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While posing to illustrate the importance of maintaining the face of teh guitar on a vertical plane, Segovia interrupted for a moment. "Bobri," he said, tapping his paunch, "caution the students to curb their appetites. Otherwise, like me, they will have difficulty in leaning sufficiently forward."

Vladimir Borbi, The Segovia Technique, 1972

I finally got around to buying new chip breakers for my 2 favorite planes: a Stanley No.7 jointer plane and a No. 3 smoothing plane. Both planes sport Hock blades, carbon steel for me, the jointer has a Hock chip breaker and the smoother has a chip breaker from Lee Valley. I am quite impressed, I have never had planes work so well, all chatter is gone, as far as I can tell. I had no problem planing a piece of ebony this afternoon, the planes literally sing through the wood.

These chip breakers are well worth the money. Do yourself a favor and upgrade to thicker plane irons and chip breakers!

The top chisel is not new, I've had it for almost 15 years, I found it in a flea market, the chisel on the bottom is the "new" one. I've been looking for a 1/8" chisel for, well almost 15 years, I did find a 1/8" sash chisel once, but it is not the same as this gorgeous one. The best thing about this chisel, other than being almost full length, it is a Stiletto brand. Stiletto made great axes, I can only imagine this will be a great chisel once it is keened up. I found the chisel at Meeker's Patented Antiques, they are great people to deal with.


  1. Hey Wilson,

    I'm intrigued by the new irons and chip breakers. Did you have to modify your vintage planes to accept them? I'm hesitant to take a file to my type 11s...

    Brad from Broomfield, CO

  2. I did not have to modify any of my planes, I stuck with Hock irons. I have seen other irons offered by Woodcraft that you have to alter your plane body, I am afraid to do that! I have several Type 11's and I plan on upgrading them with Hock irons and chip breakers!


  3. Hi, I'm loving your blog! I found it while doing a google search for guitar building tools. I love the fact that the Only power tool you use is a router for guitar building, that is the route I want to go. I've been studying all I can on the net to begin building guitars, and I think I'm ready, I only need to collect all the tools I before I can start. I would really like to find good antique tools as much as possible. My question is how do you know, in regards to chisels for now, if the chisel is a good one, or bad? I assuming its about the steel, but how to you check to see if its a good steel or not? Thanks in advance for any advice on my hunt for tools!

  4. Hi, Nick!

    Thanks for reading my blog!

    Now, about old tools: my advice is to do your research from books, you can still learn more from a book than you can by surfing the Internet! Plant yourself down in a good library and read books on tools, tool making and tool collecting, that is the first step in learning. Then go to antique stores, flea markets, or even better join a local tool collectors society, the people in those organizations are very knowledgeable and more then willing to help a newbie.

    Good luck!

  5. Thanks!! I haven't been to a library in years, but when I was a kid I used to spend days in one! Libraries aren't even on my radar anymore since the Internet is so handy now days. It Should bring back tons of memories doing it the old fashioned way. Any books in particular you would recommend looking for?

  6. Nick:

    Start by reading all of Roy Underhill's "The Woodwright Shop" books, plus Aldren Watson's "Handtools", any book by Eric Sloane. For guitar making, Cumpiano's book is the best! (I'm assuming that you want to make a steel string guitar). Please search my blog for The Best Books on Guitar Making, I have a good list at that post.


  7. Oh ok I haven't seen that post yet. I'll definetly look at that. Thanks so much for your help!!


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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)
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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…

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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
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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.

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Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

So, you want to build a guitar.

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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
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The Woodwright's Shop
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