So my pal from Red Wing/Minneapolis came over for a special shop project. We decided it’d be fun to try to build a guitar in a week, from start to finish, and then put it through it’s paces at the 16th annual Portland Old Time Music Gathering the following week. We figured that we’d build a classic 1930’s guitar in 1930’s Gibson style—fast and loose, top-bound and stenciled. We were inspired by our friend Todd Cambio at Fraulini Guitars who one time built a guitar in three days (by himself!).
Aaron arrived tuesday morning at 10am, and while I was working at City Bikes, he got the plates joined and thicknessed. The next day, we got plates profiled, ribs bent, blocks glued in, back kerfing in, rosette installed, back braces glued, major top braces glued. We ate burrittos, drank lots of espresso, and stayed in the shop until midnight. We’re on target to have the box closed today! Stay tuned for more!
So we had a 1938 Martin D28 come through the 12th Fret the other week, and I thought I’d pass on some photos. Considered the epitome of a dreadnought, this Herringbone D28 would have been completed during Martin’s golden period, while they had perfected the (becoming very) popular dred shape, built very lightly and with fine Red Spruce and Brazilian Rosewood. This era of Martins are certainly wonderful sounding, and consistant for both the fine fit and finish, but particularly have the most elegant neck carves and elegant appointments. They occupy the pinnacle of collector prices for factory-built guitars, often selling for upwards of $100k.
This particular instrument has been retopped, likely by the Martin factory, sometime in the 1950’s. It had also been refinished at that time. While reduced in value, it is still a wonderful example of the best of the 1930’s/
Also, here is some photos of the Monica’s guitar, with firestripe pickguard, truss rod cover, and tweed case:
Here are just a few more photos of the Walnut L-OO. The truss rod cover was cut from a sheet of acrylic, the nut is ebony, and the bone saddle now glued into the bridge with hot hide glue. The guitar experienced a very mild settle-in over the course of the last week, although the Portland area was experiencing a very dry period, with the RH dropping to 27% at times, compared to the 60-80% we typically expect. The guitar is changing day to day in tone and timbre, sounding very woody and is a real pleasure to play.
Compared to a ’34 L-OO. Very different ‘burst, but pretty close in other regards. This was before the pickguard and truss rod cover, of course.
With the finish finished, the final steps are bridge, nut, saddle routing, bridge pins, end pin, tuners and strings! Hoping to get her strung up in the next couple of days, and delivered to her wonderful new home in Olympia. I’ll be using a custom shop-made Firestripe pickguard courtesy of John Greven; check out his awesome guitars at http://www.grevenguitars.com/
Bonus Tool Segment:
I wanted to introduce one of my favorite shop setup: the John Sullivan Tool Grinder. Having acquired a number of tools from the Sullivan Estate, I’ve begun to figure out some of the genius setups that Mr. Sullivan employed to make his fantastic mandolins, guitars, and violins. One of which is this grinder setup, with uses a thick cutoff wheel for shaping, and a fine wheel for grinding a cutting edge. With this combo, I can whip out a number of custom scrapers and other edge tools, and have a usable edge in moments. Lately, I’ve been enjoying these very thick tool steel scraper, made from what appear to be old planer knives. Thanks, John!
It has been a slow process, my first time french polishing a full guitar. I dissolve dewaxed Super Blonde Shellac flakes in denatured alchohol, and apply it by hand using a special cotton pad. The pores of the Walnut were filled with the same method, using a fine pumice and lots of elbow grease. I sprayed several sealer coats of shellac to keep the sunburst intact, cut the binding back, then proceeded to build up a body of finish by hand. I then level sanded the whole body with P800 sandpaper, and proceeded to polish with a cotton pad, charged with a small amount of alchohol. It is a lot of work! And it is looking nice, although it needs more polishing yet:
The L-OO has received a shellac/pumice pore fill, to fill the large pores of the Black Walnut. Rather than add a heavy, messy layer of pore putty, the pumice process is non-toxic, clean, and beautiful. The guitar is lightly powdered with the fine pumice, then a 1 lb cut of shellac is polished over top. The pumice abrades the wood and takes on the color while filling the pores. It does take some time, and is far easier to partially fill pores, leaving a hint of their presence, rather than to completely fill them and have a glassy surface. I like it.
Just today, I’ve given the entire guitar a couple of sealer coats of fresh blonde shellac, and although there aren’t pictures, it is beautiful and shiny! Next up, I’ll level the sealer, and french polish the rest of the finish on the guitar. While the finish cures, I’ll make the bridge, and go mountain biking!