Monday, June 13, 2016

A "New" Stanley No.2 Plane, Port Orford Cedar and Thunderstorms

Shining and gracious in youth, gigantic and glorious in age, possessed of a fragrant wood of great beauty and scores of the most valuable uses, the Port Orford Cedar has but one defect with which it can be reproached: there isn't - and never has been - enough of it!

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1950

The shop hygrometer reads 54% RH, way too humid for me to be glueing rosettes into guitar tops.

A big thunderstorm is moving in, I hear the rain on the roof and wonder when I will have to turn off the computer because the lightning strikes are getting too close. We need the rain, last week the daily temperatures were up in the mid 70's, that is warm for 8,500', the pine needles on the forest floor were getting crunchy and with all the "campers" coming up from the Denver metro area to camp in our backyard, Arapahoe National Forest, which borders our property, there is concern for wildfires. Not all who come to the forest believe in listening to Smokey Bear and we don't want another fire season like we had in 2012 when a lot of Colorado's forests went up in smoke and flame.



I picked up a nice little Stanley No.2 hand plane this month to use to plane the sides of guitar neck headstocks. It is also handy to help level a guitar top.

This particular top is reclaimed Port Orford cedar, purchased from Oregon Wild Wood, that is going to be paired with Indian rosewood back and sides. I am using the plantilla of the famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar that was owned and used by the great Andres Segovia for this guitar. I will also be making another guitar on this plantilla with a Western red cedar top and black cherry back and sides.

I look forward to making these guitars.

Why use Port Orford cedar for a guitar top? First of all, the wood's scent is intoxicating, a ginger spice aroma that carries me to the coastline of the extreme northwest corner of California with its wonderful forests; secondly, it is stronger and harder than Sitka spruce and it is just as light making it a perfect tone wood for classical guitars.

Click here for the Forest Products Laboratory Wood Properties (Techsheets) - North American Softwoods and check the specs yourself.


Why buy a vintage Stanley No.2 hand plane instead of a brand Lie-Nielsen? Aesthetics mostly. This little plane has really nice rosewood handles, I like the look of the iron metal with the black japanning and the little "Sweetheart" emblem that is stamped on the plane blade. It also goes well with the rest of my vintage Stanley planes and it is awfully cute!


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Black Hills Spruce/African Rosewood Concert Guitar, Off the Bench and For Sale

...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



A couple of years ago I purchased two spruce tops from StewMac, the tops were Picea Glauca, aka White Spruce, Canada Spruce, Black Hills Spruce, I wish I had bought more. It is amazing tone wood.


This guitar sings, it has a beautiful voice with sustain. The spruce top is flexible enough that this guitar plays like a guitar with a cedar top, it is almost effortless.



The back and sides are African Rosewood, also known as bubinga, again, this is superior tone wood. I understand that Hermann Hauser II liked bubinga better than Indian rosewood. The back as a fillet of Macassar Ebony.

The fret board is Macassar Ebony, the bridge is Indian rosewood. The guitar is fitted with Gotoh tuners and the strings are Savarez New Cristal Corum 500CR. These are now my favorite brand of strings.


String length - 650mm
Width at nut - 52mm
Width at 12th fret - 62mm
Neck Depth at 1st fret - 21.5mm
Neck Depth at 9th fret - 25mm

$4,700, which includes a hard shell case. Shipping is not included in the price.

This guitar will be at my booth at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention and International Competition in Denver, Colorado, June 21-25, 2016.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Guitars From the Road Less Travelled...

Wilson Burnham - Guitars From The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverge in the current guitar woods:
We live in an era where guitarists and luthiers seek ergonomic innovation,
a quest for unending volume and countless new ideas. Sadly and all too often
these factors wind up creating unmet long term expectations and command prices
out of the reach of the developing guitar artist.

Not all luthiers follow the same road.

One such individual is the superb Colorado based luthier, Wilson Burnham.

He has built his guitars and his lifestyle upon the road less travelled by.
Wilson's guitars reflect beauty, clarity, simplicity, elegant craftsmanship,
superb balance and great playability. His instruments harken back to an earlier age.

Upon my recommendation, many of my current students have purchased Wilson's guitars
and have performed extensively on them. Reminiscent of the guitars of Torres, Santos Hernandez and Hauser,
you owe it to yourself to try his instruments and ultimately consider ordering one
if you are in the market for a new instrument.

Everyone has to follow their own path.

Do not overlook the guitars from a road less travelled by.

Alex Komodore, May 2016



Alex, the Director of Guitar Studies at Metropolitan State University, Denver, Colorado, sent me this unsolicited endorsement the other day.

Thank you, Alex!

What a Concert Classical Guitarist Says About My Guitars

  I have had the pleasure of playing the magnificent guitars made by the luthier Wilson Burnham. The first impression that one perceives is ...