INCA Table Saw and Veritas Jointer Plane!

P1100863Some satisfactions are more reliable than others; to the toolmonger such as myself, the acquisition of a coveted tool is hard to beat.

Today’s subject: two new-to-me tool acquisitions for guitar construction: A Veritas Jointer Plane and an Inca 250 Major table saw.

Both tools are central to the work. The Jointer plane is the Dreadnought of hand planes. It will get service in the Miller Guitars shop jointing top and back plates and truing neck blanks, among other shop tasks. It is a well-made tool, and takes fine shavings even before receiving a careful hollow grind and hone. After? A dream.

The Inca Table saw is especially interesting. Recently, I’ve been learning more about Inca, a Swiss company that made very high quality combination woodworking machines. While researching machine tools to complete my compact guitarmaking shop, the Inca tools seemed to fit the bill perfectly. They are smart, wonderfully designed and machined, with precision fit. They have a popular following among woodworkers, and as they have not been available for some time, they fetch a premium price in good working condition. When purchasing a 250 Major saw new, you would have had the option of getting a host of useful accessories such as a mortising table, tenoning jig, moulder, and various micro-adjusters, fences, and slides. My saw had a fortunate start, having all the bells and whistles installed from the get go. When I saw a Craigslist ad go up for the saw, I hustled out the door and made the 2-hour drive to go pick it up. Happy day! And thus I go about, learning what all of the beautiful pieces do that came with the saw. Fortunately, there is ample information available on the internet. Now all of my crosscutting, ripping, fret-slot-cutting, and mortising needs are easy!

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.


Classes Finished! New Classes Begin!

I just finished up my Acoustic Set-up and Neck Reset Classes, am looking forward to a hard won A grade report.  I find that the bar is set high.  It is very easy to have a very good looking (to you) nut, saddle, or bridge copy that will barely rate a C grade.  To achieve a 93% or better grade is very difficult.  Wanting that grade and working diligently simply isn’t enough.

Forgetfullness, poor time management, mistakes, the bad luck of delicate pieces of wood breaking after hours of labor; these are everyday pitfalls. However, it feels great to get over it and push through.  It’s getting better along the way.  Many in the class are struggling.  When I occasionally raise my head from my work, I can guess who is getting their work done nicely.  Concentration, care, and patience are prerequisites.  If not taken, you are undone.

Now!  On a brighter note, I am getting much better at using my tools—chisels, plane, files, sandpaper and beautiful hand cut curved scraper blades.  These past few days, I’ve been all but finished with assignments (the few I’ve had left mostly involved waiting for glue to heat up, then waiting for glue to dry).  I’ve been making the most out of free lab time to work up some more tools from home.  I’ve quickly grown to love my violin knives and hollow ground blades.  It’s always a good feeling to know that your essential tools are sharp, well adjusted, and ready to work.

One of the final assignments was to make a traditional Pyramid Bridge from a blueprint.  This was left up to us to figure out, using flatsawn rosewood with irregular grain; it sometimes felt like a punishment.  I sweated and labored over it;  I kept the refinement going until I felt I had truly done the best I could in the allowed time.  I was fairly elated to get a perfect score!  Even better, my awesome classmates were all support and encouragement.  Their support, above all else, made me feel great about the work and the community.

Next up is the Fretwork and Electric Set-up classes, with Brian instructing (I’ve had David and Steve for the past 5 weeks).  I can imagine that it will be similarly time sensitive, precarious work.  I’m determined to get ahead early on, if at all possible.  Wish us luck!

Pictures to come!

Tools Class ends, Fall Begins

Boy Howdy,

We’ve been keeping busy over here, busting out our projects, playing music during lunchtime, and eating the last of the sweet corn and making salsa fresca as much as possible.  I’ve also been keeping busy after class by prepping my little cottage for a fresh coat of exterior paint.  It’s a bit of rush to completion, with the brisk promise of autumn chill in the air already; the trees begin to show gorgeous perennial colors and the wool clothing is gladly taken out of the closet.

This week, we wrapped up our Tools Class, where we’ve become well acquainted with block plane, chisels, the concepts of Square and Flat, and the efficient and accurate use of time and material.  It’s been an excellent proving ground for me, as my at-home practice and experimentation of woodworking gave me a bit of a head start.

Just the same, I struggled along with everyone else, finding my own best and most  accurate way to accomplish each task.  I learned well, and and well pleased with the results.  I was able to finish all projects with a couple of days to spare; I was then able to work on my violin-maker’s knives (that I’ll make a post about later).  All in all, it’s been a blast so far.

local wildlife

Been loving roasted taters and cheese curds!




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