Friday, December 28, 2007

The twins were a hit.......

Christmas has come and gone now and we spent the holiday in Pennsylvania with my parents. We had a great time and it is always wonderful to be with family for Christmas. The twins were both given to my daughters, and they were very surprised. The expression on their faces as well as the smiles was the best gift I could receive. It was fun hearing my playing daughter play them. I always hear my guitars when I play them, but rarely do I get to hear them from the other side of the sound hole. I have to say, I was blown away by the bass, volume, and clarity of both of these guitars. The scalloped braced one as I mentioned earlier has more bass than the parabolic but they both sound amazing. I got to hear the them compared to the inexpensive dreadnought my oldest daughter has and there really is no comparison. It is like comparing a '75 Chevy Vega to a '07 Caddy. Night and day. What really surprised me was the richness of the bass on these two guitars in comparison. You would think that a dreadnought, even an inexpensive one would out-bass an 000 but not here. Both of these guitars have a deep boomy bass that isn't muddy sounding. When I get a chance I will have my daughter sit down and play something on both of them so I can record it and compare the differences. The bottom line, I am absolutely thrilled with the volume, tone, and clean sound of both guitars. My big gift was a new Ridgid laminate trimmer that I can use as a dedicated binding router. I need to make a base for it but I am excited to give it a try on my next guitar.

UPDATE: My daughter was kind enough to post a video of her playing the red guitar and singing. Although the video is not the greatest quality as it was taken using a digital camera, you can get a bit of an idea of how it sounds. Here is the link.

Last week I decided to make an end of the year purchase of a couple of shop items. I ordered a Jet air cleaner with electrostatic filter, and a Grizzly 6" jointer. I have been wanting to get the air cleaner for a while and Amazon had a good deal on one with free shipping. I couldn't pass it up. Grizzly had a $30 off sale on the jointer so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on that too. The jointer arrived yesterday afternoon, and after a bunch of heavy lifting I was able to get it up into my second floor shop....... by myself! Fortunately it was in pieces so the heaviest part was the jointer table which was somewhere around 100 lbs. The rest of the pieces were under 50 lbs each. I got it all assembled and I did some test cuts with it. It really works well however the motor seems to not be running right so I will be contacting Grizzly about a replacement motor. It doesn't seem to want to start correctly, it kind of surges until it gets up to speed. It isn't the belt slipping but it is the motor itself cutting in and out. Hopefully they will be good about replacing it.

Today I spent some time in the shop building a Troji. I got some plans off of a post in the OLF so it was a pretty easy build. I didn't take many pictures of the assembly but I will post what I did get pictures of.

Here is the new jointer. I still need to do the dust collection, but that didn't stop me from trying it out!

I moved my bench sander to a spot where I can work around it easily. I moved my drill press around the corner to make room.

Here is one side of the Troji after I attached it to the base.

This picture is for people who are wanting to build one using the same plans, only I did a different kind of nut attachment. This allows full force to both push and pull on the nut. The original plan had a T nut on the back which can get pushed out if the troji gets squeezed.

Here it is assembled. I still need to pick up some foam to pad the cradle area, and I need to finish sand the edges but other than that it is done. I might give it a coat of poly just to protect the wood.

Here is the inside. The side on the left is hinged and the other side is stationary. Turning the crank closes and opens it to allow for the body to be installed. Tighten the crank and it will hold the body securely on edge so the sides can be worked on.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The twins have been born.....

Well at long last, the twins are finished. I got them finished this morning, polished them all up and took a bunch of pictures. Then when I was inside eating lunch, the mailman came and delivered the colored bridge pins I ordered for them. So, I went back out, changed the pins and re-took pictures of the fronts with the new pins. Anyway, they are done, in their cases and waiting for two teenagers on Christmas morning.

Here is all the info:

000 14 fret 24.9" short scale based on Martin shape.
Sitka Spruce tops
East Indian Rosewood Backs and Sides
Sapele necks
East Indian Rosewood Pegheads,Fingerboards and bridges
Koa bindings, heel caps, and end wedges.
Colored strips for the perflings.
Spalt Maple and Curly Bubinga rosettes
Paua Abalone inlays
Target USL finish on the bodies, Tru-oil on the necks.

Here they are. First up the backs.

And the fronts.

Here you can see the sound ports.

First up, the red bridge. Note the red bridge pins.

This next batch is of the red guitar. Here is the back reflection shot.

Heel cap with inlay.

These back and side sets were "opportunity grade" sets. What that means is that they are perfectly structural sound sets, but they have some cosmetic issues that keeps them out of the higher graded sets. The plus side to this is that they are an absolute bargain. On this back you can see that both outer edges of the lower bout have some color changes. It looks to me like this was close to a branch by the way the grain starts to curve. Other than that, and the wide grain, these sets are a fantastic value.

The peghead. That white spot in the center above the nut is actually the reflection of my camera lense.

This is a curly bubinga rosette.

On to the green guitar. Note the green bridge pins.

This is the Koa heel graft I used. For some reason I forgot to take a picture of the other one. Oh well, they are the same.

The obligitory reflection shot.

The heel cap with the inlay.

This is the spalt maple rosette.

So there they are. Next up is the redwood and Honduran Mahogany size 0 parlor guitar. Other than joining the top and back, I haven't done anything else with it. I am going to build a guitar Troji this next week and then I will get started on the guitar. A troji is a clamping device that holds the guitar body vertically so I can work on the sides easily. After seeing how great having a guitar caddy has been, I figure a troji will be good too. Oh, and another addition to the shop should happen this next week or so. I ordered a new Grizzly 6" jointer and a Jet air cleaner. I am sure you remember that I put in dust collection this summer, but I am still getting a fine layer of dust on things and I am breathing it in. The air cleaner should help keep the air quality better in my shop. My lungs will thank me for this! Both of these items should be delivered in the next week or so.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The SJ is done......

And here are the pictures to prove it! I am thiiiiisssss {holds finger and thumb really close together} to being done with the twins. All that is left is to make a new saddle for the green one, do a little touch up polishing, and taking pictures. I ordered some colored bridge pins so the red guitar will have red pins and the green guitar, green pins. I hope they sound okay. Since both guitars are going to teenagers, I think that some flair is in order, and as long as that flair doesn't affect tone too much, I am willing to sacrifice a little bit of tone to get them something that they will like the looks of.

Anyways, here are the pictures of the SJ. As a review, here are the spec's:

Scratch build using the OLF SJ plans
Camatillo back and sides
Bearclaw Sitka top
Curly maple bindings
Black/Maple/Black strip perflings
Box elder back inlay, heel cap, and rosette.
Paua abalone rosette, fret markers, and peg head inlay.
Ebony bridge, fingerboard, and peg head veneers
Peg head has back and front veneers
Honduran Mahogany neck
Target USL water based lacquer finish

Here is a fairly good representation of the mirror finish I got on this guitar. The light is approx. 10' away across the room.

The front shot. I had a hard time getting a decent front shot because of the flash reflection. This was the best of the bunch.

Front at an angle to bounce the flash away from the camera.

And the other side. Note the amount of claw in the top.

Here is the bridge I made. I changed it from my last one by making the bottom into a V shape. It matches the bottom of the fingerboard.

The rosette and fingerboard bottom.

The peg head. It is black ebony and I put a maple strip .020" away from the edge to frame it. There is black outside of the maple so the white line is inset around the edge. It turned out really nice.

The back. I like this wood.

From one angle.

And the other angle.

The heel cap an back inlay. I did a duplicate point on the other end of the back to match.

The back of the peg head. I like the looks of veneered peg head back.

Here you can see the reflection in the top. Also, if you look closely you can see that the side wood had sapwood which I used next to the top.

The back reflection. This is probably the best picture that represents the actual color of the wood. Although it looks brown, when sanded the dust is bright purple.

This shows both inlays in the back.

As does this picture.

And finally a poser picture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Houston, we have a problem....

Yesterday I decided to do the final touches and set the action on the twins. I did the red one first, I set the nut height so the strings are .020" above the first fret at the low E, and .012 at the high E. That is still a touch high, but it give some room for fine tuning once the giftee gets to play it. I set the action at the 12th fret to 8/64" for the low E and 6/64" at the high E. This is a good middle of the road to high action which allows for lowering. I set the relief to .007" at the 7th fret and checked for any buzzes. Everything went well and I put it away, then got the green one to do the same thing. That is when I discovered a problem, a fairly significant problem. I got all of the settings the same as the red one, but I was having trouble with the relief. I was getting barely .002" at the high E 7th fret, but I had .012" at the low E. Something was definitely wrong. I adjusted the truss rod, and only could get the bass side to change, the treble side didn't want to bow much. I was able to get it to .004" but that was it. So I sited down the neck to see what was happening and that is when I discovered a twist in the neck. It wasn't a huge twist, but the head stock was not straight with the body, and the fingerboard had a slight twist raising the treble side. When I released the truss rod, it helped remove some of the twist, but it was still there.

I had a decision to make at this time. The guitar was very playable, and there were no buzzes. I was able to get the action where I wanted it, and I could get enough relief to let it play cleanly. The problem was if anyone looked down the neck, they would see the twist, and the head stock was twisted. The decision was to leave it alone as the person getting this guitar is a teenager and has never played before so it would be fine for them. But, if I did this, I would always know that I didn't try and fix it. The other option obviously was to try and correct the problem. I decided to give the repair a shot. I got online and learned about heat pressing the neck to help remove twists. It is a fairly successful method used and it saves having to re-fret and plane the fingerboard.

Basically, what is done is the neck is twisted in the opposite direction of the original twist, then heat is applied to the fingerboard. There are a couple of tricky parts to this job however. First, a method of holding the guitar firmly down, while a jig is used to apply the opposite twist must be figured out. The other issue is how much heat to use. The idea is to heat the glue under the fingerboard just enough to cause it to creep, but not so hot to break the bond, or to warp the neck. The idea is to get the glue to right around 140 - 160 degrees so it will creep but not heat the rest of the neck too much. After much thought, I came up with a method to hold the guitar, apply the required back twist, and then heat the neck using my bending blanket. I rigged everything up, put the heater on a couple of metal rulers sitting on the frets so the blanket wouldn't scorch the fingerboard, and clamped a wood caul over the entire setup. I fired up the blanket and let it go until I could just feel warmth on the back side of the neck, and could see the glue line along the binding creep a very small amount. Basically just enough to feel with my finger but not any more. I let the entire thing cool down over night and removed the clamping jig. I am happy to say the neck is much straighter than it was. It isn't perfect and it still has a very slight twist but it is nowhere near what it was. I leveled the frets, re-adjusted the truss rod and strung it up. The truss rod is still not moving the treble side as much as the bass side, but I think that has to do with the wood possibly being stiffer on one side than the other. I am able to get .006" of relief on the high E now, and .007" on the low E. If I adjust for any more however, it only moves the low E side. Hopefully over time, the pull of the strings will create a bit more relief so that I can back the truss rod off of it's current tight setting.

So, the guitar isn't perfect and it will most likely need a re-fret and fingerboard leveling in the future, but it is perfectly acceptable to me for this being a student guitar. It has no buzzes and it sounds great. I do need to replace the saddle as it had a hollow spot in it that showed when I was shaping it. It makes the two high strings make an odd sitar type sound. I have one more nut blank so I will probably do that tomorrow. I will watch the guitar for the next year to see how things are holding up with the neck, and if needed, I will remove the frets and level the fingerboard. But for now, I am leaving it alone as Christmas is right around the corner! I have to say, this guitar neck has been nothing but trouble from the beginning. First the truss rod channel problem requiring the cutting of the neck and adding the mahogany piece down the middle, then the neck block being crooked, and finally this neck twist. This one has been a real test!

Okay, enough of my rambling, here are some pictures:

The green guitar, just before all of the drama happened.

I picked up one of those little Mouse random orbit sanders a few weeks ago and it works great for things like this. I used it to shape the top of the nut once I had the nut slots cut to depth. It is a lot easier than using a file and sanding block.

Here is a picture I took down the neck just before I started the heat pressing. If you look closely, you can see that that treble side is higher than the bass side. The peg head is also slightly twisted in that same direction.

Here it is clamped in the jig. You can see that I had the jig pulling down on one side and pushing up on the other causing an opposite twist.

Here it is from the peg head. You can see that the fingerboard is straightened out and the peg head is slightly twisted in the opposite direction.

I put two metal rulers between the blanket and the frets, and a flat board on top. I clamped the board down with 3 bar clamps before heating it up.

This is the glue line that I spoke about. You can see that the fingerboard slid very slightly on the neck blank which helps counter the twisting. I will sand the edges smooth and re-apply tru-oil so the glue line can't be felt.

Here it is now. The fingerboard is pretty straight now. It still has a very slight twist but it isn't very noticeable, and it doesn't affect playablity. The picture is kind of deceiving as the saddle is angled and the strings have different action heights which gives the optical illusion that the neck twists. I had to remove the saddle to line my eye up with the bridge to make sure things were straight. The saddle angle and string action makes things look crooked when they really aren't. I probably should have taken the picture without strings or the saddle now that I am thinking about it!