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Ten Years of Blogging - A Couple of Thoughts

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain, American writer

I realized the other day that I started this blog ten years ago!

My first post was on September 2, 1997.

My wife was the one who encouraged me to start a blog, she thought it was a good venue for me to become known as a guitar maker, to sell my guitars and to connect with others in the woodworking world.

I have met several wonderful people who are professional woodworkers through the blog, but I am still waiting for my first guitar sale because of the blog. All of my sales have resulted from people actually seeing and playing my guitars, either at guitar festivals, lectures I give at universities, or when players stop by my shop because someone told them I make wonderful guitars.

The Internet has done much to disseminate woodworking information, it's a little scary to see how much information there is online! When I started woodworking, if there was anything that I wanted to know I had to go to a library …

The Impractical Guitar Maker, Part 1

...some contemporary luthiers refuse quite bluntly to deal with anything that has the slightest scientific "flavor" to it.

Gila Eban, luthier, 1990

The last couple of days I have been leafing through the James Krenov trilogy, The Cabinetmaker's Notebook, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking and The Impractical Cabinetmaker. As a classical guitar maker, I really don't need these books anymore, as I have said before, I make guitars, not cabinets.

Squares, rectangles and triangles don't interest me, shapes that are based on the human body do.

I keep Mr. Krenov's books because of all the little bits of advice on how to enjoy life and to see the world around you that he hid and tucked away in paragraphs about dovetails, sharpening, woodworking education, etc.

I am not a big fan of his writing style, a little too verbose and perhaps too sentimental, so these days I scan the pages looking for words that are familiar and excite me like spokeshave, friend, and curved edges

Starting a Classical Guitar Rosette Design

A friend of mine is a wonderful guitar builder. His habits are almost opposite of mine. If you look at his workbench, you will wonder how in the world anyone can ever work there. Yet he makes these world-famous guitars, coveted instruments.

James Krenov, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, 1977

Bluebird skies this morning in this part of Colorado, but no black bears, moose or elk hanging out around our place, only wildflowers are making any noise.

I did complete a project today, a blending board for my wife. I posted that on Instagram, you can check it out there, but what I want to share this afternoon was an attempt to do some work in my studio.

Last year I purchased a wonderful piece of curly Claro walnut from Northwest Timber which I re-sawed into guitar back and sides. The pieces weren't big enough to make a full size classical guitar so I decided to use the wood to make a close copy of a guitar by Antonio de Torres, his SE117 guitar.


It is a three piece back with maple fillets.


T…

The Guitar Maker's Backsaw for Cutting Fret Slots

The overall correct process of placing frets in a guitar fingerboard ("fretting"), is far less straight forward than most people believe. A perfect job, for perfect playability, requires some careful preparation.

Anthony Lintner, guitar maker



Twenty five years ago, I bought my first fretting saw from Luthiers Mercantile. It was made in Germany and had a straight handle on it, basically it was a gent's saw.

First thing I did to the saw was to take off the straight handle and make a nice handle for it from some wonderful Claro walnut that came from a Cottonwood Creek bottom wild grown walnut. I used it to cut fret slots in dulcimer and classical guitar fret boards. The saw served me well for several years until I made the mistake of cutting some brass with it.

Well, I never did get around to sharpening the thing.

The blade is .015 of an inch thick with the teeth set at .022-.023 of an inch. I think it has 22 teeth per inch. It is a great saw and I was very sad to see that…

Sunday Blog Post

Look, listen and do, but never ask why.

Kenosuke Hayakawa, Japanese wood worker.


Friday is the only day I get to be in the workshop. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to take a day job to cover our bills and with this job I have to work four ten hour days, thus Friday is really the only day I get to myself. Weekends are just that, trying to catch up on yard and house work along with having some fun.

Don't worry, by mid-November I will be back in the studio workshop cranking out guitars and capos/cejillas!



My studio workshop is a bit of a mess because I have no proper storage for the likes of fretting tools, sandpaper, wood cauls, etc., etc., many of these things make up an organized chaotic mess on the floor underneath the window, or are cached away in cardboard boxes.

To remedy this situation and help make the studio workshop look like a real studio workshop, on Fridays I have been making two sets of drawers that will support a work surface.

You won't find any do…

Antonio de Torres - Guitar Maker, Carpenter

His greatest merit is that he came up with a universally accepted guitar.

Jose Luis Romanillos, luthier



Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Antonio de Torres.

Those of us who love the classical guitar owe this man everything, he created a model of the guitar that continues to capture the hearts of true music lovers.

He really didn't do anything that hadn't already been done by other guitar makers - other makers had used larger bodies, the so-called fan bracing, domed tops, longer string lengths, all this was already known - but Torres guitars sounded different from others.

Many contemporary classical guitar makers build copies of the original Torres guitars, there are several well known classical guitarists that concertize on original Torres guitars because even after 130+ years those guitars still have wonderful voices.

Antonio de Torres apprenticed with a carpenters guild in Vera, Spain when he was 12 years and when he was 17 he was listed in the guild rolls as…

1961 Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Engelmann Spruce/Ziricote, Nearing Completion

The wood of Engelmann spruce is light-colored, relatively soft, low in resin, and sometimes contains many knots and is more valuable for pulp than for high-grade lumber. It has been used for home construction, pre-fabricated wood products, and plywood manufacture. Less commonly it is used for specialty items such as food containers, and sounding boards for violins, pianos, and guitars. Engelmann spruce is widely used for Christmas trees. Spruce beer was sometimes made from its needles and twigs and taken to prevent scurvy.

USDA Plants Database, Engelmann Spruce


I apologize for not having posted anything on this blog for a while, as all of you know life can get in the way of doing things.

The New Mexico Guitar Festival is next month, June 15-17, and I will be attending as a vendor.

Much of my time these last few weeks has been spent finishing the two guitars that I want to take to the Vendors Expo at the festival: this 1961 Hernandez y Aguado style guitar, with an Engelmann spruce top …

Workbench Tote

I do not know when the open wooden tool box came into general use.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Work Book, 1986



If you own copy of The New Traditional Woodworker, by Jim Tolpin, then perhaps you have constructed his workbench tote project.

My workbench is always a mess and now that I am getting to the finishing stage for two classical guitars, I thought I would try to mend my ways and keep a tidy bench. A workbench tote is a start in the right direction.



I held fairly close to the dimensions in Tolpin's book, but used some nice pine that was on hand (I think it is lodgepole pine, it's hard to find good ponderosa pine these days) for the sides and handle, with pine plywood for the bottom.

A carpenter by trade, I decided to build this tote in the house carpenter tradition, nothing fancy, just 45 degree miters, a table saw cut groove for the plywood...



...glue and pin nails from a trim gun to hold everything together.



The tote handle shape is a personal decision, you don&…

Building a Bridge with a Stanley No.192 Plane

The bridge of a guitar as we know it today is a relatively modern invention consolidated by Torres, although he was not the inventor.

Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, 1995


Many people don't know how much work is involved in constructing a guitar bridge, I know for most classical guitarists it is simply an anchor point for the guitar's strings.



I arch the bottom of the bridge to match the guitar sound board's doming, cut a channel for the saddle to sit in and I make a tie block for the strings.

The tie block gets covered with a piece of mother of pearl, this protects the tie block from string wear and gives the guitar a bit of bling.

Since I am making a fairly close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado bridge, the tie block is sloped towards the saddle slot, this was original done to increase the breaking angle of the strings over the bridge. This helps increase the overtones in the guitar. Compare that with a modern flamenco guitar bridge and you will see the string "br…

New Shop Made Marking/Cutting Gauge and Blog Page Template

Gauges are tools for producing lines upon the surface of wood, parallel with the edge they are used upon.

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902


I started making this gauge about a year ago, it was a rainy day project that I didn't finish until today, thus it became a snow flurry day project.


The fence and arm are walnut, the wedge is made from a 20 year old piece of ebony, the cutter was taken from a purfling cutter that I abandoned long ago.


I need to reshape the cutter's end from a knife point to a v-point, that tends to work better for cutting veneer into purfling strips.



There is another marking/cutting gauge on the tool shelf that is the standard "go to" gauge, but I wanted another gauge just for cutting veneer.


Here is my quiver of gauges, from left to right: the newest gauge, the day to day gauge, a double arm mortise gauge and a pin gauge. The mortise and pin gauges were made from Claro walnut harvested near my parents home in Northeastern California,…

In Search of the Best Finish for a Classical Guitar

You can bring the surface to a smooth sheen by rubbing the wood, with the grain, using a handful of dry spokeshave shavings - before you scoff at the idea, try it.

Drew Langsner, The Chairmaker's Workshop, 1997

The other day I consigned a cedar/Indian rosewood guitar at a guitar shop of a fairly well known guitar maker. He liked my guitars and said that I was doing "a really good job in making them", but he criticized my use of French polish.

He said "Shellac scratches too easily and it doesn't hold up well." He took one of his custom guitars off a wall hanger and showed it to me.

"Here, the way you should go is UV cured catalyzed polyester! You can finish a guitar in a day!" he boasted, "however, you have to wear a hazmat suit to enter the spray booth"

"Why would I do that?" I asked, "I have a very tiny shop and I am trying to be safe and green!"

"It's the finish we like to see these days! Looks like glass, …

On the Bench - A 1963 Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Redwood/East Indian Rosewood

To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done.

Dr. SunWolf, professor, Santa Clara University


This guitar, redwood/East Indian rosewood, is based upon a guitar that was made in the shop of Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado in 1963.

It is a little bigger bodied than the 1961 HyA style guitar that I usually make, I wanted to see if there is a difference in sound between a guitar with an eighteen and seven-eights inch body and a guitar with a nineteen inch body length. I know that is only an 1/8 of an inch difference, but I have heard guitar makers and players alike swear up and down that a larger bodied guitar, even an eighth of an inch bigger, is bigger and better sounding.


The top bracing is based on one used by Jesus Belezar, Manuel Hernandez's son-in-law, except I added one more bass brace.



I decided to use only three braces on the back, sometimes Hernandez and Aguado used four braces. Four braces tends to give the back a higher pitch…