Friday, December 21, 2018

On the Workbench - Redwood/Curly Walnut Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Part 1

...the graceful lines and the splendor of the guitar's body possessed my heart as swiftly as would the features of a heaven-sent woman suddenly appearing to become the loving companion of a lifetime.

Andres Segovia, Andres Segovia, An Autobiography of the years 1893-1920, 1976

I made this neck more than a few years back with the intent of building a nice guitar with a 640mm scale length. It languished in "the wood pile" until recently when I pulled it out and paired it with a back and side set of curly black walnut.

The walnut bent like a dream and unlike some walnut that I have worked with in the past, it didn't spring back, a definite bonus! I thinned the sides down to 3/32" and the waist area down to a tad less that 1/16" to help with the bending process. I find with walnut that the bending iron temperature needs to be between 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit, any hotter and the wood gets too bitter and will fail.

I have discovered that I have a knack for making wonderful sounding redwood top guitars. I grew up working redwood, the redwood lumber industry was a big part of our local economy, and can attest that a redwood splinter stuck in your finger or hand is as annoying and painful has handling old growth Douglas fir bark without gloves!

The bracing layout I use is a variation of one used by the guitar makers Hernandez y Aguado, which is a variation of the bracing developed by the great guitar maker Jose Ramirez III in the early 1960's. The top brace wood used for this guitar I salvaged from a log cabin that was built in 1930, the wood is Engelmann spruce.

The Spanish cedar lining for the back of the guitar is cut by hand, just like the walnut lining for the top.

The inside of the guitar is prepared and ready for the back!

The curly walnut back with its Spanish cedar braces. This walnut is incredibly light, even though the back thickness is about 3mm, with the braces the back weighs 220 grams! The braces are 1/4", 5/16" and 3/8" thick, from heel to end block, this and careful shaving off the brace tops and ends, helps me tune the back to a definite pitch, or tone. This back tuned out to somewhere between the A flat-A below middle C.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Be Your Own Apprentice

Daiju visited the master Baso in China.
Baso asked: "What do you seek?"
"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.
"You have your own treasure house. Why do you search outside?" Baso asked
Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure house?"
Baso answered: "What you are asking is your treasure house."
Daiju was enlightened! 
Ever after he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those treasures."

 from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, complied by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, 1957

"What maker did you study with? What was his name?" This was a question I often get when I attend guitar festivals as a vendor.

"Myself," was my reply.

"Really? How?"

"I read a few books on guitar making, pulled out some old tools I inherited, bought some wood and went at it," I replied.

"Wow! Really? How did you know how work the wood into a guitar? I don't think I could make anything like this unless someone taught me how."

That statement always makes me a little sad, because I strongly believe that if there is something that you want to do or make, you need to go ahead and do it without worrying about the outcome.

You can be your own apprentice, you can be your own teacher.

Several young people have asked me if they could apprentice with me, or take a class from me. I don't have the time at this point in my career to teach, I need to make guitars and market them. I always give these young people several options for learning - read some books, buy some wood and tools, or find a guitar making course in Spain!

The replies I get after telling them those options range from "I can't afford to go to Spain!" "But, if I teach myself, it will take too long and waste my time!"

Then I tell them that you have to want to make a guitar more than anything else.

It is the same thing about general woodworking. If there is something that you want to make, you need to go out and make it.

Pick out something that really excites you, something you really want to make, find out what tools are needed, read a book or watch a video on how to sharpen them, buy the wood and go to work. It's that simple. If you really feel that you need to take a class on how to make that thing, then by all means do it, it is a step closer to understanding what treasures you possess.

What is really hard about woodworking is taking that first step to do it. Change and the unknown are scary, once you know what the change is about, the rest is easy.

I had to start somewhere, I had to take that first step.

One thing to remember is, that as a teacher, don't be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake or something goes wrong. It is a part of the journey.

The Best Workshop in the World!

The best workshop in the world is the one that you are working in! I know that there are people who complain about their work space - it is ...