Monday, December 04, 2006

Cedar Classical

This classical guitar has a Western Red Cedar soundboard which I’ve had in stock for well over 25 years! It has an incredible bell like tap tone. The rosette is complete and I’m pleased with the way the green line complements the colour of the cedar.
The head veneer is made up from the off-cuts of the back, so there is no need to worry about whether or not it matches and I’ve carried on the “green” motif with a strip down its centre, as Hauser used to. The purflings around the top edge will also match: attention to detail is what counts!
The back has its decorative strip in place. I use 0.6 mm boxwood veneer for these lines and the back and side purflings. Boxwood has a very dense grain, its main use, used to be for wooden printing blocks, I guess the close grain means that when you print, you don’t get the texture of the grain showing. That’s a similar reason for me using it, when you sand and finish the rosewood, its purple dust and resin, doesn’t discolour the boxwood, so you get really clean lines.

You can see the rosette, back and head veneer in the picture below.

I’ve just bought myself a new plane, a Veritas low angle bevel up smoothing plane. It works so well on the type of wood that I use.
The low angle bevel up blade does not tear up the grain so you can use the plane for longer before going onto a cabinet scraper. When you are taking the wood down to 2 mm thickness, you can’t afford to tear out the grain so I used to stop using the plane at around 2.5 mm and then scrape. This new plane lets me go down to 2.2 mm before using a scraper. "Big deal 0.3 mm!", I hear you say! Trust me it hurts! The question is why didn’t I buy one of these beauties years ago?
Plane or Scrape?

The guitar’s sides are bent, I use a hot iron (it’s actually aluminium). I love the idea of getting solid wood and bending it by hand to get the shape; the smell of the resins and the steam rising and the guitar’s shape appearing is almost magical.
Looking at the photo, I realised that I’ve got my “Gibson” shirt on. This was given to me when I visited the Gibson factory in Bozeman, Montana last year. This is where they make all of their acoustic instruments; I was amazed to see how much work was actually done by hand.
After the sides, the end blocks are glued in place. I use a mahogany block for where the neck joins. I make the neck separately and use a dovetail to join the two component parts. I feel that I can work with greater accuracy this way. Although this is not regarded as the Spanish method of building, Ignacio Fleta, probably one of the greatest Spanish luthiers, used this method.

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