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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie
R.A. Salaman, Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, 1975
I am a little tired of my tool chest.
As soon as I close the lid things magically appear on top of it.
I remove these items so I can rummage through the chest to find what I need.
And the stuff reappears once the lid goes back down. I think the wood working elves are having fun with me.
I work in a small studio, it's 10'x11' and is between our bedroom and kitchen. I have some storage with shelves, but I desperately need another work surface for finishing my guitars.
I spent most of last week working on building the carcass (yes, I am using the American form of the word) for a new work bench. I sawed out the tenons by hand, I drilled all the mortises with a brace and bit. While doing all that I remembered why I never got into furniture making, I really don't enjoy making squares and rectangles. When you make a guitar you work with voluptuous curves, you can't mistake the feminine shape of a classical guitar. Curves are more fun to look at and handle than sharp corners.
I found the plans for this bench at Shop Notes, click here to see the plans. I like the looks of the bench, but I found the plans to be a little over worked and who ever came up with it loves dadoes! All I really need is a flat working surface and some nice storage space. I am going to adjust the drawer sizes to fit my tools and because of limited space I will make a set of sliding doors instead of those that swing out. And no vises. There isn't enough room in my studio to have the vises that are on the plans!
Just having the unfinished plywood top done has made my work life a little easier, it is so nice to have an extra work surface. I plan on spending one day a week working on finishing the bench, I need to start assembling some guitars!
If I were ever to make another bench, one out of hardwood instead of Douglas fir, I would make a close copy of Norm Vandal's Shaker inspired bench that is in Scott Landis Workbench book. His bench makes much more sense when it comes to its construction than this one does. This one will work and serve it's purpose.
I do know that as soon as this bench is finished the tool chest gets the boot!
Merle Burnham, my father, 1976
This is a neck for a copy of a 1929 Santos Hernandez guitar, it's all glued up from heel block to head stock. In this photo I am adjusted the sides of the neck with a draw knife so I can carefully plane the sides of the head stock perfectly square so the tuning machines can have some where to sit.
What happened next is that I drilled all six holes in the head stock only to find out that I had laid out the positions for the holes using the wrong reference line. Whoops!
Spanish cedar is getting scarce, I bought this blank from Stew-Mac just before they stopped selling Spanish cedar neck blanks. I didn't want to throw it into the wood stove, I owe it to the Universe to persevere and use this neck.
With my trusty knife, block plane, Porter Cable 14 volt drill and a 13/32 inch hole drilled into a piece of bubinga, I made three dowels from a scrap piece of Spanish cedar. Some fish glue from Lee Valley and a few taps with a live oak mallet and things are as right as rain again!
Yes, you can see the plugs, but when you a play a classic guitar you are watching your hands, not the headstock! This will not affect the sound quality of a guitar.
The tuning machine's plate cover the plugs! Don't they look great!
The headstock carved and slotted.
Now, to finish carving the heel!
Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 1677
I made my first bow saw over twenty years ago using an idea from Roy Underhill and Drew Langsner. I still use that saw, I made the frame from some black oak (quercus kellogii) that I had harvested from my Paynes Creek, California property and the handles are mulberry that were turned on a spring pole lathe. The blade is made from a band saw blade.
Like many wood workers, I have longed to have a sexy curvy bow saw just like those joiners of old, so last night and most of this morning I made a nice bow saw from some black walnut.
It was over six months ago when I purchased handles, pins and blades from Tools For Working Wood and I had this crazy idea that I was going to convert a couple of hickory pick handles into sticks to make this bow saw. Those pick handles are still in the other workshop and last night I dimensioned some walnut that I had on hand. This morning I made a template from the Gramercy plans, which are available at Tools For Working Wood website, and started in on work.
I made sure that I got the mortices and tenons completed before I started shaping the uprights!
Then came the shaping work. I used a draw knife, a sloyd knife, several wood rasps, a coping saw and some spokeshaves.
The finished product.
This isn't an exact copy of a Gramercy saw, I didn't want to spend a lot of time shaping the wood where the handles enter the uprights, I need a basic saw to get the job done. I used some 20lb. fly line backing for the cordage and made a very simple tongue, or toggle, to tighten the cord. This saw is amazingly light, I can't wait to use it!
R.A. Salaman, Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, 1975
I made the wedge last night and then went at the plane body with a horseshoeing rasp and a series of spokeshaves. The plane works on soft wood, but I need to round the corners of the blade and then turn a hook on the edge. The real test will be on Indian rosewood that I am using for one of my guitars.
The only power tools that I used to make this plane were a table saw, used to rip the sides off the main body, and a sliding compound miter saw to cut the bed angles. I did use a drill press to drill the hole for the cross pin. I could have done that by hand with a brace and bit, which you can do if you do your layout properly. The other tools used were a No.7 Stanley jointer plane, a No.4 Stanley smoothing plane, a sloyd knife by Frost, a compass and a ruler. A back saw and gouge were used to shape the wedge and I used a horseshoeing (farrier) rasp, several spokeshaves and a No.7 sweep gouge for the final shaping of the body.
Yes, you can make a Krenov style hand plane with just hand tools, all you have to do is take your time.
Next week I finally get some time to start building two new guitars.
The top on the left will become part of a close copy of a guitar constructed in 1968 by Manuel Hernandez y Victoriano Aguado. The top is redwood, I re-sawed it (by hand using a Disston rip saw) from a board that came from an old barn outside of Yosemite National Park and I was able to get only two good tops from that board. The original guitar had this asymmetrical bracing, this helps to center the fundamental mode (or tone) of the guitar on the bridge and will help make this guitar's sound carry to the back of a concert hall. Hernandez y Aguado are believed to have developed this style of bracing after seeing the inside of a guitar that was made by Jose Ramirez III in the early 1960's. I used this bracing on my guitar No. 5 with great success. This guitar will have Indian rosewood back and sides.
The top on the right is Englemann spruce and will have nearly parallel bracing, I got this style from a guitar made by the great Santo Hernandez in 1930. I expect great sound from this bracing, it should make for a very balanced and loud guitar. Masara Kohno used a variation of this design on some of his guitars, everyone who has played one of those Kohno guitars tells me that they were very loud and balanced. The back and sides for this guitar will be California laurel which was re-sawed from a board that I purchased at a redwood burl store about 30 miles north of Eureka, California.
Oh, the joy of being able to work on some thing so beautiful as a classical guitar!
wheat or girls, small where miners lived.
Some fell while we were crawling up the hill.
Standing shacks are pale. Old weeds believe
Richard Hugo, Ghosts at Garnet, The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir, 1973
Friday, November 8, 2013, I and my crew walked away from the cabin at the Rocky Mountain Mammoth mine. Everything is done, new roofing, foundation, siding, flooring, even half round gutters (which are not historically correct, I'm not the one who wanted them!). Drainage and landscaping is done and I am happy. I am also sad, it is a wonderful place to work and to visit.
An aspen leave that was stuck to the siding. A beautiful parting gesture.