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I Got a Ray Iles 6 inch Froe for Christmas!

Those early shake-makers were experts with the froe...

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1952


I like to split guitar bracing material from billets of spruce or Douglas fir, usually I use a 2 inch wide registered mortice chisel for the task, but the chisel doesn't work as well as a froe.

During this past summer and fall I bugged a friend of mine to weld a piece of steel pipe to an old file I have to make a small froe for the shop.

Either he was too busy or I was, the froe never got made.

Then, lo and behold, there on the Tools For Woodworking website were three different sized froes made by Ray Iles! I emailed the web address to my wife and told her which froe to order for me, I was so very excited!



On Christmas morning I unwrapped a wonderful present, a six inch Ray Iles froe.


It's a nice froe, very much the length I need...


and today I cut up a length of a hickory pick axe handle, chucked it into the lathe and made a new handle for the froe.

Why sho…

Framing the New Workshop, Days 8 and 9

For most people, setting up a shop for the first time is largely a matter of adapting to the existing facilities.

Hideo Kamimoto, Complete Guitar Repair, 1975

I have so much work to do!



Today, I finished nailing down the roof sheathing and got some trim up on the fascia. I would have put up more trim, but the local lumber yard had nothing but junky 1x8 pine, I was a little disgusted by the selection.

The day started out partly sunny, the temperature was about 16 degrees Fahrenheit, by noon the temperature dropped to 12 degrees and a breeze came up making it too cold to work. Yes, there was a time in my life when I would framing in subzero temperatures, I work for myself now, no point in making work a brutal thing.

As I write this post, it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit with heavy snow. The forecast calls for subzero temperatures tonight with up to one foot of snow!





After getting the rafters up and into place, day seven, I got the sub-fascia up on the north and south elevations...


...the s…

Framing the New Workshop, Day Five

Wall framing includes assembling of vertical and horizontal members that form outside and inside walls of a structure.

Willis H. Wagner, Modern Carpentry, 1992



Yesterday was Day Five of framing the new workshop.


I replaced the header over the door with a longer header, the door opening was too close to the east wall, I was afraid that you would bump into the wall when you entered the building. The opening was shifted to the west.

Then it was a matter of nailing up sheets of OSB shearing to keep the building from falling down.

I need to buy some 3/8" thick exterior grade plywood to cover the OSB and finish the exterior, but I want to prime and paint it before I put it up. The temperature didn't get above 24 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday, and there was a good breeze which made it feel even colder! Not the warmest day for swinging a hammer or for painting!




It is nice to walk through the door opening instead of squeezing through wall studs!



This shop will have a bank of five uppe…

Framing the New Workshop, Day One

When you work primarily with hand tools you don't need a lot of space or infrastructure.

Jim Tolpin, The New Traditional Woodworker, 2010


I am building an new workshop/studio on the exact spot and using the same footprint as the old garage that I dismantled early this month.

Working in the upstairs of our house has been a great joy, but I need to move on to another space and allow my wife and I to enjoy our house as a house again.

The original garage was built in 1964, (I was born in 1962!) by some very capable carpenters, as I discovered when I took the building down, but it had no real foundation and no look outs on the eave elevations which was causing the roof to sag.



After searching on the Internet, I found some wonderful plans for a shed building which I have adapted to build my own space. Those of you who have been following my blog know that I was a framing/finishing carpenter for many years, it is nice to frame again, but at my own speed without nail guns and air compre…

Conifer Species

The trees of the West are a benign presence, mighty and healing...

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

The postage stamp that I live on has only seven species of conifer trees and one species barely grows big enough to be called a tree. The Continental Divide is about seven miles as the crow flies from our meadow, we don't get the howling winds that you find when you live closer to the Divide, but the winds do limit the height of trees and since this is the east side of the Rocky Mountains we live in a rain shadow. Not much moisture makes it to the ground.


Twice a day, I walk our dogs across our neighbor's property to Forest Service land and we squeeze through a narrow gulch to reach the upper slopes. In this gulch there is enough moisture to allow white fir and Engelmann spruce to grow. The tall tree in this photo is an Engelmann spruce, one of five that live in this gulch.


Ponderosa pine live on the very fringes of the gulch, the scientific name…

The New Tool Shed

All sheds take longer to build than you may think.

David and Jean Stiles, Sheds, 2006




The new tool shed is finished - siding, roofing, windows and doors. It is 10'x12' in size, just barely big enough to hold what it needs to hold.

With the exception of the sub flooring, roof rafters and metal roofing, all material used to build this shed was recycled from the old workshop that I dismantled.



It's a shed because I didn't want to spend the time making a "standard" roof and I had a limited budget for materials. No lookouts on the "gable" sides, no soffit, no fascia boards, just a simple building to store tools and some lumber.



The sashes are made out of redwood, and yes, I know I didn't clean my fingerprints from the glass! It's an outbuilding, not Independence Hall, it doesn't have to be perfect. The wind and the snow this winter will clean the glass!



I made three shelves from 2x10 construction grade white fir boards and a workbench from 2…

Ponderosa Pines, the Morning Walk

Of all the pines, this one gives forth the finest music to the winds.

John Muir, naturalist












Now, to work.

Dismantling the Old Workshop

Many established guitar makers began their careers in humble surroundings; working in cramped conditions without much light, and lacking basic items like a sturdy workbench or a warm room. If your enthusiasm is great, then almost any obstacle can be overcome.

Roy Courtnall, Making Master Guitars, 1993


I dismantled the "garage".

It was a simple 14'x20'building, framed in 2x4's, covered with 1/4" thick exterior grade plywood with no foundation, just a dirt floor. The wall bottom plates sat on simple cinder blocks or on the ground and most of those plates were starting to rot. The original owner had the building constructed about 1966 to protect his Cadillac when he and his wife lived here. When we bought the place five years ago, instead of dismantling the garage I framed a floor in it and added a double door for additional light. It was a good storage space for tools, firewood, chainsaws, etc., but the time has come to take down the building.


There are enough…

Late Summer, Early Fall and a Spruce/Ziricote Classical Guitar

Thus begins what many residents feel is the Southern Rockies' most beautiful time of the year - Indian summer.

Audrey DeLella Benedict, The Southern Rockies, 1991


It is sunny today with bluebird skies highlighting the golds and oranges of the aspen trees.

Fog covered our little hollow all day yesterday, the sun came out at exactly 4:45pm and shone upon us for fifteen minutes, then the clouds came back.



The aspens and ferns in the backyard...



A few wildflowers are blooming, like this harebell...


Our little flower garden is going to seed...



I dropped six ponderosa pine on our property last week for firewood and fire mitigation, as you can see I have much work to do splitting and stacking the firewood.


This is the latest guitar on the bench, a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado style guitar, with a Colorado Engelmann spruce top...



and ziricote back and sides.

I am in the process of pore filling, later this week I will start the French polish.

It has an incredibly loud tap tone, it will be wond…

I Made a Wooden Toothing Plane

In the days before the belt sander, a cabinetmaker also used a toothing plane when smoothing such heavily figured woods as curly and bird's-eye maple.

Michael Dunbar, Restoring, Tuning & Using Classic Woodworking Tools, 1989


I bought several toothing blades to use in my No.3 and No.5 Stanley planes to plane some "lower" grade East Indian rosewood back and sides. The irons work, but I have to be aware of the cutting depth of the iron, grain tear out is still possible using a toothed iron in a standard plane.

At the time I made this plane, I couldn't find any decent wooden toothing planes for sale on the internet. That's a good enough reason to make time to build one.



Following and adapting the plans for the "sandwich technique" found in Wooden Planes and How to Make Them, by David G. Perch and Robert S. Lee, which you can buy here, I started with a piece of 3x3 inch oak I had in my wood cache.



I ripped the sides from the main stock on a table saw, th…

Miter Joints in Guitar Making

The object of using this joint, which is constructively one of the weakest used in joinery, is that moulded surfaces that have to be changed in direction shall not be stopped abruptly nor continued in unsuitable curves.

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902


Miter joints in classical guitar making are purely decorative.

Most joints are butt joints. The sides are joined to the heel of the neck in slots, a scarf joint is used to make the head/neck union, some makers use a fancy "V" joint for that union. Click here to read more about the "V" joint.



The only place where I use a miter joint is where the bindings meet the end graft.




The binding runs over the top of the end graft...




...and a miter joint is used to join the side binding purfling to the purfling in the end graft.

As you can see in this photo, the bindings are butted together. Some makers use a scarf joint to join the ends of the binding.

Fancy binding and purfling schemes don't make a guitar sound…

Making Saw Handles

The saw cannot be classified with any other tool.

Paul N. Hasluck, The Handyman's Book, 1903



I inherited my grandfather's Warranted Superior crosscut panel saw quite some time ago - it is twenty inches long, 10 points per inch, the original handle must have disappeared on some worksite accident in the 1920's (he died in 1952, ten years before I was born). "Pop", my mother and her siblings always referred to him as such, made a replacement handle for it from a piece of oak board. He liked the saw well enough that he used a punch to punch an "R", for Rufus, his first name, into the blade near the handle. Just look it the photo, you will see it. My grandfather, I was told, was an excellent carpenter and when he could afford it he bought the very best tools, or he traded for them. This saw lived in workshop out back of the house when I was young, it was used only to cut down that year's Christmas tree.

A couple of years ago, I removed the original handl…