Friday, August 22, 2008

75 Hours...

Well, all the construction work is now done and the cittern is ready to lacquer. All the woodwork plus the preparation for spraying has taken 75 hours so far. It will be interesting to see how long the finishing process takes. I normally spray 3 coats of lacquer a day and then spend an hour or two the next day sanding it down; the instrument will get 20+coats!

Pretty stuff!

Above you can see the Paua shell rosette that I made for Andy D. I haven’t used Paua in a rosette for quite awhile and had forgotten how pretty it can look.

The head overlay below is Snakewood; it’s clear why it’s called that. This is the first time that I’ve used it; it’s incredibly hard and dense and sands to a silk like texture. It would make a great fingerboard for a fretless instrument.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

So how long does it take to make a guitar (Cittern) Part 4?

Now I’m up to 52 hours. Those 12 hours of work, since the last entry, have been just on the bindings and purflings. As you saw with the mandocello, this shape is a bit tricky: some of the rebates for the bindings and purflings have to be cut by hand; there are 56 separate pieces and 5 mitres that have to be carefully cut.

I always use wood (rather than plastic) for the bindings, therefore each piece has to be carefully bent on the bending iron to fit. Also I now tend to make up my own purflings from coloured veneers. So although it takes awhile you can see why - I hope!

What next?

During the initial stages of a build you can work on various components separately, but as the build progresses those components converge and you have to spend less time per working day on any one instrument. Using the cittern as an example; you fit and glue one piece of binding, you then have to wait a few hours for the glue to set before working on the next piece. The mandocello is still being polished so that gets an hour or two a day. So, you need to start the next one.

Remember the photo of the Snakewood? Well, I’ve just started some preparation for that guitar. This one is for yet another Andy, I seem to know so many Andy’s! Anyway this guitar for Andy D will have Indian Rosewood back and sides and a stripe of paua shell going down the centre of the back.

Having glued up the back and taken it down to 2.5mm I had to cut a slot 1.3mm deep and 3.7mm wide to take the shell and lines of sycamore and rosewood. One of the challenging aspects of instrument making is that you work to engineering tolerances in a material that its maker didn’t design it to be used in such a way!

The slot had to be 3.7mm wide, my nearest router cutter is 3.2 mm. You can’t force something like this so the slot has to be spot on and you have to allow room for the adhesive too. If you force it, you split the back - you only make that mistake once!

The first cut is straight forward, clamp a straight edge to the back and make sure that the router is firmly held against it and away you go. The second cut is trickier, how do you move the straight edge 0.5mm and keep it parallel to the first cut? Answer, you don’t! After some head scratching I used some strips of heavy duty tape stuck to the side of the router’s base. Each strip was 0.17mm thick so this allowed me to slowly increase the width of the slot until it reached the perfect width.


You can see that I’ve added a few more links to the side bar. One is for the “UnpluggedShop” to quote from it, “This site is about working with hand tools as a hobby and is dedicated especially to computer programmers, scientists, clergy, business administrators, truck drivers, CEOs, undertakers and those of all professions who need to get out more and get a life doing something relaxing with their hands. That is what Therapeutic Woodworking™ is all about.”

There is some wonderful stuff there for anyone interested in fine woodworking. I’m pleased that they find my blog interesting enough to track!

There is also a link to a forum called Just for Luthiers - one of many forums on the Acoustic Magazine website. I started contributing to it a while ago and there can be interesting debates about guitar construction. However, it occurs to me that forums such as these and the internet in general leads to a homogeneous world of lutherie where, just because large US manufactures do something, everyone else has to follow. What many fledgling guitar makers do not take on board is that a manufacturer of guitars (or any other consumer product) will usually evolve a technique of construction that suits there manufacturing requirements and create spin around it to justify its use. Individual luthiers do not have these constraints and should be constructing instruments that reflect their creativity and ingenuity. If I want inspiration I look to past masters or original thinkers such as Andy Manson and not the major US companies.

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