Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How to make a wood rosette

Over the past few years, I’ve made quite a few instruments with “wood rosettes”; they seem to be a popular alternative to abalone or plain lines. The grain of the wood ensures that each rosette that you make is quite unique and it’s relatively easy to get hold of small billets of exotic woods that can be used to make up stunning rosettes. Anyway, I thought I’d show you how I make mine.
I’ve been making burr walnut rosette for Jonathan’s 12 fret steel-string cutaway.
Firstly, I cut thin book-matched slices from a solid billet of burr walnut; commercially made, knife cut veneers are only 0.6mm thick which, I feel, doesn’t give you enough thickness to play with. Another alternative is to use the off-cuts from the back or sides and I’ve done this on rosewood guitars to good effect.

The thin slices are stuck together (edge to edge) with a waterproof glue and then temporarily fixed down to a work board with hide glue (water soluble- see where I’m going with this?).

I use the router, with my compass attachment that I made for it, to cut the recess that the rosette will be inlaid in to. Jonathan has requested a Sitka spruce soundboard and this board is a very nice one with lots of medullary rays- these are what give the soundboard that silky looking effect that some players drool over.
With the recess cut, lines of purfling and veneers are glued in place for the inner and outer rings. Once the lines have been glued in, I carefully measure the gap in between them and then use the router again to cut out the walnut circle. Next comes the fun part; using a hot knife and water to lift the ring off of its backing board without breaking it!
Once the ring is off, it can be glued in place and then cleaned-up; you have to be careful not to grind dark wood dust into the light soundboard.
Here we have one burr walnut rosette! On with the bracing........

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Andy's Bridge

Firstly, I’m amazed at how many people are now following my blog- many thanks for showing interest in my work!

I’ve made the bridge for Andy’s guitar; it’s really a large version of my mandolin bridge. I feel that the height adjustment screws, which you see on most archtop guitar bridges, must impair the tone and I take my design ideas from the ‘cello in this case i.e. two feet instead of total surface contact. The bridge had to be carefully fitted to the curved soundboard and you can see the process below.

The white pencil lines act as a guide to see where the bridge is making contact and where it isn’t. Of course, the irony of this process is that the wood you have to remove is the wood that is already making contact! Riffler files are great for this type of work; you can accurately remove small areas of wood.
With the bridge roughly made, the guitar was set up- action, intonation etc. I’m very pleased with it so far; it sounds quite different from a flat-top and the pick-up gives a remarkably faithful reproduction of the pure acoustic sound. You’ll be able to see how it sounds for yourself; I’ll do a video when it’s 100% complete.Anyway it’s now been stripped down again and the finishing process is underway. The bridge and tailpiece needed a bit of tweaking and the finished items are below.

Here’s episode XVI of the parlour guitar series; hope you like it!

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Andy's Tailpiece

The parlour guitar had had it’s last session of French polishing and is now just hanging up waiting for the polish to fully harden, before the bridge is glued on.

The construction of Andy’s hybrid is now complete and I must say it’s a very cool looking guitar! I’ve been working on a tailpiece for it: my original thought was to make a “Benedetto” style tailpiece until Amanda pointed out how much they look like wooden kitchen spatulas, which put me right off! Anyway in a bid to make an aesthetically lighter looking tailpiece, I decided to opt for one made from brass and rosewood. The brass element has been cut out entirely by hand. Brass has a number of advantages-

Its strength; areas can be cut out to give a lighter appearance.

It’s a conductor so by fixing the jack plug to it, string grounding for the pick-up is catered for.

And also, brass takes on a beautiful patina with age.

The end of the tailpiece is finished off with a piece of rosewood the same shape as the headstock.

The guitar is going to have an oil-finish, Andy has the first mandolin that I a made, this also has an oil finish so there will be a kind family resemblance there. I’ve just given it one coat which has popped the grain making the figured maple bindings really stand out. As the instrument has a floating bridge (like a mandolin) I’m going to get it playing and then take it apart and finish it properly.