Saturday, June 30, 2007

Head stock repair

I’ve been picking up some repair work lately so I thought it would be interesting to show this one. In a previous posting (Cedar Classical Update 2) I discussed the neck/head joint and this repair illustrates clearly my reasoning.

The yellow line shows where the scarf joint is, which is ridiculous as you still have short grain running across the head in one of the most vulnerable places hence the breakage. The position of the break is where the joint should have been and if it were, this breakage would not have happened; my method of construction stands up even better!

Some careful clamping and Titebond

Job done !

I’ve not played a factory guitar for a while; this one cost its owner £350 four years ago and was made in Canada. I put new strings on and couldn’t believe the lack of volume and how lifeless it was in comparison to one of mine. When its owner collected it he was pleased with the repair and then told me how good it sounds. You pays your money, you makes your choice................

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Commissioning a guitar part 1

I feel that some prospective clients are intimidated by the idea of commissioning a guitar. A common comment is, “I’m not a good enough player for a hand made guitar.”
My response to that would be; if you have a guitar made for you, you’ll get an instrument that is perfectly set-up and easy to play. It will have good volume and a balanced tone and you will want to play it and hence improve. Even if you don’t play it as much as you would like, you’ll still have a beautiful object that was made for you.
Another common comment is, “I don’t know much about how a guitar is made and wouldn’t know what to ask for.” Hey, that’s why you commission from a luthier, you get the advice you need.
I’m just in the process of starting a new commission for a guy called Richard. I thought it would be useful to relay the story so far.
Firstly, Richard knew that he wanted a steel-string guitar better than the ones that he already had, but was not 100% sure what he really wanted. So, I lent him one of mine, small bodied, 12 fret neck, wide fingerboard.

Although I didn’t expect him to order an exact replica of this one, it was a starting point for the design process.
He played it for a few weeks and what impressed him most was the quality of sound and craftsmanship. So he knows he wants one of mine.
We discussed shapes, one thing that was important to Richard was how it felt, under his right arm when sitting down and playing. One problem that I have is that I don’t always have an example guitar around to show: I build the guitar, it goes off to its new owner. So, I made a full-size three dimensional model for him to try.

He liked how it felt under his arm and how the waist locates the guitar on his leg (his dreadnought slips around). Shape decided.
Next what are we going to make it from? Richard liked the tone of the guitar I loaned him and said that he prefers a mellow tone, so I’m going to use the same materials, Western Red Cedar soundboard and Claro Walnut back and sides. I always buy too much wood, so over the years I’ve built up a good stock, this meant that Richard was then able to choose the back and side which he preferred. How cool is that! To be able select the pieces of wood that your guitar is made from?
The head shape will be my standard shape and we’ve been discussing the veneer overlay. I’ve got some nice pieces of burr Claro Walnut that I hope to use on the head and also for a matching rosette. This week I’ll make up some samples for Richard to see; we’ve also got to discus details such as the purflings, width of fingerboard and inlays etc.
Now, this all may seem a lot of work, but for many people commissioning a guitar is a once in a life-time experience, they’re spending a lot of hard-earned money on a luxury item and I want them to get it right!!

Click here for Part 2

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fame at last!!

How pleased am I?
I was delighted when this month’s (June ’07) copy of Classical Guitar magazine came through the letter box, not only am I this month’s featured Luthier, but I’ve also made the front cover. This blog is mentioned in the article so, “Hi there, if you’ve just found me!”
Some regular readers have pointed out how I occasionally contradict myself, for example the mandolin was meant to go on the back burner, but as you can see below it nears completion! Being a “one man ‘shop” I am flexible in what I make and projects can get shuffled around depending on priorities; that said guitars are always ready on the date promised. I’m very pleased with the way this mandolin looks; the quilted maple is stunning and the double points give it a kind of medieval look (if that makes sense). Of course the double point isn’t just about aesthetics, it allows easier access to all of the frets.

I had an interesting ‘phone call the other night from a guy called Neil he is starting up a project called, “Music from the woods of England.” The idea is to get British Luthiers to make some steel-string guitars entirely from indigenous woods. He said that so far, he has approached 130 of us! All the instruments will go on exhibition and will be given to the Nation as a permanent collection. It sounds an interesting project to get involved in.
Now 130 luthiers may sound a lot, but if we all managed about a dozen instruments each a year that would make about 1500 new instruments in a country where 4,000,000 (yes four million) guitars a year are sold! So remember “Support your local luthier”
I got the impression from speaking to Neil that he would welcome some experimental instruments: I have ideas and theories that I’ve been wanting to explore so watch this space………..