Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, Part 1?

My grandfather himself used to say that if a guitar maker did not die in a social welfare hospital, it was because he did not have the means to get there.

Jose Ramirez III, Things about the Guitar, 1994


Rain again today, flood warning until 11 am, thought I would go out to the shop and tidy it up a little. This gave me the idea of what a basic tool kit would be for guitar making, because when I made my first guitar I didn't have much. People back then would ask me if I would show them how to make a guitar (they still do) and would they need a shop full of power tools? As soon as I told them that they could build a guitar with hand tools, their faces would go blank, they'd take a step back and mumble something about going home to see if they left the iron on.

I revised and updated this list December 12, 2013. Please click here to see that post. Thanks!

This is not a definitive list, just a place to start (please note that all of these tools are in the above photo on the work bench):

No. 3 plane
No. 7 plane (this is the only one you need, but get several blades)

Lee Valley Spokeshaves, flat and round
Wooden Spokeshave, made from the Lee Valley kit (this is my favorite shave)

8 inch drawknife

1/8 inch chisel
1/4 inch chisel
1/2 inch chisel
3/4 inch chisel
(the most used chisel in my shop)

Marking gauge (handmade)
Cutting gauge (handmade)

Sloyd knife, 2 inch blade (a must have!)(Mora of Sweden #120)
Sloyd knife, 3 1/4 inch blade (Mora of Sweden #106)

Card Scrapers (Bahco Brand)

Gramil, buy from LMI and get 2 of them

Japanese pull saws, a nice one for cutting slots in heel and other for frets

Classic tuner drill jig, again LMI

Handmade Rosette and Sound hole cutter

Razor saws with hand turned handles (make your own handles on a lathe!)

Miller Falls #2 hand drill (or some other hand drill)

Cobbler's hammer for fret installation (or buy a nice one from Stew-Mac!)

Side cutters for cutting frets

Nut slotting files

Bending iron, made from a piece of four inch copper pipe heated by a propane torch

WORKBENCH! the most important tool you can have! I made mine after a folding workbench that is in Roy Underhill's, The Woodwright's Apprentice. It has served me well for fifteen years.

Guitar Making, by Cumpiano and Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Courtnall

I should have included a bow saw and a 13/32 drill bit for the tuner machines. I make no mention of clamps, that is another posting!

Buy these tools used at a local flea market or antique store, make your own, buy new if you can afford it or as a last resort. When you buy vintage tools you get to hold history in your hand and have the chance to put your own life into it, just like the previous owners. Find, buy or steal a copy of Dunbar's book on restoring hand tools and learn how to soup up, or as they say at the North Bennett Street School in Boston, "keen" your vintage tools. Don't be afraid to make your own tools, however, don't lose yourself in toolmaking, you want to build a guitar!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Make Guitar Bindings from a Baseball Bat

The craft of the wood-turner is ancient. Turners are recorded as having reached England at the time of the Norman conquest and they introduced the pole lathe at that time.

Tom Crispin, The English Windsor Chair, 1992



A while ago I bought a maple baseball bat blank from Rockler with the idea of making bindings, because it gets a little pricey buying pre-made bindings from LMI. I carefully ripped the blank down on my table saw into 1 1/2 inch wide strips and ran those through a thickness planer.



These are the tools I use, a cutting gauge and a Frost knife. The holey board that you see is my shooting board, once I cut a binding off the strip I joint the strip to have a straight edge to register the gauge on for the next binding. This also makes the edge that will go against the shoulder of the rabbet on the guitar.



First, I mark the strip with a cutting gauge on both sides of the strip. These bindings will be a 1/4 inch wide.



Then I take a knife and make the cut deeper working from both sides.



Making sure that I follow the grain, I score deep enough until I can snap the binding off the strip. I joint the strip and make another binding. Next step is to thickness the bindings on the Clark thickness-er.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting Ready to Install Guitar Bindings

The woodcraft way is the simple way. Few tools, and simple tools, supplemented by a helpful gadget or two fashioned in the woods, plus a little ingenuity! The pioneer with few tools, sometimes none besides his ax, applied his intelligence to the task at hand and figured out some way to get it done.

Bernard S. Mason, Woodcraft, 1973




I like to tape the binding in at the waist and work my way back to the end block, simulating how the binding would be glued into the rebate. This way I know exactly where to trim the binding's end.



A butt joint. I shave it a few times with a very sharp chisel to get it right. I guess I had better take a photo of the finished joint and post it!



The bass side binding has been glued into place and looks good! Honestly, it does! I didn't mean to set the block plane right in front of the guitar, I'll post some more photos later!

How to Make Guitar Purflings

The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree.

Wendell Berry, Landscape of Harmony. 1987



I am such a process freak.

It's been quite a few years since I have bought pre-made purfling, I bought one sheet each of white and black veneer from LMI, made a cutting gauge from a piece of walnut on hand and made a board for cutting the strips. The board came from watching an episode of The Woodwright's Shop where Steve Latta showed how to do traditional Kentucky style inlay with holly strips, etc. Here's shot of the board, veneer and cutting gauge.



The process is pretty simple: set the fence to the width of the strip you want and start cutting. Be sure to pay attention to the grain of the veneer, it can change directions quickly and you'll end up with a strip of uneven width.



All the strips cut, ready to be glued in with the maple binding.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best Books on Classical Guitar Making

Skilled use of the knife and ax is seldom described today because there are few persons who master these tools. Those who do are often more articulate with their hands who master these tools.
James Rudstrom, from the introduction to Swedish Carving Techniques, Wille Sundqvist, 1990



If you want to make a classical guitar these are the two books to get!

Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall is like having an old master looking over your shoulder prodding you to listen to him, because he knows the most efficient way to do it. Besides, it is tradition! I love this book!

Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jon Natelson, is "the" book that I used to make my first guitars and I still reference it. I have leafed through it so much that the pages are falling away from the binding!

I can't recommend John Bogdanovich's book Classical Guitar Making, it is for someone who already has a well-equipped professional cabinet shop that is capable of turning out kitchen cabinets at the rate of one kitchen install a day. He loves his power tools so much I was surprised to see photos of chisels and a block plane! This is not a book for a beginner, it's better suited for someone with a strong professional cabinet maker background.

Making Master Guitars and Guitar Making are the best way to get started, if you want to learn more about the nuances found in true Spanish guitars made by the likes of Santos Hernandez, Hernandez y Aguado or Francisco Simplicio please read articles by Eugene Clark, R.E. Brune and Jeff Elliot in American Luthier, published by the Guild of American Luthiers!

How to Make a Guitar

By its very nature and design, a good, well-tuned, well-sharpened and well-maintained chain saw is a very precise tool that can be used by almost anyone to make almost anything.
Walter Hall, Barnacle Parp's Chain Saw Guide, 1977



Many apologies to everyone, it's hard to keep up with a blog when you have a full time job (I am gone from the house 12 hours a day!), plus I am enrolled in a historic preservation certificate program at Bucks County Community College in PA. Now that the historic planning and sustainability class is over and with two weeks off from work for Christmas, I thought that I would try and catch up with the blog.

The above photo the laurel/douglas fir guitar, based on a guitar by Rene Lacote, circa 1830, that I am working on. Last night I bent the maple binding and glued it on this morning, I will try to bend and install the other top binding today. The purfling is BBWBB, I thought that if I went with a BBWBBWBB like what is around the sound hole the guitar would become very busy visually.



Here's my version of Eugene Clark's purfling/veneer thicknesser (American Luthier #73, pg. 69), unlike Clark's original, I constructed mine entirely from Douglas fir and glued a piece of brass on the anvil opposite the plane blade. It works well, I wish I had made one earlier in the endeavor called 'lutherie'.




Here is a most wonderful tool-an electric bending iron purchased from Stew-Mac, and the binding bands from LMI. Again, something I wish I had done sooner, my first bending iron was a piece of 4 inch copper pipe that I flattened by dropping my Short Sugar shoeing anvil on repeatedly until I liked the shape, and was fired up by a propane torch a la Irving Sloane. A propane torch is terrible for that work, it can't keep a consistent heat! This new iron made bending the binding child's play! I can't think of how many pieces I broke on my old iron because of the size of the radii on either side and that I couldn't maintain a consistent heat!

Once the top bindings are done I will finish cleaning up the rabbets on the back and glue on those bindings. I look forward to making the fretboard and neck!

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...