Sunday, June 29, 2008

A couple of days of catching up.....

I have spent some time in the shop working on the guitar, but I haven't had a lot of time to update the blog afterwords so this post will cover a couple of different sessions.

I started by routing out the channel for the truss rod. One nice thing about the center strips is that it makes lining up the truss rod route a lot easier. None of the tedious centerline measuring. After the mess that happened with the green twins neck, I was very careful to make sure that the bit was very tight! That didn't help much though. About half way through the cut the bit broke. Fortunately no harm was done (other than to the bit of course!) and I had a spare. I replaced the bit and finished the cut. Once that was done I marked out the tenon for cutting but before cutting it out, I drilled and installed the brass inserts for the bolts with epoxy. Once they were dry I trimmed the end dead flat and cut the tenon using my tenoning jig on my table saw. It was pretty uneventful. I also cut the curve for the heel block. Lastly I took the Koa bindings off of the bender to make sure they were okay. They all bent fine with not cracks or splits.

Today I made a small change to my plans. I originally was going to use a East Indian rosewood peg head veneer but at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to use Ziricote since that is what I used for the rosette. The fingerboard and bridge will still be rosewood. I glued the Zirocote veneer on and got it all clamped up. I then turned my sites on cutting the fingerboard fret slots. I have a jig I made for this but I had some problems with my clamp screws tearing out since the jig is made of MDF. I took a 5/8" oak dowel and cut 8 plugs 1/2" long, drilled out the base and glued the dowels in with thin CA. I sanded them flat and that gave me a nice hardwood spot to screw the clamps to. I printed out a fret scale based on 24.9" scale using Wfret. That scale was then used as a guide for cutting the slots. Once the slots were cut I had to call it quits for the day. Next up will be more neck work and possibly some binding work.

Okay, for some reason my pictures ended up out of order. I will need to figure out how that happened. Oh well. Here is the neck after routing the truss rod channel.

This is my slot cutting jig again. If you look closely, you can see where I glued in the oak dowels for the clamps. It is much more solid now. Yeah, I know the slots are already cut. You weren't supposed to notice that!

Here is the peghead veneer being glued and clamped in place. You just can't have too many clamps!

The neck end with the inserts epoxied in. You can also see the tenon layout lines.

Here are the bindings out of the bender. I bent 5 just in case one broke on me. Oh well, now I have a spare!

The neck with the truss rod in the channel. Nothing exciting.

The fingerboard after the slots being cut.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Makin' bindings and a nice surprise....

This morning before heading off to work I scooted myself up to the shop and got the second heel block glued on. I wanted to do that so when I got home tonight I could get the last block glued on. The plan worked and I have all of the blocks glued on. Since my workbench was being used as a gluing and clamping platform, I decided to see what I had for Koa bindings. Darn, only 2 pieces in my stash. I was just about to order some when I remember I still had an orphaned Koa side that was 5/32" thick. I dug it out and went to work ripping binding strips out of it. I was able to rip a dozen strips out of what I had left. I had already used about half of the piece making the neck center strips so that was the most I could get. I got them all thicknessed down to .010" so I have pieces for the body and fingerboard. I put them all together and ran them through the bender. I will check on them later to see if any of them cracked. I bent 5 just in case one goes bad.

I had an exciting thing happen today too. We had a delivery of 4 tons of wood pellets (we heat with a wood pellet stove) and was talking to one of the men that made the delivery. I found out that he has been following this blog since last summer when my wife had told him that I built guitars. He is a player and has been reading along until I took my little hiatus over the winter months. I have a few friends who follow this, but that is the first time that I have had someone I don't know tell me he has been reading along. So.... if you are reading this.... (and you know who you are!)... thanks! It is really cool knowing someone else gets some entertainment from my blog.

On to the pictures.

Here is the neck heel with all 3 blocks glued up. Everything is lined up beautifully.

A dozen koa binding strips.

It just dawned on me that I have never shown the order I put things together when I bend. First I use a stainless steel slat, then put the wood wrapped in damp Kraft paper.

Next my heating blanket. If you look you can see the light bulbs are on in the bottom half of the bender pre-heating the form.

Next another stainless steel slat.

Fire up the blanket, clamp it down slowly and cook it for about 10 minutes to harden the bend. This method has worked well for me so far.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More neck work...

With the body built less bindings and perflings, I am focusing on getting the neck made. I needed to thin the peg head and have found that using my scarf joint cutting jig to do this. I clamped the neck in so the peg head was parallel with the saw blade and adjusted it so the saw cut the right amount off of the top side. I cut it and it turned out well.

Once that was done, I laid out the neck length and cut off the excess. I cut the scrap into three progressively longer pieces to use as a heel. Now gluing the heel block on so it stays straight is a bit of a task. The LMI glue is very slippery and the blocks want to slip and slide when pressure is put on them with clamps. Normally with a solid block it isn't a big deal as there is excess and it can all be jointed flush. With a center strip however, things get a little more tricky. I am using a stacked 3 piece heel so it gets even more tricky. I decided that it was going to be easiest to do this one piece at a time. So tonight I glued and clamped the first piece on. It was tricky as I expected it to be but I got it straight with the center strips all lined up. Tomorrow piece two will be glued on.

Here is the scarf jig being used to thin the peg head.

Here is the first of three heel blocks being glued into place.

This is the tenon side showing the center strips lined up.

Everything clamped in place with the two other pieces waiting their turn.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Got to put the molds away finally......

Today I was able to get a couple of things done. First I pulled both the neck and the body out of the various clamps and bars that were holding all of the glued pieces together so I could get a good look at my work. I am happy. The neck scarf joint turned out very nice and tight but more importantly the center strip lined up perfectly on the back of the neck. The top side isn't perfectly lined up but since that gets covered with a head plate, it isn't a problem. The body also turned out nicely. The top and back glue joints are solid and tight. I went ahead and routed the excess top and back wood off with a flush trim bit.

All along I have been thinking that I was going to use bloodwood bindings for the body and fingerboard. With the back strip of the neck being maple and koa, I have decided to use koa for the bindings. I need to check my wood stash, but I think I have enough to do this. If not, I will need to make an order.

Here is the body right out of the go bar deck and external mold.

The back side of the neck. Notice the center strip lines up perfectly at the joint line.

The top side of the neck head. You can see the center strip doesn't line up perfectly at the splice point towards the top of the picture. This doesn't really matter though as it will be covered.

The joint line.

And the other side of the joint line. Both are very tight and clean.

The body after routing the excess wood off. The sound hole looks really big but in reality the body is very small. The hole is actually a little smaller than it should be.

The back. I like this striped mahogany.

This is just for a size comparison. The guitar behind this is my OOO that I built from a stewmac plan. It is the smallest guitar I have and you can see this one is significantly smaller in both height and width.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Top glued on and neck glued.....

Well I didn't get much time last night, I forgot we had dinner plans with friends but I did get a few minutes to get the body out of the go bar deck and clean up any glue squeeze out from the back glue up. Today I did get some time and decided I wanted to get the top glued on. I did the final test fit and noticed that it looked like the top had a large radius bow to it. I grabbed my radius board to check and found that the top had a 15' neck to tail radius instead of 30' that I wanted. I am not sure what I did, but somehow when I did the final sanding of the rims I must have done both edges on the 15' dish. Fortunately I noticed it before gluing the top down so I was able to re-sand the rims, and re-cut the notches so the top now has the correct 30' radius. Once that was done I glued to top to the rims. This is one of those things that seem to happen when I have too much time spent between work sessions. Mistakes happen and I forget where I left off.

I then decided that I wanted to get the neck scarf joint glued up. I built some anchor points on my work bench to hold the pieces in the correct position and glued it up. It was a little tricky trying to get the center strip lined up but given enough clamps I was able to get it all lined up without sliding. I am not sure if the top/face side is lined up perfectly as it was under cauls, but the back is straight and that is the important side as that will be seen. The other side will be covered by the fingerboard and head plate. I am still up in the air on whether or not I want to do a back plate also like I did on the SJ. I really like the look but it is a lot of work to get it to look right. I am still thinking on it. If you don't remember, this is going to be a 12 fret slot head so I am still working out the design elements of the neck.

Here is the back in the go bar deck. I forgot to take a picture of it the other night so I took the just before taking the go bars off.

The body with the back glued on. Very little squeeze out was inside. I am getting better with this part!

A shot of one of the brace notches and the glue line. They turned out pretty nice.

Here you can see the 30' radius bar against the top edge at the waist. The waist sticks up about 3/16" higher than the radius stick which caused quite a bend with the top. If I would have glued it up like this, it would have been almost impossible to get the neck alignment correct. The straight edge would have most likely been at least 1/4" above the bridge which is pretty much a lost cause. I am REALLY glad I caught this error!

This is another picture with the radius board touching the tail block and the waist. You can see that it is floating 3/16" above the neck block.

So after some sanding and re-cutting the brace notches, the radius bar sits nicely touching at the neck, waist and tail.

My label glued in just before the top glue up.

The top glued on in the go bar deck.

Lastly, the neck scarf joint glued up and clamped in place.

Monday, June 16, 2008

3 days in a row!!!

Yep thats right, I actually got to work on my guitar for the last 3 days! After all of the time out of the shop this feels like a huge progress streak.

Well the top is done, the back is done, and the rims are notched. What is left to do but sign the top, take some pictures and then dive into gluing the back to the rims. I got my go bar deck all set up for the glue up, checked the fit and got to work gluing it up. It went quite well. Everything fit nicely and the glue up was uneventful. Once that was all clamped up and drying I turned my attention to the neck blank I glued up yesterday. I unclamped it, and ran the blank through the thickness sander to clean up the glue and level out all of the wood edges. It turned out nicely. I am very happy with how it looks. Next up on the agenda was to cut the scarf joint. I dug out my scarf cutting jig, blew the inch of dust off of it and got the blank all clamped in place. This was a little different than the other necks I have made because everything needed to be cut very square so the center strips line up. I ran it through, flipped the pieces and put them together to see how I did. It turned out pretty well. I had to run the long blank through my jointer because one side of the mahogany was a touch wider than the other so flipping the pieces made the center strip move off center. The jointer made it easy to correct. I need to clean up the joint a touch as the line isn't perfectly straight. I have learned however that this actual joint line doesn't actually need to be perfectly straight because one side gets hidden by the fingerboard, nut, or headplate, and the back side gets carved into a curve which can easily repair any minor irregularities. What is important however is the joint line on the edge. It has to be perfect as that joint is very visible on the finished instrument.

Tomorrow my plan is to glue the scarf joint and glue the top to the rims.

Here is the neck blank after I pulled it from the clamps and ran it through the thickness sander.

The top with the completed bracing. It has a really nice tap tone. A very long ring but some nice deep tones also.

Another shot of the top showing the depth of the brace scallops.

And yet another angle.

This is the back bracing.

The neck blank in my scarf joint cutting jig.

Here is the scarf joint on the back side. This is the side that will be seen so it is very important to get that center strip lined up perfectly.

Well, I thought I took a picture of the back and rim glue up but I guess I forgot to take the picture. I will get one before I pull it out of the go bar deck.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I was doing some thinking this last week. I have been working my tail off for the last 5 months, with my work day starting around 6:30 in the morning and ending around 10:00 pm every day but Sunday. Although the work is necessary as I have two businesses that I own, why spend all of this time working only to have no time to do what I love doing and that is building and learning to play my guitars. Well this weekend I decided that I need to prioritize my time a little better to allow me at least an hour a day to work on my guitars and practicing. Every day that I go to my barn to get something for work, I feel sad that my shop is sitting quiet with plenty of wood for many guitars, and one guitar in process. I also feel guilty that I started learning to play and was doing well only to have let that drop off my radar. I picked up one of my guitars yesterday to play a little and not only are my finger callouses completely gone, but I am afraid that I have forgotten 3/4 of what I learned. Sigh..... I am sure it will come back but what a waste!

So, I am going to do my best to make guitar building and playing time a high priority. If that means a few things with work have to get bumped to the next day, so be it. Why work all of those hours and not take some time to enjoy my hobby.

Enough of that. Yesterday and today I spent a few hours working on the parlor guitar. I first started by laying out the top and back brace notches in the rims. I notched for the braces using my dremel as well as notching for the A braces in the neck block. I also drilled out the upper transverse brace for the truss rod adjustment access. (Ugh, 7 guitars now, 7 upper transverse braces that I forgot to drill the hole!) One day I will remember to do it. I cleaned up the top braces and realized that I had not installed the two sound hole support braces or the X brace cap. I cut those pieces and glued them in place.

I then decided to get started on the neck. I have a bunch of mahogany off quarter neck blanks I purchased on one of the OLF swap meets so I decided to use one of them for this guitar. Since they are off quarter then needed to be ripped and flipped end to end so the grain angle opposes each other on each half. This keeps the wood from twisting and adds strength. Since I had to do this, I decided this would be a good time to try my had at making a 5 piece neck. I had a nice piece of 1/4"x1" hard maple with nice edge curl, and a orphaned Koa side piece in stock. I ripped the neck, jointed the mating edges and ripped the Koa to size. Once stacked the neck will have a white stripe with dark edges in the center. I glued and clamped all of the pieces to make one solid neck blank. Next up will be finishing the top brace cleanup and gluing it to the rims.

Here is the rim sitting on the top so I could mark out the brace notches.

The rim after notching the top rims. I did the back notches after that.

The two soundhole braces being glued down.

I used my jointer to true up the neck blank. I was very surprised at the tension that was in this blank. Once I ripped it, both halves bowed and needed re-jointing.

This is why I had to rip the blank. I marked the grain direction on the end grain. You can see it is at about a 30 degree angle from quarter sawn.

Once I flipped one piece you can now see the grain direction opposes each side. This will make it much more stable.

The three center pieces along with the neck blank pieces. I like the look.

Here it is all glued and clamped down.

Finally, I glued in the X brace cap.