Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Miguel Rodriguez Style Guitar - The Last Guitar of the Season

It is easy to create a mystique about guitar making. There must be something magical about a process that constructs a wooden box, stretches some strings across it, and persuades delectable sounds to come from it.

Colin Cooper, The Classical Guitar Book, 2002


Back in January or February, I made the neck for this guitar. I jointed and glued the western red cedar top about the same time and installed the rosette.

Some where in this blog are postings of when I made the three piece back and when I split out the braces for the top.

I bent the sides last week.

All this was done so I can assemble this guitar by Saturday, the last guitar of the season. I go back to my day job as a historic preservation carpenter on April 28th, after that I will continue to work on this guitar and three other guitars as I can make time.




This guitar is braced in the manner that was used by Miguel Rodriguez,Sr. and his sons, Rafael and Miguel. Those of you familiar with Rodriguez guitars will notice that I did not include the diagonal brace that was on many of the Rodriguez guitars after, say, about 1963.

Click here to see plans of a 1977 Rodriguez to see the diagonal brace I am talking about and click here to read an article by Ron Fernandez on Rodriguez flamenco guitars.

In that article, Mr. Fernandez mentions that when he was in the Rodriguez workshop in the early 1960's he noticed that none of the classical guitars had the Jose Ramirez III inspired diagonal brace.

The point I am trying to get at is I want to make guitar that will be close to that earthy Spanish sound from the 1960's, a sound I remember hearing on the recordings of Andres Segovia and Narciso Yepes when they both played Ramirez guitars, not to mention the sound of the Rodriguez guitar that Pepe Romero used on his recordings in the early 1970's.




I graduated the cedar top as close as I could to the specifications that are on the plans of the 1977 Rodriguez guitar drawn by Tom Blackshear - 2.6mm in the center of the top, then falling off to 2.5mm, 2.4mm and finally 2.3mm along the outside edge of the top.

The "fan" braces are close to the dimensions in the plan, however, I am leaving the transverse braces (the braces top and bottom of the sound hole) rather tall in the manner of Santos Hernandez. I am looking for a big bold sound from this guitar, a sound that will bounce off back wall of an auditorium and I want it to sing like the best coloratura mezzo soprano so your heart melt.

Right now I am waiting for the glue to harden on the end block, sometime after lunch I should be able to start fitting on of the sides. Once the sides are on then I can install the back, after that I will work on it as I can. If I don't get to it this summer or fall it will part of my winter's work.

Winter work that I am looking forward to doing.



Monday, April 20, 2015

The Secret to Woodworking Is...

Art and life are one and the greatest of the arts is the art of living.

Dorothy L. Pillsbury, Adobe Doorways, 1952




We got to enjoy a wonderful spring snow storm over the last several days, by early this morning we got close to a total of 36 inches of very wet snow at our little house.

One small community in Larimer County recorded five feet of snow from this past storm!

My wife and I dug out the Jeeps yesterday so we could drive to town to get groceries and dog food and this is my last week of freedom before I return to my day job as a historic preservation carpenter.

Here's where I heave a big sigh, I will miss my days in the studio making guitars.


Tools for making guitar bridges

I've been very busy on 3 guitars, 2 are custom orders and one is a "speculation" guitar that I assembled several years ago but couldn't complete because of orders, work and life.



A Lee Valley router is the ticket to inlay some mother of pearl

I started French polishing 2 guitars last week. I work at a day job seven months out of the year so when I get back to French polish I have a short learning curve to work through. It is frustrating at first, then the shellac becomes glossy, the polish builds up and the wood underneath it is gorgeous.

One glory of French polishing is it makes me slow down so I can consider what is really important in life.



Mother of pearl overlay on an Indian rosewood bridge

Many people dislike French polish because they say it takes too long to complete, just go to any forum on guitar making and you will see what I mean. You have to do from 4-12 sessions of French polish to cover the guitar, not to mention you need to let the shellac harden for 2 weeks before you can do the final rub out and there is that tedious task of pore filling open grain wood with pumice and shellac.

I did go to one guitar forum to see if anyone was using a certain brand of epoxy for pore filling, sure I was thinking about speeding up the pore filling time on next guitar in line, most thought the epoxy didn't work well or it took too many coats, hence too much time. Most of the older luthiers all said to give up the new stuff and just use pumice and alcohol for the pore filling. Not many liked those comments.

One guitar maker I know of states a person can French polish a guitar in one week, and there is an article on the Internet that says you can do it in three days!

Me, I'd rather take my time at it.



Three bridges distorted by the camera lens

If you have read this much of my posting, you are probably wondering why I am not disclosing The Secret to Woodworking!

Maybe you have figured out what that secret is, turned off your computer and have walked to your shop to start making something new or continue work on a current project.

Perhaps you are thinking about "surfing" to look at another woodworking blog.

Just bear with me another moment.



A redwood/Indian rosewood guitar

There will be close to 150 hours of work on the guitar in the above photo and I will sell it for $3000. I know some people think that is not enough money for the time spent.

I am not in this game for the money, if I was I'd have a big factory of workers that would crank out 50,000 guitars a year and all I had to do is to sit and watch the money roll in.

No, I work with wood for the experience, the joy, the knowledge and all the other stuff that comes along with time spent in the shop.



A Sitka spruce guitar top with some nice bearclaw


What is The Secret to Woodworking?

It is patience and love.



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