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Luthiery

Preservation Work on an 1860's Greek Revival House

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:24am
The [Greek Revival] style disappeared in the East before the earliest attempts at mining in Colorado, but its influence was felt nevertheless as miners came west from other areas.

C. Eric Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian-Architecture and Society in Colorado Mining Towns, 1975




Those of you who follow my blog know that I work 7 months out of the year as a historic preservation carpenter for a government agency.

My latest project is working on a house that was built in the 1860's and it is need of some maintenance. I am replacing the worst pieces of siding, I've removed most of the sashes so that cracked lights can be replaced and re-glazed, and then I and another worker will scrape paint and prep the building so several volunteer groups can doing most of the painting.

This house is not stick built, it is really a log house! The timbers are hewed on 2 sides and joined at the corners with true dovetailed notches. The roof and attic are framed with full dimensioned lumber, the furring strips that hold the siding are also milled lumber. Whoever built this house was a highly skilled carpenter who knew how to use an axe. I haven't found out what the exact date of construction was, I was told 1860, I think it was a little later, because I don't think that there was a sawmill working in the vicinity that early. I'm guessing the construction date is closer to 1863-64.

To continue Mr. Stoehr's quote on the Greek Revival style:

Although no pure examples of the Greek Revival appear in these towns, a frontier adaptation of Greek detailing was present. The pedimental lintel used over the doorways and windows was a simple detail that could be added to the otherwise plain log and vernacular structures.

That statement fits this house to a "T"!

Just a little over a mile to the east of this house, there is a fancier Greek Revival house that has seven gables, it's a show piece of architecture for the little community it is part of.

I am grateful to be the lead carpenter on this sweet little house that others think is ugly, it is a wonderful part of our nation's heritage.



Categories: Luthiery

The Shapes Seen by the Carver.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 07/17/2014 - 6:08pm
Transient and pretty.  I think so, and if you're into any sort of wood carving, I suspect you do to.  A little scene that lasts for a moment, then is gone.

This violin back plate is still several millimeters away from its final surface.  The outside shape is not finished, the corners overgrown clumps that will slowly evolve.  In the meantime, I like seeing the steps before the end, before the completion.  At this stage, I am flailing away, taking off as much wood as I dare.  I like seeing the leftovers, the curls of wood that will be swept up, destined for the fireplace, the compost heap, or the trash, depending on my whim at the time.


With luck, it will live a long life as part of a violin, making music, interacting with the human world.  With more luck, someone will really enjoy its shape, its existence.

The scene here is obviously only potential.  What will it look like?  What will it sound like?

 Permance, though, is perhaps nearly as fleeting.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Web-page Revision

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:32pm
I've made a minor, and at the same time, a major, change in my business's web-page.  Focusing more on one-of-a-kind and my own instruments, I've decided to try listing some instruments and prices on my web-page.

This is brand-new today, and you can see it here.

Probably several changes to lay-out and format in the next few weeks.  I am accustomed to making frequent, minor updates to the web-page, but this will probably require a bit more attention.  And I have no idea how it will look on others' browsers.

It's really a guess on my part.  By far, most of my business since 1996 has been local, walk-in, personal referral.  Times change.  It could be interesting.

Tangentially related, and because I like to see images on blog-posts, here's the neck attached to the body of my newest pochette.


I had intended to cut normal f-holes into this one, but no matter how I drew them, I didn't like them.  Seemed busy.  I was suddenly inspired by the Norwegian ale-bowl horsehead scroll to cut soundholes shaped like longboats.  Another guess on my part.  But it's just a fiddle.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #78

Doug Berch - Sun, 07/06/2014 - 7:28am

The post Music I’d Like To Hear #78 appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Grooving Planes - Some Tips on How to Make Them

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 07/04/2014 - 2:18pm
An artist prepares for weeks, months, and years...but lives only for moments. Moments, then that have no sense of time.

Gustave Leonhardt, harpsichordist



This is not a "how-to" post.

I just want to pass on some things I learned about assembling them. I hope these tips help you.

I assume many of you are interested in making these neat little grooving planes, but haven't gotten around to making a pair yet.

Bob Easton was the first person to bring them to my attention, be sure to check out his blog.

I am grateful that Lie Nielsen has posted Matt Kenney's great article on how to make them. Click here for the article.

Accidental Wood Worker also has a great post on these little planes, click here for that posting.




I am making these planes so I can cut the saddle slot in a guitar's bridge without using a table saw. The skate depth is 4mm and the plane's fence is 5mm from the iron.

This morning, with Mr. Kenney's article on the work bench, I started glueing parts together.

When I started glueing the "bed" for the iron I had a devil of a time trying to keep it in it's proper position, it kept shifting under the clamps' pressure even after the glue got a little tacky.

Everything turned out fine, proper skate depth, etc., but I wanted to eliminate the risk of the next piece moving under clamp pressure.

Then it hit me...all I needed were some brass brads!




I didn't follow Mr. Kenny's instructions and made the plane about one half inch bigger than what his plans call for. I learned long ago to make tool parts larger so I can make them smaller, you know, "room for mistakes".

This extra wood gives me room to use "registering nails".

All I do for this is snip off the head of a brass brad and chuck it into a drill. This is my drill bit. Now with the wood clamped where I want it, I drill the number of holes needed and insert brass brads, that still have their heads, home into their respective holes.

Then I remove the brads, apply glue to the piece in question, re-insert the brads, position the piece, push the brads home and then apply clamps. Nothing should shift.

Pretty simple, huh?

I use this technique when I glue veneer onto the head stock of a guitar neck.




I did the same thing for the other blank to complete the plane.

I then ripped it to finished width on the table saw and trimmed it to length on my sliding compound miter saw.




Making the plane work.

I tried to keep the mouth opening to under 1/64th of an inch, it's a little wider than that, but the big problem that I ran into was the shavings constantly clogged the mouth.

I rounded over the very end of the iron wedge so the shavings would ride over it, but the size of the escapement became the next problem.

I had to chisel away some of the area in the escapement that is just above the mouth and just below the wedge, you'll see what I mean if you follow Mr. Kenney's instructions to a "T".

On the next plane, I am going to use a 3/16" or so drill bit chucked into the drill press to remove this offending area. And don't forget to make the skate a little narrower than the iron, that part is in the instructions, it really helps make the plane work better.

I finally got decent shavings from a piece of California laurel after about a half hour of fiddling with the plane.

The plane works like a dream and is well worth the time and effort.

And remember - Hand tools rule the school!


If I have posted this video before, my apologies!

Scott Tennant is an incredible musician and I really like this piece by Couperin!

Enjoy!





Categories: Luthiery

A Simple Tool

Doug Berch - Fri, 07/04/2014 - 9:24am

It is easy to romanticize about the beauty and functionality of vintage hand tools, but on a day-to-day basis there are some unsung heroes put to work on my bench that deserve mention. Today’s episode; The Plexiglass Rectangle In this photograph two plexiglass rectangles protect a dulcimer soundboard during fretting. Years ago I used cardboard for this […]

The post A Simple Tool appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Shopmade Cutter Gauges, Part 2

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 10:42am
The most significant tools for the luthier guitar maker are the bramils.

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



This is day 2 of being sick with a head cold, it is really tough for me to sit and be quiet which means I am a little bored, so I thought I would give an update on the "bramils" that I made last week.

As you can see in the following photographs, the brass wear strips were inlaid into the arms and the cutters were shaped and sharpened.

I put a very light coat of linseed oil mixed with Naptha on the walnut to bring out the wood's color a little more.

These "gramils" work very well on a stock piece of wood, I look forward to using them on a guitar.

It's been awhile since I made a tool for the workshop, I may have to make some more.








Here's a YouTube of Scot Tennant playing a 1958 Miguel Rodriguez guitar.

I might just have to try my hand at making a guitar based upon a 1976 Miguel Rodriguez this winter...



Categories: Luthiery

The Retail World Today.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 8:26am

In our part of the country, we are seeing many stores closing.  I suspect most of these closings are due to internet sales.  I think the rate will accelerate.

We spent our week at Weiser this year a little differently.  We had very little in the way of commonly available retail items, and, for the first time, I had no music books.  In the past, I've spent many hours selling music books there.  I enjoy books, and enjoy talking with folks who enjoy books.  The problem is, there's no money in it now.

I had my handmade instruments, white instruments I had varnished, and vintage instruments.  I offered repairs.  Phil had his bows and offered rehairs and repairs.  It was a much slower week as far as individual sales, but we did survive.

And how have the economics changed?  Here is a cut-out from a flyer I received this morning, advertising a new string being offered by one of my wholesale suppliers.


The list price is the old "manufacturer's suggested retail price." Traditionally, this is what has been used to determine the wholesale price, the price I would pay for the set of strings. In the past, this has been roughly 50%, which in this case would be $35.00.  As a "Special Introductory Sale Pricing," the set is being offered to me at 40%, or $28.26.

So what is the MAP?  It is the Minimum Advertised Price.  That is, it is the lowest price that can be advertised.  Note that in the usual wholesale pricing, this is pretty darn close to the usual wholesale price.

With the sales-flyer email still fresh on my computer screen, I went to Amazon.com, and found this right away.

Note that Amazon's price is right at the MAP.  Also note the "Prime," which means if you are an Amazon-Prime member, you don't have to pay shipping.  I don't get the same deal from my wholesaler unless I buy many, many sets.

Further note the "More Buying Choices" at $31.50, below the MAP.  How is this possible?  Well, it turns out they are not actually the same strings, but similar.  What would the customer choose?  Who knows, but the option is there, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.


What happens if a seller advertises at a price lower than MAP?  They get in trouble.  What does trouble mean?  I don't know.  I suspect not much.  And note that the MAP is the lowest  price a product can be advertised, not the lowest at which it can be sold.


So, how can I make money selling strings?  I can't.  So, I don't, or at least, not often.  I have strings and will sell them, but mainly they are for my own work.

I am in the fortunate situation that I can make my living from repairs and building, lessons, some income from performances, that sort of thing -- all things that are really hard to do easily over the internet.

But, my income depends on other people making money, making a living, too.  And there is a huge change happening which I suspect many people are not really aware of.  Not a good time to be a brick-and-mortar store or employee.

Lesson: learn how to DO something.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Shop Made Cutter Gauges

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sun, 06/29/2014 - 5:56pm
Everything popular is wrong.

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895



I spent a couple of hours today and made a pair of gramils, or cutting gauges, for making the binding ledge on a classical guitar. I made these out of some black walnut that I had on hand and after completing them I realized I have some wonderful CSA rosewood in the attic that would make a great set of gauges.


A pair of walnut gramils with the metal gramils in the foreground

Those of you who follow my blog know that I dislike using power tools in making a guitar, I have nothing against power tools, I use them in my day job as a historic preservation carpenter.

I gave up trying to use a router to cut the binding ledges and went back to hand tools: two gramils, chisels and files.

I own two gramils that were purchased from Luthiers Mercantile, they are nice to use, but I have to be really careful with them because slot that for set screw that holds the blade in place can really mar the guitar's wood.

I am hoping that wooden gramils will not mar the wood, at least as badly has the metal gramils can.



Brass strips need to be inlaid into the gramils' arms and sharpen the cutter blades need to be shaped and sharpened. These I cut out of a old card scraper that I purchased from Frog Tool Company over 20 years ago. The scraper logo claims that it is Sheffield Silver Steel, all I know is that it holds a decent cutting edge.

The redwood/Indian rosewood copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar is hanging from a hook in my studio waiting for me to finish the binding ledges and to glue in place the ebony bindings with curly maple fillets. It is becoming impatient. That is another reason why I made these gramils.

Many people think that using hand tools for this operation, cutting binding ledges, by hand is a waste of time, I look at it as another skill to perfect. And the noise that a gramil makes as it slices into the wood is a far more romantic sound then the whine of a Bosch brand router, and is easier on my ears.



Categories: Luthiery

Marriage Marks

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 6:10am
One thing we often see on vintage factory violin bows are Roman numerals on the underneath portion of the slide as well as on the stick.  I've heard all sorts of explanations for these things, from price to maker's mark, and so on.  But the most reasonable explanation, I think, is this:  VII frog goes with VII stick, VIII frog goes with VIII stick.  A maker in a factory would have several on his bench at one time, or even a partial assembly line set-up, with it moving along to another maker for the next step in production.

And today I ran across this --


Timber Frame "Marriage" Marks, found in the on-line publication "18th Century Material Culture: The Carpenter and his Tools - Framing."

A traditional technique, it turns out.

Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Weiser 2014

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Mon, 06/16/2014 - 7:54pm
For more than a dozen years now, Phil Stanley and I have run the repair shop at the National Old-time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho.  We cram our little cars full of shop goods, tools, parts, and such, and make the hour-plus drive up to Weiser.  We set-up in the shop room, out behind the warm-up area at the Contest.  Good years and not-so-good in sales, but we always have fun.  Lots of good friends new and old.

Here are a few iPhone snapshots of our set-up.  This first one shows the debut of my wife's "Juniperberry" bags -- for music books, shoulder rests and general musical needs.  She thinks of them as "Useful handmade bags with a touch of historic fantasy."



Here are is Phil, helping a customer with some bow trials.


Looking down the tables with instruments and bows on display. We have no music books this year for the first time in probably a dozen years; it's one thing that we just can't compete with Internet sales, so we're focusing on handmade and restored vintage instruments, one-of-a-kind items.


The blue towel covers my 'workbench' for the week. Actually end up doing a fair number of diverse repairs here. Keeps one on one's toes. 
The three instruments in stands are violins I have made. The rest are whites that I have reworked and finished or vintage instruments I have restored.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #77

Doug Berch - Sat, 06/14/2014 - 11:06am

The post Music I’d Like To Hear #77 appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Shop Made Router/Scratch Gauge for Making Guitar Binding Ledges, Part 2

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 4:37pm
My early bridges...were made entirely by hand using the smoothing plane, the hand saw, chisels and a scratching gauge...

Jose Romanillos, Making a Spanish Guitar, 2013


Some one asked me if I could supply plans to make a scratching gauge, as much as I would like to, I don't have the time and I am trying to stay away from making this a "how-to" blog. There are many blogs/websites out there in the Internet hinterland that show you how to make a guitar, I don't want to compete them.

All I want to do is make guitars and sell them.

Here is a short photo essay of my scratch gauge, a person should be able to make a copy of one by looking at these photos.

And, you should look at Roy Underhill's books on how to make marking gauges, and click here to visit Adam Cherubini's marking gauge PDF.

And, and, you should read the books on guitar making that I have listed elsewhere in this blog, just go to the search book and enter in "the best books on guitar making".

To make my gauge you will also need a 1/4-20 tap to cut the threads for the brass screw which is available from Rockler.








By tapering the fence, starting a 3/32 of an inch from hole for the arm, you can compensate for the arching of the guitar back. See the last photo.




I made the shaft a "V" shape to compensate for the curves of the side.



Use a piece from an old card scraper to make the router tooth.




Leave the arm long to register against the guitar sides.

Experiment and have fun!

Categories: Luthiery

Shop Made Veneer Scraper

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 4:04pm
Scraping was used more than sanding to give a finished surface to furniture in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries...

Alex W. Bealer, Old Ways of Working Wood, 1980



I spent about two hours today making a new veneer scraper.



The differences between this one and the one I made several years ago are that this one is made from black walnut, it was all that I had on hand, and the iron is positioned at a 20 degree angle to the anvil.

The first one I made the iron was at a right angle to the anvil.

I changed the angles in an experiment in hopes that this scraper won't tear out/blow out curly maple. I had almost disastrous results last time I scraped curly maple with the first scraper I made. Click here to see my first scraper.

If I had had some nice Douglas fir I would have used that, but this walnut sure looks nice.


I glued up purfling strips of curly maple to ebony binding yesterday, this is going on the redwood/Indian rosewood Hernandez y Aguado guitar. I want this guitar to turn out nice, it is going to be a wonderfully responsive guitar with a very loud, lyrical voice. It needs to look as beautiful as it sounds, therefore I need to step up to the plate and do even better than my best.

After testing this new scraper, I used the ebony/maple bindings, I really don't see a difference between the two scrapers other that this new one is a little smoother, perhaps the density of the walnut absorbs the vibrations better than Douglas fir.

In Eugene Clark's article on make a scraper that appeared in an issue of American Lutherie, stated that you don't need to angle the iron in order for the scraper to work properly. In nearly all the old photos that I have seen of the interiors of the great Madrid guitar makers' workshops, all the hand made scrapers have the iron at an 10 degree or greater angle to the anvil. You all see that in Diderot's tomes, also. And Moxon's.

They must have angled the iron for a reason.


Here is a YouTube of one of my favorite guitarists, Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra. I discovered Mr. Liebert's music back in 1990 when I was living and working as a park ranger at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona. I often listen to his music when I am working in my studio!




Categories: Luthiery

Progress

Doug Berch - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 2:08pm

This is a post to replace one that went up yesterday and disappeared when my site crashed last night. Thankfully I was able to restore everything but my last post; not to bad as far as these things go. Anyway, yesterdays post was about getting the first coat of finish on the first two dulcimers to […]

The post Progress appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Progress

Doug Berch - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 12:10pm

The last few years have been interesting. I have had some adventures in the health department and though I continue to slowly but surely recover I have had to make some lifestyle changes. Yes, I just said “lifestyle changes.” I can’t help it; I lived in Boulder, Colorado for 12 years before moving to Michigan […]

The post Progress appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Latest fiddle strung up.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 06/12/2014 - 8:56am
A few quick snapshots of my latest completed violin.  This one is based on the Amati Brothers form I drew following Francois Denis' techniques.  I tried to add some interesting color to the instrument, to give it some sort of illusion of age (or, in other words, grime).  Not sure how well it worked.  I'll see how many eyes land on it at Weiser next week.



A back shot, showing the diagnonal stripe in the two-piece back.


I strung it up last night, played it a half-hour or so, and again for 15 minutes or so this morning.  Having heard the arguments pooh-poohing the concept of playing in, I believe it is a real effect.  I can already hear a difference in it this morning.  The last coat of varnish went on last week, and is not completely hard by any means.  Being under tension, aging & curing, and (I believe) playing all help the fiddle learn how to be a fiddle.

A couple views of the scroll -- not to be confused with a machine-carved scroll!  :-)



As we've done for the past dozen years or so, we'll be the repair shop at the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho, which starts Monday (today being Thursday).  I really need to get other things done before we're ready to go, including getting a few more instruments set-up, packed, signs made, and all the other nonsense that goes along with hauling a repair shop to another site.

But we have fun there.

If you're in the area, you can come in and see this fiddle, as well as others I've made.  We'll be set-up in a classroom out behind the warm-up area in the high school.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Orchestral Soloist (for a full 30 seconds)

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Mon, 06/09/2014 - 9:19am

I am now an experienced orchestral soloist!  :-)

Being a fiddle player who has always enjoyed classical music, I long ago thought that once the kids were grown and out of the house, I'd maybe find a community orchestra to join. See what it's like.  As the kids and I got older, I realized that I probably just couldn't cut it in an orchestra -- all that bowing the same way, not haphazard like I do, for example.

It turned out, though, that last January, a few months after my youngest left home, the new director for the Serenata Chamber Orchestra, Jen Drake, invited me to participate.  I couldn't let it pass.

This is my second concert with them, and it was a "Downton Abbey" themed event.  One of the pieces was a couple tunes from the movie "The Titanic" (because in one of the early episodes of Downton Abbey, the Titanic sunk).  And Jen asked me to play a fiddle break between the two orchestrated fiddle tunes in the piece.  I played "The Rose in the Heather" -- all 32 bars, or effectively about 30 seconds.  Really different for me, trying to figure out how to fit it in, and I'm not sure I did it the best way, but people had fun.

My wife managed to snap this photo during my solo.


From the concert's program, a bio-page of the soloists, including yours truly.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

New and old, progress at least.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Thu, 06/05/2014 - 2:59pm
With the semester of college teaching over, and Weiser on the near horizon, I'm actually getting a few things done.  These 3 are essentially cured, and next to polish up the varnish a bit, then fit them up.


A stubby little fingerboard for a pochette.



Suddenly realized I hadn't fluted the back of the pochette scroll, so quickly dug in.  Forgot to chamfer the sides first, so the outside edge will be lower than the center.  Not my plan, but a common feature.


New bassbar in one of the old fiddles I'm fixing up for Weiser.


This is a customer instrument, typical of many student instruments of the late 1800s, early 1900s.  Integral bassbar, false corner blocks (lower), Strad label, hair ball, horse hair, and strings ends floating around inside.  Unusual round cleats holding the center seam.  Some of these old horses work fine.


Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Bench Hook.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Wed, 06/04/2014 - 12:38pm

Earlier this year, I read a blog-post that made think -- "That is a marvelous idea. Why have I not thought of this or even heard about it before?"
Here is the link to that blog-post .
Finally with a little time to get something done, I threw one together with scrap I had around the shop. I made the main holding area wider than in the original post, because I want to use it for violin plates.

It's great.
I don't know that I have the optimal size -- this is literally from scarp around the shop. I had a piece of plywood that size next to the bench. I used a section of old 2x4 for the part that hooks over the bench, and a small piece of pine for the stop at the far end.
Here is the bench hook unhooked.  Try it; you'll like it.

On the another front, I have a couple fiddles with their final coat of varnish on.  My latest (left) and an earlier one which I have stripped and revarnished.  Out catching some morning sun.





Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

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