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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway!  Enjoy!

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How I Made an Eight Inch English Layout Square

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - 7 hours 29 min ago
The Joiners Square is a tool used in the production of right angles, either in the drawing of lines or in the planing up of stuff...

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902

I've been using a 4 inch drafting square that I bought in a hobby store 20 years ago to do the layout for transverse braces on guitar tops and backs. It's not the squarest square anymore and I use a 12 inch steel ruler to extend the line off the square when I use it and I've noticed that those lines often are truly square to the center line drawn on the top or back. I correct it by pulling a 3-4-5 measurement to check the squareness.

I rarely make tools for my luthier work anymore, making a tool takes away from spent at the bench creating a guitar, but I'm getting a little tired of fighting that little square.

So I made a layout square based upon the old English layout square that seems to be every where on the wood working internet these days.

I hope many of you have made this English layout square, it's awfully pretty and appealing.

The square I made doesn't have the fancy ogees that are on the Schwarz-ian square, just simple ogees and partial circles.

The wood that I used was some California laurel (umbellularia californica), click here to learn more about this gorgeous wood, that I have on hand.

I apologize if some of these photos are a little blurry, I used my iPhone to take several of the shots and didn't pay enough attention on the area where the camera was focusing.

I drew a simple ogee on the legs, roughed that out with a sloyd knife and then refined the shape on small sanding drum chucked into the drill press.

The half lap joints were sawn and then finished with a chisel, the blade on my Stanley No.271 router plane needed sharpening, again I didn't want to take the time, a sharp chisel and a safety edge file cleaned up the joints.

Laying out where the brace cross member goes...

All the pieces ready to be glued...

..and the glue up!

The finished square! I squared it off the edge of a piece of foam board.

Why an eight inch square? The classic guitar models I make are usually no wider than 15 inches.

The area inside the legs and brace reminds me of a gable on the Rouen Cathedral...

The square in use. It should make work a little easier!

Here's Isabelle Selder, enjoy!

Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #85

Doug Berch - Sat, 12/20/2014 - 3:40pm

The post "Music I’d Like To Hear #85" appeared first on "Doug Berch."

Categories: Luthiery

The Joy Of Planing

Doug Berch - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:11pm

Those of you who follow my posts know that during the last few years I have dealt with some boring health issues. Slowly but surely I’m returning to being a dulcimer builder on a regular basis. As I am able to do more I have to remind my self not to do too much more; […]

The post "The Joy Of Planing" appeared first on "Doug Berch."

Categories: Luthiery

On Being Vise-less, Paring Chisels and Carving Guitar Necks

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:24am
Straight end chisels must be "squared up" on the grinder and shaped to the correct bevel.

Lester Griswold, Handicraft, 1951

I've noticed lately that there are several wood workers in the world of Internet wood work blogging that are bragging about being "vise-less".

Well, good for you!

I've used hold fasts almost exclusively on my bench for that last twenty years or so, hold fasts are cheap compared to a metal vise and I never got along well with leg vises. I don't make boxes or cut dovetails anymore, I make classical guitars which need much different clamping devices than say, oh, a Federal highboy.

Don't get me wrong, I do need to use a vise for some tasks.

One thing I enjoy about using holdfasts is how quickly you can hold a piece of wood and you don't have to use a pretty piece of wood as a clamping caul.

Hold fasts are efficient for most tasks, they are great for holding guitar necks!

Smoothing the slots in the head stock

I do own and use a Shop Fox brand vise that I bought from Grizzly some ten-eleven years because it was cheap and I needed a better way of holding certain objects. Personally, I think this vise is a piece of junk and isn't worthy of being a boat anchor-I have to use excess torque on the vise screw to hold the work piece and even after that the vise will turn on its tower, etc., etc. I am too cheap at the moment to replace it with something else.

Funny how deadlines can get in the way of doing things.

One inch wide chisel on the left with a 30 degree bevel, 7/8 inch chisel on right with 20 degree bevel

While carving the heel of a guitar neck the other day, I notice how the steep bevel of my one inch chisel kept bumping the chisel out of the cut. I was using the chisel with its belly down.


Most of my chisels are ground to a 30 degree bevel, this is left over from the days when I did chop dovetails and mortises, so I thought I would take one chisel and experiment with a 20 degree bevel.

I took my 7/8 inch Stanley No.720 chisel to the grinder and then locked it in my old Eclipse 36 Made in England honing guide.

A close copy of a Santos Hernandez guitar heel

The 20 degree bevel worked like a charm, now I want to experiment with a 15 degree bevel, but, again, the amount of time I have in the shop grows short.

I have two orders for custom classical guitars, a router table is waiting to be built so I can make muntin, rail and stile stock for eight sashes for the new porch enclosure which that also needs to be finish before winter really sets in.

Did I mention that our water heater developed a good leak the other day?

It's going to be a busy winter!

Another YouTube of Isabella Selder, enjoy!

Categories: Luthiery

Rehairing a violin bow.

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Wed, 12/03/2014 - 2:02pm
Rehairing bows is something that most violin shops do.  I do a few a month, in addition to violin repairs and making.  It can be challenging, and humbling.  Horse hair is used, which is organic and therefore variable.  It has to be fit to the right length for each individual bow, and the length of hair changes with humidity and temperature.  Not much, but even that can be too much in some situations.  I try not to rehair on really rainy days, if I get the choice.

Another part of rehairing is the replacement of three little pieces of wood that are used to hold the hair in place.  We are seeing more and more student bows done with, how shall we say?, not so much attention paid to these three little plugs.  After all, the customer seldom sees them.

So, here are a few photos of the plugs of a recent rehair.

Here is the tip plug of a student-level violin bow.  When done correctly, the plug is just the right size, held in by geometry.  This one had a little glue to help it stay in place.  Using the traditional invoked cursing 1-10 scale, 1 being none, 10 being the point at which you really need to repent later, this was about a 3.

Here is the ferrule wedge.  It's not the best fitted one I've seen, but it did its job.

This plug holds the hair spread and is typically lightly glued in.  You can see some of the glue that did not get wiped off.  This one actually came apart fairly easy.  Invoked cursing: 1.

For one that was rather loosely fit into the ferrule on the end, someone did take a little time shaping it.  I'm not convinced this sort of shaping does much better than a straight taper, but it's pretty.

Here is a plug in the frog, holding the hair in that end.  The clamp holding the hair out the way is only for the photograph.  This block, when properly cut, stays in place through geometry and tension.  As with many factory bows, this one had a little glue in place for insurance.  It's a little tougher to get out, due to its depth and the nearby edges.  Invoked cursing 4 on this one.  It came out without too much trouble after a bit of digging.

You can also notice the cutter marks showing in the cut-out of the throat.

And at the upper end, particularly the upper right, you can see a bit of roundness in the mortise.  This is from the drill that was originally used to cut the mortise.  The mortise should be rectangular, and it's ok to start with a circular hole, but you want to make it nice.  This one was mostly rectangular, needing only a little cleaning up.

On the cheapest bows, it is a circular hole, with a piece of dowel glued in, instead of a shaped plug; invoked cursing 11.  I try to remember which ones are like that, what they look like from the outside, and simply turn them down on a rehair.  These Chinese bows often wholesale in the US at the $10-$20 dollar range and are sold in some stores at $70-$150.  But, hey, they're real wooden bows.

What kind of wood?  Dunno.  But wood they are.  Yup.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #84

Doug Berch - Tue, 12/02/2014 - 2:45pm

The post Music I’d Like To Hear #84 appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Waiter, there's a hair in my scroll

Owyhee Mountain Fiddle Shop - Tue, 12/02/2014 - 7:50am
Cleaning up an old factory fiddle, a "Stainer" copy, and found this varnish-brush hair trapped down in a turn of the scroll. 

It was fairly dirty in there, and I cleaned out a good layer of grime.  For a while I thought the hair might be part of the gunk, but it was in the varnish, a left-over from the making process some hundred years ago.

The fiddle was a decent-sounding student instrument, and quickly went out the door as a rental.
Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

What’s On The Bench – 11/30/2014

Doug Berch - Sun, 11/30/2014 - 8:37pm

Though being a dulcimer builder is know to cause one to have a life filled with excitement and adventure there are the occasional lulls one must cope with. But today was a day of excitement; shaping back braces and gluing said back to a custom sycamore and spruce dulcimer! Here’s a shot of the back braces […]

The post What’s On The Bench – 11/30/2014 appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

Keepsake box: the drawer and lid

Guitar Building By Hand - Sat, 11/29/2014 - 12:06pm

After the top and bottom were glued on I sawed the box in two to create the lid. This was actually a lot less scary than I thought it would be. I just took my time, stayed between the lines and before I knew it I was done. I cleaned up the saw cut with a plane to make sure the lid fit onto the box with no gaps. Of course I still needed to install the hinges, but this basically meant the lid was done.

Creating the drawer took almost as long as doing all the dovetailing for the box. I guess this is because making a drawer is like making a box that’s got to fit exactly inside another box. I think that’s tricky.

The box, after sawing

I started by fitting the front of the drawer. I left it slightly oversized so it could be trimmed after the drawer was finished. I cut the half blind dovetails for the drawer sides and the groove for the drawer bottom:

Drawer front and sides

I joined the back of the drawer into the sides using a dado and a through tenon. This might be overkill for such a small drawer, but it was good practice. I also made my own drawer handle, using a technique I saw Paul Sellers use on his tool chest. I think making your own handles just adds a bit more personality to the finished product. Since I had oversized the front slightly, fitting the drawer was a matter of planing a few shavings off the side until the drawer went in snugly:

Drawer, completed

After fitting the drawer, I added the inside base:

The inside of the box

It was starting to look like a box! Next step: the hinges…



Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Keepsake box: dovetailing and glueing

Guitar Building By Hand - Thu, 11/27/2014 - 9:05am

After making the panels I proceeded with the rest of the box. I laid out the dovetails, taking into account that I would be sawing the box in two. This meant slightly oversizing the dovetails that the saw was going to pass through, allowing for the thickness of the saw and some room for error (2mm in total). I also cut the drawer front out of the front panel of the box, since I wanted the grain of the drawer front to match the rest of the front.

Glueing up the box was tricky. I didn’t heed the six P’s sufficiently. I forgot to check my box was square before glueing! I only remembered this after the clamps were on for a couple of minutes. This meant doing a lot of fiddling while the glue was setting. Another lesson learned.

Next, I attached the top and bottom frames. I decided to glue both top and bottom at once but won’t be doing it like that again. There was too much sliding around and getting the top and bottom to align perfectly together was way too fiddly. Next time I’ll glue the top and bottom onto the box one at a time.

 you can never have too many clamps

Glueing up the box: you can never have too many clamps!

Glueing up the box

Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Keepsake box: the frames and panels

Guitar Building By Hand - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 8:46am

I started the box by making the top and bottom frame and panel, mainly because this was new territory and I wanted to keep my options open. I figured that I could fit the rest of the box to the frame and panels if they ended up being slightly off in size.

I completely blew the first mortise by chopping right through the frame with my chisel. This was caused by a combination of laying out too deep a mortise and hitting the chisel too hard while chopping. Luckily I had some extra wood, So I redrew the mortises slightly less deep and hit the chisel with more care, especially when reaching the bottom of the mortise.

After making the frames, I measured and cut the panels to size. I bevelled the outside and rebated the inside of the panels.

I was quite pleased with the end result. The frames were square and the panels fit!

Glueing one of the frame & panels


Glueing the frames and panels



Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Stanley No. 45 Combination Plane, Type 7B, 1901-1906

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 12:07pm
The craftsman in wood may ask himself "Why should I possess a Multi-Plane?"

Hampton and Clifford, Planecraft, 1934

I splurged the other day and ordered a No.45 plane from one of my favorite antique tool dealers, Sydnas Sloot.

I've always wanted a No.45, but I never could find one at an affordable price and then the other day there was this beauty on Sandy Moss's website. I couldn't resist. Thanks, Sandy!

It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that come with some of the 45's, I figure I can buy extra blades and soles as I find them.

The box no longer has its sliding lid, I can live with that, perhaps one of these days I may make one and repair the box.

I love this box for the decal, the box is cool enough to use to hold just high dollar guitar tuning machines...

It has all the parts I need, in the next few weeks I will use this plane to cut drawer grooves. I could use it for sash work, but I'd have to find or make a blade for an ogee, I'm not too partial to ovolos on the muntins, rails and stiles of a sash.

The instruction sheets.

For more information on how to use these beasts click here for the Cornish Workshop and here for a pdf copy of a Stanley No.45 instruction booklet.

I will definitely read through Alf's (Cornish Workshop) tutorial on how to tune and use a No.45.

The UPS driver just arrived with Spanish cedar neck blanks for two of the guitars that I will be making this winter.

It's snowing outside at the moment, guess I had better get back to work...

Here is a YouTube of Isabella Selder...enjoy!

Categories: Luthiery

Disston Rip Saw, Stanley Scrub Plane, Douglas Fir Guitar Top

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 3:47pm
Towering up to heights as great as 220 feet, with sometimes 100 feet of trunk clean of branches, arrow straight, and with almost no taper below the crown discernible to the naked eye, an ancient Douglastree may be 17 feet in diameter.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1953

Douglas fir isn't often used as tonewood for classical guitars, many makers think that it is too heavy of a wood to be used for guitar tops. The strength of Douglas fir is phenomenally strong, its specific gravity is 0.50 and its modulus of elasticity is 1.95! Compare that to Sitka spruce's specific gravity of 0.42 and its modulus of elasticity at 1.57.

I think it is great wood, and, yes, I am biased because I was weaned on a chunk of Douglas fir, it was a playmate along with ponderosa and sugar pines, incense cedar and black oak.

The point of all this is there is a young classical guitarist who wants me to make him a guitar with a Douglas fir top.

This is the last piece of old growth Douglas fir that I possess, it was salvaged from old bleachers and I acquired it from a trim carpenter who was making doors out of this stuff.

Just think of all the butts that sat on this wood...

Ripping it down with my trusty No. 7 Disston rip saw...

To the saw horse for the last few inches...

One problem with ripping out tops from a piece of wood that is under an inch in thickness is you don't always get to rip out two sets of tops. I suppose if I owned a real he-man Norm-ite 10 ton style re-saw bandsaw this wouldn't be an issue, but I enjoy the gentle noise of a hand saw.

To make sure that I end up with two pieces that are 5/32" to 3/16" of an inch thick, I reached for the No. 40 Stanley scrub plane.

Running this plane over and through the wood I can get a sense of the sound, the voice, this guitar top will have. I just listen to the blade cut the wood and I hear music...

The top after is has been smoothed with a No. 3 Stanley plane.

I have drawn the plantilla, or outline, that is based on one created by Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado, in 1961.

The grain on this piece of wood varies from 15 rings per inch to 32 rings per inch.

Very beautiful wood.

I can't wait to start working on this guitar...

Here is a YouTube of Karmen Stendler playing one of my favorite pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo.

Categories: Luthiery

Keepsake box: the six P’s

Guitar Building By Hand - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 8:51am

My father in law used to always quote the six P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Very wise words, to be heeded at all times! Especially when making furniture.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the box before I even started. A lot of time. Too much time? I don’t know. Looking back, I think the time I took was worth it. It was the first time I was tackling a project of this complexity on my own. Although I was adapting an existing design, I had to rethink not only the external dimensions but also the joinery (tenon sizes, dovetail layout, etc). Since this was an important gift I wanted it to look really good, and didn’t want to mess up (that should apply to all projects, but still, this one was different!).

I tried a few things to get the dimensions to where I wanted. I tried scaling the original design. However, this didn’t really work: I wanted a box that had a shorter width and length than the original, but still had some height. It had to be of a practical size so you could still use it to put things in. One practical consideration was that the wood had already been sawn into planks, so I had a fixed wood thickness to consider in relation to the size of the box.

After doing a lot of thinking in my head and some sketching, I delved into the world of the Golden Ratio. This did help me get some ballpark ratio’s, like the ratio of the drawer height to the rest of the box. But it became a slippery slope towards being over complicated and fussy for my liking. I also tried using Sketchup. Although I’m quite computer literate and it gets rave reviews, I can’t connect with it. It took me hours to just draw a box with a flat lid. I’m not sure I’ll be using that again.

What helped me the most was simply drawing on paper. First I made some scale drawings. I thought about how deep the inside of the box and the drawer would be and if these were practical dimensions. I sketched on the wood itself to see how the grain would look once it was sawn to size.

But what helped me the most was making life sized drawings. I drew each side of the box on a large sheet of plywood. After some resizing/redrawing I got what I wanted. I also penciled in the joinery – the mortise depths, the frame and panels the dovetail layout etc. Penciling in the joinery was very helpful, not only during the design phase but also during construction and assembly. I really recommend drawing out the joinery, especially when building something for the first time. It helps as a reference and also helps think the project through before you start marking out and sawing bits of wood.

I felt comfortable with the design and felt I had taken care of the five P’s. Time to start building!

Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

How to Make a Box Sing, Part 2

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 7:13am
Here is a video of Kyle Throw playing the Torres/Santos style guitar that I finished this summer. The guitar has a Engelmann spruce top with California laurel back and sides, 650mm string length.

This guitar is very responsive, very loud and is capable of many musical nuances, with proper playing and care it will continue to improve and become a magnificent guitar!

Kyle performs the Fandanguillo from the Suite Castellana by Federico Moreno Torroba.

Categories: Luthiery

Keepsake box

Guitar Building By Hand - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 11:40am

I wrote my last blog post in May: eek!

I’ve been spending as much time as I can in the workshop and have completed a few projects since my last post: a keepsake box, an ebony chopping board and a corner cupboard. Plus some other things in between.

I’m going to start with the keepsake box. I’ve prepared a few posts about it, which I’ll be publishing over the next week or so.

The keepsake box was for my little nephew, who was born in January this year. A few months before he was born I obtained a nice piece of Dutch Elm for this project. I really like elm. It’s got a varied texture, a deep reddish colour and is nice to work with.

The design of the box was inspired by Paul Sellers’ tool chest on Woodworking Masterclasses. You can read about his tool chest here. My plan was to make a smaller version, with just one drawer.

There are many cool features in this chest which I wanted to try out. For one, it’s got a frame and panel top and bottom – a technique I hadn’t applied until now. Another feature is the lid, which is made by first making the box, fixing the top and bottom and then sawing the box in two. Very scary prospect, but I wanted to try this as well. And third, the drawer. This would be my first ever drawer, so that was also something to look forward to and of course a necessary skill to master.

Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of the end result. I’ll use the next few blogs to document the highlights and share what I learned along the way. Hope you enjoy!

IMG_0140 IMG_8746 IMG_8751

Categories: Hand Tools, Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #83

Doug Berch - Wed, 11/12/2014 - 3:48pm

The post Music I’d Like To Hear #83 appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery

How to Make a Box Sing

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:54pm
Stephen Valeriano and Kyle Throw, both classical guitar students at Metropolitan State University, Denver, stopped by my shop last weekend to play two guitars that I have on hand. Kyle also came by to pick out the wood for the new guitar that I will be making for him over the winter.

Stephen played Heitor Villa-Lobos' Prelude No. 1 in e minor on a Sitka spruce/black walnut guitar that I made a while ago.

He does a wonderful job with this piece, he is a very sensitive musician and I expect great things from him.


Categories: Luthiery

1860's Greek Revival House: My Work Is Done!

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:05pm
Greek Revival A style popular in the first half of the nineteenth century, it favored the Greek version of Classicism over the Roman. This meant eschewing arches in favor of post and lintel, basing forms on the Greek temple, and using the Greek version of the Orders.

Mark Gelernter, A History of American Architecture, 1999

Two weeks ago, I and my co-worker, Michael Lohr, were able to walk away from the 1860's era Greek Revival farm house that we worked on all summer.

Siding was replaced, a new door matching an original was added, several days were spent in a skid steer landscaping the grounds, and paint was applied to the building.

Here is what the house looked like when I started working on the building...

Siding and landscaping completed...

A fresh coat of paint...

reveals a true gem.

Categories: Luthiery

Strops Gone Wild

Doug Berch - Wed, 11/05/2014 - 9:29pm

  I don’t think I would want a shave from a barber who didn’t have the manual dexterity to strop a razor freehand!

The post Strops Gone Wild appeared first on Doug Berch.

Categories: Luthiery


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