Friday, August 31, 2007

Jointing and blocks.....

This post is for the last couple of days. Yesterday I cut the neck and tail blocks and glued the tail blocks to the sides. Today I routed the mortises in the neck blocks, glued them in place, and then set to the task of jointing a set of back plates. Since I only have one jig for plate jointing, I will have to do one each time I am in the shop until all 4 are finished. I had a bit of trouble getting a good tight joint this time. I have joined 4 plates so far, and those have been pretty easy to get a good tight joint on. This one for some reason gave me quite a bit of difficulty. First I would have the center tight and one end showing light. Then I would try and fix it some more and would get another spot with light showing through, but the first problem area tight. I finally tried something different, I used my table saw to just shave the finest edge off of the two plates at the same time. As hard as it was to believe, I got a perfect joint straight off the table saw! I got it in the jig, glued and clamped up.

My order from LMI arrived today with two new neck blanks, 4 pieces of kerfing, and some black and white strips for bindings. This weekend I will try and get the kerfing all glued in, and get all of the plated glued up. I also want to get the braces roughed out of the billets if I have the time.

Here they are with the tail blocks glued in and clamped. This was yesterdays work.

Here are the two neck blocks glued in. This was today.

The first back joined and glued up in the jig.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The twins have begun......

Today I officially started work on the twin build. The first thing I did was to rip a 1/4" strip from the edge of each of the side pieces to use as future binding material. I figure that the sides are plenty wide for the guitar and this is a way to get some free EIR binding wood. Once that was done, I trimmed the side pieces to get a straight edge on each side, then thickness sanded all 4 pieces to .08" thick. I then dug out my OM bending mold, wiped the dust and spider webs off of it and got the bender ready for use. I bent all 4 sides easily using a misting of water and wrapping them in kraft paper. I cut the ends to fit in the molds and clamped them in. So, the twins are under way.

I won't be posting in as much detail on these builds as I have gone into a lot of detail in other build journals. I will be posting my daily progress pictures as well as anything that is different, unusual, or interesting along the way. This will be more a record of the method I use to build two mostly identical guitars at the same time, with the only differences being bracing methods, and some cosmetic differences. I also spoke with LMI on Monday about my neck blanks and they are sending me two new ones that are at least 3" wide. I sent the other ones back to them. They were great about it, and were very willing to do whatever was necessary to make me happy. I am quite pleased with the quality of their customer service.

Two sets of sides.

Number 1.....

...and number 2. You will notice there is a significant difference of color in these two sets of EIR. One is very dark like the normal EIR I have used, and the other is very light with a lot of wide stripes in it. With this being "opportunity grade' wood, it is not considered to be cosmetically high quality wood, but it is structurally sound and it has a very nice ring to it when tapped. I will be staining both guitars to try and get them similar in color.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

SJ is in the curing room.....

Well the SJ got it's final coat of lacquer (I hope!) and it is now hanging in the curing room for the next month. I got a total of 18 coats on it. That might sound like a lot, but they are very thin coats and a fair amount of it will get sanded off. The body still rings like a bell (okay a high pitched drum!) when I tap it so I am sure I didn't over do it. The pore filling looks like it went well as there are no pores telegraphing through on the body or neck. There are a couple of flaws in the top that didn't show themselves until I had about 10 coats on, or at least I didn't see them until then. One of the abalone ring segments around the soundhole somehow ended up a touch lower than the rest so looking at it with the light reflecting across it shows a curved line. There also is one little spot where a splinter of the top got pulled out while I removed the masking tape at some point, and it wasn't visible until the finish showed it. I also have two spots on the back right at the bottom where I accidentally sanded too far before I put the bindings on creating little 'divots'. I knew these were there and I tried to fill them with pore filler, but it didn't work as well as I had hoped. My plan is to drop fill all of these areas with lacquer this week to build them up level with the surrounding finish. I want them to cure along with the rest of the finish before I start the final sanding. That way I can sand them level with the rest of the finish and it will look right, and not like a repair.

Right now I am waiting for the woods for the twins to acclimate to my shop. I will probably get started this next week with the builds. I made a second OM body mold so I have two to work with. The body shape and size of the 000 plans by Scott Antes is almost identical to the plans for the OM so I am using that. I don't think anyone will notice that the body is 1/16" different than the plans at the two bouts. I was looking a the wood and I have to try and figure out what to do with the necks. The two blanks I got from LMI which are advertised to be 1"x3" are actually 1"x2 1/2" and 1"x2 3/4". Unfortunately my typical peghead is 2 3/4" at the widest part which means one blank is too narrow, and the other is just wide enough as it sits prior to any jointing. I will be contacting LMI about this as every neck blank I have gotten from them in the past has been 3" wide. The narrow blank might be a problem all the way around as it has a slight bow in it that will need planed out, and the neck of the guitar needs to be 2 1/4" at the body. That really isn't much extra wood to work with. Hopefully LMI will help me out with this. The wood looks great (sapele) and it smells amazing, kind of like a spice cake. My shop will smell great when I start working with it.

Sorry, no pictures today. When I get a chance I will take some pictures of the little flaws so you can see what I am talking about.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wood for the twins......

I don't have anything new to report, I just thought I would post some pictures of the wood for the twins. As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to keep the cost down as much as possible on these so I picked AA tops and opportunity grade EIR for the back and sides. The rosewood arrived today and it looks pretty good. I expected the wood to be really plain looking with some mineral streaking. The wood I got has some wide grain, and no mineral streaks. The color isn't the greatest but I am planning on doing some staining anyways so I think I can get it to look pretty nice. There are some knots that I need to deal with but I think all of them are outside the guitar body shape. All in all, for $25 sets, they are really pretty nice.

The fingerboard and bridge blanks. Those light colored chunks of wood are brace wood. I think there is enough wood there for at least 5 guitars!

The rest of the wood. Neck blanks, kerfed linings. blocks, bridge plates, laminates, bindings, perflings, and plates.

The sides

One back. After looking at this, I think I have one side flipped. All of the backs and sides were mixed up so I had to sort them out. I put the marks on it but it looks wrong.

The other back.

One top

The other top.

My ever so slowly growing stash of wood. so far, three backs and sides and two tops.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some ramblings.....

Well, there really isn't a whole lot to report. Since my last post, I have sprayed 6 more coats of lacquer on the SJ, and I am planning on 6 more coats giving a total of 16 coats. I am going to wait a day before I continue the spraying to give the 10 coats currently on the guitar a little time to cure. The finish is going on really nicely. I definitely like the new spray gun. I does a much nicer job than the gun I was using before. I am using a lot less product too which is a good thing.

I have gotten two of the 3 different orders for the 'twins'. The last order is supposed to arrive tomorrow so I should have everything with the exception of rosette blanks, some colored perfling strips, and half of the kerfed linings. I accidentally ordered half of what I actually need. Oh well, it looks like I got everything else right. I ordered two AA sitka spruce tops from Acoustic Woods Ltd. along with the fingerboards, bridge blanks, and bracing wood. I was amazed at the quality of the wood. Because I ordered lower grade wood, I expected it to be okay, but not great. I was very surprised when I looked at the wood and realized that it was much nicer than the wood in my Stewmac dreadnought, and equally as nice as the higher grade wood I have gotten from other vendors. The price was great too. They have the lowest prices on sitka that I could find short of Ebay. The tap tone in the wood is amazing also. Needless to say, I will be buying more wood from them in the future. The bridge blanks and fingerboards are very nice too. And then there is the bracewood. I ordered 4 pieces expecting pieces of the same approximate size as the ones I get from LMI. Even their site says that they are 2"x 3/4"x 20". The smallest piece I got was 4"x1"x20" and the biggest is 6"x1"x20". I think I have enough bracewood here to do 5 guitars with some mistakes thrown in for good measure! I got my LMI order as well. That was neck wood, tail blocks, perflings, kerfed linings, and other misc. pieces. The order tomorrow is coming from Allied Lutherie and consists of backs and sides, bindings, fretwire, saddle material, nut material, and truss rods. I will let the wood acclimate for a week or so and then get to making some sawdust. I have decided what the twins will be. I have a set of plans for a Martin style 14 fret 000 short scale that I have never built. It is very similar to the OM I built earlier, but with the short scale the bridge and soundhole are a little different. I figure that these guitars will be different enough that they won't be like the guitars their friends have, and since one of the people getting the guitar as a gift is a beginner, the lower string tension of the short scale will be a little easier to fret. I had totally forgotten about these plans and when I was digging through the pile of plans I came across them. I immediately decided that was the right design for this project.

I have been diligently practicing at least 1 1/2 hours a day, and most days 2 - 2 1/2 hours. I am getting a little better each day. The big thing I wanted to mention is how much my Dreadnought really seems to be opening up. The sound is getting so much fuller and richer, yet the high notes really ring out cleanly. I haven't been playing the 000 much, so today I grabbed it and played a few minutes. I have to say, it is a great sounding instrument, but the dreadnought is starting to get close to being as good sounding as the 000. I know that the 000 will open up a lot if I played it a lot and that will definitely put it in another league from the dreadnought, but right now, the dread really is starting to sound great.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The finishing has begun....

Today was my deadline to get the first lacquer coats on, and I made it! I was able to get 4 coats of lacquer on today, and am planning on getting 3-4 coats on tomorrow. I mentioned that I picked up a new sprayer last week and I got to give it a try today. I really like it. It is a gravity fed gun and is much more adjustable than the last one. I was able to use about half of the amount of lacquer that I was normally using before. There was a ton of over spray before. I still have a lot of pebbling like I got before, but I I can deal with that. It would be nice to get a perfectly smooth application straight out of the gun, but I get the feeling that unless I spend a lot of money, that just isn't in the cards.

Here is the new gun and a gallon of USL. It is a lot cheaper buying this stuff by the gallon directly from Target than buying it from stewmac!

The top after the first few coats.

The neck. The bottom of the heel is covered in dust that settles after spraying. It wipes right off.

The back

The head stock. The white marks in the ebony are grain lines. I thought about dying them black, but I kind of like the natural look of it so I left them. The white line right by the nut is almost dead center. The back lamination also has some grain lines although they aren't quite as visible.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I have stained fingers, and a stained neck...

Okay, so after yesterdays little 'issue' with the shellac and camitillo, I decided to skip the shellac binder coat. I just am not comfortable spraying it on knowing how it reacted with the wood. I figure that even if I spray on an nice even coat with no sags or drips, it will still tint everything red and I don't want that to happen. I really want the purplish brown color that I have been looking at all this time.

So, I got to work with pore filling and getting everything ready for the first lacquer coats. The pore filling went well. I used the same filler that I have used on the other guitars, figuring that I would put enough coats to make sure the pores were filled. I got 3 coats on and all sanded back and everything looks good. It is hard to tell if the pores are completely full, but looking at the body with the sun reflecting across it, I can't see any pore marks. Looking straight at the wood, the pores are visible but shiny so that makes me pretty confident that they are full. I then worked on getting the neck stained. I liked the way the 000 neck turned out after I did multiple stain coats with sanding back so I went with that method on this one too. I first masked everything off that I didn't want stained and then stained the neck with pretty much straight mahogany red. That helped me locate any pore filler that I missed while sanding. I sanded it all off making sure to get the spots of pore filler. Then I re-stained with a mixture of mahogany red and tobacco brown. Once that was dry I sanded it back leaving about 25% still on the neck. Then I finished it with a final coat of mostly mahogany red with a little bit of tobacco brown mixed in to get a mostly red brown color. What that gave me was a neck that had a red under coat, dark brown pores, and a reddish brown final color. It gives the neck an old look that I like. I was able to get it to look very similar to the 000 neck, but a bit more red in color. I like the look. All that is left now is to wipe it all down with a tack cloth, attach some handles, and start spraying.

The packages of wood should start arriving next Monday for the double build so I should be getting started on them in a little over a week from now. I will be doing two of the same guitars so I will be calling the project guitars "the twins".

First up, pore filling the body.

...and the neck...

For all of those who doubt the purple color of this wood, here is what the scraped off pore filler looks like and that is after the body has been vacuumed, tack cloth wiped, and wiped with naphtha. It has some really purple pigments in it!

I masked off all of the light colored woods that I didn't want stain to get on. I also coated them with shellac for good measure.

This what shows after a quick coat of stain where pore filler didn't get completely sanded off.

You can also see these spots here around the volute. These were easily scraped off and sanded smooth. This was the first red coat of stain. The ebony still has pore filler on it, that is why it looks so bad. I left it on because it would protect the wood from any stain that got on it.

After sanding the red off, re-staining with brown, and then sanding most if it off. It really looks ugly at this point, but don't worry, it is about to look a lot better.

The neck after the coat of mostly mahogany red with a little brown mixed in. Oh, that thing on the edge of my table is a blank mortise. I use it when hammering in the frets on the extension. The tenon of the neck sits in there and it provides support of the extension while hammering them in.

The shellac and tape on the maple worked great! No stain got on the maple bindings.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Note to self.....

....... always test on scrap first! Today I failed to follow this advice and I almost ended up with a bright red guitar as a result.

I spent some time sanding down a few scratches in the guitar and then decided to go ahead and brush on a coat of shellac on the camatillo and on the neck binding. I first made some 2lb cut shellac and using a small art brush covered the maple on the fingerboard to seal it from the neck stain. I then proceeded to brush it on the back with a foam brush. It took me a few seconds to realize that after I had the back covered, the shellac was causing the red coloring in the wood to bleed like crazy. This is when I went into panic mode! I used paper towels soaked in denatured alcohol to rub the majority of shellac back off, then wiped with naphtha. That had the shellac off, but all of the back bindings and the center sapwood strip now was red. Fortunately, the red coloring was only surface deep and could be sanded off. After a bunch of re-sanding I have the bindings back to normal with only a few spots where the red got too deep into the grain to clean out. The center strip is also back to the yellowish tan it originally was, but it also has the red coloring deep in the pores that I can't get out. So after a couple of hours I am back to square one! I guess shellac doesn't like camatillo very well. I guess I will just proceed with the pore filling, staining, and lacquering like normal. The wood is somewhat oily, but it doesn't seem any oilier than regular EIR, and the lacquer I use sticks fine to it. I guess I will find out shortly! Before I do that though, I may try spraying some shellac on some scrap to see if it will coat the wood without causing the pigments to bleed out. I really would like to have a binding coat if possible.

No, it isn't bad lighting, that really is the red coloring I talked about. Look at the center strip just above the inlay and you can see the streaking of the color.

Here is the binding with the red stains.

After a couple of hours work, I had it back to normal. Here is one of the rags after wiping it down with alcohol. I have a pile of these all looking the same red color!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ready for finish....

Today was sanding day. Lots and lots of sanding. My goal was to get the SJ ready for the beginning finishing stages so I can get the first coats of lacquer on it this weekend. The first thing I did was to install the last 6 frets on the fretboard extension. Once those were in sanded the neck and body to 220 grit. I noticed that the soundboard had a couple of rough spots where the runout in grain made the top look fuzzy. I was a little concerned about this because I was very careful to use a backer for sanding, but it still looked like I sanded deeper in spots like I used my fingers when sanding. Fortunately, these spots sanded smooth with 320 grit paper. Once the guitar was sanded to 220, I spent about a half out getting the bridge location marked and masked off. I also masked off the fingerboard, neck tenon, nut slot, and the extension location on the soundboard. I then sanded the entire guitar to 320 grit making sure to get all of the glue spots cleaned off. One hurdle that I needed to clear was the maple bindings. With all of the sanding of the ebony on the neck, and the camatillo on the body the maple was really dirty. I hit it with high pressure air and a vacuum, but it still had a lot of purple or black dust in the grain. I decided the best way to clean it out was to mask the dark wood off next to the maple and then sand the bindings clean. It worked pretty well. I had some scraping with a razor blade to do to get it totally cleaned but all in all it turned out pretty well. That was something I had been worrying about for a while now.

So, the guitar is ready for a thin coat of shellac to act as a sealer on the back and sides, and shellac on the neck binding to seal it from the neck stain. I will then pore fill, stain the neck, then start the lacquer coats. Depending on how much sanding I do during the pore filling, I may give the body a second coat of shellac before starting the lacquer coats. I am a little concerned about the water based lacquer sticking to the oily camatillo which is why I am using shellac. Shellac makes a great binder coat because it sticks to just about anything, and just about anything sticks to it.

I picked up a great little fret leveling tip off of the OLF boards this week from Rick Turner. He uses small little pieces of aluminum angled stock with sand paper on one side to touch up frets under string tension. The angle fits under the strings and between them allowing fine tuning the frets without taking the strings off. Once the buzzes are gone, the frets can then be finished off. It is a great idea and cheap! I picked up some stock and will try it on the SJ once it is finished. I picked up some more go-bars as well as a new spray gun. I wasn't happy with the amount of lacquer I was using while finishing a guitar. After reading the amount other people use on a guitar, I realized that I was using a lot more than normal. I determined that the nozzle size was way too big for what I was using so I picked up a gun with a much smaller nozzle that is the recommended size Target Coatings says. It is also gravity fed which I like a lot better than the siphon feed I used before. Hopefully I will notice an improvement in my spray jobs, and a lot less waste of material.

One of the more difficult things I had to do was to clean up the spot where the ebony and mahogany comes together in the 'V'. It was a lot of very tedious sanding. It isn't perfect but it looks pretty good. The top point was the most difficult part of the whole thing and that is where the irregularities are.

The body with the bridge and fingerboard extension locations masked off.

Oops, I forgot to mention, I also drilled out the tuner holes.

Here you can see the difference in the bindings. I cleaned the one on the left, and the one on the right is how it looked before sanding. They had a purple tint to them.

This is one of the spots I mentioned about the grain runout. I was a little nervous when I saw these. I was able to clean these up with 320 grit paper.

The neck and body ready for the next step in the finishing process.

Here are the two bridges to compare my saddle angle. The top is a pre-made LMI bridge, and the bottom is the one I made. You can see my compensation angle is a touch greater than the pre-made one. I did this on the 000 and was able to get pretty intonation on it. The guitars I have built with pre-made bridges don't have as good intonation which is why I changed the angle.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bridge slotting and drilling.....

Tonight I didn't have a lot of time to work on the SJ so I decided to slot and drill the pin holes in the bridge since that is a fairly quick task. Since I had already made the jig when I built the 000, the hardest part was already done! The only part I needed to change was the positioning piece that indexes off the bottom shape of the bridge to hold the blank firmly in the jig. I made the shim out of MDF and proceeded to cut the slot for a 1/8" saddle. I then layed out the pin holes and drilled them out. I still need to pick up a counter sink so I can ramp the holes cleanly. I used a step bit last time and I was not happy with the outcome. I need to have the correct tool to do the job right!

Here is my dremel in the bridge slotting jig I built. It works very well and is fairly fool-proof. The only problem I have is starting the bit straight vertically. So far I have not been able to get it perfect and as a result, one end of the slot has a little divot under the saddle edge.

The bridge after slotting. The little shim I was talking about is the curved piece with the line through it at the bottom of the bridge. Believe me, the bridge is very tightly set into the jig. The only way I can get it out is to un-screw the jig from my table and push the bridge out and then it is quite tight.

Here you can see the little divot under the saddle I talked about. It is from the bit not going in perfectly straight up and down. A plunge base would help with this.

The pin holes layed out. I punched the centers with a center punch tool before drilling on my drill press. This picture also shows the spot where the bit didn't go in straight. If you look at the very left end of the slot, you can see that it is rounded out wider than the actual slot.

The bridge after the holes were drilled. I think it looks pretty nice.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bridge making.....

Today I decided it was time to make the bridge since I am getting close to final sanding and masking for finishing. Because of that, I need the bridge located so I can mask the area off. So, I dug out an ebony bridge blank and made a bridge. I still need to slot it and put the pin holes in it, but that should go quickly. Instead of a lengthy tome of how I did it, I have pictures and I will explain what is happening in the pictures.

I have ordered all of the parts and pieces for the next two builds. I have given a lot of thought about whether I want to build two 'identical' guitars, or two different ones. I think that I will go ahead and make twin guitars if you will. My thinking is that I would like to make two of the same guitar using the same woods but..... and this is a big but.... I want to do two different bracing systems and work with different top thicknesses. I figure this is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn how different bracings (parabolic VS scalloped) and top thicknesses affect the final sound of the instrument. I don't think I will be getting this kind of an opportunity very often so I might as well take advantage of it while I have the chance. Since these two guitars are going to be gifts, I am not under any pressure to make a certain type of guitar so I have a ton of freedom to make changes between the two. Now I need to decide what to build. Part of me thinks a dreadnought is a good all around instrument, one for an absolute beginner, and one for an advanced beginner who can strum fairly well. The other part of me would like to make two 000's with the body shape of the one I built earlier this year, but with a 14 fret neck and solid peg head. I would have to make some changes to the plans to accommodate the different bridge location, but it shouldn't difficult. I have some head scratching to do still. Anyways, I should start seeing the friendly UPS driver late this week with 4 different orders.

First up, I inspected the bridge blank and noticed it had a fairly good sized crack that started at one end and went in about 1 1/2" into the grain. The pencil mark is where the end of the split was. Fortunately there was plenty of wood to work with even after I cut this end off.

I made a slight change in my bridge shape. I left the upper half the same, but changed the lower half so it has two curves that meet at a point. This makes the bridge look a little less 'chunky' and gives it a bit of a more modern look.

I ran the blank through my thickness sander to get a flat side. I learned on the last one it is important to mark which side is flat, and which side gets the shaping!

I clamp the blank on the top half and run it through the router to get half of it shaped. Then I move the blank to the lower section of the jig and route that part. If everything is lined up correctly, I get a blank with the correct shape that I want.

I layed out a line that was just a touch higher than I wanted the thickness of the two 'wings' and marked where the angled cuts will go. I then marked a rough shape of the curve and took it to my sanding drum on my drill press. I sanded to those lines to get a rough top shape.

Then I cut the vertical sections to just above the pencil mark with a razor saw.

I chiseled out the bulk of the wood to the cut line on the two wings.

Then I used a flat file to get it to within a few thousandths of the final thickness. This leaves enough wood to sand out the file marks.

This is the bridge with both wings flattened by file.

I used a file to round over the top edge.

Then I used a file to put a 45 degree bevel on the tail end point. I was careful to get the center 'seam' to line up with the lower point as well as to keep it straight.

I couldn't help but set it on the body to see how it will look. I have two options with this bridge style. I can put it this way......

...or this way. Either way will work. I think I will stay with the first one though. Since my fingerboard tail piece has a point on it, that will match the point on the bridge.

The bridge after some sanding and polishing. I like it!