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Showing posts from May, 2015

French Polishing a Classical Guitar Bridge

Keep the pad small and flexible. Shape it to the work. Apply finish in small amounts to the outside of the pad. Use "spot finishing" technique, gliding, then applying pressure wherever you want the varnish to adhere.

Eugene Clark, Shellac and French Polishing, 1998




I know many people shy away from the art of French polishing, which I think is too bad.

Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you start to get the hang of the application technique you will find shellac to be very forgiving, e.g.,if you mess up one area, let it harden for about an hour and then fix it with some more shellac and alcohol.

And once you really start getting into French polishing you'll discover that you can build up a gloss finish in less than one half hour!




To apply shellac to this bridge I took a square piece of cloth, folded it in half and folded it once again.




Then I folded that again, note the triangle that is on top of my left index finger tip.




Here, I have transferred th…

Hernandez y Aguado, Santos Hernandez and Antonio Torres Style Guitars

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the classical guitar finds itself at a level of quality and popularity that was unimaginable even fifty years earlier.

David Tanenbaum, Perspectives on the Classical Guitar in the Twentieth Century, 2003



Happy Memorial Day! Please make today a time of remembrance!


I did spend some time in the shop today French polishing the Torres/Santos guitar that I need to deliver to its new owner soon, and I worked on a copy of the 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar.



The 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar, seen in the foreground in the above photo, needed shellac applied to its sides. A couple of more coats of shellac and I will be able to start French polishing the sides again. I say, again, because I ended up sanding down to the wood to make sure that all the pores really were filled and get rid of some piles of pumice. The finish work you do can never be good enough!

This Hy A copy has a redwood top, the top came from a redwood board that was salvaged from …

Colorado Engelmann Spruce Tonewood

The most dramatic tree of your first trip in the Rockies will almost be the Engelmann Spruce.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1953



Just arrived, two sets of Engelmann Spruce guitar tops!



I purchased these tops from Simeon Chambers out of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. I have heard good things about the tonewood his sells, so I decided to see that for myself.

Click here for his website and better yet, click here for his eBay store.




The order arrived within three days of placing it. Mr. Chambers did include four pieces of brace wood, enough I think for the transverse bars and fan bracing!

As you can see the wood is gorgeous, Mr. Chambers states that this wood is comes from trees that were killed in a forest fire back in the 1940's.

I want to pair one of these tops with curly hard maple back and sides...oh, so much work to do!








Another Way to Hold a Guitar Body with Two Holdfasts and a Box!

Without some way of holding the work, a workbench is hardly more than a table.

Scott Landis, The Workbench Book, 1987


A deadline is fast approaching and I have at least one more French polish session to do on the bearclaw Sitka spruce/granadillo guitar for Kyle Throw, an up and coming young classical guitarist in Denver, Colorado.

The trickiest part about French polishing a guitar is where the sides join the heel, you have to really smash down your polishing pad to get the shellac in the corner of the junction. And you can't work the area too much at a time or you will soften the shellac you just put down.

A bench mounted vise holds the guitar by the head stock or neck when I French polish, one problem with this is I have a limited view of that junction. Really, I can't the bench light just right to reflect off the shellac so I can see how much I am putting down.


Boards cut and ready to go!

I decided to remedy that problem today, I decided to make a guitar body holding box tha…

Making a Copy of a Miguel Rodriguez Guitar - Closing Up The Box

Every maker has his own little secret twist, only truly appreciated by the public and the aficionados.

Miguel Rodriguez, Jr. (1921-1998), master luthier, Cordoba, Spain




Ten years ago, an older friend found out that I was making classical guitars.

He invited me over to his little handmade house of reclaimed wood, it sat beneath gigantic sugar pines and incense cedars, and Lassen Volcanic National Park was only 50 feet from his back door. He said he had some wood I might be interested in, an invitation I couldn't turn down.

Beneath those sugar pines and cedars were about 100 bundles of hand split western red cedar shingles, all leftover from when he roofed his house fifteen years earlier.

He said, "Go wild and pick out what you want".

I did and now when I look back at that day, I wish I had taken more.

We all know what wishing gets us.

The guitar in the above photo is the first guitar that I have made from a pair of those cedar shakes.





The three piece back is some "…