Sunday, January 29, 2017

Driving the bus, a couple more coats and some kerf

Over the last few days I have had short bursts of free time each day to work on the guitars.  I first day I spent sanding the top rim in a concave sanding dish.  It is a 25' radius dish which makes the top bow slightly from flat.  Contrary to the name "flat top" of a flat top guitar, the top is not actually flat.  It has a slight outward bow which adds a lot of strength and helps with neck to bridge alignment.  Anyways, when I do this sanding I call it "driving the bus".  Essentially I hold both ends of the mold and twist the entire body inside the dish to achieve the angles needed to hold the top shape.  Since it looks like steering a steering wheel, I call it driving the bus!

The next day I sanded to back rim in the same manner except I used a 15' radius dish.  This makes a more pronounced bow for the back.  Again, it adds strength and helps keep the back from sinking in if the wood gets dry in the future.  In this photo you will notice a small thin shim on the back of the neck block.  As per usual, I somehow didn't get the measurement right and had to add a sliver of wood to fill the gap.  I have had this happen 3 times now and for the life of me I can't figure out where I am messing up with this measurement. 

This afternoon I installed the kerfed linings that I made last week on the top edge.  Lots of clothespins!  I made the linings with my tablesaw and router.  I made a bunch of them at one time so I don't have to make any more for a while!  I pre-bent them in the same bending mold I used to bend the sides so they fit well with no glue.  Speaking of glue, I am using something new on this build, fish glue.  Back when I was building before most builders used either Titebond, LMI white glue or hot hide glue.  I have used all of these and they all have their pro's and cons to them.  Since I stopped, fish glue has come on the scene in a strong way.  It has most of the same properties as hide glue (dries crystaline, cleans up easily, and is very strong) but without the extremely short open time that hide glue has.  So far I am really liking this stuff.  Contrary to the name, it doesn't smell like fish but it is made from fish collagen.   Hide glue is also made from collagen but from animals.  The big positive for me is it has a very long open time which allows me to get things placed without the stress of having to get it done in under a minute that hide glue requires.  It takes a long time to fully dry but for now I am fine with that.


I also have done a couple more coats of tru-oil on the parlor guitar.  It isn't exciting and is a slow process but I love the look.  I am up to 15 coats now.  A couple more and it will be ready for polish and final assembly.

Lastly, I never talked about how my other guitars are holding up.  They are just about 10 years old now and have been moved from a wet climate (NY) to a very dry climate (WY).  Well there have been some issues.  Lets start with the OM since that is the worst.  If you remember, I had problems with the back when I built it wanting to bow backwards.  I could get it to bow back to it's correct shape with dampness but it would  pretty quickly flatten back.  Well moving to WY was not a good thing for this guitar.  The center seam cracked almost from end to end.  One side also cracked.  The back sinks inward heavily unless I keep a lot of humifiers constantly inside and then it will only go flat.  Sadly, that guitar in my opinion is a lost cause.  I will probably use it for repair practice.

Second is the OO.  That one is holding up well.  The back has a small section where the center seam opened up but it will be a fairly easy repair.  Other than that, it is holding up well. 

Third, the SJ.  The guitar itself is holding up beautifully.  I had one issue that happened about 6 months after we moved to WY, the bridge started to pull up.  This was my first guitar that I attempted to glue the bridge down with hot hide glue.  I was able to remove the bridge, clean up the old glue and re-set it with fish glue.  It is holding very securely and should be good for a long time. 

Fourth, one of the twins (which is the only one I have access too) is also holding up well but also suffered the same fate with the bridge pulling up after it had been here in WY for a while.  Again, I had very limited experience with hide glue when I built it so after seeing what the SJ did, I went to check the green twin and sure enough it had pulled just the same.  I re-set that bridge too and other than that, the guitar is holding up well.

My very first build, a Stewmac Dreadnaught kit has surprisingly held up the best of all.  No cracks, no bridge pulls, no neck issues, no nothing.  It is as good (other than some finish scratches and dings from playing) as the day I finished it. 

One thing I had to do with all of the guitars was to flatten the fret ends.  Because the climate is so dry (single digit humidity levels in the winter) the necks have shrunk a touch causing the fret ends to stick out.  Not a big deal and certainly something I expected to happen.  Nothing a bit of filing and sanding couldn't fix. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

It's been quite a long time...

It's been a very long time.  I mean verrrrrry long!

Okay, it's been several years since my last update and I suppose I owe some kind of explanation.  Early in 2008 a lot of things in my life changed causing me to all but stop my guitar building.  My last post really was about the final thing I did on my guitars up until just a few weeks ago.  When I was building back in '07 and '08 I owned a small electrical contracting business.  Well we all know what happened in '08 and what that did to the building industry.  I kept my business running but the writing was on the wall so in January of '08 I decided to start a part time online bookselling business.

That went well and did a good job of filling the gaps that were appearing in my electrical business because of the housing crash.  By mid 2010 it was obvious that my book business was supporting the losses in the electrical business so I shut the contracting business down and went into online sales full time.  It was fun but it was also very time consuming.  So much so that I had no time to work on my guitars.  My mind was elsewhere and my time was just not there.  All was going well and then in 2012 we took a trip back to Colorado to visit my in-laws.  It was a great visit but when we came home both my wife and I knew that we needed to move back west to be near them as it was pretty obvious that because of health and age issues, they needed us near enough to help and not 1800 miles away.

So that is when the next major change happened.  We decided to sell the home and land we absolutely loved to move west.  That next year was spent doing a lot of 'fix-up' stuff to the house, barn and property to get it ready to sell.  We listed and sold the house in mid '14, packed up a big truck and moved to Wyoming.  We lived in an apartment for 6 months while looking for a home to buy.  We did find a home, bought it and spent a lot of time doing renovations to make it more livable.  All the while our online business grew and thrived, and it still does. 

Of course other stuff happened during that time like my oldest daughter getting married, my youngest daughter graduating, and most importantly my first grandchild being born!  Life has a funny way of getting in the way of hobbies.

So that brings us up to a few months ago when a strange thing happened.  We hired a new worship leader in our church that as coincidence would have it, builds and repairs guitars as a side business.  That got the itch going.  Once I finally let him know that I used to build guitars we hit it off.  He asks me all the time about the partially built parlor guitar that was abandoned back in '08 when life got in the way.  So I cleaned up my shop, dug out my building supplies as well as the parlor and am back at it.  One other thing, our worship leader offered free guitar lessons late last year and I did them.  I am practicing every day and for the first time, I feel like I am actually learning how to play.  I am very far from playing in front of people but I am having a lot of fun making noise!

I am getting the parlor finished up and have started a new all maple SJ. I will try to be active with posting here but I will be honest, I most likely won't be posting at the level that I did before.  I will try to keep you all up to date with what I am doing as well as including photos but because I posted so much in the past about the procedures I will most likely only post about major things I come across and new techniques I try.  I will say, it has been a good thing to have this old blog to reference back to.  You would be amazed at how many thing I have forgotten that the old posts help me with.


This is the parlor.  You probably remember it from way back when.  I am using Tru-oil as a finish and so far I like it.  I pore filled with Zpoxy and this picture is after 13 very thin coats of Tru-oil.  I am planning on 17 coats total. 

This is the back of the parlor.  The striped mahogany really 'pops' with the finish.  The photos don't do a good job of showing but when I do a fine sanding between coats it gets a mirror finish.  When I get down to final sanding and polish it should be stunning.

Here is the Parlor neck.  Same 13 coats of tru-oil.

The slot head under finish.  It is straight.  For some reason the photo makes it look like it is crooked.  I think it is because the neck is on a vice and it isn't sitting straight so I had to hold the phone at an angle. 

I brought all of my bending stuff as well as my side molds when we moved.  Just had to dust them off to get started again.  This is the second side being bent for the new maple SJ.

Success!  I have to admit, I was a little nervous doing these bends after all of the years not doing it.  I guess once you learn it, you can do it after a long break.
The maple SJ in the form with the heel and neck blocks glued up.  I did have one mishap.  The side closest to you cracked at the tail.  It is a pretty long crack too, about 8" along the length of the side.  I CA glued it together and am hoping that the crack won't be too terribly visible under finish.  I did some test pieces afterwords with some tru-oil and I can see the glued crack in the test pieces.  Hopefully once I get the box closed and bindings on the crack won't be as visible.  I will know it is there but it does kind of look like a grain line so maybe others won't notice it.  Oh well, I guess some mistakes are to be expected with how rusty I am right now.

Well I know this has been very long and I salute you if you have made it to the bottom of this entry.  I will leave you with a picture of my new shop.  It is about half the square footage of my old shop and is in the basement with no windows so figuring out a good work flow is taking some time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An update.....

Okay, after waiting a couple of weeks I finally spend the cash to buy a new dehumidifier for my shop. I got it all set up today and it is running. Hopefully the shop will get down to 45% in the next day or two so I can get back to work. It has been tough wanting to work but knowing that doing anything with wood that has been sitting in a shop with ambient humidity levels is just asking for trouble.

So, again I haven't gone away I just had to wait a bit to spend a couple hundred dollars for a dehumidifier. I shall return!