Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Making All Wood Cam Clamps

Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.

Martha Graham


I need some clamps to hold guitar sides against the guitar top while I am assembling the guitar on the work board. I really wanted to make all wooden spool clamps, but I am facing a deadline. To make wooden spools clamps I would have to buy a wood threading tap and die set, then wait 2 weeks for Lee Valley to ship me some nice maple dowels. Then I'd have to turn the spool tops and bottoms on the lathe, not that that would be a bad thing, but as I said, I'm on a deadline.





The plans that I followed to make these clamps can be found here. I thank ShopSmith for posting all those wood working tips!

The plans are quite straight forward and easy to follow, though there is a misprinted dimension, it has to do with where the hole for the pivot is located on the cam lever. Double check all the plan measurements before you begin.

There are also plans for making laminated cam clamps out there on the Internet, you just gotta do some surfing.





I didn't want to spend a lot of money, so that ruled out buying a bar of aluminum to cut into bars. I ripped some 3/8 thick strips from a nice Douglas fir 2x4x10, then ran those strips through the thickness sander so they finished to 5/16 of an inch thick. I cut all the parts, then began laminating every thing. The bars were laminated into the lower jaw so I didn't have to drill a bunch of holes to make the mortise. Then I laminated the upper jaw around the bar making sure that the jaw could slide along the bar.




Why laminate every thing? Why not, I don't have to drill and trim mortises. I spent maybe 6 six hours making these clamps.

Why Douglas fir? I had it on hand, it is one of my favorite woods. Douglas fir is strong and this stud was milled from a third or fourth growth tree, this wood is awfully light which is a plus at this point. Remember, these clamps are going to be used only to hold guitar sides in place during assembly. I don't need clamps that can produce 300+ pounds of pressure to squeeze out a bunch of glue.

Wow, how nice to have a bunch of clamps that didn't cost me $20-$30 a piece.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Basic Sharpening Kit for Guitar Making

The tools of the traditional country chairmaker were few and simple, in keeping with the technology of the time.

Jack Hill, Jack Hill's Country Chair Making, 1993


Sharpening tools is a personal thing, you discover what works for you.

Many years ago, more than I care to count, I sharpened everything on those wonderful, good old fashioned Carborundum dual sided stones.

I miss the smell of the "4-in-1" oil/kerosene mix I used to lubricate the stone, that gritty sound of high carbon metal on silicon carbide. I spent 10 minutes at least to raise a wire edge on plane blade, and then another ten minutes stropping the edge of that plane iron on an old razor strop heavily charged with jewelers rouge.

If I had to today, I'd go back to those stones, for general wood working and traditional green wood working there is nothing wrong with them.

I used sand paper stuck to thick plate glass for about 10 years, but I got tired of driving the 40 miles to the nearest paint store that carried 800 to 2000 grit wet/dry sand paper. Did I mention buying sand paper every 2 weeks got old?

Then I tried Japanese synthetic water stones, and I spent good money on them. How did I like them? I traded them to Terry Kelly for a vintage Atkins panel saw. I know I got the better end of the swap.




DiaSharp Stones, a Lee Valley MKII honing guide and 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper



When I was a historic preservation carpenter for the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, there was a set of DMT sharpening stones locked in one of the shop cabinets. I quickly fell in love with them. Why? They cut quickly and they were the only stones in the shop that could sharpen the Barr slicks that we used. Every summer, I would put on a sharpening demonstration, for new seasonal workers and interns, with those DMT stones and sharpen a new plane iron to razor sharpness in less than five minutes.

My opinion, as a professional historic preservation carpenter, is that those DuoSharp stones are some of the best sharpening stones on the market. Period.

For my own shop, I bought a fine and an extra fine DMT brand DiaSharp stones from Lee Valley. God, I love them. They cut quickly, all I need to do after sharpening is to hone the cutting edge on some 1500 and 2000 grit wet/dry sand paper, then follow up on a piece of typing paper charged with jewelers rouge. Nice and simple.





Using a General brand six inch ruler to flatten the back of a plane iron


Several years ago I read an article by Dave Charlesworth about how to sharpen hand tools. In the article he mentioned that he used a small metal ruler to elevate the plane iron (or chisel, etc.,), this extra bit of height would flatten the back of the iron. It made sense to me, why spend all that time trying to flatten an entire inch of the back of the iron. I tried the technique on the waterstones, the result was I thought that Charlesworth didn't know what he was talking about.

The same technique on the DMT DiaSharp? The man is brilliant!

I am not a fan of Chris Schwarz, but I was surprised (and happy) to see that he went back to using those real old fashioned Arkansas stones! One wood working blogger was actually mad that Schwarz did that, to me it makes perfect sense. Old technology will always work, because at one point that technology was cutting edge, it didn't fail when it was needed.

So here it is, a basic sharpening kit for Classical Guitar Making:

A soft Arkansas bench stone

A black hard Arkansas stone

A translucent Arkansas stone

A horse butt strop

A bar of jewelers rouge or other honing compound

Oh, and a Veritas® Mk.II Honing Guide. We wood workers need all the help we can get!



Spend what you can afford and these stones will last your lifetime.

You can bet that I am saving my money for a new set of Arkansas stones.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stanley No. 80M Cabinet Scraper

Wood carving calls for the exercise of manual skill and artistic feeling.

Paul N. Hasluck, Manual of Traditional Wood Carving, 1911




I got an order for a guitar, the client wants a redwood top with East Indian rosewood back and sides. This set of Indian rosewood wants to be stubborn when it comes to thicknessing it with a hand plane. I'm not in a rush to complete this guitar, so I got out a card scraper and started to work on the trouble spots.

My thumbs got a little sore after a while, then I remembered that I had a Stanley #80M, a near mint one with original box, that I had picked up at an antique store about five years ago. I never got along well with cabinet scrapers, the Stanley #81 that I had didn't like me, it chattered and dug away wood at its own will. I sold it.

Now, the blade of this scraper still has original grind marks from the factory, so I very carefully honed away the marks and kept the original angle on the blade. I set the depth of the blade by setting the body on a piece of typing paper, with the edge of the paper just in front of the blade. I have some more fine tuning to do on the blade, but, it is working well enough for me at the moment.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guitar Tonewood Galore!

...out here you may have to settle on parched desert soils, or in dank, mossy forests; and you may have to take root where summers are 120 degrees in the shade or the winters 40 below year after year!

Art Boericke & Barry Shapiro, The Craftsman Builder, 1977




I might have an order for a custom guitar, I am trying to convince the client to chose from among these woods.




This is a redwood top that I re-sawed from a board that was salvaged from a barn that once was inside Yosemite National Park.




Canadian Spruce from Labrador, Canada.



A redwood top that I re-sawed from a board that I salvaged from a redwood water tank that my grandfather bought in 1942, I had to dismantle the tank in 1984, because contrary to popular belief, redwood does rot. I must point out that this piece had no nails in it, and the tannin in redwood does react to iron, hence the failure of redwood when nails are used. This top exhibits "pillowing" something that I have never seen in another chunk of redwood.



Alaska yellow cedar that I purchased from Alaska Specialty Woods, the growth rings are so tight they are hard to see.




Some amazing "fiddleback" big leaf maple that I purchased from The Wood Well. It's hard to believe that this is only the "medium figure" wood, next time I order the high figure stuff.


I am afraid I might have overwhelmed this client with wood choices, this is only half the photos I sent to them showing them what I have on hand, not to mention the other woods that I can use to make a classical guitar.



Those of you who visit my posting on a Basic Hand Tool Kit for Guitarmaking please note that there are many different tonewoods to use for making a guitar. You are limited though to what you can use for tops: there are the Spruces (Abies); the Cedars, Western Redcedar (Thuja)or Incense Cedar (Calocedrus) [for me it is the best wood in the World!]; the Chamaecyparis, Port Orford Cedar and Alaska Yellow Cedar; and the Redwoods [Taxodium] Sequoia Sempervirens(Coastal Redwood) or Sequoiadendron giganteum(Inland Redwood).

All Wood Double Top Classical Guitar

  Double top , or composite top, classical guitars are all the rage these days, especially among young guitarists and I decided that I would...