Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guitars, Ukuleles and Old Brown Glue

A man's wealth is measured by the size of his wood pile.

Old New Mexican proverb

I ordered some Old Brown Glue a while back and I can't say enough good things about it! Case in point, the tenor ukulele neck heel block that you see to the left of the glue bottle I glued together this afternoon. All I did was apply glue to individual blocks, rubbed the joint together about a minute and then I clamped them together. The blocks stayed aligned and I didn't have to use extra clamps and clamping jigs that you see used in some books on guitar making. I have used fish glue, purchased from Lee Valley, in the past with wonderful results, this Old Brown Glue dries as hard as the fish glue, which is a real plus when gluing on bracing. I probably won't use it to glue on bindings or for rosettes, but I will for everything else.

Works in progress--
(When I should really be refinishing 4 guitars that I made a couple of years ago!)

Guitar top on the left: Sitka spruce, laurel back and sides, bracing after Torres with a slanted lower harmonic bar on a Friedrich plantilla.

Ukuleles on the right: soprano uke with a redwood top, laurel back and sides, it's neck is just in front of the top; tenor uke behind it, Douglas fir top, with bubinga back and sides. The soprano ukulele in the front is a Montgomery Wards Airline, I believe it was made for them by Harmony.

California laurel guitar back on the right behind the ukes, the plantilla is based upon Torres FE 12 and FE 17 with a 640mm string length. FE17 was owned and played by Francisco Tarrega for 14 years. The body is smaller than classicals played today by the big name players, I chose this smaller body to see how it would sound and compare to a full size "Six-Fifty" (Six-Fifty sounds like it should be a cartridge for an old Sharps buffalo rifle!) that is in current use today. The top will be Sitka spruce.

I am waiting for the humidity to drop some more in my shop, we've had a lot of thunderstorms this month and the RH is still quite high. I really want to brace the top of the redwood uke and start putting it together.

For a fun read, check out Jim Beloff's The Ukulele-A Visual History. published by BackBeat Books, available at Jim's website,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Master Class with Christopher Parkening, August 1980, Part 2

Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new sound, funny,
but it's still rock and roll to me.

Billy Joel, It's Still Rock and Roll to Me, 1980

I finally found the photo that I was looking for, of me performing on stage at Montana State University way back when. I still haven't found the program from the final recital. I remember that I played an etude by Sor and a lute piece, Wilson's Wilde and maybe an etude by Giuliani. It was quite the experience and I got to met several wonderful players. I had to include the Billy Joe quote, because I remember I first heard that song on the car radio as we were driving by Idaho Falls, Idaho on the way to this class. I had just graduated highschool and was moving out of classical music geekdom, I discovered punk rock and that kids my age were dying their hair pink and spiking it, I thought that Still Rock and Roll to Me was an anthem for those of us who were 18 years old. Back then I wore Wrangler Cowboy cut jeans, denim shirts, custom Bowman cowboy boots from Livingston, Montana and my hair over my ears.

The guitar that I was playing in the photo I still have, it is a Hernandis Model 1, imported by Sherry-Brenner of Chicago from Japan. The label states that it was made February 1973, has a western red cedar top, the back and sides are Indian rosewood plywood. It is basically a Ramirez with a long string length of 665mm! Most classic guitars are 650mm! Despite the plywood back and sides it is a well made guitar, I keep it as a reference for when I am making full size guitars. I haven't played it in years. My parents and I went in together to buy it in 1979, it cost $779 with tax. Imagine that!

I have started a soprano uke, redwood top and California laurel back and sides, I have been hanging on to this wood for a while and I needed to make something. Recently bought some Old Brown Glue , it seems to be some really good stuff. Will post more about it as I have time.

1912 Ex-Segovia Cedar/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

Inspired by AndrĂ©s Segovia’s famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar, I chose Western red cedar top and East Indian rosewood back and sides from m...