Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So how long does it take to make a guitar (Cittern) Part 2?

If you saw one of my previous posts, you will know that I’m logging the time that I’m taking constructing Ruaridh’s cittern, so that I can answer the above question realistically.

Well, I’m up to 15 hours and here’s what has been done so far.
The neck blank has been worked on: laminated together, head joint made, carbon fibre reinforcement strips inserted and the slot for the adjustable truss rod done. The head overlay complete with pearl “N” has been glued on and the head shape cut out.

The sides are bent, back joined and taken down to its final thickness. The soundboard has also been joined and taken down to a bit over its final thickness and the rosette inlaid and cleaned up.

The time that I’m logging is the time that I’m hands on, doing practical work. What I’m not taking into consideration is design and development time.

This cittern being so what unorthodox has taken a fair bit of thought. The Rumsfled jig has been back in action, have a look at this if you’re interested.....

The Red Mandolin

You saw the multiple piece mandolin back in the last post. I’ve decided to use a Redwood soundboard for this one, so that all of the woods used are of a reddish hue; hence its name, the Red Mandolin.

I’ve just made up the rosette.

I mentioned a while ago our trip to Italy to visit Cremona and the Museo Stradivariano. One stunning violin, a copy of the Stradivari “Hellier” violin, by Sacconi stood out, this had pearl inlay of dots and diamonds around the outside. This motif was also used by another luthier that I greatly admire; the 19th century English guitar maker Louis Panormo. I’ve always wanted to make one of these rosettes, so this seem the right time!
Below you can see the sequence of making it, the 3mm diameter dots are bought in but all the diamonds (6 x 3 mm) I cut by hand.

Cutting 2.6mm wide strip from pearl blanks

Precautions from dust

Jig to cut angle

Careful positioning

Filling with ebony fibres and epoxy


The mandocello has been strung up and the tailpiece successfully tested. So it’s now being French polished. In this day and age of sustainability and various environmental issues, French polishing is probably as green as it gets. You are using shellac which is a secretion from an insect and harvested from the bark of the trees where it deposits it to provide a sticky hold on the trunk. Alcohol as a solvent, pumice powder (from volcanoes) as a filler and its all applied by a pad made up from cotton waste and old well washed white T-shirts. To stop the pad sticking olive oil is used as a lubricant. As a I say as green as you can get.
If you want to know more about French polishing guitars, there is great on-line guide/tutorial by Orville and Robert Milburn.

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