be that accurate? Your breath on that piece of wood will cause it to swell that much in the blink of an eye!"

It took a month before he would talk to me again.

I get very impatient with people who ask me how I can be accurate with hand tool…

Making a Plane Iron into a Toothing Iron

Something draws us to imperfection-"that hint of ugliness without which nothing works," as Edgar Degas is supposed to have said.

Jonathan Hale, The Old Way of Seeing, 1994

The idea for making a regular plane iron into a toothing iron I first saw in Guitar Making, Tradition and Technology, by Cumpiano and Natelson. I had always dismissed it because I am good at thicknessing a piece of wood.

I ruined a good four inch saw file doing this!

I reconsidered using a toothing plane after reading this post on Finely Strung. Christopher Martyn makes some wonderful instruments, so I reasoned "why not try it?"

I bought another Hock Tool blade for my No.3 Stanley plane, marked it for teeth, filed away at it and got it razor sharp.

This is the reason why I thought I would try a toothing blade--fiddle back maple. The seven string classical guitar that I am making has curly maple back and sides, the last thing I want is tearout.

Yes, when I sharpen my plane iron for this task I pu…

Seven String Classical Guitar - Julia's New Guitar

Tomás was frustrated by the guitar's limited bass range, so he asked José Ramirez III to build a guitar with two additional bass strings, giving him the freedom to play most bass lines in their original configuration.

Howard Bass, José Tomás: Memory and Legacy, 2012

Last year, I made a guitar for Julia, lead singer of Ode to the Marionette. It was a redwood/Indian rosewood guitar, small bodied with a short string length of 635mm. She loved it so much that she asked me to make her a seven string flamenco guitar.

I am excited to make her a new guitar, especially a seven string because it is surprising how much more music can be played on a guitar with an extra bass string. Check out the video at the end of this post.

Julia has small hands and to make it comfortable for her to play this guitar I am making it with a 635mm string length, a standard classical guitar has a string length of 650mm, so this requires making the entire guitar smaller so it doesn't look out of proportion …