Skip to main content

Frets, Fretboard and a Western Red Cedar/Bigleaf Maple Guitar

American child are musical. American adults are not and the chief reason lies in the wasted opportunities of childhood.

Thomas W. Surette, Music and Life, 1917

The last couple of days have been work on scales, arpeggios, Prelude No. 2 in C# minor by George Gershwin transcribed for guitar by Douglas Niedt, Sarabande by Francis Poulenc and trying not to be sloppy, keeping the fingers clear of the strings. We got 32 inches of snow with the last storm, the snow has settled and I don't have to use snowshoes to walk up the gulch with the dogs.

Several hours were spent this afternoon on flattening the fingerboard on the cedar/maple guitar, I forgot that one needs to work at lutherie all the time, it is easy to forget how you should do things like make sure that you have enough sanding blocks the proper length. And make sure that all sandpaper is adhered to the block or you will be surprised by the results of your labor, then you will have to correct your mistake.

I forgot to take a photo of the guitar with its piece of railroad cardboard that protects the top, a vital thing, I've had enough problems with this top. Ron, if you are reading this post please don't be concerned by the lack of shellac on the top, the top developed a hairline crack that I fixed with copious amounts of superglue and cleats glued to the underside. The repair actually increased the pitch of the tap tone, a good thing. I decided to go ahead and fret the fingerboard, attach the bridge and then complete the french polish.

I run a saw file along the fret slot to aid in installing the frets and reduce the chance of chips emerging if the frets need to be pulled. I used 180 grit sandpaper to flatten the fretboard and followed up with 220 grit and a light polish with 400 grit. After the frets are installed I'll burnish the surface with steel wool using a 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and naptha.

It seems like I can never make enough time to complete all the work that I need to.

YouTube of the week, once again, Tatyana Ryzhkova, an incredible player who just happens to look like my daughter, Alisa. Enjoy.


  1. Can't wait to see the guitar finished. You should do an audio of the guitar so I/we can hear it as well. Play a little tune.

  2. Thanks, Terry! I agree about putting up an audio of the guitar, I need to buy a digital recorder!

  3. Beautiful work.
    If a tree could express a preference, my guess is that it would like to become one of your guitars.

  4. Hi Wilson, another great post w/video. I'm getting really addicted to watching them.

    Perhaps I've already asked this before, but how do you deal with trying to maintain fingernails as someone who works with his hands? I have the devil's own time of it. For me it makes learning classical guitar very difficult.

  5. Tico:

    It is hard to maintain my finger nails, just when they get to the right length for playing I usually break one doing carpentry work. Next month I go back to work doing historic preservation, that will make it even harder to keep my nails in playing condition. That is one reason why I made a 19th century guitar, you don't have to have nails to play music from the Classical era.

  6. Rob:

    You are too kind and very generous with your words, thank you. If you think my work is beautiful you should visit Tico's website, the same for Terry Kelly's site, they do some amazing work!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make a Traditional Froe Mallet

What holds the Holy of the Holies, what did Brahma become? Wood. Why will aspen always tremble? For the nails driven into the cross. What makes the color of wood? The soil it tastes. Cradle, fiddle, coffin, bed: wood is a column of earth made ambitious by light, and made of beauty by the rain.

Kim R. Stafford, Having Everything Right, 1986.

Rive, verb, to split
Shake, noun, a split in a piece wood. (Heart shake, ring shake)
Shake, verb, (Middle English), to split.

I know I should have been in the studio working on my back log of guitars, but the day was so nice and warm with a tall blue canopy, I couldn't stay inside. I decided that I needed to make a proper froe mallet. This style of mallet is traditional to northeastern California, primarily Tehama (where I'm from), Butte, Shasta and Plumas counties where making shingles by hand from sugar pines was an industry. I don't know if it was used in any other region along the Pacific Rim, other parts of the United States or even o…

The Guitar's Scale Length, Your Hand Size and a Chart

I will cite the case of a marvelous concert player, a Japanese lady who is barely 5 ft. tall and with hands that are real miniatures. She plays a 664 mm 10 string guitar and demanded that I build this guitar with an action 1 mm higher than normal, which she handles with incredible ease. This is serious study!

Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990

Here is the hand size and scale length that I found on the forum at

Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 250+ 664mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 230 to 250 656mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 210 to 230 650mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 190 to 210 640mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of 170 to 190 630mm scale length
Thumb tip to pinky tip span of below 170 615mm scale length

Here is my flexible imperial/metric ruler.

Here is my hand properly placed on the flexible imperial/metric ruler.

Today my reach from little finger to thumb is 240mm. I should more or less be playing a…

Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

Since the original post, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitar Making, click here to see it, is the most popular post on this blog, I thought I would revisit it and adjust it to what I am using now to make a classical guitar.

The first thing I recommend doing is to buy or borrow copies of the following books:

Guitar Making: Tradition and Technology, by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson
Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall
The Guitar Maker's Workshop, by Rik Middleton

These are required reading before you begin making a guitar.

Also required reading are these books by Roy Underhill:

The Woodwright's Shop
The Woodwright's Companion
The Woodwright's Workbench
The Woodwright's Apprentice

Why these books by Mr. Underhill? You will learn valuable wood working techniques if you make any of his projects. The dovetail joints used to join a drawer together are far mor…