Build Complete, Bluegrass, and SNOW.

ivoroid cut by hand

ivoroid cut by hand

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P1090275So, after 7 weeks of building, the dreadnought is together, fretted, inlayed, carved, and jsut about ready to be sprayed with lacquer. Unfortunately, we must first complete a finishing class before we will all cut loose in the spray booth. That means 7 weeks of practice sanding, color-matching, sunbursting, grain-filling, spraying, more sanding, etc. We’ll also have a Repairs Class, where we practice routing for pickups and necks in electric guitar bodies, make oodles of guitar nuts, and squeeze in some self-directed repair work. This will all of course be scrutinized by our stringent taskmaster, so I will be sanding my fingers to the bone! I’m pumped!

This past weekend the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association had it’s winter wingding at a big hotel just west of Minneapolis. A bunch of us old time musicians made our way out there, danced our hineys off, and played tunes to boot. I had a great time, hung out and played tunes with some great folks like Chirps Smith, Bill Peterson, and Clancy from Port Wing Donut Fame, not to mention the awesome Twin Cities crowd. I even got in some bluegrass and honky tonk while I was at it!

Next week is SPRING BREAK, and I’ll be living it up Midwest Style, going to a square dancing festival, skiing, hot tubbing, visiting luthiers (and saunas) from Northwest Minnesota clear down to Madison Wisconsin. Whee!

Pictures of Stuff!

With one week of Construction Class to go, I’ve carved the heel, set the neck (a careful adjustment of the dovetail joint considering neck extension height, centerline, and twist), profiled the headstock (complete with a vintage taper), drilled for tuners, and glued the neck in with hot hide glue.

Next up is to glue on the fingerboard, finish carving the neck, fretting, and oodles of sanding. I’ve got a pretty neat headstock inlay in the works, but I’m working out the kinks before I commit to it. I’ll give you a hint: it involves ivoroid sheetstock and is in the classic Gibson style.

This weekend I have the pleasure of attending the 7th Annual Port Wing Donut Fry in upper Wisconsin; it was a blast. Picture, if you can, a town hall built in the 1940’s crammed with children playing, a lengthy talent show, epic potluck, and thousands of delicious donuts being fried in freshly-rendered lard. A very tender Midwestern experience for me.

I also had the pleasure of staying at Sarah and Clancy’s homestead; a beautiful timber-framed solar-powered house. They even had a log cabin sauna. Wow.

And now for the evidence:
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And more pizza!  These are bacon-goat cheese-beet-arugula-mozarella.  Best ever.

And more pizza! These are bacon-goat cheese-beet-arugula-mozarella. Best ever.

Tailgraft, binding, and plug cutters!

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The tailgraft is in, the box is bound, and I made some nifty ivoroid position markers. So, you’ll notice that I have a thing for ivoroid, the grained celluloid so favored by the fretted instrument makers of the (first) golden age of American Lutherie. I’ve loved the look of ivoroid fret markers, but haven’t been able to purchase them. So, I made some.

For the 1/4″ markers on the face of the fretboard, I was able to use a commercial plug cutter to cut some out of ivoroid sheet stock. For the petite side markers, I took the example of Frank Ford at FRETS.com and fabricated a plug cutter out of brass tube stock. It made some nice 3/32″ plugs when chucked into the drill press. Sweet!

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2013 Building Begins!

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Boy howdy!  While this week I’m missing out on my favorite possible thing, the Portland Old Time Music Gathering, I am back in the midwest kicking butt on lutherie projects!  In class, we’ve begun building our acoustic guitars. My hopes are high for a busy semester, where I will build a dreadnaught guitar in class (a la 1930’s Gibson “Roy Smeck Radio Grande”); continue at home the build of the O-18 Claro Walnut and Red Spruce guitar, and the Arches F5 mandolin kit.  Hopefully I can squeeze in some repairs, snoshoeing, square dancing, and finally, get this awesome honky tonk band rolling (we’re called The A-11s).

I’m feeling so excited about the week’s work, that I’m gonna go ahead and give the blow-by-blow:  By the end of the first day, my #1 Adirondack Spruce top was jointed with hot hide glue; templates cut for body and neck profile, and the layout work for a headstock template and workboard. Day two and three, I stayed the master-multitasker thickness sanding, profiling, and doing rosette layout for the top; jig up and shave down celluloid binding strips for the rosette (more on that in a moment), finished the workboard, finished templates, and managed to sneak the #2 Adirondack top in to get it jointed and glued; I’ll bring this one home to thickness with hand planes—the old fashioned way.  Each day this week, I’ve been excited to get home and work on the F5.  So far, I’ve got the top kerfing, levelled, and am waiting on fresh instructions from the maker of the kit.

I’m really excited about the rosette.  Wanting to stick with the ’30s Gibson aesthetic, I wanted a black-white-black rosette ring.   I had noticed a local supplier carries vertical-grained celluloid binding.  I struck on the idea of tortoise/ivoroid/tortoise binding in play of fancy herringbone or some such readymade rosette. I wanted somethin’ special. I went ahead and ordered the binding and hoped that it would look as nice in reality as my mental picture.  Literally the next day, I walked into a Minneapolis boutique guitar shop to find that my idea was far from groundbreaking—somebody else already does it!  But it looked great, so…

Celluloid is an early iteration of plastic; created in the mid-19th century, it was often used on musical instruments in place of ivory during the 1920s through the late ’40s; the first Golden Age of American Guitars.  A highly flammable combination of nitrocellulose and camphor, celluloid plastics today are rare; as far as I’ve heard, the entirety of celluloid production these days comes from Italy.  While a bit harder to come by, I think grained celluloid (ivoroid) and tortoise shell celluloid are lovely trim. 

A few words to explain the jointing of tops.  I had heard and read about the importance of a perfectly top joint, so it was great to finally do it! 

We had No. 7 jointer planes set up on shooting boards, set to remove very fine shavings from the spruce edge being jointed.  The tops are held together over a light table, and are checked for good fit.  If any light shows through, even the slightest line, then you must decide where the problem area is, and work the whole piece over once more on the shooting board.  Once the joint appears perfect, it is glued and clamped flat in a fixture—Voila!   The first major step towards building a guitar!Image

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