Fun with Fretwork, and Electric Set-Up, Oh My!

Another wonderful week of learning the Noble Arts, or at least working up some excellent set-up skills.  This week we began our Fretwork and Electric Set-Up sections.  This means we kept ourselves busy preparing a mock-up fingerboard, a fret end dressing file, practicing soldering techniques, etc.

Electric set-up seems straightforward so far, using the same care and attention we are accustomed to taking with our work.  We’ll zip through it efficiently, I expect.

For the weekend, Aaron and I had a great day in Minneapolis, playing old time music, eating tortas, then playing more music.  We made a visit to one of the great guitar shops in the Twin Cities, The Podium.

The Podium is a cool little shop.  Open since 1959, they now specialize in fine acoustic instruments such as Collings, Santa Cruz, Fairbanks, and Kopp guitars.  Since I’ve been fairly obsessed with 1930’s Martin and Gibson instruments, I was very impressed with the selection of beautiful vintage reproduction slope-shoulder dreadnaughts, L-OOs, etc.  Real nice folks, as well.  Check ’em out.


MSCSA Conference and Bridge Copies

pyramid bridge about halfway finished

In the Belly of The Beast

Last weekend, I attended a student leadership conference and general assembly of the Minnesota State College Student Association legislative body.  As a member of the MN SE Technical Student Senate, I was able to represent my school and help make platform decisions, along with attending some great professional development workshops.  I also visited the Mall of America.  Wow.  It WAS just like in the movie The Mighty Ducks.

There were 300 student in attendance, representing the incredible diversity of the Minnesota State College system.  I was impressed with the stories of my fellow students, who as a rule are full time students while often working one or more jobs, sometimes also as parents.  These folks still managed to carve four (!) days out of their  schedule to come together and work towards improving our representation of students and improving lives for students across Minnesota.  An inspirational group, to say the least.

The general assembly, numbering 300.

In Class, we have moved pass nuts and saddles, and are finishing up Acoustic Setup class with bridge copies and bridge re-glues.

The final assignment in the class is to make a traditional pyramid bridge from blueprint.  Using a piece of flatsawn rosewood we must attempt to make an accurate, elegant bridge based on a drawing.  It is very pleasant work, as the rosewood lives up to it’s name, with a lovely scent and excellent workability.  Unlike previous assignments, where we were given an example of how to complete the assignment, this time we are on our own.

I always love a challenge!

completed bridge copies, in maple

More Tools and Projects

Well, we’ve been keeping busy in this first month of school by focusing on hand and power tools, wood theory and mechanics.  We’ve recently made our own curved cabinet scrapers, with perform like  excellent little curved-bottom handplanes.  We’ve also continued on our scarf-jointed neck mockup by adding a mahogany headcap veneer.  We’ve also been prepping stock for a myriad of new projects.  Before too long, I expect our projects will be very useful tools and neat to look at as well.


plenty of work completed for a Wednesday…

Class Projects

Now that week two of Tools Class is over, I’ll recap some of what we’ve accomplished thus far.

1. Lectures, demonstration, safety test, and projects on jointer, planer, table saw, band saw, disc/belt sander, and drill press.

2.  Block planes tuned, Chisels lapped, ground, and honed.  Much practice accurately using a machinist square and ruler.

3.  First hand tool project:  Make a square mahogany block.  First, one face *perfectly flat.  Next, each consecutive face made square to the previous, and *perfectly flat.  Lastly, we chiseled a 3/32″x1/2″x3 1/2″ ledge into one face of the block.  The result:  Lots of practice, some frustration, and a handy stop for belt sanding nuts and saddles!

the completed ledge

everything is checked for flat, and checked for square

4.  Lap Joint project:  after prepping some soft maple, we cut a 15-degree angle, then planed it smooth in order to make a lap joint for a neck mockup.  We’ll continue to work on this piece, including a headstock overly, frets, and finish.  But for now, it’s just a simple joint.

We use the block plane to make a flat, square lap joint

the glue up

5.   We’ve begun about four other projects by prepping stock on the jointer, planer, table saw, and sander.  Whew!

Now, a much deserved weekend!  I decided to bake a pie for Laura’s birthday, and drive down to Gays Mills, WI for a square dance and tunes after.  Yes!

the shell



Well, well! This first week has been great, so far we’ve plowed right into the tool preparations, and got up to speed on the safe use of the Jointer, Planer, and Table Saw. I’ve found that, despite having devoted a fair amount of time to learning about lapping and sharpening and hand tool use, I’m still struggling to efficiently achieve class goals. The standards are (thankfully) rigorous, and there is no allowance for shortcuts. While I’m frustrated that my tools have taken longer to shape up than usual, I’m glad to say that we should all come out of the tools class with exact standards for tool maintenance, safety, and effective use.

I also will say that my hands are sore from too much lapping, honing, and planing. I’m ready for a weekend trip to Wisconsin for some much needed music, food, and friendship with my homesteading buddy Jesse Downs.

As for the new house; it is gorgeous! Every sunset has been spectacular, as well as the sunrise this morning. I could hear owls softly hooting and critters a-rustling. It was such a pleasure to wake up this morning with amber light streaming through the trees, making myself some good strong coffee with eggs and toast. Every good day starts with breakfast!

We have two old apple trees that are laden with fruit; I grabbed a handful, then cored, peeled and sliced ’em so that I can make a pie. Yum!

I’ll be sure to take some elegant photos of the Labor Day festivities!