Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whoops, skipped a step............

Okay, so there I was happily driving down the road heading from one job site to another thinking about my guitar when it hit me square between the eyes. I skipped a step in my building process. You see, I glued in the top binding and perfling but had completely forgotten to install the tail graft. So, now I had to figure out how to get the graft in without messing up the binding at the top. When I got home I scurried up to the shop to check on it...... nope, no elves came in overnight and installed a graft.

First thing I did was to remove the tapes holding the binding in place, and then scrape the top to see how my binding job was. It turned out really good. No gaps at all. Okay, down to business. First I cut the curved shape that I used on my 000 out of curly maple. Then I traced it on the tail. I then very slowly and carefully routed out the side material for the graft all the way to just shy of the binding. I used a very sharp chisel to carve out the last little bit of wood next to the binding so I had the space for the graft all cleaned out. I glued the graft in place and let out a sigh of relief. All I need to do now is to sand it level and re-route the back binding channel at the tail end so the binding will butt up to the graft. Another problem solved!

I had a little bit of a exciting experience with my practice tonight. I have been practicing chords, transitions, and arpeggio's over and over and over again for the last several weeks. I pick a few simple songs but really it has been mostly just practicing the basics. My callouses are getting thick so clean fretting isn't much of a problem any more, and my transitions from chord to chord are becoming more automatic. I still have some hesitation between chords, but it is getting smaller every day. Well tonight I decided to start with the first set of lessons in my Fingerstyle book. It is the beginning of a simple fingerstyle song. I did as instructed, and I was stunned. I actually played something that sounded like music! I have been picking songs but those just don't sound like music if you know what I mean. This was different. It sounded like real music coming out of my guitar for the first time. I was really excited and that was just the big boost I needed that let me know that with a lot of practice and patience, I will be able to learn to play. Needless to say, I am really happy!

Here is the end graft channel. You can see that I cut right up to the top binding. That was a little bit of tedious work. One little slip and the binding would be ruined.

The tail graft glued and clamped in place.

Here is a view of the top perfling. It is a very simple design but I think it ties in with all of the simple features of the guitar.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bindings glued in......

Ahhhh, it is nice having a free evening after work to spend some time in the shop working on the guitar. It seems I have been so busy lately that I haven't gotten much time on it and it feels like this building is crawling along. Well today I actually got a few good hours up there to spend some quality time on the SJ.

First I filled in the gaps around the fingerboard inlays with ebony dust and CA glue. Once that cured I sanded it all flat and went over it once with some 1500 grit to see how it will look. If I do say so myself, it really looks good. Yeah, if you look real close you can see where the fills are, but anything farther than about a foot away they are invisible. The ebony fingerboard has some light colored grain lines in it and I am still undecided whether or not to stain it black or not. Part of me wants all of the black parts to be, well black. The other part kind of likes the grain lines which makes it look natural instead of formal. I still have some time to think on it so I don't need to decide right now.

Anyways once that was done, I got the bindings out of the bender to get a look at them. Happily none of the broke and the bends look great. They fit the guitar body beautifully with very little effort to get the waist to fit nice and tight. I layed the maple and purpleheart together on the guitar top and decided I just didn't like the look of the purpleheart. It was too wide as a solid color, and the color itself just didn't look good. So I grabbed all the strips I had and started different combinations until I decided to go with plain old black/maple/black lines. Yeah, I know it isn't fancy but it ties in with everything else on the top. I set up the router table with the binding bit and then routed the top and back for the bindings and perflings. I had one very small mishap while doing this. On the back when the router bearing rolled along the neck joint area, I had forgotten that I had bumped the very top with my 3/4" router bit when I cleaned out the side wood around the mortise, and the binding bit followed that little bump. That made a bump in the cut right at the top. This will be more understandable when you look at the picture. Not a big deal but I will have to work with it. I have decided to repair it, I will do a curly maple inlay right at the top of the back center, and possibly at the bottom to match. I have a couple of design ideas and actually I am kind of glad this happened. It gives me the chance to do a little something different.

I went ahead and glued the top binding and perfling strips in. It was really uneventful, it just is something that I had to move fairly quickly with. With this being my 4th binding job, it definitely is getting easier and less scary. I know the first time I routed the bindings I was very nervous. This time it really was a non-issue. It was just another task that needed done.

The binding strips out of the bender. All four came out just fine, no cracks, no breaks.

The fingerboard after filling the inlay gaps.

The top binding and perfling channels.

Here you can see the little oops I had. I am going to cut a decorative maple inlay on the back to fix the mistake. The ding is too big to fill without it being noticed.

The top binding and perflings glued and taped down.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Some fingerboard attention....

Today was a busy day. We had a big work day at our church to get a house for our new youth minister ready for him to move in. Lots of painting, cleaning, and misc. work to be done. Because of that, I didn't get a lot of time to work on the guitar, however I did some of the inlay work. First I needed to narrow the fingerboard by .2", .1" on each side to accommodate the binding. I used my router jig to narrow the board on each side. After that was done, I noticed that I had a bit of a dip in the fingerboard down around the 15 - 20th fret area. I spent some time with a straight edge with sandpaper on it to get it all leveled out. It still will need some work, but I will do that once I have it glued to the neck. I have decided to try fretting after the fretboard has been installed. This will allow me to get the fingerboard leveled better then I have been able to do previously. I am a little nervous about doing it this way, but a lot of builders go this way for the exact reason I mentioned.

I then decided to work on the markers. I am using some curved shapes I cut out of abalone so it isn't as simple as drilling holes for dots. I made copies of the pieces on my copier, taped them to the fingerboard and cut them out to make scribe lines. I then routed them out using my dremel and router base. It went pretty well. The relief cuts aren't perfect by any means, but I am getting better. Since the fingerboard is ebony (I picked ebony for this exact reason!) it should be easy to fill any gaps almost invisibly.

My practicing is getting better. I have been drilling myself working chords and trying to transition between chords smoothly. I really don't have any problems fretting the chords cleanly, but I still have to 'think' about the chords which slows me down. When I say think, I don't mean I have to try and remember the chord, I mean I have to purposely set my fingers instead of having them automatically find the strings. I have been assured that with practice, this muscle memory WILL come, it just takes time. It is slow going, but I am seeing progress. So far the chords I have memorized and can switch between fairly smoothly are Am, A, A7, B7, C, C7, Dm, D, D7, Em, E, E7, F, G, and G7. I am just starting to work with a finger style book as that is how I want to play. Like I said, it is slow going, but I feel progress happening. It is a lot of fun.

Whoops, I forgot to mention that I bent the bindings and perfling strips. I taped them all together and wrapped them in kraft paper all spritzed with water.

I put them in the bender and it went smoothly. I checked them and there were no cracks or breaks.

This is how I narrow the fingerboard to the exact size of the bindings. I use my stewmac binding bit with the bearing on the bottom. I line the edge of the fingerboard flush to the jig. As you can see the cutter edge overhangs the jig by the exact amount of the binding. Again, this is a ton faster and cleaner than using a shooting board to do the job. It is dead on accurate too.

This is what it looks like after the cut. You can see that the edge of the fingerboard is now .1" inside of the edge of the jig....

...and that is exactly how thick the bindings are! Once one side is done, I just flip it and do the other edge. Simple as pie.

The fingerboard sitting on the neck blank.

I marked the marker locations. Notice the single and double lines on the top of the board. Those are there so I can remember which space gets single and which space gets double markers. I have a terrible memory for things like that!

These are the copies of the markers taped to the board. I cut them out and that gave me scribe lines. I know they look crooked, but the actual marker pictures are straight, it is just the paper that isn't cut straight to the image. It really causes an optical illusion!

These are what the scribe marks look like after cutting out the paper images.

I routed out the inlay pockets and tack glued the pieces in. I still need to fill the gaps with ebony dust and glue but so far I am happy with the look.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Binding indecision and some inlay work....

Okay, so I went to my local Woodcraft to see if they had some unusual hardwood boards that I might be able to buy and cut some of my own bindings. Well, unfortunately they really didn't have much of a selection. I ended up not getting anything there, but I did go to one of the big box stores to get some other things and picked up a piece of Oak and clear maple that had a reddish color to it. I decided it was inexpensive so I wasn't out much if I didn't get anything that I like out of it. I ripped them down to binding sizes and now I need to decide what to use. I have curly maple, clear reddish colored maple, oak, bloodwood, and purpleheart to choose from. I am leaning towards the curly maple as none of the others really are jumping out at me. If I do use the maple, I have decided that I will rip .1"x.15" strips of purple heart to use as perfling. I think it will tie the top in with the sides a bit. I have a couple of .1"x.1" strips that I held in place and it looks pretty nice so I think that is what I will go with. Either that or black strips. Huh, too many decisions! I never had this problem before, I just go with what I have and am happy. For some reason I am really want to make things tie together with this one.

After that I decided to start cutting my inlay pieces. I am using the same deer head on the peg head, and am using curved pieces for fret markers. I am up in the air on whether to do my initial on the heel or not for this one. I kind of like the idea of an initial on the heel, but it would be nice to be able to put the initial of the eventual owner on it instead of mine. I will have to think about it.

Here are my binding choices. From top to bottom: Curly maple, Bloodwood, Flat maple, Red Oak, and Purpleheart.

These are the inlay pieces ready to be cut out.

Here I am cutting the deer head with a jewelers saw.

The deer head cut out. Note the size compared to a pick. It is pretty small and quite delicate!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pictures for Greg and fingerboard taper.....

I didn't spend much time in the shop tonight as it was a busy day, but I did get to cut the fingerboard taper to the neck width. I used my router tapering jig to do this. It basically is the same idea as I did with the neck blank, first I lay out the center line of the fingerboard, then mark the nut width and 14th fret width, and then mark the taper line. I use those lines to line up to the edge of my jig and run it through the router using a flush cutting bottom bearing bit. It sure is a lot faster than using a shooting board and sandpaper! Right now the fingerboard is just a pencil line wider than the actual width it needs to be. I still need to rout out the width for binding and I will do it much the same way except I will use my binding router bit. It makes quick work of the job.

I also took some pictures for Greg of my fret slotting jig. Hopefully you can get how it works by the pictures. If you have questions, just ask and I will try and explain.

First up, pictures of the slotting jig. Here you can see the fence with a cut through so I have something to line the template with.

This is a fingerboard in the jig with the template (printed using Wfret) taped to it. You can see the cut through slot to the right of the clamp.

This is what it looks like with the clamps on it holding a blank. This was before I made a change to the fence by adding a top cap that hangs over the fingerboard by about 1/4". I ran the think kerf saw through that upper fence to get the visual guide.

This picture you can see the modified fence. The clamps are removed because I only have two of them and I use them on a lot of my other jigs! On the bottom you can see two guides that ride in the miter slots of my table saw. It is critical that each part of this setup is dead square. There can't be any slop in the guides, and even 1/2 degree out of square will mess up the fret slots. Take your time to get it right! I have the guides so they fit snug in the slots so I actually need to give a bit of a push to make it slide. That assured that there is no slop at all.

The under side of the jig.

A closeup of the fence.

Here is the fretboard with my layout lines.

It is clamped in the tapering router jig. The cut line is lined up with the edge of the wood so the flush cut bit will cut right up to the layout line.

This is how it rides through the router. The tape is there to help resist chipping of the slots.

After the cuts. You can see the two pencil lines on either edge are just visible.

The fingerboard on the neck. Now I need to re-cut the fingerboard using my binding bit to narrow it by the thickness of the bindings. I will do the same setup only the binding bit just skims over the jig board but the bearing rides along it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A bit more neck work and a surprise.....

I spent some time tonight after work getting the neck a little closer to the final shape and size. I cut the volute to size, cleaned up the neck/headstock transition and removed a lot of wood on the neck. It is pretty close to the final shape, but I left some wood to final sand out any dings that I might get while I am working on it. Also looking at the heel size, I think I am going to remove some more wood as it looks a bit thick to me. I want this one to have a fairly small and thin looking heel, without removing too much wood as to make it weak. One thing I noticed was a hidden surprise in the heel as I was sanding it down. There are two dark spots that look like either sap pockets or dark grain spots that are on the heel. Unfortunately they are very noticeable and look like a ding in the wood. I am hoping that if I thin the heel down a little more I might be able to sand through them. Oh well, I guess that is what is called character! I guess that also means I will be staining this neck. I really wanted to keep this neck light so the ebony would stand out, but I really don't want to see those marks so if I can't sand them out, I will have to stain it.

Here is the back of the peg head. I cleaned the volute, and shaped the edges to a point. The volute isn't quite as nice as a Martin volute but since is is my first try at it, I am pretty happy with it. The transition from mahogany to ebony around the volute needs some cleaning but I will do that just before the finishing stage.

Here you can see the flaws in the heel I mentioned. There are two fingernail shaped black marks on the left side, and one lighter line towards the right center. Bummer! Looks like this neck is going to get some dark stain.

You can see that the heel is a bit thick. I want to thin it down a bit more to make it look a little more delicate without being weak. You can also see that the back of the neck isn't perfectly straight yet. It is a little fat in the middle. If you look at the neck just above the heel, you can see it is a little thinner. That is the actual thickness I want and it will taper up to the peg head. I wanted to leave a bit of wood to fine tune after the fingerboard is installed and the neck has been fit to the body.

A side view of the volute.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lots of neckwork....

Today I spent a lot of quality time with my neck....... my guitar neck that is! This is my second neck from scratch so I still am a bit tentative about the whole neck shaping thing but hey, it's only wood right? The first thing I did was to lay out the neck heel shape on the end and sides of the heel block. I also layed out the nut width (1 11/16") and the 14th fret width so I could taper the edges. I cut the rough taper using my band saw so I had a better visual for the heel shape width. I am not very good at the whole '3D visualization' thing so I approach the neck carving a little differently than all of the tutorials and videos I have read/watched. I really am more of a 'start cutting everything that ain't a neck' kind of guy so that is exactly how I did this one. First I cut the bulk of the wood off of the cheeks of the heel using my band saw. I then sanded the curve on each side using my drill press and sanding drum. Once that was done, I decided to cut the taper close to the finished width using my router with a flush cutting bit, and a jig. This was needed so I had a more accurate width to finish the heel shape with. After cutting the width plus 1/16" on each side for final shaping, I went back to carving the heel and roughing out the neck shape. I have the whole neck rough shaped now, about to the same degree as a pre-carved neck from one of the suppliers would be if I bought one of them.

I then turned my attention to the peg head. If you remember, the top veneer is too thick because I decided to add a back veneer after the top one was already glued up. I dug out my plane and went to work planing it down the the same thickness as the back veneer. This gives me a final thickness of 9/16" which is what is needed for the tuners I will be using. After that was done, I screwed my peg head template to the neck and cut the peg head to my normal shape. I have decided to make one change to my peg head design however. I have been having a difficult time getting the two corner notches exactly the same and looking perfect. I decided that this time I am going to use round corner cuts instead of square ones. This is a lot easier to do with a router, and it looks pretty nice. If it ends up working well, I will be changing to this design for my future builds.

Tonight when I was practicing on my Dreadnought, I broke a string. When I was changing it out, I noticed that the bridge looked like it was possibly starting to pull up on the far end from the tuners. It isn't very much, but I can slip the corner of a piece of paper under the corners of the bridge and in a couple of spots along the back edge. It only goes in about 1/16" so I am not positive that it is pulling. When I glued it on, I kept the glue a touch from the edges to minimize squeeze out thinking that when I clamped it down the glue would squeeze up to the edges. I checked these gaps with the strings off, marked how far I could slide the paper in, and then put the strings back on and checked again. It didn't pull up any under tension so that has me a little confused if it really is pulling up, or if it is just my poor gluing technique. So, now I am up in the air on whether I should remove the bridge and re-glue it, or just leave it and watch for any signs of it getting worse. I guess on the positive side, I will get a chance to get some repair experience that I could definitely use. Hmmmm, I will have to think about this one.

Okay, here is where the guitar stands as of this morning.

First, a center line mark for the heel.

The neck after I rough cut the taper.

Here you can see the layout line on the left, and what the sanding shape was on the right. You will notice on the left side that the edge was cut at an angle on the band saw to remove some of the wood before sanding.

Pretty basic stuff here. I just held the neck under the drill press with a sanding drum and sanded to the line keeping the neck straight up and down.

The sanding gives me this shape.

After a bit of rough sanding with my drill and a small sanding drum. There is still a lot of wood left at this point. I also used the rasp on the left to remove some of the wood bulk.

The neck clamped to the tapering jig. In this picture you can see that I have the edge of the jig just a hair past the layout line. The line is under the board.

This jig runs along my router bit with a flush cut bearing on the bottom. The bearing rides against the jig and the cutter cuts the neck flush to the jig edge.

One minor mishap. The edge of the router bit caught some end grain of the neck and popped a piece out. Fortunately this is on the back side of the neck and it will all be cut out anyways. It did make my heart skip a couple of beats when it happened though!

Planing the top veneer to thickness.

Anyone need any ebony shavings?

My peg head template screwed to the peg head. I rough cut the peg head at the band saw so I didn't have so much wood to route out.

The flush cut bit rides along the template and cuts the peg head to shape.

The peg head shape. Note the rounded notches this time. I like the look.

And the back of the peg head.

Here you can see the thickness of the two veneers are the same. Now I wish I hadn't put the piece of maple veneer in there. Oh well, live and learn.