Monday, April 30, 2012

The Western Red Cedar/Bigleaf Maple Classical Guitar is Finished!

Segovia('s)... instrument moans not, neither does it wail. It is at all times nothing more nor less than a transcendently well-played guitar-an honest and affecting sound because it is a beautifully handmade thing, in which the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing. And that, in the last analysis, is the point and purpose of the whole art of the Apollonian twang.

Frederic V. Grunfeld, The Art and Times of the Guitar, 1969


Four hours this morning doing the final rub out on the finish, worth every penny of the labor spent. I discovered that Meguiar's Swirl Remover worked the best for a gloss finish. When I took these photos I could see my reflection in the finish, me holding my camera and the guitar looking back at me.

This guitar started out as a bigleaf maple board that my friend, Leo Weber, gave me for the sole purpose of making something out of it. I re-sawed the board by hand with a Disston D-8 rip saw into the back and sides, the top I scavenged from a old pile of hand split cedar shakes that I found some where near the slopes of Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain in northeastern California. The rosette is from manzanita burl that I harvested on my grand parents property, the rest is wood that was purchased from LMII: Spanish cedar neck, West African ebony fingerboard, bindings and bridge, it's outfitter with Sloane tuners and right now it has light tension LaBella 2001 strings on it.

Thanks, Leo.









Here's a YouTube of Sharon Isbin being amazing as always!






Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Old Growth Ponderosa Pine and Cecilia Bartoli

I enjoy listening to opera at home, occasionally, but I would much rather see it than just listen to it.

Sam Waterston

I've been in love with Cecilia Bartoli ever since I heard an interview with her on National Public Radio back in 1990 when I was working and living at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. To me she is the most amazing mezzo soprano in the world today. I love her voice and what she can do with it.

I wanted to share this YouTube not only for her voice but for the pine trees that are in this video. Wow, I have no idea where this was shot but these trees rival some the old growth ponderosa and western white pine in Lassen Volcanic and Yosemite National Parks in California! The trees in the video are massive and so very beautiful. If you truly are a woodworker or a lover of all things good in the world, watch the first 45 seconds of this video for some wonderful trees and a most magnificent voice. Enjoy! I'll post soon a video of Viktor van Niekirk playing the ten string classic guitar!


Monday, April 23, 2012

Reconstruction of a Historic Mule Barn

I caution against communication because once language exists only to convey information, it is dying.

Richard Hugo, The Triggering Town, 1979



Harney/Lastoka Barn, Milking Parlor


I am always amazed at how my mind will subconsciously adjust my hand, my wrist, my elbow, my shoulder and the angle of attack and velocity of the hammer that I am swinging so I can redirect a nail that bends and drive it home. My eye sees the problem, my mind corrects my body so success can be achieved. It is such a little thing, and yet, so wonderfully elegant that our minds can direct the here and now.


Harney/Lastoka Mule Barn, Milking Parlor and Milk House


The part of the building to the left is what is left of a mule barn that was associated with the Rex #1 coal mine that operated at this site from 1898 to 1917. We built new rafters for the barn and installed engineered trusses for the milking parlor and this week will put up the trusses on the milk house.


The mule barn would be behind the building to the right in this photo. Today there is a chicken coop that houses over 100 chickens right next to where the shaft house was!

I haven't found out when the Harneys bought the place, the Lastokas were the last to own the site and probably built the milking parlor and the milk house. Will and I are restoring the building to its previous run down character, the roof is to protect the building until Boulder County makes a decision on a future use for the site.



The casualty of working at carpentry-a broken thumbnail and a nasty cut. The music must go on!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Basic Handtool Kit for Guitar Making, Part 2

...since guitars were invented, those who devote themselves to a study of the vihuela are small in number. It has been a great loss, as all kinds of plucked music could be played on it: but now the guitar is no more than a cowbell, so easy to play especially rasgueado, there is not a stable lad who is not a musician on the guitar.

Don Sebastian de Covarrubias Orozco, Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana, o Espanola, 1611



Tools used by a master Spanish Luthier. From Guitar Review no. 28, 1965

Rob Reid of www.classicalguitartraining.com asked me if I would do a part 2 to a "Basic Handtool Kit for Guitar Making".

I've thought about it some and after looking at the previous posting on tools I see that I forgot to include some items.

A Word of Warning!

Before you go buy any of the tools listed here or in the other posting please read through, cover to cover, the following books:

Required:

Hand Tools: Their Ways and Workings, Aldren A. Watson

Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology, Cumpiano and Natelson

Making Master Guitars, Roy Courtnall

The Guitar Maker's Workshop, Rik Middleton


Optional:

The Big Red Book of American Luthierie, Volumes I, II, III, IV and V (just kidding, sort of)

Make Your Own Classical Guitar, Stanley Doubtfire

Classic Guitar Construction, Irving Sloane (please don't try to make a guitar from this book! He does so you how to make some great tools)

Things about the Guitar, Jose Ramirez III

A Concise History of the Guitar, Graham Wade

The Segovia Technique, Vladimir Bobri (This book is to remind you of the reason why so many of us started playing the classic guitar!)


Once you have read all these books you will have a better understanding of the work that goes into to make a classic guitar, what skills you will need to work on and what tools to purchase.

Again, the following list is by no means complete, but it is enough to get started. So shown in the photo above are the following and buy as many as you can afford,



"C" clamps of various sizes

Deep reach "C" clamps

Pony brand Spring Clamps (buy a bucket load of these clamps in 1", 2", 3" and 4" sizes, 60 of each size would suffice!)

Irwin brand "Quik Grip" clamps (I used these alot when I was a finish carpenter)

Jorgensen or Pony brand steel bar clamps, 12", 18", 24", 36" lengths, at least four of each length.

Cam clamps: buy these from LMI, Stew-Mac, Japan Woodworker, Grizzly (if you buy them from Grizzly be prepared to modify the jaws!) Better yet, make your own! Fine Woodworking has many articles on making these; Classic Guitar Construction by Irving Sloane shows how to make them; so does Stanley Doubtfire's book, Make Your Own Classical Guitar; Lutherie Tools, by the Guild of American Luthiers has several articles on how to make them. Again, this is not a complete list of books or articles.

I'll talk about what sharpening stones to consider along with tenon saws, crosscut and rip saws in Part 3!




My "Mae West" Lacote, after a Legnani Model by Rene Lacote, circa 1830. I spent about an hour french polishing it this afternoon.

You Tube of the Post: Who says the 4 string guitar is dead!



Classical Guitar Making and Vintage Stanley No. "0" Levels

The height of a workbench is governed not by a rule of thumb but by a rule of knuckles.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Apprentice, 1996


What does a Stanley No.0 level have to do with classic guitar making? Absolutely nothing unless you want to level your workbench. I had to include a post on a "whiskey stick" because I found that Rob Gates and Scott Grandstaff (see "My Level") both have great articles on spirit levels currently on the Internet.


The Offcut, is a wonderful blog, and in his latest posting Robin Gates talks about the wonders of a spirit level. Rob's posts always bring me back to what woodworking is all about, elegance and style. (Thanks, Rob!) Somedays I worry about production and getting things done (or lack of getting thing done thanks to a regular job) in the shop, lately when that happens, I stop myself and remember what it is about the sound of a classic guitar that captured my heart when I was a kid and why it is that no other instrument thrills as much. We, in our current culture here in the United States, need to remember what simplicity is all about and the satisfaction that comes from using our hands. We need to value the work that we do with our hands and find amusement in such a simple thing as a bubble locked in a vial filled with 190 proof alcohol.

By the way, the level belonged to my father-in-law's brother-in-law, Henry Altwater, a man who was a skilled carpenter and owned some really nice tools, which my father-in-law gave me. Henry later became the gardener for the Gilpin County Courthouse, Central City, Colorado. I haven't cleaned up the level to see what wood it is made out of, maybe I won't and just appreciate it for what it is.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tips on French Polishing

(Hector) Berlioz himself was a guitarist-not in Paganini's class, perhaps, but from all accounts a remarkable player.

Frederic V. Grunfeld, The Art and Times of the Guitar, 1969





A few tips on french polish.


Tip #1: if your wife is into fiber arts (spinning, knitting and beading) like mine ask her for some wool from a fleece she has sitting in one of her trunks. Wash the wool making sure that you don't felt any of it and let it dry.





Borrow her cards (this reminds me of when I showed Suffolk sheep in 4H when I was a kid, I had to cut and card the wool to the right height in order to place well in the show) and card the wool to a nice fluffy state.





The wool in my right hand is uncarded, the wool in my left hand is carded.





Tip #2: Place the wool in a 4x4 inch piece of Irish linen hankerchief material, I know that it is pricey, I paid almost $25 a yard for the stuff, but it is worth every penny of it! It's available at www.elfriedesfinefabrics.com in Boulder, Colorado.





Add 1.5ml of EverClear then 1ml of 2lb cut shellac, make your pad and start polishing. I was amazed at how well the Irish linen works as a pad cover, you can't go wrong with this stuff.





(Ron: This photo is for you. I spent an hour this evening working on the cedar/maple guitar and the finish is building up nicely again after the crack repair. I'll work on french polishing the neck tomorrow night and then work on the body on successive nights. It is such a wonderful guitar, when I work on it I think about when my friend, Leo, gave me the maple board for the back and sides, finding the right cedar shakes for the top, resawing out the back and sides, assembling the whole dang thing. And it sounds wonderful to boot!)


Tip #3: Buy and watch Ron Fernandez's DVD on French Polishing for Guitar Makers!


Rob Reid at classicalguitartraining.com just linked one of my posts to his site and asked me if I would do a Part 2 on the basic tool kit for guitar making. I will, so stay posted. In the mean time, if you want to make a guitar buy Wm. Cumpiano's Guitarmaking and Making Master Guitars by Roy Courtnall, those books will tell you everything that you need!

Here's a YouTube of Reid performing a work by Jorge Morel. Enjoy!



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Logging, Limbing and Prelude Romantico by Emilio Pujol

Most woodworkers I know are compulsive makers. They build things of wood not so much to have the finished product but to satisfy an inner yearning to experiment, to learn and to create. It's a feeling, I imagine, akin to an artist's need to paint or a musician's need to play.

Paul Bertorelli, Fine Woodworking On Things to Make, 1986



Not so much logging today, though that will happen soon enough, there are trees to be fallen for fire safety/mitigation on the property.

Started to build a dog run/yard today and realized after setting several posts that limbs on the big ponderosa needed to come down before work went any further.



The tree is on the north side of the house, limbs were touching the roof and the power line leading into the workshop/woodshed. The tree should have been trimmed a long time ago.


It was a little dicey to cut the limbs, I really needed a 32 foot ladder to do the work. I cut several limbs and left them a little long for me to sit on as I cut other limbs. A little scary but I took my time. It was a lot of fun to do the work! It was good to climb a tree again!



All this from just 10 limbs. Clean up tomorrow!





I bought this prelude through Amazon.com, it's a interesting piece published in 1954, I look forward to working on it. I need to find recordings of Pujol's work, other then the one I have by David Russell.


Check out this YouTube of Grisha! This kid is amazing! I do think that he needs to mature a little and spend the rest of his life living in Spain among real flamenco singers, dancers and guitarists, then he could approach the sound of Sabicas. There are more videos of him playing other guitars by famous makers, they are eye and ear openers, just surf through YouTube!



Monday, April 2, 2012

Circa 1972 Genuine Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo

America owes its fascination with the yo-yo mainly to Chicago businessman Donald F. Duncan Sr., who spotted it while on a business trip to San Francisco in 1928.

Craig A. Orr, Yo Yo Ups and Downs, 2003 online article at Smithsonian Lemeslson Center


For your enjoyment. I was digging through a box the other day and found my old Duncan Butterfly Yo Yo. I'm pretty sure I got it when I about 10 years old in 1972.




I bought the other Duncan yo yo at my favorite hardware store, McGuckin Hardware in Boulder, Colorado last week. The new yo yo is considerably lighter and thinner, but it works the way that it should.




Check out this old commercial for Duncan Yo Yo's!


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