Friday, 25 February 2011

Satinwood guitar sets

Last week I took advantage of some early spring sunshine and drove out to Dykes luthiers Supplies in East Sussex. Dave Dyke is one of the most established tonewoods and musical instrument parts supplier in the UK, having been in operation since the early 1970's. I always enjoy going out there as he lives in a beautiful part of rural Sussex and on this occasion the landscape looked neat and full of activity. My main reason for the visit was to pick up a few bits and pieces for repair work that I had in hand; tuners, nuts and saddles and fretwire. However on a previous trip last year, I had spotted a couple of sets of really nice satinwood and had vowed to return for them. Satinwood is a lovely timber and has been used for fine furniture and decorative objects for years. Lacote used it for the backs and ribs of some of his guitars and in the early 20th century, Fransisco Simplicio used it for some of his stunningly ornate guitars and just recently some makers, including myself, have begun to favour it again.
The set pictured ( and as always it is hard to do it justice) has a lovely beeswing figure as well as the warm golden colour. I am very much looking forward to using these sets. One is already spoken for and I wouldn't be surprised if the second set goes fairly quickly as well.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

French Polishing underway

I have joked before about how I always seem to have polishing to do and this just illustrates the point. Here is John's guitar with 5 days of polish on it, so a little way to go yet before it is completed. The Amazon rosewood is beginning to look really rather fine and I am looking forward to getting it finished. In the little glass jar in the foreground is the cloth or 'rubber' that is used to apply the french polish, and on the other side of the neck is the polish itself. Polishing is one of the first things that I do when I get into the workshop each morning. I find it relaxing and allows me time to think about what else I have to do that day.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Nikolaus Georg Ries Terz guitar

This little terz guitar was made by Ries in the mid 19th century. Nikolaus Georg Ries had been part of the Staufer workshop and the Austrian style is very apparent. The guitar behind the Ries is an anonymous Austrian guitar from (as auction catalogs would put it) the collection of gentleman. This is a sweet and simple guitar with great charm, although as the pictures show, it is in need of a little attention. This one is being restored under my supervision and I am making a copy for my own amusement. (What does a guitar maker do in his spare time? He makes a guitar.) The back and ribs are of flamed maple and have ripened to a wonderful colour which I'm afraid I have not captured in these pictures. The bridge is not original and has already been removed.

New tools, old tools part 2

I have just had a clear out of tools (mainly carving gouges) as I needed the room. I have accumulated so many tools over the years, and have also given a good few away. I am getting to the point where I have what I need and no more. This is a good place to be.

The center piece of this picture is my Record No. 5. When I started learning guitar making at the London College of Furniture in 1984, Herbert Schwarz my tutor, sent me off to acquire a plane. That part of the east end of London had once been the centre of woodworking trades and there were still a handful of reminders from those days. Crispins Veneers in Curtain Road for example,was a wonderful example of old fashioned supplier. Contained in a ramshackle 19th century warehouse, it was full of wonderful exotic veneers, and when you had selected what you wanted, it was carefully rolled in cardboard and tied with string. Invoices were hand written, standing at a lectern and if they had been scratched out using a quill, the picture would have been complete.
One grey October day I walked up Old Street to Tyzacks tool shop and bought this plane. It wasn't a shop that you wandered round; you went up to the counter and asked for what you wanted, and waited while a man in a brown coat disappeared into the back of the shop to find the tool you had requested. I have had this plane since that day and it is the tool that my workshop centers around. Although it is just a standard mass produced plane, it is a tool that I implicitly trust; I know exactly what I can do with it; it works perfectly.
The engineers square is commonplace, but always in use and rarely in its space on the tool rack. For me this is the perfect size for most of my work, although I have a bigger one, and indeed, a smaller one.
The brass purfling cutter was made at the LCF, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was from the skilled hands of fellow student Nick Swann. Different makers swear by different designs. I like the simple functionality of this one and I am now very used to it.
And finally, at the bottom of the picture, a 1 inch Sorby paring chisel. It was Michael Gee who turned me on to paring chisels and now I wont use anything else. The length of the blade allows you to keep some distance between you and the work and gives even finer control over the cutting edge. Other makers use shorter chisels and do fine work, but this is something that works for me. The smooth boxwood handle feels cool and comfortable in the hand. Looking at the picture leaves me shocked at how much shorter the blade is than when I first bought it; many years of honing have taken their toll. Fortunately I have stockpiled a few of these and so I am confident I have a lifetime supply.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


It has come to my attention that a guitar is being offered for sale on various auction sites listed as a David Whiteman guitar. It is almost certainly not one of mine. If you have any doubts or questions about a guitar you have purchased, or are thinking of purchasing, please contact me. I will up date this as soon as I have more information.