Saturday, 26 November 2011

Adam's guitar-headstock

I am posting a number of pictures of this guitar, as Adam is unable to visit the workshop and see progress for himself.

I very much enjoy making necks. When all is said and done, a guitar neck is a fairly straightforward bit of carpentry so I can relax and just enjoy working the timber and using the tools. The headstock design is not my own. I first saw it on a guitar by the late Martin Fleeson, and the most famous exponent of the design is the great French maker Daniel Friederich. Last year I was chatting with the German guitar maker Andreas Kirschner and we noted that we both used this design. 'Why not?' laughed Andreas, 'it's the best there is!'
The head facing is some bookmatched cocobolo that I cut recently from some off cuts of large boards that I acquired, many years ago, from Bob Smith at Timberline in Kent. I have about 15 sets of back and ribs of this stuff and all of it is quarter sawn like this head facing. This picture also shows the cedar neck; the black strip in the centre is a carbon fibre rod that I use to add a little extra strength to the neck. The wood for the neck itself is stunning, perfect in fact. The flecks that you can see running across the neck are medullary ray figure and show just how well quartered this neck is.

Here are the string ramps being carved. I love the simple sculptural process of making these ramps. Although they are essentially practical (to provide clearance for the strings as they run down from the nut to the machine heads) they provide an elegance and grace to the finished head. I always enjoy carving through the head facing and revelling the lamination of veneers.

Adam's guitar-bindings

Here are a few pictures of the guitar I am making for Adam when it was being bound. I have chosen flamed koa for the bindings; I love the rich colour against the dark Indian rosewood and the rippled figure in the wood is a delight. The humble clothes peg makes a wonderful clamp as the above picture shows. This is a rather laborious way of making up bindings but the finished effect is well worth it.

I know I have shown a similar picture to this before but I couldn't resist adding another one. I much prefer using cloth tape to hold the binding in place whilst gluing as I can apply a lot of all round pressure using this method. Visitors to the workshop who witness this process are most intrigued by the sight of a trussed up guitar. I remember one rather shocked visitor voicing concerns that she had stumbled on some bizarre ceremonial guitar making ritual. It took some time to convince her that it was an everyday guitar making practice.

And finally, the finished purfling and binding. The koa will come alive under the polish and provide an elegant but understated edge to the guitar. Koa is a beautiful timber from Hawaii and has been used for ukuleles and steel string guitars for many years. When I started making guitars it was very rare to see it in the UK, but the internet has made this special timber readily available to makers. I love it and feel privileged to use it in my guitars.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

In the workshop-Adams guitar

I have been meaning to post these pictures for some time now, but working out how to use the new camera and keeping up with tasks in the workshop has prevented me from doing so. These pictures are of Adam's guitar, which has a Western red cedar soundboard and Indian rosewood back and ribs. These pictures were taken some time ago; the guitar will be ready for polishing by the end of this week. The rosette is a simple but elegant one. It harks back to Torres, but its strong simplicity has a very contemporary feel to it. I make my rosettes in a jig and then inlay them whole into the soundboard. The cut you can see in the rosette allows for easier fitting and is completely hidden under the fingerboard once the instrument is complete.

Here is a picture of the finished soundboard and the back behind it. I still use a fairly traditional strutting pattern and many familiar elements can be seen in my strutting. One of my main interests at the moment is adjusting the positioning of the 3 lower bout cross bars in relation to the soundboard qualities. The positioning of the bar directly beneath the bridge is particularly crucial. I am conducting experiments on my test bed guitar to nail this down more precisely. I have been using this pattern for about 5 years and it gives me the beauty of sound that I love, with a power and dynamic range which many contemporary players require.

Here is a rare action shot! I do not use a full form to build the guitar, which I find cumbersome to use. I have a base board with a small number of locating dowels that hold the ribs in place whilst the end blocks are glued in. In this picture I am cutting the notches in the linings into which the back bars will fit. Those of you who know me well will gasp the at appearance of glasses. Years of close work have caught up with me so I now have this new bit of crucial workshop equipment.

This picture shows the linings and end block. It also shows the laminated rib construction that I use on most of my guitars. The end block is given a few coats of shellac for no other reason than I like the look of it through the soundhole. With the notches cut I am now ready to finally fit and glue the back, before moving on to the top linings and soundboard fitting.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Walnut guitars

A couple of guitars have recently been finished in the workshop that have used walnut for the back and sides. Neither have been made by me; they are the work of Lawrence (above) and Frank. Lawrence has recently relocated to Australia and we finished his guitar with a week or two to spare before he left. The guitar worked out beautifully; spruce, black walnut and a maple neck, with an elegant African blackwood soundhole inlay. I do hope this has survived the journey out to Australia.

Frank's guitar has a rather more complicated story. Having already completed a fabulous Macassar ebony 6 string, Frank decided to build on that success by following up with a 12 string using maple and walnut for the back and ribs. I can't quite remember all the twists and turns of this project, but it started as a large bodied 12 string, and ended up as a very fine 6 string tenor guitar. Just the middle courses are doubled.

This picture shows Frank's fine workmanship and the elegant rosewood bridge. Below is the instrument about five minutes after being strung up for the very first time. This is always an exciting moment for any maker, marking the culmination of many hours of work. Frank had come straight from work, hence the smart shirt!