Thursday, May 30, 2013

One of My Favorite Guitarists-Ottmar Liebert

The summer of 1990, while I was working at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, my friend Andrea Gunderson (please visit her website and tell her that I sent you!) loaned me her copy of Nouveau Flamenco, by Ottmar Liebert. I have followed Mr. Liebert ever since and I continue to enjoy his music and flamenco guitar style. That same year I also discovered Cecilia Bartoli, and I have been in love with her (voice) ever since!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Bridge for Julia's Guitar-Making a Copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez Guitar

At first sight, the Bridge appears to be a complicated and difficult thing to make, but you will discover that it is quite simple when you begin to follow the sequence of operations. Once again, it is a matter of care and patience as in all the other aspects of guitar construction.

Stanley Doubtfire, Make Your Own Classical Guitar, 1981

I finished carving the wings on the bridge today and glued on the mother-of-pearl overlay on the chordal block. I also found out how hard mother-of-pearl is, it will quickly dull a plane, knife or card scraper edge and wears out sand paper pretty fast.

I sanded the bridge using some 220 grit, then 400 grit and followed that by burnished the whole thing with an old dish towel.

It has a wash coat of shellac on it, now you can see how pretty this piece of Indian rosewood is.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Handmade Marking Gauges and Making a Copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez Classical Guitar Bridge

Ours is really a simple craft.

James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979

I took this photo a while ago, that is one problem with having a day job, it gets in the way of what you really want to do. A day job is there to pay bills.

The top gauge I made a little over 20 years ago from some Claro walnut that my neighbor, who was a logger, gave me from a claro walnut tree that he had fallen along Cottonwood Creek in northern California. The tree had been cut up for firewood. I got the idea for the gauge from an article in a Woodwork magazine where the author made a gauge from madrone.

The lower gauge, which is really a cutting gauge, is also made from walnut, but the wood came from a tree that my grandfather planted in 1942.

I am always grateful that I made my own gauges, that I never had to buy one. There is something about using a tool that you made for yourself. Click here for an article that I recommend on how to make your own marking gauge.

I've finished shaping the wings on the bridge and tomorrow I will reduce the height of the chordal block (the part of the bridge that anchors the strings) so I can glue on a piece of mother of pearl. In an article in American Lutherie, guitar maker R.E. Brune stated that if you are making a close copy of a guitar by Antonio Torres or Hermann Hauser, and if you want it to sound as close to the original guitar, you need to make an exact copy of the original bridge. I made this bridge according to Roy Courtnall's plans, but because Julia's guitar is narrower than the original, I made the bridge shorter than the original one. I am also trying to keep this bridge as light as possible, right now it is at 20 grams, the mother of pearl will add some weight. A bridge can "dampen" a guitar top, the idea is to let the top vibrate a freely as possible. Check out this article by Ervin Somogyi on guitar dynamics.

It's been a magical experience making this guitar for Julia: the wood is amazing, adhering to the traditional Spanish school of guitar making to assemble this guitar, the French polish and the joy of working I believe are going to make this guitar truly amazing to play and to listen to.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two Good Reasons Why You Should Consider Using French Polish

It is an essential condition of highly polished work that the surface should be so perfectly smooth that no marks or ridges of any kind should be present to mar the ultimate effect, which should be like a mirror, capable of reflecting a good image.

Paul N. Hasluck, Manual of Traditional Woodcarving, 1911

I give two good reasons why you should consider using French polish to apply shellac to your next work.

One reason is the finish that it creates. This is the back of Julia's guitar, a copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez, after only three French polish sessions using a 1 pound cut of shellac. It simply astounds me as to how wonderful this finish is becoming!

This is the top of Julia's guitar after only two French polish sessions!

The best reason to use shellac and French polish is for your health!

What other finish is there that you make out of bug secretion and grain alcohol? The only chemical in shellac that will do damage to you is the grain alcohol and you have to drink that stuff to cause the damage. You do not need any personal protection equipment to apply shellac and you don't need a HAZMAT locker to store the components. How wonderful is that?!

The equipment you need to apply shellac is simple: raw wool for the pad; cotton fabric to cover the pad, and a little olive oil to help apply the shellac. Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that you use ground volcanic pumice to fill the wood pores!

Does this sound to good to be true?

It must be true, shellac has been applied by French polishing for over 200 years with great success!

This video is available through Fernandez Music or LMI. I wish I had bought a copy 'way back in 1994 when I really got into this lutherie thing, it would have saved me much heart ache.

This is a wonderful DVD, I highly recommend it! Mr. Fernandez covers all the bases of using shellac and French polishing, if you watch this DVD a few times and try your hand at French polish, you too will discover that it is not as hard as all those woodworking writers and pundits claim it is!

I do have Robbie O'Brien's DVD on French polish, again available from LMI. I haven't watched it yet, though I've had it for over six months. I haven't watched it because I am at a level where it is better for me to spend an hour or so gaining experience at French polishing then to watch a video of someone else doing it.

There are many, many articles and books about French polish, one article I recommend French Polishing Demystified, by Vijay Velji, appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Fine Woodworking. I also recommend searching out articles written by Eugene Clark, Cynthia Burton, George Frank; Dan Erlewine wrote a great piece for Stew-Mac which you can find in their Trade Secrets! Newsletter, click here to read that article.

Chris Baylor has posted one of the best articles I've read on French polish. Click here to read it. You may think that his article makes French polish sound like it is an easy thing to do, well, IT IS! You just have to practice it to be good at it, like any other skill!

There is a myriad of YouTube Videos by guitar makers on how they apply shellac by French polishing. Check out Les Stansell and Michael Thames!

I know that Taunton Press has just published a new book of French polish by Derek Jones, but I don't think it has been released yet. I would like to look at a copy of it.

I can't forget to mention Shellac.Net, they have a great website where you can buy shellac and learn all sorts of things about shellac. I should buy a copy of The French Polisher's Handbook from them, it was written in 1910 by "A Practical Man", it looks like it is full of wonderful information on French polish.

So get busy and do some research and then buy all the ingredients to make your own shellac.

Don't be afraid of shellac and French polish!

Be afraid of someone who tells you that you shouldn't learn a new skill just because they think it is too hard of a thing to do!

1912 Ex-Segovia Cedar/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

Inspired by AndrĂ©s Segovia’s famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar, I chose Western red cedar top and East Indian rosewood back and sides from m...