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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie

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The Adventures of a Luthier Wilson Burnhamhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17461017493297553603noreply@blogger.comBlogger281125
Updated: 29 min 9 sec ago

Miguel Rodriguez Style Guitar - The Last Guitar of the Season

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 11:20am
It is easy to create a mystique about guitar making. There must be something magical about a process that constructs a wooden box, stretches some strings across it, and persuades delectable sounds to come from it.

Colin Cooper, The Classical Guitar Book, 2002


Back in January or February, I made the neck for this guitar. I jointed and glued the western red cedar top about the same time and installed the rosette.

Some where in this blog are postings of when I made the three piece back and when I split out the braces for the top.

I bent the sides last week.

All this was done so I can assemble this guitar by Saturday, the last guitar of the season. I go back to my day job as a historic preservation carpenter on April 28th, after that I will continue to work on this guitar and three other guitars as I can make time.




This guitar is braced in the manner that was used by Miguel Rodriguez,Sr. and his sons, Rafael and Miguel. Those of you familiar with Rodriguez guitars will notice that I did not include the diagonal brace that was on many of the Rodriguez guitars after, say, about 1963.

Click here to see plans of a 1977 Rodriguez to see the diagonal brace I am talking about and click here to read an article by Ron Fernandez on Rodriguez flamenco guitars.

In that article, Mr. Fernandez mentions that when he was in the Rodriguez workshop in the early 1960's he noticed that none of the classical guitars had the Jose Ramirez III inspired diagonal brace.

The point I am trying to get at is I want to make guitar that will be close to that earthy Spanish sound from the 1960's, a sound I remember hearing on the recordings of Andres Segovia and Narciso Yepes when they both played Ramirez guitars, not to mention the sound of the Rodriguez guitar that Pepe Romero used on his recordings in the early 1970's.




I graduated the cedar top as close as I could to the specifications that are on the plans of the 1977 Rodriguez guitar drawn by Tom Blackshear - 2.6mm in the center of the top, then falling off to 2.5mm, 2.4mm and finally 2.3mm along the outside edge of the top.

The "fan" braces are close to the dimensions in the plan, however, I am leaving the transverse braces (the braces top and bottom of the sound hole) rather tall in the manner of Santos Hernandez. I am looking for a big bold sound from this guitar, a sound that will bounce off back wall of an auditorium and I want it to sing like the best coloratura mezzo soprano so your heart melt.

Right now I am waiting for the glue to harden on the end block, sometime after lunch I should be able to start fitting on of the sides. Once the sides are on then I can install the back, after that I will work on it as I can. If I don't get to it this summer or fall it will part of my winter's work.

Winter work that I am looking forward to doing.



Categories: Luthiery

The Secret to Woodworking Is...

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 9:04am
Art and life are one and the greatest of the arts is the art of living.

Dorothy L. Pillsbury, Adobe Doorways, 1952




We got to enjoy a wonderful spring snow storm over the last several days, by early this morning we got close to a total of 36 inches of very wet snow at our little house.

One small community in Larimer County recorded five feet of snow from this past storm!

My wife and I dug out the Jeeps yesterday so we could drive to town to get groceries and dog food and this is my last week of freedom before I return to my day job as a historic preservation carpenter.

Here's where I heave a big sigh, I will miss my days in the studio making guitars.


Tools for making guitar bridges

I've been very busy on 3 guitars, 2 are custom orders and one is a "speculation" guitar that I assembled several years ago but couldn't complete because of orders, work and life.



A Lee Valley router is the ticket to inlay some mother of pearl

I started French polishing 2 guitars last week. I work at a day job seven months out of the year so when I get back to French polish I have a short learning curve to work through. It is frustrating at first, then the shellac becomes glossy, the polish builds up and the wood underneath it is gorgeous.

One glory of French polishing is it makes me slow down so I can consider what is really important in life.



Mother of pearl overlay on an Indian rosewood bridge

Many people dislike French polish because they say it takes too long to complete, just go to any forum on guitar making and you will see what I mean. You have to do from 4-12 sessions of French polish to cover the guitar, not to mention you need to let the shellac harden for 2 weeks before you can do the final rub out and there is that tedious task of pore filling open grain wood with pumice and shellac.

I did go to one guitar forum to see if anyone was using a certain brand of epoxy for pore filling, sure I was thinking about speeding up the pore filling time on next guitar in line, most thought the epoxy didn't work well or it took too many coats, hence too much time. Most of the older luthiers all said to give up the new stuff and just use pumice and alcohol for the pore filling. Not many liked those comments.

One guitar maker I know of states a person can French polish a guitar in one week, and there is an article on the Internet that says you can do it in three days!

Me, I'd rather take my time at it.



Three bridges distorted by the camera lens

If you have read this much of my posting, you are probably wondering why I am not disclosing The Secret to Woodworking!

Maybe you have figured out what that secret is, turned off your computer and have walked to your shop to start making something new or continue work on a current project.

Perhaps you are thinking about "surfing" to look at another woodworking blog.

Just bear with me another moment.



A redwood/Indian rosewood guitar

There will be close to 150 hours of work on the guitar in the above photo and I will sell it for $3000. I know some people think that is not enough money for the time spent.

I am not in this game for the money, if I was I'd have a big factory of workers that would crank out 50,000 guitars a year and all I had to do is to sit and watch the money roll in.

No, I work with wood for the experience, the joy, the knowledge and all the other stuff that comes along with time spent in the shop.



A Sitka spruce guitar top with some nice bearclaw


What is The Secret to Woodworking?

It is patience and love.



Categories: Luthiery

Making a Three Piece Guitar Back, or, When You Choose the Wrong Wood

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 3:37pm
It is important to make a nicely fitted joint.

Dean Kimball, Construction the Mountain Dulcimer, 1975


I picked up a back and side set of "wild grown" east Indian rosewood from the Woodcraft Store in Loveland, Colorado a little over a year ago. I remember that Woodcraft had advertised this wood on their website then and by the time I got around to ordering it they had sold out. I think it sold for $49.99 a set and I bought this set for $70.




Originally, I had planned to make with this rosewood was going to be simply fitted with bubinga bindings, nothing fancy, but after glueing in a bit of bubinga between the two back halves I realized my mistake. The reddish bubinga disappeared in the field of browns and olive greens.




What to do!

First thing I did was to cut the back apart with knife and straight edge, then I spent some time going through my wood cache.

Curly maple was too showy and I had already fitted out the last two guitars in maple; California laurel didn't look right; walnut, nope; another piece of rosewood?




Then I found some sapele. It fits well with the rosewood and compliments the western red cedar top that will go on this guitar.

The no.7 Stanley plane in this photo is now one of my favorite planes, it is remarkable how easily you can adjust the blade depth on these vintage planes when you use the original blade and there is very little backlash.




This jointing operation was a little tricky, I didn't have much excess wood in which to place indexing pins. I used an original hole for one pin and then I had to use a brass brad for the lower bout. Sorry about the fuzzy photo!




Ah, the glue up! White/black purflings border the sapele insert and I used Lee Valley High Tack Fish glue to glue the whole thing together.




The back after clean up.

It's always nice when you can fix a mistake and make everything look better!



Here's a YouTube of the wonderful guitarist, David Russell!


Categories: Luthiery

Junk Sitka Spruce

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 2:40pm
It seems but natural and reasonable that the woodworker should have at least an elementary knowledge and understanding of "wood", the principal material with which he works.

Herman Hjorth, Principles of Woodworking, 1930



I purchased several sticks of Sitka spruce bracing material six months ago from a well known lutherie supply (which will remain nameless, I still need to buy tonewood from them), I used one blank to make braces for one guitar and I had no problems working it.



Prep work started on the "conservatory model" - a high quality, lower cost guitar aimed at students who can't afford a $3,500 guitar - with jointing, assembling the cedar top and installing a rosette, making the neck, etc., and splitting out the Sitka spruce braces.

In the above photo you can see what happened to a brace when I gently (yes, I said gently) flexed it, it broke!

The reason it broke under light pressure is because the early growth rings are much wider than the late growth rings. I noticed this when I received the wood, but figured, hey, it's Sitka spruce it should be tough.


I was wrong. Here you can see how wide the growth rings are, this wood isn't even suitable for the beefier transverse braces that go above and below the sound hole, it flexes too much.




Here is a piece of old growth Douglas fir that I've been hoarding for fifteen years, you can see how tight the growth rings are.

The piece split well and is very light. I used Douglas fir for guitar bracing when I first started on this adventure that is lutherie, it's terribly strong, though can be a little heavy. Several guitar makers told me I was crazy to use it because it is too heavy.

Not all Douglass fir is "too heavy", the braces that I split out were as light as the Sitka spruce. Yes, I weighed them!






So once again I am back using Douglas fir, this time for braces on a Miguel Rodriguez style guitar.

I grew up with Douglas fir because it was a tree that lived in my backyard which was the million acre wood known as Lassen National Forest. I know how Douglas fir responds to an axe, a plane and a nail. Sitka spruce doesn't grow where the Cascade Mountains buried the Sierra Nevada, I didn't get a chance to work with until I was an adult.

Sometimes it isn't a bad thing to stick with something familiar.
Categories: Luthiery

More Wooden Straightedges

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 8:10pm
A straightedge of convenient size should be made for ordinary use, and almost any kind of well-seasoned wood is suitable, mahogany and walnut being usually favored...

Bernard E. Jones, The Complete Woodworker, 190?




I posted else where on this blog about making straight edges from one of my favorite woods, California laurel.

My mistake was making only one straight edge from the laurel, I should have made two.

Why?

Two straight edges the same length are easier to check for straightness, you just put the edges together and look for a gap, then you can plane the edge straight again.

I realized I need an 18 inch straight edge, instead of a 17 inch straight edge, to check the flatness of the fret board that I recently put on a copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar.


My stock of California Laurel is getting low, what I have is reserved for another blanca guitar, I have some nice eastern black walnut on hand so it was off to the table saw.

I ripped out two slats, clamped them together and jointed the edges. I didn't taper the pieces as per instructions given by Jones in the aforementioned book (or what some former editor[s] of a woodworking magazine says you are supposed to do), I left them chunky so when I go to re-shoot the edges all I have to do is butt the ends up against the bench stop. I don't have to chuck them into Shop Fox vise, just fix them and go back to work.

I do plan on beveling the edges as Jones suggests doing, those edges give a better reading when placed on the surface that is being observed.




Ah, just what I needed!

The guitar is now fretted and after I run some errands tomorrow morning, I get down to the business of carving the neck.

Once that task is completed I will then have three guitars - a Torres FE19 guitar, a 1961 Hernandez y Aguado guitar and this Santos - to French polish!

Stay tuned, I will be posting photos of the latest 1930 Santos Hernandez style guitar!
Categories: Luthiery

Stanley No.101 "Toy" Block Plane

Sat, 03/07/2015 - 9:35am
Fine guitars can be made without any power equipment.

Irving Sloane, Classic Guitar Construction, 1966



The other day I needed to finish shaping the braces on the back of the latest guitar, a copy of a 1930 Santos Hernandez guitar. I didn't want to fuss with my No.60 1/2 block plane...



so I pulled out this little number. I bought it about two years ago at a meeting of the Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors for $5 and it's been sitting on the shelf until this week.





I locked the blade in the sharpening jig and took it to a diamond stone, didn't take long to get a good edge on it.





I flattened the back using "the ruler method", the blade took on a nice polish...





and I swiped the sole across the stone a few times. Still needs a bit of work, but really, I'm using this plane to shape braces not a table top.

If it only had an adjustable mouth...


I know you can find these planes used for around $25 on the Internet, pick one up and give it a try, it's a fun little plane!
Categories: Luthiery


by Dr. Radut