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Showing posts from March, 2015

Making a Three Piece Guitar Back, or, When You Choose the Wrong Wood

It is important to make a nicely fitted joint.

Dean Kimball, Construction the Mountain Dulcimer, 1975


I picked up a back and side set of "wild grown" east Indian rosewood from the Woodcraft Store in Loveland, Colorado a little over a year ago. I remember that Woodcraft had advertised this wood on their website then and by the time I got around to ordering it they had sold out. I think it sold for $49.99 a set and I bought this set for $70.




Originally, I had planned to make with this rosewood was going to be simply fitted with bubinga bindings, nothing fancy, but after glueing in a bit of bubinga between the two back halves I realized my mistake. The reddish bubinga disappeared in the field of browns and olive greens.




What to do!

First thing I did was to cut the back apart with knife and straight edge, then I spent some time going through my wood cache.

Curly maple was too showy and I had already fitted out the last two guitars in maple; California laurel didn't look rig…

Junk Sitka Spruce

It seems but natural and reasonable that the woodworker should have at least an elementary knowledge and understanding of "wood", the principal material with which he works.

Herman Hjorth, Principles of Woodworking, 1930



I purchased several sticks of Sitka spruce bracing material six months ago from a well known lutherie supply (which will remain nameless, I still need to buy tonewood from them), I used one blank to make braces for one guitar and I had no problems working it.



Prep work started on the "conservatory model" - a high quality, lower cost guitar aimed at students who can't afford a $3,500 guitar - with jointing, assembling the cedar top and installing a rosette, making the neck, etc., and splitting out the Sitka spruce braces.

In the above photo you can see what happened to a brace when I gently (yes, I said gently) flexed it, it broke!

The reason it broke under light pressure is because the early growth rings are much wider than the late growth rin…

More Wooden Straightedges

A straightedge of convenient size should be made for ordinary use, and almost any kind of well-seasoned wood is suitable, mahogany and walnut being usually favored...

Bernard E. Jones, The Complete Woodworker, 190?




I posted else where on this blog about making straight edges from one of my favorite woods, California laurel.

My mistake was making only one straight edge from the laurel, I should have made two.

Why?

Two straight edges the same length are easier to check for straightness, you just put the edges together and look for a gap, then you can plane the edge straight again.

I realized I need an 18 inch straight edge, instead of a 17 inch straight edge, to check the flatness of the fret board that I recently put on a copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar.


My stock of California Laurel is getting low, what I have is reserved for another blanca guitar, I have some nice eastern black walnut on hand so it was off to the table saw.

I ripped out two slats, clamped them together and j…

Stanley No.101 "Toy" Block Plane

Fine guitars can be made without any power equipment.

Irving Sloane, Classic Guitar Construction, 1966



The other day I needed to finish shaping the braces on the back of the latest guitar, a copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar. I didn't want to fuss with my No.60 1/2 block plane...



so I pulled out this little number. I bought it about two years ago at a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors for $5 and it's been sitting on the shelf until this week.





I locked the blade in the sharpening jig and took it to a diamond stone, didn't take long to get a good edge on it.





I flattened the back using "the ruler method", the blade took on a nice polish...





and I swiped the sole across the stone a few times. Still needs a bit of work, but really, I'm using this plane to shape braces not a table top.

If it only had an adjustable mouth...


I know you can find these planes used for around $25 on the Internet, pick one up and give it a try, it's a fun little plane…