Monday, September 3, 2007


What an intense morning! In the shop by 8am to carve out back bar pockets in the linings for the maple classical guitar and I had the back glued on by 11 am. It was intense because I felt the need to hurry, to get things done before the humidity in the shop dropped too low and not to make any mistakes. I started carving out the pockets with a 1/4 inch wide chisel, something I always do, but I end up putting away the chisels and getting my little a sloyd knife made by Frost. It's a Swedish style knife, sloyd, if I remember right, means "handmade" or "handwork" in Swedish, I use it for everything, to carve the guitar's heel, carve spoons, even remove splinters from my hands. It is a pity that most woodworkers ignore these knives because they think that they are crude tools for crude work, mostly it's an excuse woodworkers use to cover up their lack the experience with them.

Anyway, as you an see, the guitar's back has some gorgeous pillowing and in the other photo the back is being glued on and clamped with spool clamps. Thanks must go out to David Schramm, a wonderful luthier in Fresno, California, who has a great website that includes an online guitarmaking tutorial, because I borrowed this glue up technique from him. This method allows a luthier to adjust the angle of the guitar's neck before gluing on the back. All fine classical guitars have a forward pitch to the neck, this makes the guitar easier to play and reduces the stress put on the box, increasing the guitar's longevity. I want the finished string height on this guitar to be about 11mm off the soundboard and I was able to adjust the neck accordingly. The clamps will come off tomorrow afternoon and then I start to think about applying the bindings and purflings. This probably will be the last guitar that I can make this year, in 2 weeks I hope to start building a new shop, 12'x20', a shop that is insulated with lots of windows. I still need to finish applying the finish to 3 other guitars.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

My Workshop

The side bending machine. I do use a bending pipe, a length of copper pipe heated by a propane torch, to touch up the sides after they come out of the machine and before I attach them to the guitar top.

I keep most of the tools that I use on a regular basis in this tool chest, a creation out of plywood. I would rather use my time building and finishing classical guitars at this point then spendings hours creating a masterpiece tool chest. My resume are my guitars.

This is the workshop. My grandfather built this about 1942, the view that you see was originally his garage, where he worked on his 1936 Dodge. The space to the right was his "workshop", he sharpened handsaws and crosscut saws for local carpenters and loggers and made the occasional hope chest or chair. Notice the lack of power tools, I use handtools exclusively in my luthierie and woodworking, the only power tools I use in guitar building are a Porter-Cable router for the headstocks and a Dremel for routing out binding channels. Lutherie should be a quiet pursuit of one's time, power tools are loud and encroach upon the work, hand tools allow one to think, to reflect and keep the world a little greener.

Maple Classical Guitar

Here's the classical guitar that has big-leaf maple back and sides (the back hasn't been glued on yet) this photo shows the rib-blocks being glued on the the transverse bars. The workboard is made out of particle board and is attached to 2x2 support and is adjustable with screws, to correct for any movement in the particle board. I know that it is crude compared to other workboards, but my current shop is basically an old barn that is uninsulated without a controlled climate. I build in environment similiar to what Antiono de Torres worked in, when the humidity goes down to

Maple Classical Guitar

Today, I had hoped to glue the back onto the maple classical guitar that I am making. The back and sides of this classical guitar are big leaf maple, hand sawn out of a board that a friend of mine gave me several years ago. This friend is a well established furniture maker in Estes Park, Colorado and he was wanting to clear out some of his wood inventory. The day I picked out the board he said, "Just make a wonderful classical guitar out of it, that is all the payment that I need." The maple is a little pinkish and displays some wonderful tiger stripping. I couldn't glue the back onto the guitar because I had not glued the rib-blocks onto the upper transverse bars. It's important to anchor these bars to the guitar sides, a classical guitar is very much like a drum, a luthier has to think of stretching a wood top across a rim, just like a drum maker (or a banjo maker) does when he puts on the rawhide skin. I glued on the kerfed linings for the back yesterday and this morning I sanded the linings to arch the back. Though the plantilla (shape of the body) is a direct copy of a guitar made by the great Spanish luthiers Hernandez y Aguado, I try to arch the back of my classical guitars just like the Hernandis guitar, a Sherry-Brener Ltd import, that I purchased in 1979 when I was seriously studying the classical guitar. The Hernandis is not an exceptional loud guitar and has an incredibly long string length of 665mm, but I learned to play it and I played it well, and now I realize it was well crafted. Tomorrow morning, I should be able to attach the back and I hope that the relative humidity is up around 40-50 percent. When I stopped working at 3:30pm it was 30 percent humidity in my shop.

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 m...