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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie

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The Adventures of a Luthier Wilson Burnhamhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17461017493297553603noreply@blogger.comBlogger256125
Updated: 3 hours 54 min ago

Antonio Torres "La Suprema" 1864 FE 19 style Classical Guitar: It's Completed and For Sale!

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 4:24pm
Torres assembled his guitars face down on the solera, having the plantilla of the guitar already cut to shape.

Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker, 1987




I recently finished a guitar that is based upon Antonio Torres's guitar FE 19, aka "La Suprema", which he constructed in 1864. Click here to see the plans that I used to make this guitar.

It has an Engelmann spruce top, California laurel back and sides, Spanish cedar neck, an Macassar ebony fret board, ebony binding and is French polished.

The string length is 650mm, width of the neck at the nut is 51.5mm and 62mm at the 12th fret.

I did not use the standard Torres style of "fan" or "kite" bracing on the guitar's top, instead I used a parallel bracing that Santos Hernandez used on several of his guitars. This bracing helps give the guitar a very beautiful, singing voice that is quite loud, its volume is more than adequate for a concert guitar. Another change from the original guitar that I made was not to install a brass"tornavoz". Click here to learn more about this device.




Santos parallel bracing




The back and sides are California laurel that I re-sawed, by hand with a Disston No.8 rip saw, from a board that I purchased from a wood supplier in Orick, California. Many of the old time loggers and lumberman that I grew up with in northeastern California called laurel "pepperwood" because when you cut into it, it smells like pepper. Other people call it Oregon myrtle. Luthier John Calkin states:

"This is yet another wood that reminds me of maple in appearance and working properties, though its' texture is a bit coarser. Its basic straw color is often flavored with an amazing array of colors and figure, most frequently a maple-ish fiddleback. Myrtle has a reputation for instability that I have yet to experience. Tonewood suppliers occasionally stock sets of myrtle, but if you can resaw, the specialty lumber people like Lewis Judy can give you a better deal on this West Coast wood. This is first-class stuff, worthy of the best instruments."

(Click here for his article on alternative tone woods.)

This is not a flamenco blanca guitar, but a classical guitar.

I firmly believe that the laurel back and sides add much to the voice of this guitar.

The price of this guitar is $2500.

I will post sound clips and video as soon as I can.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at highcountrylutherie@gmail.com.



Categories: Luthiery

1860's Greek Revival House: Almost Done!

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 4:58pm
The great majority of people lived in rural areas where building was largely in the hands of carpenters and mechanics who relied on books. Thus it was through pattern books that the Greek Revival spread across the nation and became for nearly forty years the national style.

Leland M. Roth, A Concise History of American Architecture, 1979




Here's the house when I started working on it in late June...




This is what it looked like two weeks ago when I and my colleague, Mike, walked away to other projects.

We completed the siding repairs and I even found a door that matched the original door that you see on the right side of the building.

It was amazing that it took us 3 days with a skid steer loader to remove enough soil so water would drain away from the house.

We removed so much soil that we were able to fill in part of a washed out on the pasture that is next to the house, the hole we filled was over twelve feet deep, twelve feet wide and twelve feet long!

Yesterday, 9/26, I spent all day scraping paint, also had Jake, another seasonal, doing exactly the same thing.

There is a lot of prep work to be done, scraping paint, masking off windows, gutters, parts of the roof and parts of the stone house that is attached to the building.

If Mike and I can start applying the paint by next Thursday we will be lucky.

Once it is painted I will post a photo of how it looks!
Categories: Luthiery

New Tool Racks

Sat, 09/20/2014 - 6:55pm
Simple flat shelves for small tools ranged along the walls at random, fitted in between beams and windows. Saws and large tools hung from pegs in the wall over the bench.

Aldren A. Watson, Country Furniture, 1974



I glued the back bindings onto the Hernandez y Aguado guitar copy (click here to learn more about that guitar) last Friday afternoon with great success. Then I turned my attention to my studio.



My studio is about 9'x11', space is at a premium, and I was hanging saws, braces and other tools that I use on a regular basis on the wall in a rather un-artistic manner, umm, the tools were hanging on nails. Not that that is a bad thing, just not aesthetic.

Several months ago I bought several bags of small shaker pegs at my local Woodcraft store so I could make better racks. Funny how long it can take me to get around to doing something, like finishing my new cabinet work bench so I can chuck my tool chest onto the trash heap where it belongs and clear more floor space.




Don't these saws look pretty hanging from pegs!

This is such a great way to display my tools, I always feared that one of them would jump off a nail and fall to the floor. Tool suicide. Now I need to make new racks to hang all of my clamps. Yes, there are several tools that still hang on nails, but I have forgiven myself for doing that.

The only electricity used to make these racks was that consumed by the over head lights, the boards were ripped by hand, finished with a Stanley No. 5 jack plane, the holes were drilled by bit and brace.

Now, turn off your computer or other electronic device and get out to the shop and make something!



Categories: Luthiery

Otis A. Smith Plow Plane, Fales Patent 1884

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 10:58am
Fales' Patent Variable Bench Planer: Constituting Plow, Dado, Filletster, Matching Sash, Hollows, Rounds, Beads, Rabbets, Nosings, Case Mouldings, Quarter Rounds, Bevel Planer, Snipper Bits, etc., etc.

The greatest time and labor saving combination of tools ever invented. Universally endorsed by carpenters.


Otis. A Smith advertisement in Carpentry and Building Magazine, December 1888




This plane has been in my mother's family for years. I used it once, when I was a teenager, to cut the groove in the bottoms of some "long board" skis that I attempted to make. I think it had two cutters then, I used the widest one to plow with, both cutters have since disappeared.




Just the other day I was surfing eBay looking for a plow plane and I was a little shocked to find that this plane with most of its parts was up for auction! I think the bidding was at $1200 when I saw it, I have no idea what the final price was.

I was pretty happy to discover that I owned an Otis A. Smith Variable bench planer, Fales' Patent 1884, and to find out that Amos Fales was living in Denver, Colorado (just down the hill from me) when he received the first patent.




I pulled it out of a tool chest and cleaned it a little this morning. As I was wiping off some of the grime, I thought that maybe some of its parts once resided in an old Fordson tractor tool box that was in my grandfather's garage. I am pretty confident that those parts and cutters where thrown away by my grandmother and mother during different cleaning episodes, plus it would been hard for those parts to survive the mauling they must have received from my older cousins who ransacked the garage whenever they went to visit our grandmother.




There's the patent dates.

After some research on the internet, I realize now how rare this plane is and that it will cost me some really shiny pennies to start buying parts for it. I have a few contacts with a local tool collectors club, maybe I will start my search there.

I do have four nice Disston saw handles with screws and medallions that I would be willing to part with for some parts or even a reprint of the owners manual for this plane.

I am not selling this plane!



My mother always told me that this plane belonged to my great grandfather, John M. Wilson (1847-1906) and that my grandfather, Rufus Wilson (1881-1952), used it in his carpentry work. My great grand father was a photographer and farmer, but my grand father was known for his carpentry skills, I suspect that he was the one who acquired it.

While cleaning the handle I discovered the name of someone who once owned this plane - R.C. Jensen. I wonder who he was.
Categories: Luthiery

On the Bench: A 1968 Hernandez y Aguado Classical Guitar Copy - Glueing on the Ebony Bindings

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 2:50pm
Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado originally worked together in a piano factory. In 1941 they set up as furniture and piano restorers, subsequently making guitars for their amusement, but then they invited Modesto Borreguero, who had worked for Manual Ramirez, into their workshop and learned from him. More than 400 guitars had been built by 1975, when Hernandez died. Aguado had retired in 1970.

Colin Cooper, The Classical Guitar Book, 2002

Between my day job, fly fishing with my wife on the weekends and trying to complete a "honey do" list, I don't get much time in my studio. I did get the Torres/Santos guitar completed, it sounds wonderful and is a joy to play, I will post about that guitar soon.

Preparing to glue on the binding strip


This afternoon, after running some errands and a little fly fishing, I did make some time to glue one more binding on the Hernandez y Aguado copy. I bent the binding stick, made sure that the binding ledge was uniform in depth and width, made sure the scarf joint at the butt end looked nice and the applied the glue and tape.

Tape, glue, doesn't look so pretty yet

Even this operation is a little nerve wracking - I want to make sure that the binding is tight in its rabbet, gaps are no good because they will have to be filled later, and some times my fingers slip off the tape and a finger nail makes a gouge in the top which will have to be steamed out and sanded.

The back bindings are next, I don't know if I will have enough time this afternoon to do that work, I need to take the dogs for a walk and think of something to make for dinner. The bindings are ready and so are the curly maple purfling strips, once this task is complete then I can install the fret board, carve the neck and start on the French polish. Oh, to have the time to get this guitar completed by mid October...


Enjoy the video!

Categories: Luthiery

Make a Mountain Man Green River Knife in an Afternoon...Well, Sort Of: Part 1

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 7:09pm
There is no doubt that the products of the Green River Works were of the best quality available. The reputation of the knife generated various sayings such as "Give it to em up to the Green River", meaning to stab a foe up to the handle where "Green River Works" was stamped, or "Done up to Green River" meaning to do something to the fullest extent possible.

However, the J.Russell & Co. did not start stamping their products with "Green River Works" until some time in 1837 and it is not likely that any were even available to be shipped to rendezvous until 1838 or later, if they were ever even shipped to rendezvous.


from the website, Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky Mountain West Malachite’s Big Hole


This winter I want to build a Lyman Great Plains Rifle, a muzzleloading rifle that is based upon the famous Hawken rifle. Building this rifle will be a great diversion for me, I will have quite a few guitars to make this winter.

So looking ahead to when the rifle is completed and the next muzzleloading rifle deer season, I thought it might be nice to make a Russell Green River knife to add to my "muzzleloading kit".



The piece of steel in the upper part of the photo was in a drawer of my grand father's work bench. I was always told that it was from an old crosscut saw, one that was used for felling large conifers, and that some of my older cousins had tried to make a knife out of it and never completed it.

I remember handling this piece of saw blade when I was eight years old, I will be fifty-two years old in a couple of weeks, I am pretty sure that this blank was roughed out before I was born! For the last twenty years I have wanted to finish the knife.

With an image of a Green River knife in my head I sketched out drawing and traced it onto the blank.




First thing I did was to grind off the old point so I wouldn't stick myself while I worked on the blank.




Then I took my side angle grinder which has a metal cutting blade on it and proceeded to grind away what didn't look like the knife I want.




The knife after the majority of the grinding was done with a side angle and a bench grinder.

I established the edge by draw filing.



Draw filing the knife while it is attached to a make shift knife board.

I spent about an hour this afternoon sharpening the edge on an old water stone, sharpening and sharpening and then I realized that the metal is too soft to hold an edge for long. I was afraid of that.

Nuts.

This weekend I will work on making a forge from a fire brick so I can heat treat the blade.

First I will have to anneal it, then harden it and then temper it.

I really didn't want to have to go to all this work.

If you are interested in making your own knife I highly recommend two books by Wayne Goddard. Click here for those books and this article by Wayne Goddard.

Stay tuned, I will post more photos of this as I can. I hope I can get the brick forge to work!
Categories: Luthiery

1860's Greek Revival House: Trying to Solve a Mystery

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 3:41pm
The Greek Revival style is an adaptation of the classic Greek temple front employing details of either the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian order.

John J.-G. Blumenson, Identifying American Architecture, 1977


West elevation. The plaster was used as insulation, this was put in place when the building was first sided.

This side of the house that I am looking at may be the original 14x16 log structure that was built on this site in 1862. I haven't pulled off anymore siding and corner boards to see how these logs were notched, I need to keep as much original material as possible to maintain the historic integrity of the house. So far, the house isn't giving up much information as to what year it was built.



South elevation

This past Friday I pulled off siding on the south elevation that was covering the lowest logs between the two doors (and underneath the window) that you see in the above photo...





...and discovered this - the corner of another log house! Apparently, someone cut off the east wall of the original building and then constructed another log house against it! I assume that the fireplace of the original building was on this wall and since it left a big hole, the owners thought is would be better to remove that wall and put up a new one, no repairs to the original wall was needed. This new room is 14 feet wide by 17 feet 2 inches long.





In the lower left of the above photo you can see the square end of a floor joist of the original building. All the joists in that part of the building fall on 16 inch centers. When I measured to the left of the center this joist another 16 inches the tape measure fell on what would have been the 16 foot mark of the building. Hmm.

Tree ring dating of the logs would tell us what year the trees were cut down, not when the house was built. The men who built this house may have left the trees "mellow" for a year before they used them or used them as soon as they were cut.

Speculation about this house's construction is running rampant, and in a way, I hope we don't learn every thing about it...
Categories: Luthiery

On the Bench - Antonio Torres FE 19 Guitar: The Bridge is On!

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 2:38pm
Torres believed that the soundboard was the single most vital component of the guitar.

Jose Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker, 1987



I assembled this guitar earlier this year and today I was able to glue the bridge onto the guitar's top.

This is always a little nerve wracking, there is always the chance that the bridge will shift under the clamps pressure and I may not notice it in time. Before I do this procedure, I do spend some time making sure that I locate the bridge in the correct place with the proper amount of string compensation (for intonation), the saddle must be parallel to the frets and that the outer string holes are parallel to the neck.



Three clamps and cauls to glue the bridge in place.




I should really call this a Torres/Santos model guitar. It's outline is that of Torres FE19 guitar (as rendered by Neil Ostberg, click here to see his wonderful site and to download those plans), but at the last minute I decided to use a bracing pattern that was used by the great Santos Hernandez on a guitar he made in 1930.

Torres used a bracing pattern that resembles a kite, click here to see that, it makes for a very well balanced guitar, but the parallel bracing of the 1930 Santos really intrigued me. Click here to see that guitar plan.

I've used the standard Torres bracing on other guitars and it works well, I wanted to experiment on this guitar and next weekend after I have fretted over the frets, installed the tuning machines and new Savarez strings I will find out what voice "Amparo" will have.

Categories: Luthiery

Seven String Flamenco Guitar: Glueing on the Bridge, Fine Tuning the Frets and Adjusting the Action

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 10:35am
The flamenco guitar is an instrument which is narrowly linked to the peculiarities of flamenco art.

Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990

The seven string flamenco guitar that I built for the lead singer of Ode to the Marionette is finished!

Well, just about. Remember, I do have a side job as a historic preservation carpenter.

I am waiting for the tap plates to install on the sound board, these tap plates protect the top from the golpes, a percussive tap from the first or ring finger nail that a flamenco player uses.

I need to do some intonation work on the saddle, I want all notes to play in tune. I might even fine tune the fan braces that are glued to the inside of the top.

Did I mention how wonderful this guitar sounds? It has a gorgeous voice and it is loud! This guitar has very clear separation of notes on all the strings up and down the neck and all are even in sound with each other.

Don't let anyone tell you that a classical/flamenco guitar with a string length under 650mm won't be loud, that is simply a myth!

Did I mention how wonderful this guitar sounds?

Why does it sound so good? I used tried and true construction techniques that have been handed down by the great Spanish makers and I am developing a better understanding of how to make a guitar that has a soul. Sounds a little corny, but it is true.

I also closely followed the plans of a 1933 Santos Hernandez flamenco guitar, which can be found in Roy Courtnall's book, Making Master Guitars. This guitar is smaller than that 1933 Santos, I used the dimensions of a 1929 Santos Hernandez guitar which can be found in Sheldon Urlik's book, A Fine Collection of Spanish Guitars. Both books can be purchased from Luthiers Mercantile. Click here for their website.





While waiting for the shellac to harden on the bridge I started work on the frets. Here I have taped the fret board and put down a protective cover on the guitar's top.




Leveling the frets with a fine diamond stone.




After leveling I round over the tops of the frets with a diamond rounding file.




Then I do more rounding work with a three cornered file that has been ground to protect the fret board.




Then I polish the frets with wet/dry sand paper and 0000 steel wool.




Glueing on the bridge.




I installed D'Addario EJ45 Pro Arte normal tension nylon strings at Julia's request. I do like D'Addario strings, I have used them for close to 30 years, I think they are great strings, but I have discovered that Savarez Corum Alliance strings make a guitar sound even louder! I also like La Bella 2001 Classical guitar strings.




A beautiful guitar. Soon it will be in the hands of a young woman who will share its voice with the world.


Categories: Luthiery

1860's Greek Revival House: More Preservation Work on the Siding

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 9:40am
To a nation that was optimistic, expansive, idealistic, and mindful of posterity, the Greek Revival brought an architecture of beauty, breadth, simplicity and permanence.

Carole Rifkind, A Field Guide to American Architecture, 1980



This house sits on the flood plain of St. Vrain Creek and it did suffer some damage in the September 2013 flood, but it is standing and I am trying to replace some of the worse pieces of siding.

I say "trying to replace" because the mill that is supplying the beveled siding screwed up my order twice: the first time I got rough sawn siding; the second time I got "colonial" siding which is thicker than beveled siding. All this put me three weeks behind schedule.

The mill re-milled the colonial siding and I received the proper siding last week, me and my colleague started replacing pieces on the east elevation. We discovered that this elevation was sided last because at one point it had a fireplace chimney that extended to the roof, the logs and chinking still have paint on them.

This is a double pen log house, the logs were joined with steeple notches. From the construction techniques used and what little I know about the family that first lived in it, my educated guess is that it was built between 1867-1872.

It would be nice to do some tree ring dating to find out when the logs used in the construction were cut.



The dormers are sided, we tore off some particle board siding that someone put up quite some time ago, all looks better!

I found a door that matches one of the entrance doors that you see in a 1917 photo of the building, there are several more windows that could use some maintenance work. A group of volunteers are scheduled to prime and paint this building late September, can't wait to see that!

More siding is on the way, I hope I get what I ordered.

Categories: Luthiery


by Dr. Radut