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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie

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Fine Handcrafted Classical Guitars Wilson Burnhamnoreply@blogger.comBlogger365125
Updated: 22 min 49 sec ago

My eBay Listing: Vintage Stanley No.5 Jack Plane, Type 5/6, 1888-1892

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 2:38pm
Vintage Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane, Type 5/6. Please click here to see the listing.

Everything about this plane says that it is a Type 6 (1888-1892).  The plane body, cap iron, plane iron, lateral adjusting lever, all have the proper dates and lettering on them to make this a Type 6 plane, but the brass adjusting nut is a right handed thread, not left handed, which was used on Type 5 planes.

Rosewood knob has typical tool box dings and wear, but is in good shape; rosewood tote is not original to plane, it was salvaged from a broken Stanley No. 7 jointer plane, Type 11. There is about 80-85% of the japanning left on the body.

This plane belonged to my grandfather, Rufus Wilson (1881-1955), who was a carpenter and old time logger, and my mother told me that he owned this plane when they moved to their house near Mineral, California in 1940. I was given this plane in 1978 when I was 16 years old. I tuned up the plane in the early 1990's, the typical work of flattening the sole, the back of the iron, etc. I used this plane to make my first musical instruments. I set it aside about 15 years ago to keep as a collectors item, but I have decided to let it go to someone else. It is a great user plane! Please ask questions! I will not ship out of the United States, no international sales!








Categories: Luthiery

Mid-Winter Sale! 15% Off All Guitars!

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:26am

Don't miss out!

This sale will continue until Tuesday, March 20, 2018!

Go to Guitars Currently Available to see the latest inventory!
Categories: Luthiery

A New and Practical Chisel/Tool Rack

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:13am
Woodworkers are pack rats of the highest order.

Scott Landis, The Workshop Book, 1991

I am in the middle of making two classical guitars, one is a close copy of a 1926 Domingo Esteso, the other one a close copy of Andres Segovia's famous 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar. The Esteso style has a 640mm string length on a body smaller than the Ramirez style, almost three quarters of an inch shorter, and the Ramirez is fairly textbook, meaning that from the outside it looks like a 1912 Ramirez guitar. The inside is braced a little differently than the original, but the "fan" pattern of bracing was in use in the Ramirez shop at the time.

 The Esteso style guitar...


The 1912 Ramirez style guitar...

In all of this chaos of scraping down bindings, glueing on fret boards, making bridges, etc., I realized that I needed to rehabilitate my chisel-tool rack. There were chisels and pliers on the floor of the studio because there was no place to put them, a problem that needed a remedy.

The original rack was patterned after a French tool rack that was popular a few years ago, it worked but my tool collection had grown. You can read about the old rack elsewhere in this blog.

My solution to the problem was to add an extra rack on the bottom of the backing board.


The backing board is a piece of 1x12 pine that is 36 inches long.


The top rack is a piece of pine that I ripped to 2 7/8" wide, the bottom rack was ripped to 3 3/4" wide.  Both racks are attached with screws to the outside edges of the backing board, the different widths of the rack provide an offset from the rows of tools. When you remove a tool on the bottom rack the tool's handle and your hand have some clearance from the tools in the upper rack.




The holes are set 2 inches on center, this gave me 17 holes for each rack, the holes are 5/8" in diameter and were drilled on a drill press. The slots are about a 1/4" wide and cut with the help of the miter gauge on my table saw.

Simple and practical.

It holds most of the tools used on a daily at the ready. Does it need to be bigger? Yes, but I will deal with that when I complete my new workshop, for now this rack is good enough!

If you are wondering why there are three empty spots in the lower tool rack, it is because I haven't re-handled three new chisels I purchased from Luthier's Mercantile Inc., the empty space in the upper rack is for a pair of vintage PEXTO dividers that must have been on the workbench when I took the photo.

Here is a YouTube video of Kyle Throw, a young composer/classical guitarist, in Denver, Colorado, playing a spruce/granadillo guitar that I made for him! Enjoy!




Categories: Luthiery

A Guitar Maker's Christmas Wish

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 12:02pm
Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!








Categories: Luthiery

The Impractical Guitar Maker's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, Day Two

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 7:24pm
Knowing only what is necessary makes living dull and marks the regression of learning.


Benjamin Franklin

Many people secretly aspire to be "the artist", but they have been told their entire lives that only those "with the magic" can see the world as it is and portrait it as such. It is unfortunate that so many people believe what they are told and never try to "look" at the world and "see it". We are told that we "that special something", talent, to draw, sculpt or create any thing.

Let me tell you that you don't need "talent" or "magic" to create, you need to have the desire to draw well, to learn how to read music, to play the piano, or take an axe to a piece of wood to make an idea you in your head into something that is tangible and stands in front of you.

I want to recommend a book to buy for yourself, or anyone on your holiday list,

The Zen of Seeing, by Frederick Franck.


Never has it been more urgent to speak of seeing. Ever more gadgets, from cameras to computers, from art books to videotapes, conspire to take over our thinking, our feeling, our experiencing, our seeing. Onlookers we are, spectators...


Franck was a well known artist, who's works are in great art museums in the United States, Europe and Japan. He was also a medical doctor that worked closely with the great Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

The main premise of this book is to go outside and sit quietly, to look and to draw what you see and not to worry about the outcome. Leave behind your academic training and all the things you were ever told about how you can't draw, sit down in a meadow and draw blades of grass, or your hand, leaves on a tree, or the sash in the window of a Victorian house. Why not pull out that old Stanley plane, set it on your workbench and really look at it, then draw it? You might be surprised at the results. And think, drawing skills can carry over into woodworking, music, cooking and how to converse with folks, just to mention a few areas of life that we all need to work on.

The book was written in 1973, but everything Franck says is valid today, perhaps more so because we are so inundated by media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., that as a species we need to step back and  reconnect to nature, to ourselves.

Buy the book and give it a try, because as it states on the back cover of the book,

Even if you have never thought of drawing, if you claim to be  one of those people who cannot draw a straight line, this book will make you want to pick up a pencil and begin...to SEE.

Can you guess what book I will be re-reading the next couple of days?

Categories: Luthiery

The Impractical Guitar Maker's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide, Day One

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 6:17pm
Is there a classical guitar player in your life and you just don't know what to get them this holiday season?

I asked several classical guitarists what guitar-related items they would like to receive as gifts this season, and I got very good feed back that I will share with you this week and perhaps into next.

#1 Most Requested Item

A one year supply of guitar strings!

Guitarists who practice, play and perform on a regular can wear out a set of strings in just one week!

The oils from you hand actually clog the metal windings on the bass strings.  Bass strings can be washed in an ammonia solution or hot soapy water and then line dried, but eventually the strings become thump sounding. The clear treble strings fair better, but still become worn out with playing.

I remember in college having to do the weekly or bi-weekly trips to the local music store, and then there were the phone calls home asking for money to buy strings.


This is the string drawer in my other workbench. As you can see I like several different brands, Savarez, LaBella,  D'Addario and Dogal brands are all tops in my book. 

I definitely have a favorite brand, but the strings a guitarist uses are a very personal choice, so be sure to ask that guitarist in your life what their favorite strings are before you buy! 

Here are two websites to visit, please know that there are many other string supplier websites to check out.



Have fun shopping!











Categories: Luthiery

On the Workbench - Bearclaw Sitka Spruce/East Indian Rosewood Classical Guitar

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 3:39pm
I am not sure how long I have owned this bearclaw Sitka spruce top, I think almost 15 years and I know that I bought the back/side set of East Indian rosewood in 2000. This wood has had a decent period in which to age, theoretically, because the wood is this old this guitar should have an amazing sound!

Several years ago, I joined the top and back and inlaid a Manuel Ramirez style rosette in the top with the intention of making a small bodied classical guitar with a fairly short string length, something like a 625mm to a 635mm scale. The project got put aside, there were orders for standard, or full size classical guitars, that guitar would have to wait.

In October, I pulled out the wood so I could work on it over weekends. I planed the back, I thinned the sides and thinned entire top to 2mm. The edges got thinned to about 1.5mm. Sitka spruce is stiff stuff, I want this guitar to be responsive, and thinning the edges a little more helps be responsive.

Then came the neck. After selecting a nice piece of Spanish cedar for the neck, I had to make a decision as to the string length of the guitar. Since the top was all ready cut out for a body length of 470mm, as opposed to 480mm-495mm body length for a "standard" classical, I couldn't make it into a guitar with a 650mm.  A 630mm string is a little short for most people, I chose to make with a 640mm string length. The guitar will have plenty of loudness with that length and will be just a little easier to play.

Today, I glued all the "fan" braces and the transverse braces to the top with hot hide glue. I really like hot hide glue! And I got one brace glued onto the back! I bent the sides last week, I will attach those after I attach the top to the neck.

The goal is to have this guitar ready for bindings by the end of the week!








Categories: Luthiery

The Impractical Guitar Maker - Wedged Joints

Sun, 11/26/2017 - 12:51pm
Examination of the interior revealed the junction block used to connect the neck and body. The sides are slotted into the end block and held in place by wedges.

From A Detailed Description of an Early 17th Century Italian Five-Course Guitar

Tom and Mary Anne Evans, Guitars - From Renaissance to Rock, 1977

In making the body and neck of a classical guitar, the most complicated joint used is a scarf joint. The scarf joint is used to connect the headstock to the neck shaft, some makers use a more complicated "V" joint to connect the headstock to the shaft. Miter and butt joints are used on the bindings, but this is purely for decoration, bindings are used to cover simple joints. The guitar sides usually fit into slots cut into the heel block, I like to cut a wider, angled slot and use wedges to hold the sides in the heel block.

Anyone who has made a classical guitar with the help of the book, Making Master Guitars, by Roy Courtnall, should recognize this wedged joint. In Making Master Guitars the joint is touted by the master guitar maker, Jose Romanillos, he used this joint and a variation of it until he retired from making guitars.

I began using this joint early on in my journey in guitar making, it made sense. It is a strong joint and unlike cutting a narrow slot, it allows me some wiggle room in fixing how the side fits against the heel and the wedge against the side.



The wider slot allows me to clean up the saw cut that will be seen once the side is attached with a sanding stick, there is no need to see a gap between the side and the heel!




Once the wedge is cut, I put it in the slot with a "dummy"piece of wood that is the same thickness as the side. I then start to cut a kerf where the wedge and the heel block meet...


and continue to "saw kerf joint" the surfaces until...


I have a nice looking joint!

When the side is ready to be attached to the guitar top, all I need to do is to trim the wedge a little short so when I hammer it in the endow the wedge will be just shy of seating against the top. There is no need to glue the wedge in, it is a strong joint and the wedge won't go anywhere. If the wedge is glued then the joint is not reversible, a consideration if the guitar needs to be repaired!







Categories: Luthiery

Capos/Cejillas - New Batch of Six Padauk Wood Capos!

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 7:25am

Stocking Stuffers for Your Favorite Classical Guitarist!

This week has been dedicated to making 1970's retro style cejillas, or capos, for classical and flamenco guitars.

What makes them retro?

Traditional cejillas used leather straps to protect the guitar's neck from the string that goes around the next and is attached to the peg that tightens the string. In the 1960's and 1970's several capo makers in Spain put vinyl tubing over the string for protection. I think the vinyl tubing was used partly for economic reasons:  it is cheaper than leather and it makes assembling a capo go much faster, plus some of the capos being sold were made from Galalith, a material made from casein and formaldehyde, it looked like plastic and was used to make jewelry. The vinyl tubing went well with the look of the Galalith.

I use vinyl tubing because it allows me to assemble a capo much faster than using a leather strap.

I want to make affordable capos, every classical /flamenco guitarist deserves a wooden capo!






The bodies are padauk with East Indian rosewood pegs; neoprene face; vinyl tubing and the string is a LaBella brand 3rd guitar string. String colors are either black, gold or red.




These are my current capo shapes.

A is a very traditional shape, this shape dates to the late 1600's, early 1700's.

B and C are my interpretation of two shapes used by several traditional Spanish capo makers.

$30 for each capo, shipping and handling are extra.

Due to CITES (Council on International Trade of Endangered Species) regulations, I am unable to ship these capos outside of the United States because of the East Indian rosewood pegs. I don't make enough money off of these to warrant getting re-export certificates for each capo. I can make these capos with boxwood pegs.


Categories: Luthiery

Holiday Guitar Sale!

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 6:46am

Categories: Luthiery

Using My Jack Planes As Smoothing Planes

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 6:43am
The earliest known plane was a flat-bottomed tool for smoothing wood and nothing more.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings, 1982


The only plane I owned when I started working with wood was a Stanley No.5, Type 4 plane. It wasn't tuned properly, the tote was a replacement my grandfather had made from a walnut board that never did fit the plane quite right, and because it was a Type 4 the depth adjuster knob turned the opposite direction from the later Stanley. It had most of its japanning and the sides had a wonderful patina on them that I later discovered was really rust. The iron was not original to the plane, the original iron mostly likely got worn down to nothing or was stolen from the plane while it was at a job site. I have no idea when my grandfather acquired this plane, perhaps he got it through a trade or barter for some carpentry job he did in the early part of the 20th century. I know he didn't buy it brand new, if I remember correctly, Type 4 Stanley planes were manufactured between 1874-88, my grandfather was born in 1881!

It was my smoothing plane, jointer plane and when pressed into service it was a really big block plane. I remember at the time I read in some woodworking book that No.5's were called "jack" planes because, as the author stated, you could use them for just about anything - dimensioning stock, smoothing stock and jointing edges, it was a "the jack of all trades" kind of plane. It was all that I needed, I didn't have much money back then, new tools were a luxury, I got by with what I had.

As time went on and I gained more experience in wood working,  I purchased several Stanley No.4 smoothing planes because books and magazines stated those were "the planes" a woodworker should own and use.  I spent quite a bit of time and effort to "tune" those planes, again, according to the information found woodworking books and magazines. Which each new plane I flatten the sole, I sharpened the edge of the chip breaker so it mated perfectly with the back of the iron, the iron was regulation shaped and sharpened and you know what? I never could get those planes to work the way I wanted them to. The iron would chatter or dig in at the wrong place, there was always something about those planes that fought me at every turn.

Whenever frustration would set in with a No.4 plane I turned to my faithful No.5. If I kept the iron of the No.5 sharp the plane always worked when I needed it to. Maybe it worked well for me because of the longer length or that it was the first plane I learned to use. The only other size plane that works well for me as a smoothing plane is a No.3 plane, we all know a No.3 is a smoothing plane.

Today, I use the No.5 to thin down classical guitar tops, backs and sides, I need to be fairly precise when doing this activity. Tops and backs need to be within the 1.8mm-2.3mm range, sides a little less than 2mm, I find that the the added weigh of the plane helps it go through the wood better, thus easier for me to control;  the extra length takes care of the high spots on the wood better than a regular smoothing plane and it is much lighter and more wildly than a No.7. I have never set up a No.5 plane to be a scrub plane, I have a No.40 Stanley scrub plane for that, one of the No.5's has an iron set up for smoothing, the other No.5 has a toothing plane which is used to help dimension guitar parts.

I sold the No.4 smoothing planes and an extra No.7 jointer plane last year in an effort to downsize my tool collection. I don't miss the No.4's and I tend not to recommend them to people just getting into woodworking, I suggest it may be better for them to start with a No.3 smoothing plane and I tell them that Alan Peters thought a No.7 was the best one to use.

Once you have decided what your focus is in woodworking, be it making Federal style furniture, Welsh stick chairs or classical guitars, you will discover what tools work best for you and when you do, stick with them!
Categories: Luthiery

The Glues That I Use

Sun, 11/05/2017 - 10:25am
While the most visible features of a fine quality guitar are the materials and craftsmanship used in conjunction, another factor that contributes to quality are the adhesives used to hold it all together.

Jose Oribe, The Fine Guitar, 1985

I want everyone to know that I am not receiving any money from any of the glue manufacturers that I will talk about in this post. These are the glues I use when I make a classical guitar or on other shop projects.




Here are my go-to glues.



Titebond and Titebond II are PVA glues that I use for glueing the scarf joint on a guitar neck and the heel block to the neck shaft. Titebond sets quickly, has gap filling properties and when I do my part on making a good joint, the glue line is almost invisible. Fish and hide glues tend to absorb the water present in shellac and can become dark making the glue line more pronounced.

I also use Titebond to glue the joints for the tops and backs for the same reason. I don't want the glue line to stand out.



LMI yellow glue is pretty amazing in how quickly it sets, you can mill parts glued with this within 90 minutes after clamping. It dries very hard, almost as hard as hide glue, a big consideration for string instrument makers. It is believed that hard glue joints make the transmission of energy easier and quicker, this helps that instrument sound better.

The only drawback about the LMI glue is if the glue is too cold, it becomes chalky. I have found that if I use this glue when it is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity, it will leave a white residue in wood pores. That makes for more work especially when using this glue on walnut or East Indian rosewood, I spend more time washing out the glue than working on the guitar.

That said, it is great glue.



I can't say enough good things about fish glue. I usually purchase fish glue from Lee Valley which is a high quality glue that I like very much, however, the smallest bottle is 16oz. in size and it takes me almost two years to use an entire bottle. I bought this small bottle from LMI and wow! this stuff will glue your fingers together!

I use this high tack glue to glue on binding strips and sometimes, if I am not in a hurry, I use it to glue the braces onto guitar backs.



This is the stuff!

Granular hide glue is simply amazing! It has a much and sometimes more shear strength that "modern" glues and dries glass hard, again, that is better fro energy transference.

I use hide glue where it really matters in guitar making - glueing the braces onto the top and back, the linings to the sides and glueing the back onto the guitar.

Every wood worker should try hide glue at least once on a project. Just make sure you have a heat gun handy to warm up all the parts that will be glue together.

Adhesives are what you make of them, each has their advantages and disadvantages, you need to experiment to find what works best for you and your projects.

Now, turn off your computer and get out into the shop!


Categories: Luthiery