Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Other Uses for A Spokeshave Blade

I grew up in a Montana town I thought had no consequence and I wanted out. I could winter okay-it was all I had ever felt, the gray northwestern skies-but I had had enough of family and boxing groceries. I went on my own outside circle, never appreciating the nature of circles and how they bring you back.

Kurt Markus, After Barbed Wire: Cowboys of Our Time, 1985



After the varnish stripper sat its required hour on guitar #3 I needed something to scrape the gunk off, this spoke shave blade was handy in the top of the tool box. It worked well

I brought it into my studio and found out that if I sharpen the bevel on a 1200 grit stone, the slight burr that is left on the back side of the blade turns it into a wonderful scraper.

Hock Tools should pay me for this advertisement!


Here's a YouTube of the great cellist Jacqueline du Pre.



Suggestions for Finishing Your First Guitar or What Finish Not to Use the First Time


The whole thing began when I made my first instrument on the kitchen table.

Jose Romanillos, Luthier


Guitarmaking by Cumpiano and Natelson and Making Master Guitars by Courtnall are must haves for a first time guitar maker. The other titles are good reading!


Most how-to-make-your-own-guitar books recommend that you use lacquer to finish your guitar. A good choice, lacquer is a durable and wonderful finish, but even as John Bogdanovich points out in his book, Classical Guitar Making, applying lacquer is not easy, not to mention you should invest in a good quality HVLP spray gun outfitter and purchase the proper Personal Protection Equipment to protect you from the lacquer's toxicity to spray lacquer. (Okay, woodworking geeks, you can jump in at any time to tell me how wonderful spraying lacquer is!) .

You can buy aerosol cans of lacquer from Stew-Mac and other luthier supply houses to finish your guitar. I hear good things about going that route, it just reminds me too much of when I painted my '59 Chevy pickup with cans of spray paint my sophomore year of college (1982).

Cumpiano and Natelson recommend brushing lacquer, which I think is another good option, but don't forget that you'll spend a lot time sanding out the ridges in the finish left there by the brush. If you are good at painting you won't have a problem with a brush, so brush away. That said you could also use Pratt&Lambert's 38 Clear Alkyd Varnish and brush it on the way that Manuel Velazquez and his son Alfredo do on their famous guitars.


Four books to have in your library!


Oh, and don't let anyone tell you that french polish takes too long to apply, is too hard to do and is beyond the scope of any fledgling luthier, that's just BS. Buy Ron Fernandez's video French Polishing for Guitarmakers, follow his instructions and you will be impressed.

What I am getting at is that there is no easy way to apply a finish to a guitar, I know that those books make it look easy, but it isn't until you've done several guitars. Accept that fact and just do it. Don't fall like I did for the articles in Fine Woodworking magazine about the latest and greatest easiest-ever-varnish-to-apply. They don't work well on a guitar. And see my previous post about using Behlen's Rockhard Table Top Varnish, it dries hard but turns as yellow as a dandelion in one year.

The following photos are of my guitar #3, I built it 10 years ago, that I stripped over the weekend. It's not a fun thing to do and I even used a "green" varnish remover. After I built it I finished it with the aforementioned Behlen product and an alkyd varnish concoction from the pages of Fine Woodworking, the results were less than pleasing. I will say it again, I wish that I had learned how to french polish when I first started making guitars.






I am a huge fan of french polish and I urge anyone who wants to make a guitar to use that technique. I say pick one tried and true finishing technique and use it, don't experiment with other finishes until you get the hang of the one that you are using.

P.S. I'm not trying to scare anyone off from making a guitar, anyone with or without woodworking chops can do it. Go ahead, start today!

Here's a YouTube of Mark Anthony Mcgrath. Enjoy




Monday, May 7, 2012

Repairing a Fretboard, Spruce/Walnut Classical Guitar

The is guitar is a chattel with a soul often in part owning its owner and tantalizing him with his lack of perfection.

Carl Sandburg





Snow overnight and into this morning, a wet snow which this part of the country needs, the forest is so parched and dry I expect it to combust on its own. It's warming up right now, snow is falling from the limbs, highs back in the 60's by mid week.



Remember this shot from a post earlier this year? I installed frets that were wider and taller than I wanted and I discovered I did a so-so job on leveling the fret board.





I spent the morning filling in all the chips and divots with Hot Stuff brand cyanoacrylate glue and ebony wood dust. Stew-Mac came to the rescue with tips from their Trade Secrets on fixing chips on a fingerboard and some teflon to create a dam to keep the glue from going into the fret slot. I sure made a mess!




Here is the repair after paring away the glue pile with a chisel and sanding the fret board.




Frets are installed, I just need to do the 19th fret, then I will the frets in place with some more cyanoacrylate glue, again, another tip from Stew-Mac. (I did that on the cedar/maple guitar and I am impressed at how every note on every fret is loud and clear.) Then the frets will get leveled, re-crowned and polished.




I first learned about the great American composer, Charles Ives, from a PBS TV program on him that aired sometime in the late 1970's. I got the chance to research his works more in college and I still can't get enough of his music. I thought you might enjoy a YouTube of Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa playing the first movement from the Fourth Sonata by Ives.




A Basic Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar - Another Look

I was looking at a blog post of mine from eight years ago, Basic Hand Tool Kit for Making a Classical Guitar, Revised and saw that I have m...