Thursday, March 24, 2011

Handcrafted Guitar vs. Handmade Guitar

I have come thoroughly to understand the manner of work under which the art of the Middle Ages was done, and that it is the only manner of work which can turn out popular art; only to discover that it is impossible to work in that manner in this profit grinding society.

William Morris, from a debate on Socialism that took place in Cambridge, England, 1884



Is the guitar on the left "handcrafted" because it will be offered for sale once it is completed? Is the guitar on the right "handmade" because it was made for my own personal use? What do you think?

I came across a blog by a guitar maker yesterday that makes wonderful looking instruments, and in this posting he had a bone to pick, he stated that only those who make a living at lutherie or were trained in the art can rightfully call themselves luthier. He went on to say that those of amateur status should call themselves just that, amateur builders. Hmm. The Oxford American English dictionary defines "luthier" as a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars. Origin: late 19th cent.(emphasis mine): from French, from luth 'lute'. Again, hmm. I know I should ignore the statement and let it go. I do find it interesting that the great Spanish guitar makers-Simplicio, Hernandez, etc.-use the noun maker on their labels.

In that slick publication, Acoustic Guitar, a guitar manufacturer ran an add for their guitars that included a quote from St. Francis of Assisi that went something like this:

He who works with his hands is a laborer, he who works with his hands and his mind is a craftsman, he who works with his hands, his mind and his heart is an artist.

I am surprised that that corporation didn't use "to work is to pray", but maybe that is going too far. I'll stop ranting now, I just wanted to give you something to think about.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Master Class with Christopher Parkening, August 1980

It's like this, truth is: it's looking out while everything
happens; being in a place of your own,
between your ears; and any person
you face will get the full encounter
of your self.


William Stafford, Tuned in Late One Night, from A Glass Face in the Rain, 1982


The "move" to Colorado draws closer and while going through stuff I found this photo of Chris Parkening from the master class at Bozeman, Montana that I attended in August of 1980. He is seated left of center in the photo, I am at the far right in the photo, the other guy I can't remember his name, I would have to look at the class recital program to find his name. I was a month from turning 18 and attending the University of Montana at Missoula, where I would major in music and changing over to theater my sophomore year. My parents drove me out for the class in their 1963 Plymouth Station Wagon, what a hoot that was! My mother took the photo, at least she didn't cut off any heads in this photo.

Snow today, slush, really and I will post photos of dismantling my shop for a move to Colorado.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Handled Coffin Smoothing Plane

Paul Bunyan, the lumberman, came from St. Paul.
He owned a big ox that was eleven feet tall.
He mowed down the trees as the farmers mow hay,
And the crew was at work before break of day.



E.C. Beck, They Knew Paul Bunyan, 1956


Here's a handled coffin smoothing plane that I picked up from Jim Bode's antique tool web store a month or so ago. That's a No.7 jointer plane in the background.


Who ever owned this decided that it needed a handle, they did a good job-the handle is well shaped and the mortise joint is fairly tight. You can still see the rasp marks on the handle. The only problem that I see with the craftsman-made handle is that there is nothing, other than glue, that is keeping the handle in place. When you push on it the bottom of the handle wants to come out of the mortise.

Yes, that is a pair of crosscut saws in my shop. Three generations of my family worked for the lumber industry; my great-grandfather, my grandfather and my dad worked in the woods. My dad worked for Diamond National, Kimberly-Clark and Simpson Paper. The lumber industry put me through college. The darker saw belonged to my grandfather who topped trees back in the 1920'-30's to make a spar trees for logging operations; the other belonged to my father-in-law.

The Making of a Guitar, Part 3

Mindy: Mork, why are you making a tower out of Cheerios?

Mork: Because it's hard to stack oatmeal.

Mork and Mindy, 1978



Here's the "Mae West" Lacote and I am ebonizing the alder neck. I will probably apply a few coats of shellac colored black to the neck once I get settled in Colorado, but for now I just want to stain it.


I am using india ink. I have an old Harmony guitar that is painted black with white pin stripe-ing and after playing blues on it awhile I discovered that it has a maple neck because the paint wore away from where my thumb rested. I don't want that to happen to this guitar. If the shellac ever wears away I want the wood to be black.


The back side of the guitar. It's very striking with the black neck. As I was staining, I remembered that when I was a freshman in college (oh so long ago!)I was preparing a music score for my music composition class and I just had to use a calligraphy pen and india ink. I knocked the bottle over my desk, it stained the top and I think I also ruined a pair of Levi's. Things that come out from the dark recesses of my mind.


Here's the bottom of the guitar, I think I had promised a photo of this back in an earlier blog.

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