Thursday, December 12, 2019

Cutting a Sound Port on a Guitar

In a previous post I mentioned that I was going to cut a sound port in the upper bout of the cedar/wenge guitar. Drilling/cutting sound ports in guitars has been popular for about the last fifteen years, it was original done with the claim that it made the guitar louder, but research has shown that it really doesn't make the guitar louder. It does give more immediate feed back of the guitar's sound to the player.
I found oval templates after a search on the Internet and settled on this size. A little spray adhesive helped attach the template to the guitar's upper bout...
I bravely went at the wood with a drill bit in my cordless drill...
and there is the roughed-in oval. Some exterior tear/blow out had to be dealt with.
After filing and sanding away the excess that didn't look like an oval, an oval appear. This hole immediately raised the tap tone of the top by one whole tone, from about F sharp-G to A flat-A, and it also reduced the side's stiffness, I can feel the entire guitar vibrate more, especially in the guitar's neck.
I started the French polish process by painting on coats of 3lb cut shellac with resin, I want to try an old technique of pore filling. Paint on shellac, sand down to wood leaving shellac in the pores and then do that as many times as needed until the pores are filled with shellac. Wenge pores are quite large, I don't feel like trying to push a large amount of 4F pumice into them.

Will this sound port make a better sounding guitar? I won't know until I put strings on it.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

What's On My Workbench: Cedar/Wenge Classical Guitar

I decided to experiment with a top bracing that is in the manner of Hermann Hauser and Daniel Friedrich. Hermann Hauser was a luthier from Germany, who made a guitar that the great Andres Segovia performed and recorded on for many years; Daniel Friedrich, a luthier in Paris, now retired, is well known for his innovative bracing derived from the work of luthier, Robert Bouchet.

The main reason why I am trying this experiment is that really loud classical guitars are in great demand these days by guitarists who compete in guitar competitions and young guitarists studying at music conservatories. I find it very interesting that most of these guitarists and professional performing guitarists mic and amplify their instruments in every concert setting. Why does one need a loud guitar if you are going to plug in? Why not have a beautiful sounding guitar that will touch the hearts of listeners? 

Now, to the guitar.

I used western red cedar from British Columbia for the top and wenge for the sides and back. I re-sawed the wenge with a table saw and finished it by hand with my Disston No.7 ripsaw, wenge is as hard as bubinga to cut! One thing about working with wenge, I was always getting slivers! I am surprised I didn't get slivers in my eyes! Bending wenge by hand on a hot bending iron is not for the faint of heart, it wants to fight! I had very little spring back with it, a nice benefit.

I know that for me, five struts without the angled cut off bars make great sounding guitar with volume and a gorgeous voice.

Adding the middle brace, which is directly under the bone saddle of the bridge, adds more sustain to the guitar's sound. The outer two braces provide extra rigidity to the top so I can bring the top's thickness down to 2mm or less, something around 1.7mm-1.9mm, which helps to increase the loudness of the guitar.

The five main braces are inlet into the lower transverse brace, and the opposite ends of the braces are anchored by kerfing blocks and the end block. I have done that on other guitars and they are loud! The cross braces go over the main struts, in the manner of Bouchet, and then I carefully plane away the brace wood to produce the sound I want.

Also popular today, are sound ports. These are additional sound holes drilled or cut into the guitar sides. Most are located on the bass side upper bout, this puts the port directly under the player's jaw, the feedback of the guitar's sound is more immediate available to the player. I will cut a sound port, where the maple veneer backing is located, once I get the guitar ready for French polish.

The black ring, made of wood veneer, at the sound hole is a short tornavoz, "tuned voice". The great Antonio de Torres used a large brass tornavoz on several of his guitars, the tornavoz decreases the Helmholtz effect of the guitar's sound chamber and from what I have read, the tornavoz helps increase the projection of sound. By adding a sound port, I will, from the research I have done, change "the pitch" of the guitar, the tornavoz is supposed to help offset this "change of pitch". If you want more information on sound ports and the tornavoz, go to the delcamp guitar forum and search for those items.

Honduras mahogany back braces on wenge.

The main binding trim is cut from a board of waterfall bubinga.

This is where I am at right now with the cedar/wenge guitar, glueing on the bridge with a vacuum press. I really like using this press!

Tomorrow, the plan is to temporarily install tuning machines, put a dummy fret at the first and twelfth fret positions and attach the bass and treble "E" strings. This allows me to adjust the geometry of fretboard so it will work best with the height of the bridge. Once I like the string action, then I will install the frets!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

My Guitars Currently Available at Savage Classical Guitar

Savage Classical Guitar is my representative on the East Coast. The gallery is owned and operated by Rich Sayage, who is a wonderful man and great to work with. 

There are currently two of my guitars at his gallery:

Below are links to sound clips of Mr. Sayage playing my guitars with commentary on how they sound and play.

Here is a sound clip of the Redwood guitar.

Here is a sound clip of the Port Orford Cedar guitar.

Specifications of the guitars are listed on the Savage Classical Guitar website.

Check them out! Listen to the sound clips of Rich playing the guitars and you will have a smile on your face all day!

Here are some photos from Savage Classical Guitar of the Redwood/EIRW guitar...

Here are some photos from Savage Classical Guitar of the Port Orford Cedar/EIRW guitar...

Monday, October 7, 2019

Dutch Tool Chest: Six Months Later

You need wide boards to make a chest, and when a woodworker finds some wide boards, he goes after them.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Workbook, 1986

I have worked out of my Dutch style tool chest nearly every day for the last six months. I never close the lid or the fall front cover for easy access to the tools I need. Such a treat! It's almost as nice as handing tools on a wall.

I'm sure you have noticed that I never got around to painting the chest and there are a few other things that need to be do for tool organization, like adding a saw till for my backsaws. I haven't made the time to finish it, I'd rather make guitars and I have discovered that even though this is a wonderful design, it doesn't quite fulfill my needs.

Here are a few things I want to change when I make another Dutch Style Tool Chest...

1. Make it deeper. As you can see in the above photo I have my hand planes lined up with the totes facing out, making them quickly accessible. The Stanley No.5 planes are three inches longer than the depth of the chest, in order to close up the box I have to turn them sideways to fit with all the other tools. By making it deeper, the workbench totes will be able to fit and then I can make them stackable!

2. Make it wider. The lid accommodates my Lie-Nielsen twenty inch long panel saws, but there are days that I want my longer, vintage rip and crosscut saws to be at hand in the same chest instead of walking out to the garage to pull them from "the other" tool chest. The extra width will, of course, provide storage for more tools, which could be a bad thing.

3. Make it taller. That can be accomplished by simply building a separate box with a drop front cover to go underneath the tool chest. Again, more storage and perhaps, less bending over and getting on my knees to locate tools in the lower section of the main chest.

4. No dovetail joinery, just butted rabbet joints held together with glue and nails. And the nails don't have to be the old fashioned square nails, 8d galvies will work. To me, it's just a tool chest, not a fancy piece of furniture.


The one thing I won't change is the lid! No clearing of shop detritus off the lid to get to the tools! An ingenious idea!

And be nice, I know that not every tool chest fits every woodworker, I learned that a long time ago when I was a teenager working with my father!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Varnish, Shellac, Glaire

Although varnish has been used for centuries, the present-day guitars are either french-polished or spray finished with lacquer.

Jose Romanillos, The Classical Guitar, from Making Musical Instruments, edited by Charles Ford, 1979

I am always looking for ways to improve the finish on the classical guitars I make and I spend a good bit of time on the Internet looking for articles on French polish and violin varnish. Recently, I decided to revisit the use of egg white to seal the soundboard of a guitar that I am currently working on. I have blogged about using egg white with pumice as a pore filler elsewhere in this blog, I found out that egg white and pumice isn't the best pore filler, egg white is not water proof, contrary to some statements found on other websites.

Making an egg white wash is easy to do, you separate the white from the yolk and then whip the egg white until it forms soft to medium peaks. If you have done any baking, you will know what I am talking about. Then you place the egg white in a strainer, set the strainer over a bowl and let the egg white drain into the bowl. The straining is done at room temperature and it can take several hours, or over night, for all the glaire to strain out. Tradition states that the longer glaire sits at room temperature, the better it will be, but just be aware that the sulphide in the egg white will start to smell like, well, rotten eggs.

Glaire has been used for centuries to make water soluble paints and ink, just Google it and you will find plenty of information about it and its uses. If you research tempera paint, you will find recipes where all you do is mix the yolk with water and pigment, maybe a little binder such as flour, to make a waterproof paint.

Glaire is often used in wood finishing to help raise the grain of the wood. The guitar maker Jose Romanillos mentions in his book, Making the Spanish Guitar, that he once used glaire for that purpose, but discovered that it didn't raise the grain as much as water does. He does state that the egg white will give a spruce guitar top a nice patina. I have done that on several guitar tops and I agree, it does give the wood a bit more depth and a slightly aged appearance.

Here is the redwood/East Indian rosewood with a sanded top, without glaire...

and the top with several coats of glaire.

I will lightly sand the egg white sealer, then apply one or two coats and sand again before I start the French polish process.

Is glaire necessary? I don't think so, it is something that I like to use time and again. I have read that some makers have used it as a varnish, that seems counterproductive because egg white isn't waterproof. Maybe a person could make a varnish out of tempera...

As for the varnish that is in the title of this post, one thing I have come realize in all my research is that violin makers really know what they are doing when it comes to making and applying oil varnish. I guess comes from having four hundred and fifty years knowledge and tradition.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Redwood/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

The workshop should be a comfortable and convenient place in which to work-the one place you'd rather spend time in than anywhere else.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings, 1982

We have lived in this wonderful house for two months now, the neighborhood is quiet and I can't get used to the fact that everything we need-groceries, restaurants, museums, etc.- are only minutes away by car or light rail. I appreciate the fact that many of my clients live within a short drive of the house and that I do have studio space.

Having a space means that I need to work and I am busy working on a new guitar that has a reclaimed redwood top with East Indian rosewood back and sides. I got the guitar assembled by the end of last Friday, this week I have been doing some light sanding on the the guitar prepping for when I glue the bridge on and I made the bridge. Today was spent sanding and raising the grain on the bridge so I can start pore filling and French polishing it next week.

I am very excited to get the bridge on this guitar and string it up "in the white", I have a feeling this will be an exceptional guitar in the beauty and depth of its tone. Once I put strings on it, I will let it settle in a bit and then start tuning the top by adjusting the top thickness with judicious sanding and much listening to improve the guitar's tone.

There is another guitar in the works, one with an European spruce top that will have rosewood back and sides, and the back is quite stunning with its fillet of Macassar ebony. Almost all the parts for it are ready, this afternoon I planed and scraped the sides down to 2mm thickness, all I need to do is bend the sides, once that is done I can start assembling that guitar!

As you scroll through this photos, I want you to think about how you can add more beauty and elegance into your work and life. That was something my parents and many of my college professors urged me to do, I try to add beauty and elegance to my life every day.

Friday, July 5, 2019

New Shop, New Workbench

At its simplest, a shop doesn't take much to be successful:  a  bit of roof, a bench, and a corner where a tool chest can be stored.

Scott Gibson, The Workshop, 2003

We are still settling into the house that we rented in a quiet little suburb of Denver, there are opened and unpacked moving boxes in the house and in the garage.

I was able to set up studio space in the spare bedroom, I cached the extra guitars in the closet and purchased a set of metal mesh shelving for the tone wood, it's a wonderful room, the only problem with it is there is no air conditioning in the house. There is an attic/house fan that sucks air in from the outside, it makes it hard to control "the climate" in this room. I bought a room dehumidifier to keep the guitars and wood at 45%RH, the machine puts out some heat, the room can get a little warm. I am looking forward to the fall when outside temperatures are a little cooler.

For the last several years, I have wanted a workbench base that has drawers for storing extra, and needed, tools, along with space to put the bending iron, router and vise when not in use. I devoted the last two weeks to making a new base.

I salvaged the legs from a router table I made and used only once. The legs and rails are connected to each other with lag bolts, I copied the mechanics for the bench from Carlyle Lynch's plans for making a woodcarving bench. Technically, this is a knock-down base, but since it is made out of white fir, the base is lighter than the incense/western red cedar top.

The drawer carcass is built from some one half inch thick plywood...

the drawers are made from pine...

I made simple wooden runners for the drawers and cut the runner dados on a table saw...

the joints are simple dadoed butt joints nailed and glued together. This is a work bench, not a museum piece, I'm not willing to spend the time chopping out dovetails. 

I painted the drawer faces with "Turkish Tile" blue.

I am very happy with the final product!

Now comes the task of filling the drawers with the necessary tools and I have to keep telling myself that I need to downsize the numbers of tools in the shop. More tools means making more storage space, I'd rather be spending my time making guitars!

I am almost open for business...

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...