Whew! Week 5 just flew by, with our first two guitar-related assignments coming down the pike. The first, the making of an elegant and refined guitar nut, takes approximately four hours of each day. The Second, is the setting (or re-setting) of the dovetail neck-to-body joint that is traditional to acoustic guitarmaking.
Both operations require sharp tools and incredibly sharp focus. I find that I spend much of my time peering through the lenses of my magnifying glasses (lovingly referred to as “geezer goggles”). I actually experienced a moment of vertigo as I stood up, my awareness suddenly expanding to include a bustling room full of people, where before had only existed a .221″ thick strip of white Corian being carefully sculpted into something useful.
We’ll be graded on 5 different nuts, each time made from blank stock. Each nut takes 12 distinct steps before it is finished. I’m a bit of a detail freak, so I’m particularly excited about making beautiful examples. The nice part about making several is that each one is carefully critiqued, so we are able to refine our technique. Sort of anal process, but totally fun also.
The process of neck setting of an acoustic is something of an art. I’ve done it before on junk guitars, knowing a very little about the process. The results were okay, but no great shakes. I knew I could do better.
As you can imagine, learning to do it correctly is blowing my mind. The margin for error is less than 1/64″, and for the heel fit, as little as .002″. We’re shooting for zero gaps, and zero slop. When we take our chisels to wood, we are to take the smallest shavings possible. It is very interesting, if tedious, work.
We have our African Mahogany neck mockups and a plywood mock heel block, with these, we can go through all the operations just like the real deal. We use chalk and feeler guages to test for fit, and take precise measurements of neck extension, centerline, and twist throughout the operation. Slow and steady, and pretty soon, we’ll be on our way.
Though we’re just getting started, we’re beginning to find a rhythm, and it’s interesting to think how much we’ll have learned over the next eight months. Until next time.