Friday, January 7, 2022

The Best Workshop in the World!

The best workshop in the world is the one that you are working in!

I know that there are people who complain about their work space - it is too small, the machinery isn't set up for proper work flow, there isn't enough storage space, the lighting is poor, not enough heat, etc., etc., etc., but in those spaces these same people produce wonderful work. 

Ten different work shops, or so, I have lost count, have served me well. My first workshop was a barn that my grandfather had built, I couldn't control the heat or humidity in the space but I didn't let that stop me from making mountain dulcimers. My smallest shop was six feet wide by twelve long, it held a workbench and a bungee powered lathe that help me make dulcimers, wooden top banjos and buckets of spoons. 

I have built two "dream shops" only to move away for different work and jobs once the construction and finish was completed. Yes, I have bitched a little about losing those dream spaces, but I moved on and found other places.  For the last two years I rented shop space at 40 West Art Studios in Lakewood, Colorado, it was great to share a building with other artists, the rent was reasonable, but I faced a 15 minute commute depending on traffic and weather. Two months ago, I left the studio and moved into our spare bedroom where I have to contend with forced air heating that makes humidifying the room a hassle.  The spare bedroom isn't an ideal workshop,  if I want to use a table saw, router or air compressor I have to go out of the car port storage, pull out those tools and set up in the driveway. 

It may sound like I am complaining, I don't mean to because I am very grateful to work at home, I get to have lunch with my wife every day, take walks and play with the dogs when I want and enjoy the fact I don't have drive the wild, crazy, crowded streets to a shop.

I am grateful for everyday.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Double Top Classical Guitar for Sale

I have decided to sell the double guitar that I am currently working at the affordable price of $3995.

Please view previous posts on how this guitar was constructed and go to my Conservatory Guitars page to view specifications of this guitar.

I am currently French polishing this guitar and it should be completed sometime in March 2022. 

Feel free to contact me with any questions about this guitar.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Double Top Classical Guitar - Redwood/Nomex/Sitka Spruce/Curly Black Walnut, Part 2

The double top classical guitar assembly process.

I sanded and cleaned the interior of the body and covered over my label, it is much easier to glue the label in before the top is put on!

The new top ready to be glued in place...

and I am very glad that I made all these spools clamps! They make this process so much easier! The top is aligned with the neck center line. 


This guitar original had East Indian rosewood bindings and end graft, the rosewood didn't have enough red in it to go well with the walnut, I opted to try out some Ceylon satinwood bindings.

The color of the satin wood goes well with hues of the walnut. The bindings are doubled up, meaning that there are two pieces of satin wood instead of the usual one piece of binding, this makes for a wider binding. I can round it over to make the guitar more comfortable to hold.

The guitar also got a new fret board.

The wood is torrefied purple heart (Peltogyne paniculata, Peltogyne spp.) and is being sold as Royal Blackwood. The company that is selling it claims that its "density falls right between Ebony and Indian Rosewood". I did notice that the wood doesn't have the same ringing tap tone of ebony or rosewood.

The entire guitar got a sealer coat of shellac and after it dried...

I started the pore filling process, using a pad filled with alcohol and 4F pumice rubbed onto its face. The sealer coat of shellac provides enough "glue" for the pumice and wood dust it creates to be "captured" by the wood pores.

The sides are always so much easier to pore fill, less surface area!

I was able to reuse the original bridge and put strings on the guitar before I started the French polish. 

How does it sound? It is simply amazing! There is an incredible amount of projection with a true bella voce, and the strings are even sounding. It has an wonderful high "e" string! Just imagine what it will sound like with just two weeks of playing!

Stay tuned! More French polishing on the way!

Monday, December 20, 2021

Double Top Classical Guitar - Redwood/Nomex/Sitka Spruce/Curly Black Walnut, Part 1

In an earlier post, I talked about how I replaced the top of a guitar I had on hand with an all-wood double top as an experiment. The new top was an improvement, it was very loud and strong, but its voice, to my ears and aesthetic, was lacking in beauty. I mentioned this in a text to a guitar maker I know in Brazil, he replied that he had made a similar double top and found that it "lacked resonance".  After playing the guitar for several weeks I made the decision to replace the top yet again, but this time with a “standard” double top that has a honeycomb Nomex core. The top is redwood and the inner veneer is Sitka spruce. Here is a link for more information on double top guitars.

Here is a jig I made from MDF, I wanted to have the main area of the lower bout to carry the Nomex. At this point the entire top is about 2.7mm thick. The top is on a vacuum platen that I made, the air is removed with a shop vacuum, this way the top won’t move or get pulled up into the router bit.

The feeler gauges in front of the jig represent the final thickness of the routed area, about 0.7mm.

Here is the top after routing.

The jig then goes on top of the honeycomb Nomex material…

and I careful cut the material with a chisel.

The honeycomb material was glued onto the top using a polyurethane glue and a Roarockit vacuum bag.

I used Sitka spruce veneer to cover the Nomex and redwood top. After the glue has set, I sanded down the honeycomb material level with the top, graduated the top so that after I glued on the Sitka spruce veneer I could graduate the thickness of the tops edges to about 2.0mm, the area under the bridge to about 2.5mm and most of the upper bout to about 2.7mm.

I went with a different bracing pattern this time, it is loosely based on bracing pattern used by a guitar maker in Granada, Spain, whose guitars I greatly admire.

Stay tuned for part 2, when I will share how I put the guitar back together! 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Building an 1830's René Lacôte "Legnani Model" Guitar

I made this little guitar about ten years ago, it is based upon an original 1830's "Legnani Model" guitar made in the René Lacôte Paris workshop. Luigi Legnani was a popular European guitar virtuoso and composer in the 1800's, both René Lacôte and Johann Stauffer made guitars for Legnani to his specifications. My little guitar started out with a Douglas fir top, California laurel back and sides, with a simple bridge made from a block of East Indian rosewood. When I glued the bridge on I discovered that I had the angle of the neck set wrong, the bridge ended up being way too tall for the guitar and the Douglas fir top was too thick and heavy to produce a decent tone, it sounded like it was being played underwater. I put the guitar into a case and tucked it away.

December of 2020 I pulled it out from the closet so I could practice on it, I had a full size classical guitar in the shop that needed a new top, and I wanted to try a new way of removing guitar tops.

Here's the guitar before the removal work started.

The fret board and neck came off... I could rout out the perimeter of the top and save the original binding.


Here it is when the top was first removed...

...and all the bracing removed.

I used an nice piece of European spruce for the new top...

...and I did a good job of routing that saved the curly maple binding I originally used.

I believe the original Lacôte guitar had "ladder bracing", simple braces glued to the top that were parallel to the guitar bridge. I wanted to make this guitar as attractive as possible to today's young guitarists, and what many want today is loud guitar that is responsive and capable of many musical nuances. To that end I used a simple 3 strut "fan" bracing. This style of bracing was developed by guitar makers in Spain who were contemporaries of Lacôte, C.F. Martin used it on many of early guitars soon after his arrival in the United States in 1833. 

These simple braces allowed me to slightly dome the guitar top to give it more structural integrity and lyrical voice. The strip of ebony is there to reinforce and protect the top from the bridge string pins.

The top was glued onto the sides...

...and I made a new neck from Spanish cedar. The v-joint was used by many European makers at the time to attach the neck to the body, it is still used by steel string guitar makers and some classical guitar makers.

Unlike the original Lacôte guitar, this guitar has a raised fret board, the original guitar's fret board was level with the guitar top and the 12th through 22nd frets were directly inlaid on the top. I chose a raised fret board and extension to attract today's player.


The bridge is very similar to the original...

...even down to the end pins and Mother of Pearl dots!

All strung up! I need to French polish the guitar now!

The back and sides are California laurel, or Oregon myrtle if you live in Oregon, I re-sawed this by hand with a Disston rip saw from a board I purchased from a wood supplier north of Eureka, California.

I kept the "ice cream cone" heel on the new neck...

...though the head stock is slotted to receive modern tuning machines, the original had a solid head stock with mechanical tuning pegs.

This is a lovely little guitar, the string length is only 595mm, but it has a wonderful voice and how loud it is will surprise you!

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.

The Best Workshop in the World!

The best workshop in the world is the one that you are working in! I know that there are people who complain about their work space - it is ...