Saturday, October 9, 2021

All Wood Double Top Classical Guitar

 Double top, or composite top, classical guitars are all the rage these days, especially among young guitarists and I decided that I would make a double top guitar. Instead of using Nomex honeycomb material as part of the composite top, I used a router to rout out channels in the top to help reduce the top's weight. I got this idea from the wonderful guitar maker, Steve Ganz, using his technique requires minimal tools and no vacuum platen to hold the top down while routing.

I saw no point in building a completely new guitar, so I took the top off of one of my guitars to conduct this experiment.


I then made the channel top...



...glued redwood veneer over the channels...


...braced the new top with my standard bracing...


and proceeded putting the guitar back together.


I put strings on it two days ago and with the cedar top is definitely louder than it was with the redwood top. Next week a friend of mine is stopping by the shop and I am going to get him to try out this guitar and get his opinion.

The point of making a composite top is to decrease the weight and improve the stiffness of the top. This top finished out around 2.6mm thick, most my normal tops finish out at 2.0mm thick, and was 15% lighter than a 2.0mm top. That means it is considerably lighter than a solid top of the same thickness!

I definitely want to try this technique again, but start from scratch and use East Indian rosewood for the back and sides.


Saturday, September 18, 2021

For Sale: European Spruce/Canadian Cypress Classical Guitar







For Sale: European Spruce/Canadian Cypress classical guitar. 

European spruce top 

Back and sides are triple laminated : cypress, birch, curly walnut. 

654mm string length

52mm wide fretboard at nut

62mm at 12th fret

59mm string spacing at bridge 

490mm body length

278mm upper bout 

245mm waist

372mm lower bout

Ebony fretboard

East Indian rosewood bridge

Schaller GrandTune tuning machines with bearings

A beautiful instrument with a gorgeous voice that is loud and projects, classical guitarist Alfredo Muro declares “it is a marvelous guitar!” 

Please contact me for more information. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

My Latest Guitar

Those of you who follow my blog may know that I am a sponsor of the Twisted Spruce Music Foundation Symposium and Competition, this symposium brings together composers and young guitarists to create new repertoire for the classical guitar. Again, I am donating to the Foundation a high end handcrafted classical guitar which will be presented to the winner of their 2021 Classical Guitar competition.

This guitar's top is salvaged old growth redwood, the back and sides are East Indian rosewood that was milled in Milan, Italy twenty years ago, the neck is Honduran mahogany with a Macassar ebony fretboard, its string/scale length is 648mm/25.5inches, it sports Waverly Sloane tuning machines, the bindings are double thick ebony and the bridge is East Indian rosewood.

I just started French polishing the guitar with blonde shellac and expect to have it completed by mid October.

My young friend, Gwenyth, who is currently studying classical guitar with Manuel Barrueco at the Peabody Institute, was kind enough to stop by my study and try out this guitar while it was still "in the white". It is always a delight to hear Gwenyth play! She played on this guitar for nearly two hours and said, " I congratulate the guitarist who wins this! It is an amazing guitar!" It has a wonderful voice, it is loud with wonderful projection with incredibly clear treble strings, and is very even across all strings! This guitar will continue to improve and grow as it is played! I posted another video of Gwenyth on social media and got a wonderful response from Laura Husbands (adjunct faculty of Guitar at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver), she said, "What a beautiful guitar!"

Here is a short video of Gwenyth and my latest guitar! Enjoy!





Friday, July 30, 2021

Classical Guitar Festival Experiences, Part 2

“Is that who I think it is?” I asked Frank as one of the vendors walked by his table.

“Yes, it is.” he replied.

“I should go over to their table and try out one of their guitars.”

“They make double tops” Frank said with some disdain. He continued to play my guitar, I kept quiet and avoided that table all week.

Frank then launched into “Muneira”, the finale of Federico Mompou’s Suite Compostelana, his playing was furious and wonderful, I had no problem hearing the guitar in the cacophony of other guitarists playing other vendor guitars in hopes of finding one that was truly great. 

When Frank finish the piece, he looked up, smiled at me and proclaimed, “I could play a full concert on this guitar tonight!”

“Well, why don’t you?”

“The powers-that-be do not seem to think I am fit enough to be on the marquee!”

Later that afternoon, Frank began to sing, his assistant accompanied him on a guitar and a hush fell over the entire space as everyone listened to his wonderful voice.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

What a Concert Classical Guitarist Says About My Guitars

 I have had the pleasure of playing the magnificent guitars made by the luthier Wilson Burnham. The first impression that one perceives is the beautiful and fine aesthetics of his meticulous craftsmanship, but the most important thing for a concert guitarist is to be able to reveal all the expression, dynamics and musicianship that only the fine instruments can offer us and  without a doubt that is what we find in Wilson’s guitars: balance, elegance, color, volume, dynamics and a fast response, a sound that flies, catches and embraces not only the player but also the audience. An ideal guitar for the professional soloist and also for the serious student. Highly recommended!

Alfredo Muro

Concert Guitarist




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Classical Guitar Festival Experiences , Part 1

A couple years back, I was a vendor at an international guitar festival and in the first minutes of the opening day a gentleman approached my table and began looking at two western red cedar/East Indian rosewood guitar I had made. He complimented how they looked, then took one from its stand and played it. After several minutes of playing he tried the other cedar topped guitar and when he was finished with that one he asked me for prices, I told him that both were $3000. His eyes got big and asked “Really?” He returned the guitar to its stand and said, “I will be back!” Fifteen minutes later he returned with a friend and I immediately recognized his friend who was well known East coast classical guitar maker. The friend didn’t introduce himself and made no attempt to acknowledge my existence, and sat down opposite the gentleman who was already playing the first guitar he tried. 
“What do you think?”, the gentleman asked his friend.
“What is the price of the guitar?”, the friend asked.
“$3000.”
“Play the other one for me.”
The gentleman got up, got the second guitar and began to play it.
“Well, what do you think?”
“This guitar is more open sounding than the previous guitar. What is the price?”
“The same. Should I buy it?”
“No. They are too cheap.” The guitar maker immediately got up and walked away.
The gentleman sat in the chair holding the guitar randomly picking notes while looking at the floor. He rose from the chair, put the guitar back in the stand, looked at me with a shoulder shrug and walked away.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Today’s Work


 



I am making this guitar for the 2021 Twisted Spruce Music Foundation Symposium and Competition. It has a salvaged old growth redwood top, East Indian rosewood back and sides and will be outfitted with an ebony fretboard on the mahogany neck. The sides are laminated with old growth redwood to match the top, laminated sides make for a stiffer rim than a regular side. The sides were laminated with epoxy and the help of a Roarockit Thin Air Press luthier bag and clamped to an internal mold. The sides ares attached to the top with blocks of Spanish cedar and hot hide glue from Tools For Woodworking

Monday, May 31, 2021

My Latest Guitar - European Spruce/Canadian Cypress, Available Late June 2021

My latest guitar has a European Spruce top, Canadian Cypress back and sides, Honduran Mahogany neck, Macassar Ebony fret board and bindings and an East Indian Rosewood bridge. Scale length is 654mm and the fret board a 20th fret. Body length is 490mm, body depth at heel is 100mm, body depth at end block is 106mm. Width at nut is 52mm, width at 12th fret is 62mm, string spacing at bridge is 59.5mm.

I completed the French polish last week and will start the final rub out on June 7, 2021, the guitar will be set up with strings the week of June 14, 2021.





I used buttonlac shellac to French polish this guitar, buttonlac is a tougher version of shellac and was once used to coat bowling alley lanes! If the shellac is tough enough to stand up to the abuse of a bowling ball, it should withstand use by a guitarist!






The bindings are Macassar ebony and are doubled up, meaning I used two strips of ebony to make a wider than usual binding for the guitar. This is a technique that was popularized by the luthier Art Overholtzer of Chico, California.


The sides are triple laminated, the exterior layer is cypress and the two inner layers are beech and maple, and this creates very stiff sides, a stiff rim gives the guitar more projection. The back is also triple laminated with the same woods, cypress exterior with inner beech and maple veneers, this also helps with the guitar's projection and greatly reduces the chance that the back will split due to neglect.



The neck head stock before the top was attached, the veneer is East Indian rosewood.



The guitar will be fitted with Schaller "Grand Tune" tuning machines which sport ebony buttons, black rollers with metal bearings for effortless and accurate tuning. 


If you are interested in purchasing this guitar, please contact me at highcountrylutherie@gmail.com 





Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A Basic Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar - Another Look

I was looking at a blog post of mine from eight years ago, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised and saw that I have made a few changes in my tool kit. Here are some of the changes and my current recommendations for someone who wants to make their first guitar.

I still recommend purchasing or borrowing one of the following books on guitar construction, but choose only one! Pick one book and make a guitar using that book and that book only! Using more that one book at a time will do nothing but confuse you! I speak from experience! Once you complete your first guitar then purchase other books.


Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson

or

Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall


You can skip buying a book and find a guitar making course here in the United States or aboard. There are many such courses available today that weren't available when I started this journey thirty years ago.

These books by Roy Underhill are still recommended reading:

The Woodwright's Shop

The Woodwright's Companion

The Woodwright's Workbench

The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far more complicated than any joint you will use in making a guitar. 

A modern classical guitar is made up of butt joints and one scarf joint. Yes, there is the "V" joint to join headstock to neck shaft which requires much more patience and experience. You will do some inlay with the rosette and rout out a few rabbets for the purfling and binding, but there are no complicated joints, unless you join the neck to the body with a sliding dovetail or make a "V" joint to join headstock to neck shaft. 

I think it is easier to build a guitar than to build a Federal highboy.

The very first thing to do is  BUILD YOURSELF A DECENT WORK BENCH! Build something basic and sturdy with a flat top!

There is a plethora of information on the Internet about how to build a work bench, so much so it's a little mind boggling! It seems that many wood workers would rather make work benches than anything else.

I recommend making a work bench similar to the one in Underhill's, The Woodwright's Apprentice. It is simple, goes together quickly and I have been using that same bench for the last twenty years! If you want to, build yourself a Roubo bench, or a Nicholson English bench, which I think is the best bench ever designed; or make a Shaker style bench. Whatever bench you chose, just make it!

In my previous post on a basic tool kit,  I suggested looking for vintage tools at local tool swaps, flea markets and antique stores. I don't say that anymore, unless you are willing to spend the time and effort to restore these tools and if you don't want to do all that work, I suggest buying new tools, especially hand planes. 

The hand planes that are made and sold by Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley are exceptional tools that are ready to use right out of the box. Yes, they are expensive, but they will save you hours of frustration of trying to restore and set up a vintage hand plane, and if you buy a Lie-Nielsen plane and you don't like it, you can sell it on eBay for as much as you originally paid for it!

If you do want to restore vintage tools, there are several books available on how to restore and keen vintage tools, not to mention the articles available on the Internet. 


Here is a basic list of tools that I use to build a classic guitar. And this is not a definitive list, just a place to start. By the best you can afford!

No. 62 low angle plane (highly recommended!)

No. 5 plane

No. 7 plane 

Low Angle block plane 

Lee Valley Spokeshaves, flat and round 

8 inch drawknife

1/16 inch 

1/8 inch chisel

1/4 inch chisel

1/2 inch chisel

3/4 inch chisel 

Marking gauge,  shop made or purchased

Cutting gauge, shop made or purchased

Sloyd knife, 3 1/4 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #106)

Card scrapers

Classic guitar tuner drill jig, with 13/32 inch drill. This is a must! Get the one from Stew-Mac. There are several other jig available.

Rosette and Sound hole cutter, available from from LMII or purchase an attachment for a Dremel router from StewMac

Dremel router, variable speed

Razor saws 

Fine tooth crosscut dovetail saw

12-14 inch crosscut back saw

20 inch rip panel saw

20 inch crosscut panel

Fret saw, buy the best and get the Luthier Saw from BadAxe Tool Works! I don't recommend any other fret saw, most aren't properly sharpened and you will have a hard time cutting slots in an ebony fret board!

Bow, or Turning Saw, available from Tools For Working Wood, or make your own. TFWW has parts to make one.

Dial Caliper, buy or make your own

Hand held electric drill, don't buy an impact drill!

Dead Blow Fret Hammer, from Stew-Mac

Diamond fret crowning file, from Stew-Mac

Side cutters for cutting frets, from Stew-Mac or LMI

Nut slotting files

Bending iron, buy an electric iron and spot thermometer from Stew-Mac

A Shop Fox vise, available from Grizzly, Stew-Mac and Garret Wade

Clamps-cam clamps (which you can make yourself), bridge clamp, C-clamps, long reach C-clamps, spring clamps, clamps, clamps, clamps. I use a vacuum pump and vacuum clamp to glue bridges onto guitar tops now.

I know I have missed some tools, but look at the tool lists in the book your purchase. 

Don't forget to join the Guild of American Luthiers. You can learn much from their publication, American Lutherie. You can learn so much from them that your head will swim and you will get confused!




And remember!


Try not, do or do not! There is no try. 

Yoda


 



Monday, April 19, 2021

Shaping a Classical Guitar Neck - My Latest Concert Grand Guitar

 




My wife and I took last week off for a quick get-away from the dreadful Denver 'burbs and now a new week begins back in the work shop. 

I carved this neck two weeks ago and today the goal was to finish shaping and sanding all the surfaces that a guitar player's thumb will be resting on. My guitar necks have a flattened "D" profile, in my opinion this profile is more comfortable, therefore more ergonomic that a standard "D" shape. The human thumb is not shaped to ride along a fully rounded surface, a flatter surface is more comfortable.



The heel is shaped in the manner that the Jose Ramirez III guitar shop used back in the 1950's and 1960's, no exaggerated dip and scoop, just a simple arc.

The profile gauge is to make sure that I get both sides of the heel shaped more or less the same.



The heel ready for "whiskering", raising the grain and final sanding before I start pore filling with shellac and pumice.



All Wood Double Top Classical Guitar

  Double top , or composite top, classical guitars are all the rage these days, especially among young guitarists and I decided that I would...