Friday, August 26, 2011

Four Good Books to Read on Classical Guitar Making

The chequered bark is unique, and its resemblance to a saurian hide has well earned for it the name of Alligator Juniper. So apt is the description that if you have ever heard of the existence of such a tree you identify it upon your first sight of it.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1950


Four books to read if you are interested in making a classical guitar.

Guitarmaking, by Art Overholtzer. This is not the book to use to make a classical guitar, you'd get stuck half way through and then you'd have to figure out on your own how to finish it. Overholtzer has some different ideas about guitar making, and like Bogdanovich, if you have a shop full of big huge metal or woodworking machines you can make the Overholtzer guitar. Read it for Art's opinions on wood and sound production.

Make Your Own Classical Guitar, by Stanley Doubtfire. Another book that shows you a wacky way to build a guitar. Some very interesting techniques and several good hand tools that every aspiring luthier should have in his/her tool box/cabinet. The biggest plus about the book are the interviews that Doubtfire did with the Fleta Brothers, Jose Romanillos and Robert Bouchet. If you can find a copy be ready to shell out some big bucks, it is quite collectible.

The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitar, by Manuel Rodriguez. Not so much a how to box like the previous ones, but Rodriguez wrote a book very much like Jose Ramirez III did with Things About the Guitar. He gives us a wonderful history about some of the great Spanish makers and alludes to what the guitar means to a Spanish maker. Definitely a must have for the book shelf.

The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton. Bottom line on this book: if you can get a copy of Cumpiano's book, Courtnell's book and this one by Middleton, you can build a guitar! Quirky and wacky like his predecessor, Stanley Doubtfire, this is a very English way of making a guitar. He has some great ideas for a home shop with little in the way of power tools, hand made clamps, bending iron, using bubble wrap on your bench to protect the guitar, some wonderful pointers. It's not the Spanish way of constructing a guitar, but it works. The best thing about this book is his little chapter that discusses neck relief, it's the only book in print that is widely available that talks about it. He is very much in line with Eugene Clark's definition of neck relief as presented in his 2004 Guild of American Luthiers presentation. Buy it for that!

As always, little buckaroos, remember-Hand tools rule the school!



Thoughts after a Sharpening Session w/ Water Stones

Fallers, or choppers, as they are known locally, work in pairs. An outsider is impressed by the number of tools a set of choppers carry around with them in a Redwood operation-two axes, two eight-foot saws, one twelve-foot saw, two dozen plates, one dozen shims, ten wedges, two sledges, one pair of gun stocks, one plumb bob, twelve springboards, six pieces of staging.

H.I. Bower, from a speech presented at the Pacific Logging Conference, 1936


It took me almost 2 hours to sharpen all the plane blades that are on the cutting board, I made a pact with myself never to let the blades get in that bad of shape again. There were more blades that needed sharpening, but that meant going out to the garage to dig out the low speed grinder from the furniture and other stuff left behind by the previous owners that still need to go to Good Will. Another day will be set aside for grinding more edged tools. All I ready needed were the 2 blades for the No. 4 planes, likewise for the No. 3 and 1 for the No. 7.


Several years ago I purchased a set of 4 water stones after getting tired of using Wet/Dry sandpaper fixed to a piece of plate glass. I am still ambivalent about the water stones: there is the soaking before using, the almost constant flushing away of the swarf and then flattening the stones on a very regular basis. Granted that 8000 grit stone makes metal very, very shiny, there are times when I miss the ease of using the "Scary Sharp" system of sand paper. After using DMT diamond stones at work, I often think I should have picked up a set, they don't have to be soaked, they cut quickly so you can do the final honing on some 2000 grit sandpaper or extra hard oil stone. I can't say enough about the wonderful Lee Valley MK II Honing Guide, the best guide I have ever used. I enjoy the fact that you can repeat the angle that you need every time.

To be honest, I think the best sharpening system I have ever seen is the one that James Krenov used in his The Fine Art of Cabinet Making. A simple hand cranked grinding wheel with a shop built tool rest is used to establish the bevel and then the blade is honed on an oil stone. How simple and elegant, a part of a handmade life.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Tool Chest, Part 2

Sheer, snow-mantled peaks of the Front Range frowning down on verdant valleys; a high rolling plateau carpeted with dwarf tundra plants: these are the hallmarks of Rocky Mountain National Park.

from Rocky Mountain National Park Map, National Park Service, c.1974



I have noticed that many of you are going to a 2008 posting I did about my new tool chest, it's not "new" any more, I still use it, though in the near future it may be replaced by a cabinet style tool chest to free up floor space. Here are a few notes about it.

The design is based upon the famous tool chest of Duncan Phyfe, the plans I used were the ones drawn by Carlyle Lynch. (The plans are available from www.toolsforwoodworking.com) I didn't want the box to be as big as Phyfe's, I measured the longest saw that would live it and then sized the exterior dimensions accordingly. I think the Phyfe chest is 36 inches long, I subtracted 2 inches from all dimensions to keep the same ratio for the entire box. I made the case from birch plywood ripped down with a Skilsaw and finished on a table saw, the corners are fastened with glue and finish nails fired from a pneumatic trim gun. The bottom piece is set into rabbets and the entire box is trimmed with white fir (abies concolor). The lid is not like Phyfe's and are attached with some butt hinges. I never did get around to filling in the nail holes and painting the exterior, which, when I do paint it, will be Prussian Blue.


The interior trays are based upon a chest that is in Jim Tolpin's, The Tool Box Book, published by Taunton Press. It is a great book for ideas. The wood is yellow pine that I ripped by hand with a Disston rip saw and hand planed to final thickness. They slide back and forth on rails. I have no problem with this, some might not think it very efficient to move the trays back and forth, I know time is money, I'd rather have the time then the money these days. This tool chest works for me.


The saw till is made from pine and slotted to take 2 rip saws, 1 E.C. Atkins crosscut saw and 1 Disston D-100 18 inch crossut saw.

The box holds some of my planes, chisels, sharpening stones and jigs, and miscellaneous tools for guitar making.

If you have any questions about this tool chest, feel free to ask me.

Ebony Classical Guitar Bindings, New Neck for a Lacote Style Guitar

  There is still one guitar in the shop for repair, with the other repairs out the door I have some extra time to catch up on other work, li...