10 Tips for French Polishing

Look, listen and do, never ask why! Kennosuke Hayakawa, master Japanese carpenter I started learning the technique of French polishing about seventeen years ago, I watched Ron Fernandez's video, French Polishing for Guitarmakers, 2.0 ., followed his instructions to the letter on a guitar and was stunned by the beauty of the finish! Before I purchased this video I had used several well known varnishes and various recipes gleaned from wood working magazines on my guitars, the resulting finishes were very disappointing. Yes, French, or English polishing, depending on who you learn from, can be a difficult technique to master, it requires much patience and many hours at the workbench practicing with shellac, alcohol and wadding wrapped with a piece of cloth.  A guitar back after the second session of French polishing Tip #1: Practice, practice, practice! Tip #2: Don't be afraid to experiment! Try different grades of shellac, try a 1lb cut versus and 2lb cut, use olive oil as a lubr

The Prize Guitar for the 2023 Twisted Spruce Music Foundation Guitar Competition, Part One

The guitar before being an instrument was a tree and in it the birds sang. The wood knew music long before it was a guitar. Atahulpha Yupanqui, guitarist and folk singer This year's prize guitar is a double top classical guitar! I finished assembling the body to the neck early in April and the guitar is waiting for bindings, fretboard, bridge, frets and a French polish finish. The top of this guitar is reclaimed old growth Redwood, sequoia sempervirens , is considered to be the tallest tree in the world, there are redwood trees at Humboldt State Park in California that are over four hundred feet tall!  Master luthier José Oribe began using redwood tops for some of his guitars 1967, and at one point over 80% of his orders were for redwood. Redwood lumber is strong, very stable dimensionally, it's voice has the warmth of cedar with the clarity of spruce. The back and sides are California Laurel/Oregon Myrtle, an evergreen hardwood tree that ranges from Southwestern Oregon southwa

Classical Guitar Bracing, Some Thoughts

Our observations have led us to a conclusion that some readers may find surprising: Specific elements of brace design, in and of themselves, are not all that important! One has only to look at the myriad designs employed on great guitars to recognize that there is no design secret that will unlock the door to world-class consistency. A great maker will probably build a great guitar no matter what brace designed is used. William R. Cumpiano, Guitarmaking, Tradition and Technology,  1987 There are many opinions among classical guitar makers and guitarists, especially the guitarists, on how a classical guitar top should be braced. The guitar makers base their opinions upon their experience using different patterns, and most guitarists opinions are based upon guitars that have played or what they have been told by a maker with a desire to sell more of his or her guitars.  So, what bracing pattern is best? An Antonio de Torres Jurado style seven strut fan brace? A Greg Smallman style lattic

Classical Guitars, Sustainability of Tonewoods

The industry has done too good of a job convincing the vast majority of guitar players that high end acoustic guitars must be made from rosewood, mahogany, ebony and spruce. And yeah, they work-but other woods work also. Chris Martin IV, Martin Guitars The traditional wood choices for classical guitar making were largely dictated by what was available in 19th century Spain, which is not a particularly useful criteria for choosing wood in 21st century England. Martin Woodhouse, luthier Sustainability of tone woods is topic that no classical guitarist wants to talk to me about, they change the subject or simply walk away. Many woodworkers I have met tell me that subject is taboo. No one wants to admit that there will be a day when all the wonderful old growth lumber that we have come to love will no longer be available.  I grew up with the lumber industry, it put me through college and employed many members of my extended family, but I watched feller-butchers and loggers clear the 50,000

Making Spokeshaves

There are times when I wonder if making my own hand tools is worth the time and effort, making a tool means time away from guitar making, but if the tool can increase my efficiency in building a guitar, then that time is not wasted. That is a very unromantic view towards making my own hand tools, it is very rewarding when the tool I made works right when I finish. I admit that over the last thirty years I have made several hand tools that didn’t work, those got tossed into the wood stove, a factory made tool was bought so I could get back to the work at hand. I decided to make a pair of very small spokeshaves using blades purchased from Hock Tools, the bottom shave has a California laurel body, the middle shave is cherry and I used East Indian rosewood for the wear plates. The big shave is one I made about twenty years ago using Eastern dogwood and a Lee Valley blade. After making these little shaves I am tempted to make a pair from rosewood for more heft and mass. The two little shave

Classical Guitar Festival Experiences, Part 4

“So, Wilson, what got you into guitar making?”  “I grew up with the guitar. A guitar was always around or someone who could play it. How about you?” “I love trees. Every guitar I make is an homage to trees!” “Wow! If you love trees so much then you must really love a forest!” “The forest?! What the hell does a forest have to do with trees?!”

Something to Think About

  “Forests are of great value from their effect upon the climate, making it more equable. They tend to cause abundant and needed rainfall and to preserve the moisture when fallen, releasing it to the rivers gradually, and thus preventing abnormal freshets and extreme droughts. By absorbing and parting with heat slowly they cause the changes of temperature to be less sudden than in the open country. They temper the heat, and they serve as a protection, or "wind-break," to adjacent land. Trees, with other vegetation, are essential to the purification of the air. All this is in addition to the obvious uses of supplying fuel and wood for an almost endless variety of purposes, not to speak of the value of trees for shade and as features of the landscape. The reckless rate at which the forests of the United States are being destroyed is becoming a serious matter, not merely because of depriving wood-workers of the materials with which to work, but because of the influence of the fo