Wednesday, December 30, 2015

On the Bench: Western White Spruce/African Rosewood Concert Guitar

...the art of knowing and working with Mother Nature's wood is one of the noblest occupations created for the development and enjoyment of human beings.

Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, 2003


We've had a cold snap here in our neck of the woods, thankfully the temperature hasn't dropped below 0 degrees Fahrenheit at the house, but daytime temperatures haven't gotten about 25 degrees F. The relative humidity has dropped and my little humidifier is having a hard time keeping moisture in the air of my new little upstairs workshop, which means I have to watch the hygrometer and the wood very carefully. I doubt I will be doing much glueing until the temps get above 30 degrees.

That said, I have parts for another guitar ready for the bench, a spruce and African rosewood (bubinga).

I bought two white spruce tops from Stew-Mac several years ago, it was a limited time offering, the wood sold out quickly and Stewmac no longer offers this wonderful tone wood.

White spruce - aka, cat spruce, skunk spruce, western white spruce, picea glauca - is very similar to Sitka spruce and even smells like it when you work it. I have found one source for it on the internet, I am sure there are others, but I am not looking too hard.


This five strut bracing pattern is adapted from ones used by Marcelo Barbero, Hernandez y Aguado, and Antonio Torres. It's a experiment for me, I want a looser top with a quick response and perhaps a few more overtones.

Click here for Juan F. Fernandez's wonderful page full of computer simulations of vibration modes of different guitar bracing patterns.




I used a beautiful rosette handcrafted in Russia by a father and son team.

Notice the medullary rays present in this guitar top.




This guitar will have a three piece back - bubinga with a Macassar ebony insert.



Bubinga is harder than East Indian rosewood and has a brilliant, glassy tap tone to it.

I think the Macassar ebony really compliments the bubinga.




The headstock overlay for this guitar echoes the three piece back...


The Guitar Foundation of America 2016 convention is just six months away. I already registered for a table at the vendor expo, I have so much work to do to get ready for the show!




Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Guitar Maker's Christmas Wish List

One Christmas Eve, I was told, certain payments due did not mature, and grandfather found himself unable to pay his men's wages. At that time the daily fare of the village was home-cured bacon: and when it was suggested that, for the family Christmas dinner, a piece of fresh meat should be brought from the butcher, he forbade it, on the principle that such a luxury was inconsistent with the non-payment of wages. And on that Christmas day the family sat down to nothing more than the everyday bacon.

Walter Rose, The Village Carpenter, 1937


Dear Santa:

This December I listed every step in making a guitar and identified every tool for each step.

I inventoried all of my tools and discovered more tools are needed to increase my efficiency, efficiency increases speed, speed means I make more guitars for sale, which means more money to pay off the mortgage.

I searched and searched tool catalogs, websites and at last I found every needed tool.

The list is a long one, but Santa, today when I was walking through the beautiful forest and all the snow that has graced these Rocky Mountains these last two weeks, I realized what it is I want most for Christmas.

What I want for Christmas is...

Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Please exchange all those gifts for me and my wife for love, cheer and kindness and deliver those three things to everyone in the world.

Thank you, Santa!

Wilson Burnham

P.S.

Say "Hi!" to Mrs. Santa and your hard working elves.

P.P.S

The heater in the horses' water tank is on and I opened up several bales of alfalfa hay for your reindeer!


MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snow, Snowshoeing and Hide Glue

Once again we are in the grip of that grim old gentleman familiarly known as Jack Frost.

D.C. Beard, The Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906



The first day of winter is only four days away and we got two good snows this past week.

It's been wonderful for me to trail after the dogs on my snowshoes for their morning and afternoon up the gulch to Forest Service property.




There are great views such as this to enjoy...



and the gulch is cozy with snow.



A dead standing Douglas fir makes for a good photo opportunity.




Josey and Rufus treed another chickaree (tree squirrel), Pete was off chasing a different chickaree.



Today, I am trying to finish up the interior of a Conservatory model guitar so I can glue on the back.

Chores and other obligations have slowed down my progress some, but now that I glued a dutchman on the neck foot I am one step closer to closing up this guitar.




Hide glue and Lee Valley fish glue on my standard glues these days.

I appreciate how easy it is to reverse hide glue, just get out the heat gun, heat the spot for a few seconds and whatever I glued on pops off. To re-glue, I heat up the piece I took off, brush on some more hide glue and glue it back in place. Pretty simple. It's a forgiving glue and it dries harder than most polyvinyl glues.

John Tuttle extols the virtues of hide glue in his website on player piano repair, click here to read his hide glue question and answer page.

It's back to work for me!





Friday, December 4, 2015

How Many Guitar Making Hours in a Day?

Life is for doing things slow, like trees.

Makoto Imai, Japanese shrine builder



I recently read an interview with a well known classical guitar maker, and in the interview he stated that he worked twelve hours a day to make his guitars.

The first thing that came to my mind as I read that was - does he works three days a week or five days a week? 36 hours or 60 hours? Another question was, does he make time to live a life?

I can barely get in an eight hour day at the work bench.

There are chores around the house and property that need attention; the dogs demand two walks a day; and I need to get in my daily run of two and one-half miles. Oh, and I cook dinner for my wife since she commutes four days a week.





Yesterday, I did bend two sets of guitar sides. One set of Claro walnut...


and the other was bubinga.

This set of Claro walnut bent like a dream, but I have noticed that walnut tends to have more spring back than any other wood that I have bent.

Bubinga is hard to bend, meaning you have to take your time when you work it against the bending iron. I found that the iron needed to be at least 415 degrees Fahrenheit to really bend the bubinga, the wood didn't want to cooperate at temperatures below that.

It may be hard to bend, but bubinga had much less spring back than the walnut.




Today, I need to attach this top to the cherry neck I made for this guitar.

I also need to take the trash to the transfer station (no trash pick up in this part of the Rocky Mountains), check for mail at the post office, drive into Estes Park to pick up a few things for dinner, go for a run, take the dogs for another walk...

I haven't mentioned the fact that I need to build a new shop, re-insulate the ceiling in our house and build a whole bunch of bookcases.

One thing at a time.

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...