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This is a collection of all the different blogs I (try to) read. A whole bunch! If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to use the CONTACT page to get a hold of me. Thanks!
This afternoon I was planing some cherry dulcimer fretboard blanks flat and true. These pieces of cherry had been rough-sawn, squared up and left a little oversized quite some time ago. The wood has had plenty of time to release stresses and further season before becoming part of a dulcimer.
Wood is designed to keep trees alive and trees don’t always think of how they will be used after they die. This can be annoying because sometimes a perfect piece of wood will be difficult to work. “Take that!” says the dead tree.
These cherry fretboards had some interlocking grain. This means there are areas on the board where grain direction is almost irrelevant. These areas are hard to plane smooth without some spots of grain tearing out.
To the rescue comes an old #12 scraper plane.
This tool holds a scraper square and true and allows for fine adjustment of the angle and depth of cut. This scraper plane will take off fine shavings regardless of grain direction and leaves a smooth, flat surface in it’s wake.
Here’s a shot of the setup I use for planing or scraping fretboard and fingerboard stock. The heart of the setup is an oak beam that is planed true and flat. It has a bench stop at one end and clamps to the bench top. This gives me a true surface for planing and also raises the height of the work a few inches to make planing more comfortable.
George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902
Miter joints in classical guitar making are purely decorative.
Most joints are butt joints. The sides are joined to the heel of the neck in slots, a scarf joint is used to make the head/neck union, some makers use a fancy "V" joint for that union. Click here to read more about the "V" joint.
The only place where I use a miter joint is where the bindings meet the end graft.
The binding runs over the top of the end graft...
...and a miter joint is used to join the side binding purfling to the purfling in the end graft.
As you can see in this photo, the bindings are butted together. Some makers use a scarf joint to join the ends of the binding.
Fancy binding and purfling schemes don't make a guitar sound good, that sound comes from how the wood is worked.
Pretty binding makes for a visually pretty guitar.
My goal is to make a guitar that sings so well your heart melts.
My eBay Listing - The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking, The Impractical Cabinetmaker, by James Krenov, Hardcover First Editions
Factory fiddle, no label. Probably German, possibly early 20th century or late 19th. In for repair, including a peg-box crack at the A. Installing a spiral bushing here. While doing so, I noticed file marks under the varnish -- tool marks from the original woodworker who cut this scroll. Just thought it was cool.
I am listing the following tools:
1 1/2 inch Vintage Stanley Everlasting Chisel
3/4 inch Buck Bros Chisel
3/8 inch Vintage Made in Germany Chisel
1/4 Stanley Chisel with hand turned walnut handle
1 inch Taylor No. 5 Sweep gouge with hand turned dogwood handle
14/8 Pfeil Swiss Made V gouge
5/25 Pfeil Swiss Made Gouge
The Pfeil gouges do have some rust on the blades and handles have some discoloring, but should clean up to make nice user gouges.
The other chisels and gouges are in good+ condition and are ready to go to work!
Please ask questions!
Don't miss out on this saw! The blade is super straight, it is the straightest rip saw I have ever purchased!
It has a very readable etch, the blade has some tarnish and rust, but should clean up nicely and make this a great user saw. Handle has original finish with the usual toolbox dings and scratches, a previous owner has scratched an "A" onto both sides of the handle.
I purchased this saw about 11 years ago and have never used it, it has sat in a tool chest since the day I bought it. This saw needs a good home! Please ask questions!
Paul N. Hasluck, The Handyman's Book, 1903
I inherited my grandfather's Warranted Superior crosscut panel saw quite some time ago - it is twenty inches long, 10 points per inch, the original handle must have disappeared on some worksite accident in the 1920's (he died in 1952, ten years before I was born). "Pop", my mother and her siblings always referred to him as such, made a replacement handle for it from a piece of oak board. He liked the saw well enough that he used a punch to punch an "R", for Rufus, his first name, into the blade near the handle. Just look it the photo, you will see it. My grandfather, I was told, was an excellent carpenter and when he could afford it he bought the very best tools, or he traded for them. This saw lived in workshop out back of the house when I was young, it was used only to cut down that year's Christmas tree.
A couple of years ago, I removed the original handle with the intent of making a replacement which I never got around to. The dry air of the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrunk the original handle so much it no longer fits the saw.
I do need another panel rip saw, the teeth on my brand new Lie-Nielsen panel rip saw is too aggressive for ripping thin pieces of wood, there was an older Disston "Rancher" crosscut saw left behind by the previous owners of our house. I cut that saw down to match the size and shape of my grandfather's saw.
A friend gave me a short mahogany board which I really had no use for, it was completely flat sawn, but I figured that it would make a good working handle for both saws.
I cut out a piece of that mahogany, thinned it one inch thick, drew the pattern on it and went at it with a brace and bit...
...cut out the handles with a jigsaw..
...then cut the slots with a back saw.
This morning I shaped one handle using files, finished it up with sand paper and applied a coat of Howard's Feed-N-Wax and attached it to the Disston Rancher.
After attaching the handle I discovered I need to teak my design a bit, the lower horn needs a little more depth and sweep and the "finger" that houses the top most nut needs to be a little longer and deeper.
I think I will make those adjustments and make another handle for my grandfather's saw. I would like to find a nice piece of quarter sawn Honduran mahogany to make the handle, I would settle for a pretty piece of alder. I don't plan on using the saw, I do want to build a tool box/chest shrine to house all of my grandfather's tools, to honor him and all those old carpenters I knew when I was a kid.
A nice looking handle! Now, I just need to re-file the teeth on this saw from crosscut to rip.
Now, turn off your computer and go make something!
The air conditioner in my shop died a few days ago.
Aside from keeping the shop from feeling like a literal sweatshop the air conditioner also removes excessive humidity from the Summer air.
Wood is hygroscopic and it is best to make dulcimers in a stable, humidity-controlled environment. The humidity level in my shop is kept at around 45% year round. A dulcimer built at around 45% humidity should remain stable when exposed to higher and lower humidity within reason. Even so, a dulcimer will be happier if it is kept as close to the conditions of the environment in which it was made.
It is important to use a humidifier to keep your dulcimer happy during the dry Winter months when the heat is on or all year round if you live in a desert. A simple instrument humidifier kept in the case is all that is needed. If you like to keep your dulcimers out of their cases then a room humidifier will make both your dulcimers and sinuses happy.
Wood loses moisture much faster than it absorbs moisture and a dulcimer can dry out, crack, warp, and scream for mercy relatively quickly if kept in an overly dry environment. High humidity is usually not as much of an issue on a short term basis but extremes should be avoided.
As a general rule, if you are comfortable then your dulcimer is comfortable.
Last night my wife Cynthia and I bought another air conditioner. When we got home I was too tired to help with installing it. Today Cynthia came home during her lunch break at work to do the heavy lifting of getting the new air conditioner into a window. Cynthia has a good back and I do not. She knew I wanted to get the shop back in working order as soon as possible. Talk about selfless acts of love!
I am a happy and lucky man.
The 1/4 inch chisel I purchased from a well known antique tool dealer without a handle, I turned a new handle out of hickory, the only thing it needs is some saddle skirting leather to make the washer. Blade length is 5 3/4 inches.
Both are excellent chisels with some tarnish, will make great users for your shop!
The saw blade is very deep, it has tarnish, some rust and paint spots, there is no rust pitting and it is a very, very straight, so straight I hate to sell it, but I need to cull my herd of saws.
The apple wood handle has paint spots, an owner stamp "K" marked on it in several spots, typical tool box wear and dings, the lower horn is missing piece of wood as you can see in the photos. Etch is worn though fairly readable. Once cleaned up, jointed and restored this will make a great user saw!
My eBay Listing - Vintage Disston D115 Victory Crosscut Saw, Pre-1928, 10pt, 26 inch, Brazilian Rosewood Handle
Vintage Disston D115 Victory Crosscut Saw, Pre-1928, 10pt, 26 inch blade, Brazilian Rosewood handle. Click here to see the listing.
The saw is tarnished, but the etches are very readable, judging from the finish on the handle it appears that this saw has never been used! There are no toolbox dings or gouges in the handle, a few minor scratches, it is in awesome condition for a saw that is 90+ years old! 97%+ of the original finish is still on the handle!
I have owned this saw for 20 years and I have never used it, it has sat in a tool chest all these years.
This is one of the straightest vintage Disston saws I have ever laid my hands on!
It has a gorgeous Brazilian Rosewood handle. Just some very light storage rust on the blade, it should clean up into a wonderful saw, sharpen it if you must and use it!
Please ask questions!
How often do you see this saw in this condition offered for sale?!
It's been two weeks since the Guitar Foundation of America's Convention and Competition ended at Metropolitan State University, Denver, I'm still reeling a little bit from the experience. I met a lot of great people, learned a few things and got some wonderful comments from world class classical guitarists about my guitars. I do plan on posting about the experience, I just have to make the time.
Today, I drive down to Boulder to purchase an air conditioner to put in the studio window, I work in an upstairs room right against the roof and since the roof was put on in the mid 1960's, there is no roof vent on the peak. That means it gets really hot in the space. It was 88 degrees Fahrenheit here yesterday, I know that is not hot by any means, but when you live at 8,500', 88 degrees is equivalent to 100 degrees! It was 93 degrees on the studio thermometer and I was lucky enough to get the humidity back to around 40%. The foothills have been under a red flag fire warning the last 3 days, the humidity dropped to 20% in the studio, not good for my guitars!
I decided to make another close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado guitar. The headstocks on some the original guitars are carved and stippled, I enjoy the challenge of doing the same.
First, I define the area to be stipple and I ground out with chisels and scrapers. By the way, the overlay is Macassar ebony.
The stippling begins.
The tools I use to stipple - 16d nails and a live oak mallet. Lots and lots of tapping!
The stippling is complete. I will go over the stippled area with a soft tooth brush and then burnish it with an old dish towel, this softens the looks and gets rid of any tiny wood chips that are created with the punches.
On the left, a headstock with the crest that was used by Santos Hernandez on the famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar that was used and owned by Andres Segovia; on the right, the Hernandez y Aguado headstock and crest.
If you want more information on how to stipple, start by Googling "how to stipple wood". When I first trying stippling I found this article to be very helpful, click here to see it.
Get out into the shop and do some work!
I’ve started work on several dulcimers as the finish cures on another. A finish “drying” and a finish “curing” are two very different things. Many craftspeople learn this difference the hard way at some time in their careers; what seemed to be a dry finish turns out to be dry to the touch but not really hard and permanent. One finds fingerprints in the finish after handling or worse, finish sticks to the inside of a case, rubbing out the finish produces a gummy mess rather than the expected level of sheen, etc. It is one of the initiatory experiences that comes with learning a craft.
In the photograph is a toothing plane on a walnut dulcimer back. Toothing planes have a serrated or “toothed” edge and the blade is set at a very high angle. The toothing plane scrapes and cuts many small shavings and can be pushed with the grain, against the grain, and across the grain without tearing up the wood. Toothing planes make quick work of leveling and flattening wood with tricky grain and figure. They are also very useful when planing thin wood. The serrated lines left on the wood serve as a map showing which areas are flat and which need more attention.
After flattening the surface with the toothing plane I take down the ridges with a smoothing plane or a scraper. On historic instruments traces of a toothing plane having been used can sometimes be seen inside the body of the instrument. This indicates that the outside surface was smoothed and then the thickness was taken down on the inside surface where tool-marks would not be obvious and did not matter.
I do use some common woodworking machines to relieve the drudgery of some tasks and to help prevent wear-and-tear on my body, which is showing signs of wear-and-tear. Still, I do as much as I can by hand because it is how I prefer to work. Sometimes I thickness wood partly by hand and partly by running it through a machine. Sometimes I choose one method or the other. It keeps life interesting.
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!
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
Please contact me for the price of this guitar.
This guitar will be at my booth at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention and International Competition in Denver, Colorado, June 21-25, 2016.
I don’t have a standard pattern for dulcimer back braces. I don’t have a standard pattern for bracing dulcimer soundboards either. The bracing pattern, number of braces, and size of the braces depends on the sound I am after and the wood involved. It would be easier and faster to standardize things but that wouldn’t be any fun at all. I also find the results I get from taking the long route make a big difference in the sound of the dulcimer.
In the photograph above you can see the four planes I use to dimension the back braces. The braces are brought to approximate size and then shaped after being glued to the back. This dulcimer back has three spruce cross braces and a Spanish Cedar reinforcement over the center joint.
After getting the braces roughly to shape I do most of the final shaping with a paring chisel. In the photograph below you can see the paring chisel and the cute little shaving it makes. You can also see what a neat and highly organized workbench looks like.
After using the paring chisel the shaping of the braces is complete, though sometimes I will sand the braces as in the completed back shown below; it just depends on what I feel like doing. Sometimes I prefer the crisp, clean lines left by edge tools, other times I go for the smooth and rounded look left by sanding.
Next comes fitting the braces into the side linings and gluing the back to the sides.