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New Projects: Hand Held Router for Guitar Bindings and Low Angle Jointer Plane

Many players do not know much about their guitar except that it is a nice wood box on which to make sounds.

Lee F. Ryan, The Natural Classical Guitar, 1984

I swore I wouldn't start any new projects.

I need to complete the French polish on three guitars and to make and install a bridge on a copy of a 1839 guitar by Rene Lacote.

So why did I start these projects?

A walnut gauge, a California laurel router/scratch gauge, and a walnut low angle jointer plane.

I have had it with using an amped up, revved up electric router to rout out the channels for bindings. The process is loud, messy, nerve wracking, I am sure that it has an affect on the potential voice of the guitar.

For me, power tools work best when I am doing carpentry, like building a house, or fixing my porch, but I have decided to use as few power tools as possible when it comes to making a guitar.

I know that the great masters-Antonio Torres, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez-didn't have, or use, Bosch or DeWalt brand routers in their shops. I want to do the same thing.

After a little research, I found a posting by the luthier Robbie O'Brien about when he attend a guitar making course given by the great maker, Jose Romanillos. Click here to see the post and a photo of a marking/router gauge that he used to make the binding channels/rabbets.

Today, I set about making several marking/router gauges to experiment with and to use on a copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar that still needs its bindings.

I had some eastern black walnut, I love using walnut to make marking gauges with, but I discovered that using kiln dried eastern black walnut isn't the same as using air dried black walnut that came from the banks of the Sacramento River in northern California.

California Claro walnut has a different texture, smell and the most amazing tactile feed back when you touch it. And once it is tapped for a screw the threads remain. The threads all tore out with the eastern black walnut, even if I flooded the hole with CA glue before I tapped it. I threw away two fences and got a third one to work.

Then I got out some California laurel, which had been air dried and proceed to have a most enjoyable time planing, cutting and chiseling this wonderful wood also known as pepper wood.

Tomorrow, I am going to buy a new tap. I think the ones I have are getting a little dull.

I just received a copy of Spanish Guitar Making, by Jose Romanillos, and found out that he uses a low angle, 32 degrees, jointer plane to shoot the edges of his tops and backs.

I thought I would set out to make similar plane, but one with a 38 degree angle. Click here to see Derek Cohen's strike block plane.

Stayed tuned, I'll post more about this plane.

I got the 1816 Martinez copy strung up last week and I forgot how loud this little guitar is! It just booms! And it has a most wonderful singing quality. I look forward to selling it so it can be heard by people other than me and my wife!

Here is must have book if you want to know how Jose Romanillos makes his famous guitars.

As I write this, Maestro Romanillos is 82 years old and it is reported that he has some health problems. I suggest you buy this book now, though a little pricey at 130 Euros plus shipping, but once this book goes out of print I expect to see used copies sell from between $400 to $1000!

The website for this book is here. Maestro Romanillos autographed my copy!

Enjoy your week and remember, Hand tools rule the school!


  1. Just want to say how much I appreciate your wonderful work and willingness to share your expertise in this excellent blog. thank you.


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