Thursday, January 28, 2010

How do you get that shape?

Whenever I get a visitor to the workshop, they’re always intrigued by how the sides are shaped. Well here’s the answer! For this instalment of the “Parlour Guitar: design & construction” videos, I thought that I’d show you how the sides are bent. The video’s a bit long, but I didn’t want to leave out any important information for all of you budding luthiers!

Antiques Road Show?

Well not quite! I was delighted to get some photos from Dave of an early Nava! I made this classical guitar in 1979 and remember it well. It was originally sold via the London Guitar Gallery for £200 in 1979 and Dave bought it second hand from the Camden Lock Music Shop in 1983 and has been playing it ever since! The guitar was built during my last year at the London College of Furniture and was the 13th that I made. The back and sides are made from Brazilian Tulipwood; I remember going to a wood yard to buy some mahogany boards for necks and saw this discarded, tatty, spilt board.

I had a small plane with me so I took a few shavings off the surface and claimed it!! I could only get narrow pieces out of the board; hence this guitar has a three-piece back. Oh how I wish I had some more of this beautiful wood! The rosette is also interesting, it was one of three that I made to this design.

All of the mosaic rosettes that we made at LCF were made from 1mm squares cut from pre-made strips. I felt that this didn’t give a fine enough pattern so I made some smaller mosaics by producing my own 0.6mm squares from veneers. Two of them were used in guitars (this one and its Indian rosewood sister) and here’s the third; in my workshop still unused. To be honest, this one’s a bit scruffy and was the prototype!

The shape of the guitar is similar to the one that I use on my classical today. At this time I was doing all the repair work for a Spanish guitar shop in the Fulham Road and I had to re-finish the back of a stunning Brazilian rosewood Manuel Contreras flamenco. At the time it was one the nicest guitars that I had ever handled and so I based my shape on it.

Richard’s Mandolin

Just in case you’re wondering if I ever glued that neck on! Here you see how the neck fits; it may look like a small joint, but there is over 21 square cm of surface area to glue so it’s strong enough!

Fast forward..............What I do like about making instruments with floating bridges and tailpieces is that you can get them set-up and playing before finishing. So now I have Richard’s mando playing it can be striped back down and be French polished.

Those eagle-eyed followers will note that my bridge design has changed- I’m using a separate saddle this time. Two reason, firstly less wood is used hence it’s lighter but more importantly it offers a relatively easy way to adjust the action. The saddle can be taken out and reduced in height or shims can be put underneath it, to raise the action. I’ve made up two saddles one bone the other ebony and once the mando has been played-in, Richard will be able to give me feedback about the tonal differences (cheers Richard!).

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