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It’s always a pleasure to hear what one’s instruments are doing and I recently caught up with this small steel-string guitar that I made nearly 5 years ago for Poppy Smallwood. Based on a Martin OO model with 12 frets to neck, it’s made of English walnut and has a sitka spruce soundboard.
(More photographs here, if you want to know about its construction.)
Poppy has been playing the guitar in all sorts of places, making a reputation for herself as a singer and songwriter. Here she is performing one of her own songs for BalconyTV against the background of St Petersburg.
You can hear several more of her songs on Soundcloud.
Most vices won’t let you file a nut or saddle to shape. Their jaws are too wide and get in the way. Stew Mac make a special vice with tall narrow jaws to get around the problem. I haven’t tried it but I should think that it works fine. However, it’s quite unnecessary. A simple pair of wooden jaws does the job perfectly well.
The jaws in the photographs below were intended as a prototype. I was planning to make a pair of jaws out of gauge plate or aluminium sheet and wanted to check that I’d got the size about right and that the idea was feasible. It turned out that the wooden version worked so well that I didn’t need to bother.
As I hope can be seen in the photographs, the device is little more than a couple of pieces of maple about 5mm thick, hinged together at their lower ends with glass fibre reinforced tape.
Stewart-MacDonald has been sending me emails recently about a device which allows guitar makers to adjust the height of a guitar nut or saddle while keeping the underside both square and straight (item # 4047 in the StewMac catalogue). Here’s a picture.
I thought that this was rather a good idea. Although it’s not especially difficult to adjust a nut or a saddle by hand with a file, it’s a tedious job and often takes a while. And the reviews on the StewMac website were positive, saying how quick and accurate the device was.
The drawback is that it’s quite expensive. By the time I’d paid shipping and import duty, buying one would probably cost around $200. So, I decided to make one for myself.
The body is a length of aluminium bar, 15mm x 30mm, drilled at each end to take an axle that carries miniature ball bearings.
Used with a sheet of P280 sandpaper on a flat surface, it worked quickly and accurately.
As I hope you will be able to see from the photographs, it’s not difficult to make, although you will need access to a drill press and a small lathe. The materials needed (aluminium bar and four miniature ball bearings) are easily available and cheap.
Mine took a bit longer to construct than it should have done because I drilled the holes for the axles too low, which meant that the body of the device ended up too far above the sanding surface. So I had to bush the holes and re-drill. If you’re making one, I’d recommend positioning the axle to give a gap of no more than 2mm between the bottom of the device and the sanding surface.