Update on the Busy Shop

Sorry for the delay, but with a warm and busy summer here in Portland, I’ve been too divided in my time to manage regular updates.  So!  here is some progress in picture format:

The sunburst first gets tested on scrap spruce

The sunburst first gets tested on scrap spruce

The guitar is carefully finish sanded to 320 grit (no scratches!)

The guitar is carefully finish sanded to 320 grit (no scratches!)

First step is to apply a honey amber aniline dye.

First step is to apply a honey amber aniline dye.

Next, the two outer colorings are added

Next, the two outer colorings are added

lastly, the colors are rubbed out.  This is a tricky part.

lastly, the colors are rubbed out. This is a tricky part.

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Next will be a careful sealer coat of dewaxed shellac, then the french polish process will begin.  I’ve already pore-filled the back, sides, and neck with a pumice-and-shellac process.  More pictures to follow in a few days!

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Progress! Fingerboard is glued, fully fretted, neck is carved, and the body bound. Home stretch! Tomorrow I’ll level and dress the frets, and finish sand the whole deal. I’m excited to put the new Festool sander into action, and I’ll need to do some sunburst tests before I commit dye to spruce. This guitar will get a circa-1934 sunburst. Stay tuned!

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LMI Binding Machine and Fun With Inlay

The goodies arrive!

The goodies arrive!

binding-machineroutedtapebacktapedThe past few days, some celluloid inlay was cut and installed, the neck carefully set, and my new LMI Binding Routing machine arrived. LMI recently revamped their Binding Machine, and the timing coincided nicely with my needing one! The new model is very compact, the router moves smoothly on the vertical plane, and the new carriage grips the guitar very well. My only issue was that my new Bosch Colt router and Stew Mac router bit weren’t jiving that well together. I was able to get the job done fairly cleanly, but I’ll be looking to improve the setup in the future. Enjoy!
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The end graft is layed out.

The end graft is layed out.

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Also, in secret summer activities, I’ve acquired a new car project that needed a thrash to get going, but I’m happy to announce that it is on the road for the first time in possibly 40 years. It is a 1955 Desoto Firedome 2-door hardtop, with the original 291ci Hemi V8 and Powerflite transmission. It has 67k miles, and has been in one family since new.chrissyDesi

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I’ve overhauled the carburetor, the brakes, reworked the dual points (!), sent out the water pump and master cylinder/booster out for pro rebuilds, got new Coker Wide Whitewalls, and gave the whole car a going over. A buncha fun work. Now, time to enjoy the summertime!

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L-OO Update

Monica’s L-OO gets the heel carved, the fingerboard slotted, radiused, inlaid, and fretted, and the bridge blank radiused and prepped. Next up will be setting the neck, making the bridge, routing for binding, and gluing the fingerboard down. Tomorrow, I’ll go the Guild of American Lutherie Convention in Tacoma, WA, for some great lutherie info-sharing and instrument oogling.

1/4" ivoroid dots are cut with a plug cutter and inlaid into the fingerboard

1/4″ ivoroid dots are cut with a plug cutter and inlaid into the fingerboard

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Some Cannons Enter the Shop

I’ve been having a great summer, going to the National Fiddle Contest (Stickerville) in Weiser, Idaho, and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington. While there, I met a fellow from out of state who offered to bring a couple of his fine old dreadnoughts by the shop so I could inspect and take measurements. We met up at a great house concert, watching Chris Eldridge play the ’43 J-45. Wonderful!

As it turns out, these would be particularly nice examples of the First Golden Era American Lutherie. I was able to spend several hours with these guitars, and I submit a few facts and photos for your enjoyment:

A 1943 Gibson “Banner” J-45. A war-time guitar with a truss rod, a 1 3/4″ nut, a 5-piece maple/walnut neck (7 piece if you count headstock ears), solid curly maple sides and a laminated maple back, a beautifully tight-grained and figured spruce top, and a teardrop pickguard. This is a great sounding guitar, with the most beautiful of Gibson sunbursts.

Next up is a 1940 Martin D-18. A beautifully worn-in “Pre-War” D-18, this guitar has so much warmth and sparkle, everything sounds good on this thing. In case you’re wondering, it has an 1 11/16″ nut, B/W/B/W/B Binding, and the usual D-18 specs.

In other news, I’ve been making lots of jigs, finishing my business plan, and acquiring tools in the past two months. The L-OO for Monica has the dovetail cut, headstock shaped and veneered, and has been profiled. Today I’ll prep the fingerboard with fret slots, radius, and profile; rout for bindings, and start making the bridge!

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The Box is Closed

walnut struts keep the ribs close to the mold while the plates are glued up.  They will be sawed in half and removed when the back is attached.

walnut struts keep the ribs close to the mold while the plates are glued up. They will be sawed in half and removed when the back is attached.

The top has been glued and trimmed flush with the router.

The top has been glued and trimmed flush with the router.

After the back kerfing is relieved for the braces, it is glued in a similar fashion to the top.

After the back kerfing is relieved for the braces, it is glued in a similar fashion to the top.

The box is closed and flushed up!  Up next will be routing the dovetail and binding mortises.

The box is closed and flushed up! Up next will be routing the dovetail and binding mortises.

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Side Braces and The Guitar gets a Hat.

In a burst of activity, I’ve made some basswood side braces in the Gibson style.  The side braces serve to stop any split in the side, in case it gets bashed in or otherwise abused.  I’ve let them in to the kerfing, so there is no weak space between for cracks to propagate.  The originals used a bit of linen soaked in hide glue, but the basswood will add stiffness and looks nice, as well.

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The blocks and kerfing are left proud of the ribs, so they can be angled to match the 20′ radius of the soundboards.

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My radius dish is lined with sandpaper, so a fair amount of elbow grease is required to spin the ribs and mold in a sanding motion.

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Now, everything is nicely radiused and ready for the brace ends to be let in.

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Finally, the top is glued on, using clamps and bungee cord in an awesome way.

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New Build Update

Good Times in the shop!

The mahogany end blocks are planed into a radius to match the inside of the ribs.

The mahogany end blocks are planed into a radius to match the inside of the ribs.

The neck and tail block are carefully placed, then clamped like hell.

The neck and tail block are carefully placed, then clamped like hell.

Here, the blocks have been glued in.

Here, the blocks have been glued in.

The bridge caul is made of plywood, cork, and plexiglass.  It covers slightly more than the footprint of the bridge, and will ensure that the bridge is well supported when it is clamped to the top during final assembly.

The bridge caul is made of plywood, cork, and plexiglass. It covers slightly more than the footprint of the bridge, and will ensure that the bridge is well supported when it is clamped to the top during final assembly.

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The top is braced in the Gibson manner with Adirondack Spruce; I've used the characteristic knife-edge brace profile and small maple bridge plate.  Both x-braces and tone bars are tapered, not scalloped.  Rather than butt the x-braces together in the original fashion, these are notched and capped with spruce.  Hide glue is used throughout.

The top is braced in the Gibson manner with Adirondack Spruce; I’ve used the characteristic knife-edge brace profile and small maple bridge plate. Both x-braces and tone bars are tapered, not scalloped. Rather than butt the x-braces together in the original fashion, these are notched and capped with spruce. Hide glue is used throughout.

The mahogany kerfing is glued to the ribs using hide glue and clothespins!

The mahogany kerfing is glued to the ribs using hide glue and clothespins!

1934 Gibson L-OO

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This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting an exception 1934 Gibson.  This one a 14 fret-to-body L-OO model, belonging to John Greven of Greven Guitars.  

Power, pop, and a quick decay-great examples of mid-thirties Gibson guitars are wonderful old-time machines.  This one is very light, the top looks like a potato chip, and you couldn’t possibly hate it, no matter how hard you tried.  Of course, it’s not for sale.

More info here:

http://home.provide.net/~cfh/loo.html

http://www.grevenguitars.com/

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L-OO Bracing

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go-bar deck: cheque!

Radius dish: cheque!

Brace arching jig: cheque!

Monica’s guitar!  Today, the x-braces were notched, glued, and rough-shaped; upper transverse and Popsicle brace as well.  The back has its spruce reinforcement strip glued, radiused, notched for braces, and the braces glued.  All bracing is glued with fresh hot hide glue, warmed under a heat lamp, and clamped in the handy-dandy go-bar deck (or decque?).  20′ radius for all, and fun, fun, fun.  Now, there is a pile of spruce shavings under the bench. 

Next up will be fitting lower transverse braces, finger braces, and voicing the top/back!  Also on the que is making a sled to complete my inca table saw fret-slotting setup; fitting neck and end blocks to the ribs; and…KERFING!  Now, for the photos:

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