Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is that chisel really sharp?........

DAY 17

So there I was, sound asleep when I had one of those thoughts that wake you up in the middle of the night. I had one of those around 5:00am this morning. It was one of those moments where I initially thought that I messed up big time. If you have been following my blog, you have seen me bracing up the top and getting everything ready for the big top/back/side glue up. If you are a careful observer, you will have noticed that I skipped a very important step. I will tell those 'not so careful observers' what I missed that woke me up out of a dead sleep at the end of this posting.

I spent some time cleaning up the edges of the sides so the top and back fit correctly, and finish sanding all the bracing. Oh, I also checked the sharpness of my 1/4" chisel. My finger can attest to the fact that it is sharp. Once that was all ready and the bleeding stopped, I set up my go-bar deck for clamping the back to the sides. I glued it all up, and clamped it all in place. I really like using a go-bar system for all of this clamping . It really speeds things up, and I feel like I am getting good even pressure over the entire gluing surface. One thing I did was to make thin caul to go around the edge of the guitar to protect the back from the go-bars. They will dent the wood pretty easily and I don't want to have to steam out all of those little divots. Basically all I did was cut a piece of masonite the shape of an oversized guitar with the center cut out. It works well and is flexible so it conforms to the radius.

Okay, now for the answer. I glued all the braces on the top and forgot to cut out the soundhole. "No big deal, just cut it out" you say. Well that sounds good until you realize that the braces keep it from sitting flat, and it also keeps you from using a circle cutter on the inside surface. After a bit of thinking about how I was going to tackle this, I came up with a simple solution. I screwed a small block of MDF to my workbench the same height as the cross braces. I drilled a small hole in the center of this block the size as the pin in my circle cutter. Then I clamped the top over this block with the hole centered to the hole that was in the top from the rosette cutter. I put spacers under the edges of the top and so I could clamp it tight. Then I cut it out. It worked perfectly! Another minor thing I overlooked was drilling out the top brace for the truss rod adjustment access. It was easily fixed with a long drill bit. This is one of those things I didn't need to do on my dreadnaught as the adjustment hole for the truss rod was below the braces.

Here are some pictures:

See anything wrong here? Yep that's right. All braced up and no soundhole.

Before cutting my beautiful bearclaw top, I decided to try my method out on some masonite.

It worked perfectly. You can see the little block with a hole in it for the circle cutter. This fits neatly inside the cross brace and sound hole braces allowing the top to sit above the table.

All clamped up and ready to be cut. The top is very securely clamped to the workbench so there is no chance of it moving.

All cut out with no problems. Whew!

Here are the sides all ready to accept the back.

The back all glued on and go-bar'd in place. I added a couple of cross clamps too for 2 places that didn't have the glue squeeze out that I wanted to see.

Ahhhh, glue squeeze out. Just what I like to see!

Here is a picture showing the caul I made for clamping. It is nice because it is flexible, and can be re-used for the top, and for the next one. ;)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Broken teeth (again!) and punishing a bad back......

DAY 16

I didn't get to spend much time on the guitar today. I did get a couple of things done though. I sanded down the heal graft and cut off the excess wood. It turned out really nice. It should look great under a finish. Then I cut the soundhole braces and glued them in. Finally I cut the notches in the kerfing where the top and back braces intersect. I tried doing this using my dremel and a down cutting spiral bit. It didn't go very well. Unfortunately, it snapped several teeth of of the kerfing where I cut. I glued all of these pieces back on and cleaned it up with a sharp chisel. I did the notches on the back using a saw and chisel the same way I did my dreadnaught. It worked much better. I think I will stay with this method as it works well and makes for a pretty clean cut. I thought the dremel would make it a cleaner cut but it looks like an amateur did it. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise as I am an amateur! I took the back out of it's dish to mark out the kerfing notches and it looks like the back will be fine. It still wants to flatten out a bit, but it is not bending backwards like it did yesterday. Just to be safe though, I have it back in the dish and clamped down. It kind of looks like it is being punished off in the corner for being bad yesterday lol. Here are some pictures:

Here is the curly maple heal graft. It really looks nice. It will look great with the peghead and binding.

Here are the sides with the kerfing notched. You can see the places where I needed to repair some of the teeth. Don't worry, the wet looking places are just some CA kicker that hasn't dried yet, it isn't glue.

The last 3 braces on the top. Next cutting out the soundhole and some final sanding and shaping then it gets glued on.

This is the back all clamped up in the 15' dish after my little humidity issue yesterday. It kind of looks like it is being punished and sent off to sit in the corner!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Someone call me an ambulance......

DAY 15

Because I think I just had a heart attack! Not really, but I think I felt my heart stop when I took a look at my braced up back which was hanging in my warm closet. The humidity in there is 42% where the humidity in my shop is hovering around 48%. Evidently, that is too much of a humidity change for the back to handle. I went to get the back only to find it terribly warped backwards. In other words, it warped so much, it bent the braces backwards. After I gained my composure, I decided to do a quick internet search to see what to do. I had nightmares of having to order a new back, or take the braces off, reverse it and put them on the other side. Well, after some searching I was happy to hear that I am not the only person this has happened to. The answer was fairly simple, I just hope it works over the long run. From what I understand, when the humidity drops, moisture comes out of the wood. That makes sense. When this happens, it shrinks, again that makes sense. What I failed to realize is that the braced side holds it from shrinking at the same rate as the un-braced side. This caused the un-braced side to shrink faster than the braced side, thus causing that side to cup inward. I was surprised that it was strong enough to actually bend the braces backwards, but I guess it is. Live and learn I guess. Anyways, the fix was to put a damp cloth over the unbraced side, then iron it with a clothes iron. This forces steam into the wood and that relaxes it so that it goes back to the correct shape. I tried it, and it worked like a charm. I let it sit in the shop while I worked on other things, and it did a fairly good job of keeping its shape. Just before I left, I hit it again with the iron and damp rag to get it to hold the shape of the radius, then I clamped it in the radius dish where it will stay until I glue it to the sides. My only concern is that if it gets dry again, it will do the same thing, this time with the sides glued on causing stress and possible cracks on the sides. My thinking is that the sides with the top and back glued will be strong enough to make it hold shape. And once the finish goes on, that will help the outside to keep its moisture longer than the inside.

Anyways, once that little trauma was over, I finished the braces on the top and then did the heal graft with figured maple. Everything is drying now.

AAAARRRRGGGGHHH!!! This is what the back looked like this morning. Notice how the brace bows the opposite direction.
[Take a deep breath, that is not a heart attack even though the heart may have stopped for a few seconds!]

A little ironing over a damp rag and the bow disappeared and it went back to the correct radius.

Here you can see that it is close to the right radius. After a second application of heat and steam, it went completely back to the 15' radius. It is now clamped in the dish and will stay that way until it is time to go on the sides.

A little old business here. This is the scrap pile I had left after cutting the braces. One full billet and probably about 1/3 of a second billet left. I started with 3 billets.

Here are the top braces all cut and rough shaped. The 3 soundhole braces are cut but I ran out of go-bars to glue them down. I will do them tomorrow.

I was looking at the bridge brace. It is a very figured piece of curly maple. It is hard to see, but is a beautiful piece of wood with a lot of shine to it. It is a shame to use it in a place where nobody will ever see it. It is just sitting here now, not glued in.

Everything all glued in and go-bar'd in place. I used every bar I had for this.

Next, the tail graft. I marked the cut-out and lined a straight edge (steel ruler) to act as a guide. I cut along the edge of the ruler for a straight line.

This is a little trick I learned in woodworking. If you bevel the edge of the graft a tiny bit, It will fit perfectly in the cutout, even if the cutout is not perfect.

The graft all glued and clamped in place.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

We are having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave....

DAY 14

Today the outside temps hit ..... drum roll please.... 33 degrees F. That's right folks, we have officially gotten above freezing! Unfortunately according to our friendly yet unreliable weatherman, it is a 1 day thing. Tomorrow is supposed to have a high of 20 degrees. But hey, it was nice to finally see all that ice melt off of the trees from our ice storm over a week ago. Anyways, I spent some time working on the top of the guitar today. First thing up was scraping the rosette. Once that was done I turned my attention to the top bracing. I first transferred the bracing pattern to the top, then started making braces. I started by writing up a list of all of the braces and their rough dimensions. Then I marked the end of a billet of brace material to maximize the wood and minimize waste.

One thing you need to know about me, I am very cheap when it comes to wood. You see, I am one of those people who will save and use every scrap of wood and will take time to figure out the optimal cutting layout so there is no waste left over. I am convinced that I could build a house and have a scrap pile small enough to fit in the trunk of my car! LOL

Anyways, I was able to cut all of my top brace pieces out of one billet of wood and still have a little scrap left over from it. I also have about 1/3 of the billet left from the back braces, and a full billet left that I never cut. And yes, for all you skeptics out there, I have all the grain directions correct in the braces. I decided I wanted to scallop the crass braces so I cut the curves below the crossing point using my rotary microplane to rough cut the scallops. Then I cut the notches for the "X" and then radiused the bottom to the 30' radius. I used my radius board with sandpaper screwed to the edge of my workbench to make the radius. After that, I cut the final scallop above the crossing point, rough sanded them to shape and glued them down in my go-bar deck.

By this time, the propane tank had run out and the shop was getting cold so I decided to call it a day. Tomorrow I will try and get the rest of the top bracing done.

I used the Stewmac method to transfer the brace pattern. I punched little holes in the plans and marked the corner dots on the soundboard.

A little connect the dots work and 'viola.... a brace pattern.

Here are all the pieces ripped to length for the braces. I had a scrap about 1/2"x3/8" left as well as the full second billet that I never touched.

Here you can see the cross braces with rough scallops. I cut one piece double width plus the width of my saw blade. Then I shaped that piece and then ripped it in half. That way I have two cross braces that are identical.

This is my radius sanding board screwed to my work table. It made sanding the radius on the braces a piece of cake. [Mmmmmm cake!]

Here are the cross braces sitting in the radius dish. They fit like a glove. [Mmmmmm glove, uh, wait that doesn't work here does it. :) ]

Here they are on the soundboard with the scalloping cut and rough sanded. The dark stuff on the side of the brace is burn marks from my table saw. I sanded this off before gluing. Notice how I screwed a caul through the center hole to hold the soundboard in the radius dish. Also, you might notice that I notched out the underside of the cross braces where the tone bars and the bass/treble side braces and the bridge brace go. This is something that I did on my Dreadnaught. The Stewmac instructions said to do it, but the DVD that came with this kit made no mention of doing this. It seemed like it is much easier to do this before gluing them down! I have to say, so far I am not too impressed with the DVD instructions that came with this kit. I am REALLY glad that I built a Stewmac kit first. I would be lost by now if I didn't have that experience to draw from.

Everything glued up and in the go-bar deck. (I cleaned the glue squeeze-out before I left for the night)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Frozen toes and hot closets.........

DAY 13

Well, cold or not cold I just couldn't take it anymore and decided to see how long I could stand it in my shop and do some work on the guitar. I got a couple of things done. First thing, I fired up my heaters and went back inside the house for about 15 minutes to kind of 'preheat' the shop. I was able to get it up to 50 degrees F. When I started, the thermometer said 4 degrees F. Really cold! Anyways, I started by making braces for the sides. I was going to use some scrap brace material, but decided that since I had some thin strips of mahogany laying around my shop, I would use that. It matches the side wood a bit better. I cut them to length, sanded them to shape and glued them in. Then I decided to glue in the rosette. I cleaned out the channel and widened it a hair as it was just too tight for the rosette. Once I had it so it would fit, I glued it into place and put it in my go-bar deck to dry. By this time, my feet were frozen and I was ready to call it a day. Hopefully it will warm up a bit so I can get some of the top bracing done and the end piece grafted in.

First things first........ fired up the heater. 55000 btu's of propane fired goodness! The heat helps but the unheated space under the floor makes the feet get cold quickly.

I had a scrap piece of 1/4"x1"x4' mahogany. I ripped it lengthwise and cut one into side braces.

Here are two braces sanded to shape. I shaped them like this on my dreadnaught and kind of like the way it looks.

The side braces all clamped into place. I kind of liked how this all balanced on the lower bout. :)

The rosette all glued up and drying in my go-bar deck.

You might be asking yourself......."Self, how does David keep all his glues and finishing stuff from freezing in these cold temperatures?" Well, it's easy. I built this little closet with insulated walls and ceiling. I have a space heater in there that is connected to a thermostat which keeps this small space right around 60 degrees all winter long. I also kept my soundboard in here until I was ready to start working on it. The humidity is a bit lower in here because of the heat, and the consistent temperatures are a plus too. One of these days I will build some shelves and a hanging bar.

Until next time....... [frantically rubbing toes trying to get feeling back in them]

Thursday, January 25, 2007


DAY 12

Well, unless it warms up a bit around here, it doesn't look like much will be getting done on the guitar. You see, right now it is hovering around 15 deg F. (-9C) and this is the high for today. It is supposed to get down to around 0 deg by tonight. My shop is an unheated second floor of a 100+ year old barn. Now I do have some temp heat up there, but it just takes too long to get to a decent working temperature so the shop will be vacant until the temp's rise just a bit.

On a side note, I contacted LMI regarding the neck block issue that several builders are having and I got a response stating that they appreciated my suggestion and will change the way the directions are inserted into the kit. They said they are now putting a sticker on the neck block stating that it needs to be trimmed, and directing the builder to read the letter in the bolt package. I am glad to hear that! Hopefully this will keep others down the road from running into the same problems that we have run into.

Now I am off to keep warm!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Proud necks and broken teeth..........

DAY 11

Today I spent some time finishing the back bracing and sanding the kerfing to the radius angle. First I took the back out of the go-bar deck to see how my bracing worked. It worked great! The back now has a nice side to side curve, but nothing from top to bottom. This is of course because there are no vertical braces to help it hold its form. I sanded all of the braces down to their final shapes and sizes. Then I cut and installed the center strips and put the whole thing back in the go-bar deck for drying. After that I turned my sites onto sanding the kerfing. I sanded both top and bottom using radius boards. I ended up breaking a couple of 'teeth' out of the kerfing when my board caught the edge but this was easily repaired with a bit of superglue. I know I have said this before, but I am determined now, I WILL BUY THE RADIUS SANDPAPER for the next one. I can't help but think that having the paper for the dish will make all of this shaping and sanding a ton easier and more accurate. Sometimes it is worth the cost of something if it makes the job better. I know, I know, a craftsman never blames his tools. But hey, I never said I was a pro at this! As a side note, I never blame my tools when I am doing electrical work. :)

Once this was done, my curiosity was getting the better of me so I had to try and fit the neck. After reading the problems Ted and others in the forums are having with the LMI neck block not being correct I just had to find out how mine is going to work. I cut out the side sections so I have access to the pocket and slid the neck in. Well, mine doesn't fit correctly either. Sometimes however, I have found that it is better to be lucky than good. You see, when I glued in the head and tail blocks, I remembered from my Stewmac kit that they were cut at an angle which made the edges closest to the soundhole sit a bit proud of the edges. In fact, I had to cut a pocket into the cardboard that I built it on in order to get the sides to sit flat . When I was gluing these parts on this kit, I decided that in order to get the correct radius I would need to set these blocks a bit proud of the side wood. Because of this, instead of having a huge difference to deal with I only have a sliver maybe 1mm to deal with. Believe me, this was pure luck on my part as I could have just as easily made a big problem with the neck sitting too high. Anyways, it looks like my problem can be easily fixed by reaming out the bolt holes enough to slide the whole thing up a tiny bit so it sits flush with the top.

On to the pictures.....

Here is the back with the braces all shaped and sanded. The center strip is glued and drying.

You can see that the back is sanded and radiused to match the radius board.

This is the top sitting next to the neck tenon. You can see that it is just a bit short of the top but not as low as it could have ended up. Again, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good!
Note the handsome hand model in the picture. :)

Monday, January 22, 2007

And I thought I was all done with braces in high school........

DAY 11

Today I started the back braces. The first thing I did though was to take the high tech clamping devices (clothespins) off of the back kerfing and installed the top kerfing. Once that was done I set it aside and started with the bracing. After marking the back to the brace layout on the plans, I cut 4 sections of bracing material from the billet that came with the kit. It is a pretty straight forward thing to do, I just had to make sure I had the wood grain going the correct way. A table saw makes this a snap. Once I cut them to rough size, I marked the radius on them and sanded them to match the radius dish. I used a sanding drum in my drill press to do this. The DVD says that I should have glued them to the back at this point, but I decided to do some of the shaping before gluing them down. I figure that it is much easier to do a lot of the sanding and shaping using my sanding drum as well as hand sanding while they are still loose then to do all the carving with them on the back. I will still need to do some final sanding and shaping but the bulk of the work is done. Once that was done, it was time to try out my fancy new go-bar deck. It really works slick! it is much easier to use a dish and go-bar deck than the clamps like I did with the Stewmac kit. It is really cool to see the back bent to the correct contour while the glue is curing instead of hoping the spring of the wood is enough to pull it into shape afterwords.

Here are some pictures of today's progress:

This is the top of the guitar with the kerfing clamped and drying.

I marked the brace locations on the inside of the back. You might notice that I didn't use the side LMI marked as the inside. I decided that this side was less attractive than the other so I reversed the sides.

Here are the braces cut to rough size. You can see that I scribed pencil marks to show the radius in the approximate locations where they will go in the deck.

Here they are sanded to radius. You can see I sanded right to the pencil line. To get the final shape, I held a long strip of sandpaper in the dish at the location where they will go and sanded them against the dish. It worked quite well.

Here are the braces shaped . I think it is a lot easier to do it before gluing than after. I will do the top braces this way too.

Here is everything all glued up in the go-bar deck. It is amazing how much pressure all those bars put on the top where they push against. The top board has a bow to it!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Clothespins, lots and lots of clothespins.....

DAY 10

Sorry that I didn't get to post the last couple of days, it has been a busy weekend. I got some time to work on the guitar though. I got the back cut to size, sanded and radiused, and the kerfing glued. I ran into a couple of problems with the cutting and radiusing though. I decided to use the method shown in the LMI OM kit journal on using a grid system and tape to get the correct side width. This plan works well, with one caveat. I followed the directions to the letter and ended up with sides that would not radius without sanding a lot of the lower bout sides to get the waist to the correct level. You see, if you measure the plans in the 2" increments as described, you will fail to take into account that the innermost part of the waists will be too short to fit a radius dish correctly. The plans are two dimensional and do not show that the radius raises the closer you get to the center so the waist dimensions need to adjust accordingly. It wasn't a huge deal, but it did throw me into a bit of a worry when I first set my radius board on it to see how much I was going to need to sand. The waist section was almost 1/4" below the radius level which I thought was going to require me to shorten the entire lower and upper bout by that amount to get it to work. Fortunately, that much was not required to be removed and I was able to get it to work. All in all, the lower bout is now 2mm shorter than the plans show and the upper bout is 1.5 mm shorter. It shouldn't be noticeable and the head and tail blocks are exact per plans. I have decided that I will buy the round sandpaper for radius dishes for the next time. It is too easy to make these kinds of mistakes when trying to build a guitar to a radius without the correct tools.

I had one other problem that I believe Ted also ran into. When cutting the tail block, I followed the directions on the DVD only to end up with a block about 1/8" too short. I glued a small piece of mahogany to the end of the block and sanded it to shape. It is almost impossible to see the repair.

Fortunately the kerfing went on without any problems, of course it is almost impossible to mess that up.... [knocks on wood] :)

Here are some pictures:

First I marked out a 2" grid on a piece of cardboard and clamped the sides to it using these little cauls screwed into my workbench.

Here you can see the measurements I took on the plans in the same 2" increments.

I then transposed those measurements to the sides and then connected these marks using blue tape. This makes a nice straight line around the guitar. Unfortunately, the marks around the waist area should have been about 1/4" higher than shown to get it fairly close to the radius.

Here is the microplane rotary attachment on my cordless drill. It makes short work of cutting the sides down to close to the tape. It took me less than 10 minutes to remove all the wood to within 1/8" of the tape.

Here is the guitar after A LOT of sanding to get it to fit inside the radius dish. The 30' dish is under the guitar and the 15' dish is sitting on top of it. This picture might help you understand what I am talking about with the waist area needing to be higher than what the 2 dimensional side drawing on the plans measures out to be.

This is the patch I made on the tail block. It is on the top. Hard to see isn't it! Oh, and yes I know it is not straight in this picture. I was not finished sanding for the radius. Rest assured, it is straight now.

This is the side with my radius board on it to show how I was able to get the waist area to raise to meet the contour of the radius board.

Last but not least, lots of clothespins clamping the back kerfing.