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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie

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The Adventures of a Luthier Wilson Burnhamhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17461017493297553603noreply@blogger.comBlogger275125
Updated: 2 hours 29 min ago

Santos Hernandez Style Classic Guitar - Late Night Work

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 7:53pm
The classic guitar is a difficult and demanding instrument. There are no short cuts.


Vladimir Bobri, The Segovia Technique, 1972



I got back to work on a close copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar yesterday by glueing on the so called "fan bracing", as you will notice, these braces are nearly parallel to each other, and the transverse braces to the top.

When I got up this morning I un-cinched the clamps and discovered that the top had a definite twist to it.

Hmm. Bad glue up technique on my part and the humidity had dropped from 39% to 29% overnight, not good for a guitar top or my nerves. That is the problem with working at lutherie this time of the year, especially during and right after a big snow storm, the relative humidity can really drop. The humidifier can't keep up.



I needed to run errands this morning, when I got back I split the transverse braces off the top and shaved the remnants down to the glue.

Then I made new braces.

I clamped the top down to the work board and glued on transverse brace number one, once the glue was set then I glued on the wide flat brace closest to the neck.

After that, time to walk the dogs and make dinner.




The brace below the sound hole has a 1/16th of an inch arch to it to help dome the top.

Doming the top gives the guitar a real voice, one that has volume and character. It's like a drum head, you want it tensioned to be loud.

When I glue this brace on I usually use two slats as backing cauls and a C clamp at each end. Then I push two shims in between the slats to force the top to the brace and the glue.

This action is what can cause twisting.

Tonight, I used the slats, but I started by clamping in the middle, the a C clamp on each side of the Quik Grip, and continued on down to the ends of the brace.

I couldn't see any twisting or winding to the top.




Then it was a little trim work on some laminated all walnut cam clamps, which I should work on tomorrow..




and then double check the neck. If all goes well I can bend the sides tomorrow and attach the top to the neck.




Now it's bed time.

It's not that late, maybe nine o'clock, but I never could work late into the night, even in college I couldn't work on term papers past 11pm. Back then I had an electric typewriter that could erase the last ten words that you typed, I thought I was lucky to have such a beast.

Still, I have a jar full of incense cedar bodied pencils that are more fun to use than any computer.

Categories: Luthiery

Making an Antonio Torres Style Guitar: Carving the Neck and Heel

Sun, 02/15/2015 - 12:12pm
As you can expect, the neck is the most complex part of the guitar. In the Spanish school, every part of the classical guitar is built in conjunction with the neck and in line with it.

Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitar, 2003




I am often asked what part of the guitar takes the longest to make, everyone assumes that the task of calibrating the top consumes the most time.

I find that carving and shaping the neck takes the longest, other than the French polishing. As a classical guitar player, I know the importance of a well shaped neck, the profile must not be too round or too thick, both will tire a player quickly and can lead to physical issues. I spend as much time needed to make the neck perfect!

Here is a short photo essay of carving the neck and heel on Kyle's guitar...



The heel...





Refining the heel to match the profile used by Santos Hernandez...




Almost there...





Refining the other profile...





Time for the draw knife...





The neck after using the draw knife, spokeshaves, knife and files...





I shape the neck to have a sort of flattened "D" profile. I find this to be a most comfortable shape and I have yet to have a client complain about it.





Almost done!

A little more finish work on the headstock and heel and the guitar will be ready for French polish!






Categories: Luthiery

Some Things I Learned About Working in a Small Workshop

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 7:52am
The workshop at home is generally a spare room, maybe a surplus bedroom or a room in the basement...

Bernard E. Jones, The Practical Woodworker, 190?


I've always worked in small spaces.

When I was learning how to use hand tools, my grandfather's workbench was so crowded with stuff I had only five feet of surface to work on.

When my wife and I first were married, I had shop that was a spare room in the log cabin we rented, maybe it was 8'x10'.

Our next place had an old shed, 10'x11', that I fixed up into a nice unheated space.

When we moved to our place outside of Lassen Volcanic National Park I built a nice 12'x16' studio that I got to work in for only four months before we moved to work at Yosemite National Park. There our house had a 10'x 10' space that worked well...



...and now I use a room off of our bedroom for a studio. I think it measures 10'x11'.




In random order, here some things I have learned over the years...

1. Have a work bench that suits the space and the work that you do.

2. Have a work bench that has a tool cabinet underneath it.

3. Have only the tools that you need for your work.

4. Organize those tools well and have them readily available.

5. Tool boxes take up valuable floor space. Tool box lids become places to put things which you have to move some where else so you can open the lid. This drives me crazy, I really need to finish the new work bench and its drawers so I can get dispense with my tool chest!

6. Have a focus - know exactly what it is that you want to make. I know many people need to sample making a lot of different things before they know what it is that really makes their heart sing, but having a focus will reduce work shop clutter.

7. Have another storage area. There is another building on our property that serves as part-time work shop, storage shed and fire wood shed, it houses all my power tools, carpenter tools and lumber for projects around the house. I store all my tone wood in an upstairs closet.

8. Keep your work space clean.

9. Good lighting is a must.

10. Don't get uptight about working in a small space, a small space is better than no space!



My ideal work shop.

You can find this illustration on page 1 of The Practical Woodworker, edited by Bernard E. Jones.

Whenever I see this illustration I realize how it has influenced my work spaces over the last 20 years, it is simple and efficient and lacks power tools, which is a most alluring thing.

I find wood working very romantic and I always treat it as a way to enhance my life, even if I am trying to make money at it.

There are people who visit my studio and can't believe I actually make classic guitars in its small space. I tell them that Julian Gomez Ramirez, a Spanish guitar maker who immigrated to Paris in 1914, whose guitars today valued at over $20,000, worked in a shop that was 8'x 10' and had only one light bulb.



Categories: Luthiery

Stanley No. 271 Router

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 3:12pm
Construction materials and proper tools are necessary for making guitars.

Gerald J. Bakus, A Comprehensive Reference to the Classical and Flamenco Guitar, 1977







This little tool has sat on the shelf for awhile, it wasn't forgotten, I don't have much use for it.

I purchased it from McGuckin's Hardware in Boulder, Colorado in 1994, I think Stanley stopped making No. 271 right after that. I once had the box that it came in, now lost in some move.

I've used it a few times, but never really did any kind of work where it was needed.





I did use it to finish the shelf on the neck on the latest Torres/Santos guitar...





...and today I retrieved it to start working down the heel for the heel cap.





I guess I will start using it more often!

I plan on changing the angle on the iron, it's a little too blunt, maybe something more along a 20 degree angle, anything to help it pare better.

I know that one can still find original Stanley No. 271 planes and are new ones are available from Lee Valley, Lie-Nielsen, et cetera.

You can definitely make your own, I seem to remember that Nick Engler published plans for one in some home woodworking book...

Categories: Luthiery

Making an Antonio Torres Style Guitar: Binding Ledges and Maple Binding

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:45pm
Few realize the influence of the luthier on the life and career of an artist. Without the existence of an adequate instrument, the fantasy, the emotional richness, the technical precision and the essence of musical interpretation--all would remain latent.

Andres Segovia, 1954


Work on this guitar has consumed so much of my time these past two weeks I haven't been able to blog about the work, much to the chagrin of the young man who ordered this guitar.



The back is on, no hitches or other problems with that task, it rings like a bell when I tap it.




Out came the router, respirator, ear plugs, plus several prayers to Saint Joseph the Worker, for a series of test cuts and then the actual routing of the binding ledges. This step is not for the faint of heart, so many things can go wrong! I still recall when the router bit sent a big sliver of wood flying from the top of a guitar, fortunately I found the sliver and glued it back in place.

Even cutting these binding ledges by hand has its risks...





The back bindings glued in place. I use a stretchy binding tape, available from Lee Valley, to hold the bindings in place. As George Ellis wrote in his book, Modern Practical Joinery, when glueing make haste slowly!





A close up of the end graft and the bindings. Again, I'd like to point out that all the joinery in a classic guitar consists of butt joints, unless you use the famous "V" joint the attach the peg head to the neck...





Tomorrow, I tackle the bindings that go on the top!


Categories: Luthiery


by Dr. Radut