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An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place! These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...
Stanley Doubtfire, Make Your Own Classical Guitar, 1981
I finished carving the wings on the bridge today and glued on the mother-of-pearl overlay on the chordal block. I also found out how hard mother-of-pearl is, it will quickly dull a plane, knife or card scraper edge and wears out sand paper pretty fast.
I sanded the bridge using some 220 grit, then 400 grit and followed that by burnished the whole thing with an old dish towel.
It has a wash coat of shellac on it, now you can see how pretty this piece of Indian rosewood is.
James Krenov, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, 1979
I took this photo a while ago, that is one problem with having a day job, it gets in the way of what you really want to do. A day job is there to pay bills.
The top gauge I made a little over 20 years ago from some Claro walnut that my neighbor, who was a logger, gave me from a claro walnut tree that he had fallen along Cottonwood Creek in northern California. The tree had be cut up for firewood. I got the idea for the gauge from an article in a Woodwork magazine where the author made a gauge from some madrone.
The lower gauge, which is really a cutting gauge, is also made from walnut, but the wood came from a tree that my grandfather had planted in 1942.
I am always grateful that I made my own gauges that I never had to buy one. There is something about using a tool that you made for yourself. Click here for an article that I recommend on how to make your own marking gauge.
I've finished shaping the wings on the bridge and tomorrow I will reduce the height of the chordal block (the part of the bridge that anchors the strings) so I can glue on a piece of mother of pearl. In an article in American Lutherie, guitar maker R.E. Brune stated that if you are making a close copy of a guitar by Antonio Torres or Hermann Hauser, and if you want it to sound as close to the original guitar, you need to make an exact copy of the original bridge. I made this bridge according to Roy Courtnall's plans, but because Julia's guitar is narrower than the original, I made the bridge shorter than the original one. I am also trying to keep this bridge as light as possible, right now it is at 20 grams, the mother of pearl will add some weight. A bridge can "dampen" a guitar top, the idea is to let the top vibrate a freely as possible. Check out this article by Ervin Somogyi on guitar dynamics.
It's been a magical experience making this guitar for Julia: the wood is amazing, adhering to the traditional Spanish school of guitar making to assemble this guitar, the French polish and the joy of working I believe are going to make this guitar truly amazing to play and to listen to.
It has been two months since I had back surgery.
Recovery has not been as advertised and I have learned more about vertebrae, nerves, scar tissue and various bodily fluids than I ever wanted to know.
At the moment walking and standing are difficult but I have seen some improvement and a full recovery is expected.
I recently worked at the bench for the first time since surgery and it did my heart a world of good.
My personal dulcimer has long been in need of fretwork and this seemed like the ideal project to take on.
I soon realized my lower body has been more involved when doing fretwork than I had imagined. I never noticed I kneel in front of the bench when checking the frets and fingerboard with a straight edge. I also prefer standing when leveling, crowning and polishing frets.
I spent some of the time working while seated on a tall stool. For some tasks I felt more in control of tools while standing and this required taking several breaks before completing the job.
After finishing the fretwork I needed to lower the height of the bridge. I set my action to tight tolerances and on a job like this I often drop the action to compensate for the few hundredths of an inch of height the frets lose after being leveled.
This dulcimer has an ebony bridge and the height was quickly lowered with a pass or two of a finely set block plane.
After enjoying time working at the bench I got to enjoy playing a dulcimer that feels as good to play as when it was new.
Paul N. Hasluck, Manual of Traditional Woodcarving, 1911
I give two good reasons why you should consider using French polish to apply shellac to your next work.
One reason is the finish that it creates. This is the back of Julia's guitar, a copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez, after only three French polish sessions using a 1 pound cut of shellac. It simply astounds me as to how wonderful this finish is becoming!
This is the top of Julia's guitar after only two French polish sessions!
The best reason to use shellac and French polish is for your health!
What other finish is there that you make out of bug secretion and grain alcohol? The only chemical in shellac that will do damage to you is the grain alcohol and you have to drink that stuff to cause the damage. You do not need any personal protection equipment to apply shellac and you don't need a HAZMAT locker to store the components. How wonderful is that?!
The equipment you need to apply shellac is simple: raw wool for the pad; cotton fabric to cover the pad, and a little olive oil to help apply the shellac. Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that you use ground volcanic pumice to fill the wood pores!
Does this sound to good to be true?
It must be true, shellac has been applied by French polishing for over 200 years with great success!
This video is available through Fernandez Music or LMI. I wish I had bought a copy 'way back in 1994 when I really got into this lutherie thing, it would have saved me much heart ache.
This is a wonderful DVD, I highly recommend it! Mr. Fernandez covers all the bases of using shellac and French polishing, if you watch this DVD a few times and try your hand at French polish, you too will discover that it is not as hard as all those woodworking writers and pundits claim it is!
I do have Robbie O'Brien's DVD on French polish, again available from LMI. I haven't watched it yet, though I've had it for over six months. I haven't watched it because I am at a level where it is better for me to spend an hour or so gaining experience at French polishing then to watch a video of someone else doing it.
There are many, many articles and books about French polish, one article I recommend French Polishing Demystified, by Vijay Velji, which appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Fine Woodworking. I also recommend searching out articles written by Eugene Clark, Cynthia Burton, George Frank; Dan Erlewine wrote a great piece for Stew-Mac which you can find in their Trade Secrets! Newsletter, click here to read that article.
I suggest that you visit these websites to learn more about the art and history of French polish:
French Polishing, Antique & Code Finishes
Chris Baylor has posted one of the best articles I've read on French polish. Click here to read it. You may think that his article makes French polish sound like it is an easy thing to do, well, IT IS! You just have to practice it to be good at it, like any other skill!
There is a myriad of YouTube Videos by guitar makers on how they apply shellac by French polishing. Check out Les Stansell and Michael Thames!
I know that Taunton Press has just published a new book of French polish by Derek Jones, but I don't think it has been released yet. I would like to look at a copy of it.
I can't forget to mention Shellac.Net, they have a great website where you can buy shellac and learn all sorts of things about shellac. I should buy a copy of The French Polisher's Handbook from them, it was written in 1910 by "A Practical Man", it looks like it is full of wonderful information on French polish.
So get busy and do some research and then buy all the ingredients to make your own shellac.
Don't be afraid of shellac and French polish!
Be afraid of someone who tells you that you shouldn't learn a new skill just because they think it is too hard of a thing to do!
Yesterday, I went to my favorite used tool website, Sydnas Sloot and once again discovered that I was too late to consider buying a vintage saw from Mr. Moss. Sandy Moss is one of the best used tool dealers to buy from on the Internet, several of the tools in my arsenal I purchased from him.
I also realized that the last tool I purchased from Sandy was seven years ago (I reached a saturation point in tool collecting about then) and that the world has changed mightily since those days. There was once a time when you had a few days to consider buying a hand saw from an Internet seller before it would be sold to another, now you must snap up a vintage saw immediately or it will be sold. I also remember when most hand saws were priced under $50 and most saws at a flea market were under $20. Again, those prices and saws have gone the way of the buffalo.
There is currently a Handsaw Craze that is sweeping the nation, when did hand saws become so popular? Am I the only 50 year old man who remembers when the old timers discarded handsaws for a bandsaw and table saw because they thought those machines were the best things to use for ripping and crosscutting wood?
These days writers for the glitzy woodworking magazines have discovered the potential of hand saws. That has created a "revival" among men who retired from their regular day jobs and finally got the chance to do what they wanted-work with the wood. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wish that they didn't drive the prices of tools out of the reach of those of us who haven't retired or, in my case, never will.
I use power tools at my day job because they make me more efficient. I use hand saws to make guitars, to use a bandsaw or table saw for me removes a very personal aspect of guitar making. A guitar is such an intimate instrument, why instill noise into the wood and then into the spirit of the guitar?
I honor an allegiance to my father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers by using hand saws. For me a handsaw is not a fad and the last thing I want to do is drive the price of a vintage handsaw so high that a newbie to traditional woodworking would be better off buying a $235 saw from Lie-Nielson or Wenzloff and Sons. I guess I could say that for the entire vintage tool market at the moment.
I don't apologize for this rant. A woodworker should use the tools that they need and should be able to purchase them at a reasonable price. I plan on working with the wood until I can no longer get out of bed, woodworking for me is not a fad, but a way of life.
All of us need to make wood working accessible to those who are younger and make it fun for them. I do not want to deny a young person an education just because the market is driving up the price of the tools (or college tuition for that matter) needed to get ahead in life.
Slowly but surely I am recovering from back surgery and lutherie has commenced in the form of cleaning and organizing the shop in short installments.
While cleaning out the shop I ventured into the quagmire of the closet; the dark, scary place where useful things mingle with forgotten somewhat-useful and mostly useless things from the past. Within this portal of doom lurk dead cans of finish, expired bottles of yellow glue, useless tools of questionable manufacture, parts of tools I do not own, mysterious objects that somehow made their way across time and space and into my workspace, etc.
And among these many things I found a small treasure; a box with 3 pounds of dry hide glue. This stuff is probably 3 years old and as good as the day I bought it.
And why, you might ask, do I consider this newsworthy?
Well, I also found a leaky box of very old epoxy that made an 8 inch round toxic puddle on one of the shelves. I have not used epoxy in years and I have no idea how long this oozing abomination has tainted the fine particle board shelf upon which it resides.
It is neither solid nor liquid but something in-between, something not of this world, something evil.
Hide glue does not do this! I’m adding this fact to the list of reasons I prefer hide glue.
Luckily most of the stuff I pried loose from this resinous swamp was going to get tossed anyway.
The real reason for this post?
I am avoiding going back upstairs to cleanup this awful mess!
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Gil Gilpatrick, Building Wooden Snowshoes & Snowshoe Furniture, 2001
Remember these snowshoes? I re-laced them with 1/8 inch nylon cord and mason's line last November and today was the first day I could really try them out! We received over 20inches of snow yesterday and last night, some times the snowfall rate was 4 inches an hour!
These snowshoes are a dream! They are about 2 pounds lighter per shoe, as compared to when they were laced with rawhide, now it's like walking air! Click here or on the book title above to learn more about Gil Gilpatrick's book on how to make snowshoes!
Our place this morning. I might try to get the Wrangler out this afternoon!
The gulch behind our house.
Our Australian shepherd, Josey, coming up the road.
Bernard S. Mason, Woodcraft, 1973
Rob Gates, who has a wonderful blog, The Offcut, was asking me about what knife I use.
My main "go to" knife these days is a Frosts Mora of Sweden #106 woodcarving knife that I purchased from Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Click here to see this knife at SMKW!
Mora of Sweden #106 Woodcarving Knife, 3 1/4 inch blade, top
Mora of Sweden #120 Woodcarving Knife, 2 3/8 inch blade, bottom
My wife bought me this knife several years ago for Christmas, she heard me mention that Robin Wood preferred this knife for spoon carving. I find it the most amazing knife, I wish I had gotten one years ago. The extra blade length is a big help in carving, especially spoons, there is something about how easily it moves through the wood. Check out Robin's blog for other recommendations for green wood working tools!
I bought the Mora #120 twenty years ago or so from Woodcraft, you can see how much I've sharpened it. I carved many a spoon and the heels of several guitar necks with this knife. Click here to see this knife at SMKW!
These knives are indispensable in my shop. I would be helpless without them. I suppose that I should try to make a guitar or ukulele with just a knife and an axe one of these days.
I am a firmly believe that every woodworker needs to be highly skilled with a knife.
(Rob, I found Moonraker Knives and Woodsmith Experience in the UK that carries Mora Knives. If you know of a retailer for Frosts Mora knives there in the UK that provides good service, please let me know. I promised to send one to the daughter of a good friend of mine in the Yorkshire Dales for her birthday!)
This Martin dreadnaught as a problem found on many older guitars. The bridge pin holes have been worn to the point that the ball ends of the strings sit below the surface of the bridge plate. This condition occurs slowly over time when the ball ends of the strings are installed below the bridge plate and are forced against the plate rapidly as the guitar is tuned to pitch. When installing strings on an acoustic with bridge pin the string should be inserted through the hole, the bridge pin installed loosely pushing the ball forward, and the string should be pulled up against the top of the guitar while the pin is pushed gently into place. The pin should not be too tight. It is the ball against the bridge plate that holds the string in place, not the pressure from the pin.
When the plate gets worn it can be replaced entirely or the repaired by removing small divots of wood around each pin hole and gluing in new wood.
Irving Sloane, Classic Guitar Construction, 1966
Work continues on Julia's guitar as I can make time.
The neck and upper bout have been leveled with sanding blocks for the fret board. I put down the tape to keep the glue squeeze out off the wood. I learned to this long ago, if you don't you can spend a lot of time carefully scraping away the glue and the wood.
The fret board is ready to go, it has its final shape and level. I decided to use at piece of 3/4 inch MDF for the clamping caul instead of the piece of Douglas fir that I have used in the past. The MDF is more flexible and more likely to conform to any irregularities of the fret board and neck. I want the fret board to have good contact with the neck!
Gluing and clamping the fret board.
After installing the frets. I bought a new fret hammer from LMI, my old Sears-Roebuck cobbler's hammer tended to mar the frets, and I got a pair of fret nippers from StewMac which are absolutely wonderful. Finally, a tool I don't have to send back to StewMac because it was poorly made!
The head stock. I tried to make the crest as much like the original as I could.
Carving the neck. As a classic guitar player, I know that the neck must be comfortable, it's probably the most important part of the guitar! I'll spend some quality time to make this the best neck I have ever made.
Carving the neck and the back side of the head stock.
Daniel Carter Beard, The Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906
The outside thermometer registered 0 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, it may have said -1 degree Fahrenheit, but I didn't want to look too closely. Not bad for April 10th!
We got much needed snow with this storm, but not enough. I just read that the snow pack at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is at 49 percent of normal and the Wild Basin snow pack is at 54 percent.
It's going to be a long hot, dry and very scary summer. The wildland firefighters will be very happy.
Long story short; I’m recovering well from back surgery.
Short story slightly longer; a year ago at a festival I stepped out of the car, suddenly and unexpectedly doubled over in pain, and instantly knew life would be slightly more complicated for a while.
When I got home I visited an excellent physician who ran some tests and assured me that a relatively simple surgery would solve the problem.
I was also assured my insurance company would not cover the cost of the surgery until I spent a year trying other treatments which in my doctor’s opinion would not solve the problem.
For a year I was able to work about one-third of the time I usually work in the shop. People waiting for instruments on order were understanding and kind. Most advance orders did get completed and shipped and a few still waiting for completion are slated for the hands of equally considerate and understanding people.
In a few weeks I will be easing my way back into the dulcimer shop. I’ll be finishing up some orders, making instruments to have on hand as inventory, and finally completing a long-overdue modern rendering of an Ethiopian Begena.
During the past year my wonderful wife Cynthia drove me to quite a few festivals, workshops and other gigs during the times I could not make the drive myself.
During these trips Cynthia met friends around the Midwest she had only heard of and vice-versa.
Friends at festivals throughout the area keep asking if she will be coming to festivals in the future.
I think more people might show up at my gigs if she comes with me because they want to see her!
I understand completely.
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This sides on this Gibson mandolin had become distended over time to the point that they could not be pushed back into place. Pushing one area in just caused it to bulge in another area. I decided that a small amount of wood needed to be removed from the tail end, reducing the circumference of the sides. To do so I removed the back, the kerfed lining, and the tail block, and then used folded sand paper to slowly remove wood from the seam at the tail end. It was critical to know exactly how the sides were matching up at all times. I tried making a standard for the match the back but I really needed to be able to adjust the pressure on the sides evenly all the way around the body so I took the time to make a set of 20 clamps that insert into 1/4″ holes around the perimeter of the mold that push against the ribs.
These little clamps work extremely well and I am happy to have them for future repairs.
I had to replace some of the kerfed lining, remove a small sliver of maple to reduce the folding pressure on the top, and add a small piece of maple to the opposite side to fill the gap. There are a few areas where a small misalignment can be felt but overall I am happy with the results. This is an amazing sounding Mandolin back in playable condition.
For more photos click here.