Sunday, June 29, 2014

Shop Made Cutter Gauges

Everything popular is wrong.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895



I spent a couple of hours today and made a pair of gramils, or cutting gauges, for making the binding ledge on a classical guitar. I made these out of some black walnut that I had on hand and after completing them I realized I have some wonderful CSA rosewood in the attic that would make a great set of gauges.


A pair of walnut gramils with the metal gramils in the foreground

Those of you who follow my blog know that I dislike using power tools in making a guitar, I have nothing against power tools, I use them in my day job as a historic preservation carpenter.

I gave up trying to use a router to cut the binding ledges and went back to hand tools: two gramils, chisels and files.

I own two gramils that were purchased from Luthiers Mercantile, they are nice to use, but I have to be really careful with them because slot that for set screw that holds the blade in place can really mar the guitar's wood.

I am hoping that wooden gramils will not mar the wood, at least as badly has the metal gramils can.



Brass strips need to be inlaid into the gramils' arms and sharpen the cutter blades need to be shaped and sharpened. These I cut out of a old card scraper that I purchased from Frog Tool Company over 20 years ago. The scraper logo claims that it is Sheffield Silver Steel, all I know is that it holds a decent cutting edge.

The redwood/Indian rosewood copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar is hanging from a hook in my studio waiting for me to finish the binding ledges and to glue in place the ebony bindings with curly maple fillets. It is becoming impatient. That is another reason why I made these gramils.

Many people think that using hand tools for this operation, cutting binding ledges, by hand is a waste of time, I look at it as another skill to perfect. And the noise that a gramil makes as it slices into the wood is a far more romantic sound then the whine of a Bosch brand router, and is easier on my ears.



Friday, June 13, 2014

Shop Made Router/Scratch Gauge for Making Guitar Binding Ledges, Part 2

My early bridges...were made entirely by hand using the smoothing plane, the hand saw, chisels and a scratching gauge...

Jose Romanillos, Making a Spanish Guitar, 2013


Some one asked me if I could supply plans to make a scratching gauge, as much as I would like to, I don't have the time and I am trying to stay away from making this a "how-to" blog. There are many blogs/websites out there in the Internet hinterland that show you how to make a guitar, I don't want to compete them.

All I want to do is make guitars and sell them.

Here is a short photo essay of my scratch gauge, a person should be able to make a copy of one by looking at these photos.

And, you should look at Roy Underhill's books on how to make marking gauges, and click here to visit Adam Cherubini's marking gauge PDF.

And, and, you should read the books on guitar making that I have listed elsewhere in this blog, just go to the search book and enter in "the best books on guitar making".

To make my gauge you will also need a 1/4-20 tap to cut the threads for the brass screw which is available from Rockler.








By tapering the fence, starting a 3/32 of an inch from hole for the arm, you can compensate for the arching of the guitar back. See the last photo.




I made the shaft a "V" shape to compensate for the curves of the side.



Use a piece from an old card scraper to make the router tooth.




Leave the arm long to register against the guitar sides.

Experiment and have fun!

Shop Made Veneer Scraper

Scraping was used more than sanding to give a finished surface to furniture in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries...

Alex W. Bealer, Old Ways of Working Wood, 1980



I spent about two hours today making a new veneer scraper.



The differences between this one and the one I made several years ago are that this one is made from black walnut, it was all that I had on hand, and the iron is positioned at a 20 degree angle to the anvil.

The first one I made the iron was at a right angle to the anvil.

I changed the angles in an experiment in hopes that this scraper won't tear out/blow out curly maple. I had almost disastrous results last time I scraped curly maple with the first scraper I made. Click here to see my first scraper.

If I had had some nice Douglas fir I would have used that, but this walnut sure looks nice.


I glued up purfling strips of curly maple to ebony binding yesterday, this is going on the redwood/Indian rosewood Hernandez y Aguado guitar. I want this guitar to turn out nice, it is going to be a wonderfully responsive guitar with a very loud, lyrical voice. It needs to look as beautiful as it sounds, therefore I need to step up to the plate and do even better than my best.

After testing this new scraper, I used the ebony/maple bindings, I really don't see a difference between the two scrapers other that this new one is a little smoother, perhaps the density of the walnut absorbs the vibrations better than Douglas fir.

In Eugene Clark's article on make a scraper that appeared in an issue of American Lutherie, stated that you don't need to angle the iron in order for the scraper to work properly. In nearly all the old photos that I have seen of the interiors of the great Madrid guitar makers' workshops, all the hand made scrapers have the iron at an 10 degree or greater angle to the anvil. You all see that in Diderot's tomes, also. And Moxon's.

They must have angled the iron for a reason.


Here is a YouTube of one of my favorite guitarists, Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra. I discovered Mr. Liebert's music back in 1990 when I was living and working as a park ranger at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona. I often listen to his music when I am working in my studio!




New Video - European Spruce/East Indian Rosewood Concert Grand Classical Guitar

My friend,  Nathan Fischer , made a video of him playing a Concert Grand classical guitar that I made. Nathan is such a wonderful guy and bo...