Sunday, May 25, 2014

Grooving Planes, Saw Sharpening and Splitting Black Walnut

Torres invariably used rosewood for his bridges, even for those of his cheaper guitars...

Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio Torres, Guitar Maker- His LIfe and Work, 1987



I use a table saw to cut the saddle slot for the bridges I make for my guitars, I have a DeWalt construction table saw, it's accurate enough especially when I use blade stabilizers on the saw blade. However, even with a good sharp blade I don't like the quality of the kerf that it cuts.

I decided to make some grooving plans and have the 1/8 inch irons on order from Lie Nielsen. Click here for the irons and to see the plans for these planes. The more guitars I make the more I want to get away from using power tools, grooving plans seems like a better solution for cutting the bridge slot. I have cut it with a saw and a chisel but the results always left something to be desired.

Today, I dimensioned some black walnut and bubinga for the grooving planes. All work was done by hand using the following tools:
No. 3 smoothing plane
No. 5 jack plane
No. 192 rabbet plane
Back saw
Knife
Rulers
1/2 chisel

I'll post more about these little planes after I get the irons and get them made.



My Disston rip saw was a little dull for ripping so I decided to touch it up a little before ripping commenced.

All of my saw files are dull!

Well, guess I had better order some more.




I recently got to see what happens to a guitar bridge when the wood it is made from fails. I've had bridges on my own earlier guitars pop off completely right after I installed new strings, but this was complete wood failure! A few bits and pieces are left of this bridge, so the owner and I decided to make a new bridge out of black walnut. I know that the late John Gilbert used walnut for his guitar bridges, it is a strong wood and fairly light. At least, this gives me a quick side job with a little bit of money.

To make sure that I have a strong piece of wood, I split some 12/4 walnut I had on hand. I should've gone out to the workshop to grab my froe, but a big registered mortising chisel also does the trick.

Oh, how I miss processing lumber from a tree that I cut down myself. That way I knew exactly what I was getting.

I also realized today that it is time to let my Pentax K100 DSLR go to a better place, it is time to buy a new camera to take photos of my work.



Here is a video that the Granada guitar maker, John Ray, has posted on his website trying to drum up business for a book on the school of Granada guitar makers. I think I am going to ask Strings by Mail if they would order this book for me.




Saturday, May 10, 2014

Shop Made Router/Scratch Gauge to Make Guitar Binding Ledges

On the ribs, instead of using a cutting gauge, I favour a scratching gauge so that the cutter scratches away the wood, making a channel.

Jose Romanillos, The Classical Guitar, 1979


Today, I finished the scratching gauge.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I dislike using a router to cut the binding ledges. I am trying to get away from using power tools when I make a guitar.


I had a piece of madrone (California laurel, Oregon myrtle) left over from after making the copy of Antonio Torres FE 19 guitar, click here for more on that guitar.

Madrone is a dream wood to work with, it planes easily and has a wonderful smell of pepper, it is also known as pepper wood.

This is a simple gauge to make, all you need is a saw, a plane, a 3/4 drill with brace, a chisel or two, a knife to mark out for the brass inlay, maybe a small file.



The idea is to score the sides with a gramil (cutting gauge) to mark the binding ledges and then use the scratch gauge to set the depth of the ledge. Then I would use a chisel to remove the waste. Sure, it's going to take longer to use hand tools, but I don't want to wear a respirator and ear plugs when I work a fine classical guitar.

I still need to adjust the face of the fence so it is more or less at a right angle to the marking bar. I'll show why this is necessary in another posting that will cover routing out the ledges on the copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar. Click here for that guitar.




The cutter was made by cutting a piece off an old scraper that I keep just for that purpose. You can see the shavings that the cutter makes.




My quiver of gauges.

Left to right: a cutting gauge, a marking gauge, the new scratch gauge, a mortise gauge and a new gauge that has no purpose, yet.

I got the idea to make these gauges from the February 1996 issue of Woodwork magazine. The article was by Doc Crawford and he made his gauges out of madrone, also. Mine aren't as fancy as his, all I want is a simple tool that works, but read the article if you can find it!



Sunday, May 4, 2014

New Projects: Hand Held Router for Guitar Bindings and Low Angle Jointer Plane

Many players do not know much about their guitar except that it is a nice wood box on which to make sounds.

Lee F. Ryan, The Natural Classical Guitar, 1984


I swore I wouldn't start any new projects.

I need to complete the French polish on three guitars and to make and install a bridge on a copy of a 1839 guitar by Rene Lacote.

So why did I start these projects?


A walnut gauge, a California laurel router/scratch gauge, and a walnut low angle jointer plane.

I have had it with using an amped up, revved up electric router to rout out the channels for bindings. The process is loud, messy, nerve wracking, I am sure that it has an affect on the potential voice of the guitar.

For me, power tools work best when I am doing carpentry, like building a house, or fixing my porch, but I have decided to use as few power tools as possible when it comes to making a guitar.

I know that the great masters-Antonio Torres, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez-didn't have, or use, Bosch or DeWalt brand routers in their shops. I want to do the same thing.



After a little research, I found a posting by the luthier Robbie O'Brien about when he attend a guitar making course given by the great maker, Jose Romanillos. Click here to see the post and a photo of a marking/router gauge that he used to make the binding channels/rabbets.

Today, I set about making several marking/router gauges to experiment with and to use on a copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar that still needs its bindings.

I had some eastern black walnut, I love using walnut to make marking gauges with, but I discovered that using kiln dried eastern black walnut isn't the same as using air dried black walnut that came from the banks of the Sacramento River in northern California.

California Claro walnut has a different texture, smell and the most amazing tactile feed back when you touch it. And once it is tapped for a screw the threads remain. The threads all tore out with the eastern black walnut, even if I flooded the hole with CA glue before I tapped it. I threw away two fences and got a third one to work.

Then I got out some California laurel, which had been air dried and proceed to have a most enjoyable time planing, cutting and chiseling this wonderful wood also known as pepper wood.

Tomorrow, I am going to buy a new tap. I think the ones I have are getting a little dull.




I just received a copy of Spanish Guitar Making, by Jose Romanillos, and found out that he uses a low angle, 32 degrees, jointer plane to shoot the edges of his tops and backs.

I thought I would set out to make similar plane, but one with a 38 degree angle. Click here to see Derek Cohen's strike block plane.

Stayed tuned, I'll post more about this plane.



I got the 1816 Martinez copy strung up last week and I forgot how loud this little guitar is! It just booms! And it has a most wonderful singing quality. I look forward to selling it so it can be heard by people other than me and my wife!



Here is must have book if you want to know how Jose Romanillos makes his famous guitars.

As I write this, Maestro Romanillos is 82 years old and it is reported that he has some health problems. I suggest you buy this book now, though a little pricey at 130 Euros plus shipping, but once this book goes out of print I expect to see used copies sell from between $400 to $1000!

The website for this book is here. Maestro Romanillos autographed my copy!

Enjoy your week and remember, Hand tools rule the school!



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