Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Putting the Pieces Together

Fitting the fingerboard to the neck
It's been more than a month since my last post, and that seems to be the pattern lately. Progress continues, but so much time has been spent working out design details and figuring out how to complete new tasks that the progress is hard to see. In one respect it's great: we're actually designing certain components of the guitar from scratch, and the process is fascinating. The downside is that there isn't much to show for the effort, and it's making the process take much longer than it did for my flat top. In fact, I just realized that I'm now thirteen months into the building of my arch top. The flat top took right at fourteen, and there's no way I'll match that. These things are hard to predict, but I'm pretty sure I have at least two months of work left. But things are starting to speed up again, so who knows?

Shaving down the fretboard binding
I've been focused on several different things over the past month. including binding the fretboard, routing the dovetail joint for the neck and fitting it to the body, finishing the milling of the tailpiece, and beginning to fit the fretboard to the neck. Much of this work, especially the fitting of the neck, requires great precision and lots of arithmetic, so Ted's help has been especially important. And being involved in the design process makes you realize that, while woodworking skills are extremely important, it's the math that's the most important part of making a good instrument. If you don't have the proper alignment, the proper angles, and the proper dimensions, you don't have a good guitar. And when I say "proper," I really mean "perfectly accurate." When we're measuring anything in class, we're always talking in thousands of an inch, if not finer measurements. And, fortunately, Ted is not only insistent that we be precise in every detail, he's very good at the math. Without that assistance, I don't think any of us could be successful building good guitars.

So I hope to be showing more results soon. I'll start shaping the neck any time now, and all of the parts we've been constructing will start to go together in the next few weeks. Who knows? Maybe I'm closer than I think.

But I doubt it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

As I Was Saying...

My mostly finished box
I guess it's typical: In my last post, which was almost two months ago, I described how fast everything was moving along. Progress every day. Humming like a well-oiled machine.


I guess that's a bit of an overstatement. I've actually made quite a bit of progress, but it feels like it should have been so much more. Much of it was the number of classes we missed because of the holidays. Since Christmas was on a Tuesday, which is the day of my class, we missed Christmas and New Year's, not to mention Thanksgiving and one or two others in there. So we've only had around half the number of classes we normally would.

But I digress. Progress definitely didn't stop, and it's really beginning to pick up again. As you can see, the box is mostly finished. There are quite a few little dings and details that need to be finished and, as always, countless of hours of sanding ahead of me. But all-in-all it's ready to go.

Cutting the neck blank
In the past few weeks we've made a good start on a couple of important things: I've only spent a little time on my neck, but it's been glued up (it's actually made of three pieces of wood glued together, which makes it stronger), the channels for the truss rod and carbon fiber rods have been cut, and the the blank cut roughly to shape. The truss rod is the adjustable metal rod that runs the length of the neck. After it's finished, I'll be able to adjust the straightness of the neck by turning a screw in it. The carbon fiber rods run parallel to the truss rod, and they help the neck stand up to the tremendous pressure exerted on it by the strings.

The other thing I've made progress on is the tail-piece. This part is especially interesting because it's something that doesn't exist on a flat top guitar. On a flat top, the bridge is glued to the top and the strings are connected directly to it. On an arch top guitar, the bridge "floats," meaning it's not actually glued to the instrument, and the strings rest on it, but aren't connected. Instead, the strings are attached to the tail-piece, which is a piece of wood that is connected by a metal strap to the end pin (the place you put your guitar strap at the bottom) and to which the strings are then attached.

After milling the slots for the tail piece strap
It's an interesting piece to make for a couple of reasons: First, since the function is primarily to hold the strings, the shape and size is variable, allowing for a little creativity in its design. And, secondly, for the same reason, the function can be handled in a variety of ways. The strings could be connected from the top or the bottom of the tail-piece, for example. So we've spent a lot of time in class discussing the design of it and working out the math of it all. (While much about the design is flexible, certain things have to be measured very precisely, like the angle at which the strings approach the bridge, for example).

So far, I've managed to get the slots for the strap milled. The next step will be to finish designing the top part of the tail-piece where the strings will be attached. Then I'll have to make the decision about how I want it to be shaped. I've already determined it's length and cut it, but I'll have to decide the rest of it before long.

Which reminds me of another design choice already made... My classmates are all making their tail-pieces from ebony, but I decided to use cocobolo to match my face plate (the part where the logo goes). I originally had my logo done in ebony, but I found a beautiful piece of cocobolo, so I had a second one made. That gave me the idea of matching the tail-piece with it. Now I just have to decide what to do about my pick guard, because I could match that, too, if I wanted. I'm leaning toward using ebony for a little contrast, but I haven't decided for sure. We'll just see how it goes.

Onward and upward. Little by little.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bind and Purfle

Gluing the binding and purfling
I guess it's a good sign when I have three blog posts in four weeks. (Well, it's a good sign for me, at least. Those who are compelled to read it may well feel differently). In any event, it's a sign that thing are moving right along. The progress continues at a solid pace, and the only thing I see slowing it down in the near future is the fact that I'll be missing class next week for the Thanksgiving holiday. I had hoped to be at a point that I could take it with me and work on it over vacations, but it looks like that probably won't happen. I'll find out tonight, when I go to class to continue what I started last week.

I made good progress on the binding and purfling last week, managing to get half of the back done. I'll work on the rest tonight and my hope is that I'll finish the rest, but I think it's a long shot. The job isn't particularly difficult, although it's a bit tougher than the job was on my flat top because of the materials. The arch top has maple binding, as opposed to the flat top, which used walnut. The maple is much, much stiffer, so it takes a little extra care to get it to conform to the shape of the guitar without breaking it. So it's necessary to occasionally use the bending iron to adjust the shape as you go. The walnut binding was soft enough that it would conform to the shape without any help. As I said, it's not a particularly difficult job; it just takes a little longer.

But so far it looks great. The first job last week was cutting the miter where the purfling that goes around the top meets the purfling in the end graft so that it makes a clean angle. This requires a very small cut of great precision with no second chance, so it's a bit nerve wracking. Fortunately, the first one went well. We'll see how the rest turn out tonight. Either way, getting the binding and purfling installed will be a big step. Once it's glued, then trimmed and sanded, the box will be essentially finished, except for sanding (which is a very big exception) and installing the bridge and tailpiece. Then it will be on to the neck.

I also had a revelation that gave me hope that I'll be able to finish sooner than I thought I might. I was reminded that the process of lacquering should go much faster on this guitar than it did on the last one. The reason for it is that the process of lacquering the flat top involved spraying a coat of lacquer, allowing it to dry, then sanding it down so that the lacquer residue would fill the porous parts of the rosewood. But since we're using maple, which isn't nearly as porous, the filling is unnecessary. The process on the flat top took more than two months, so I'm hopeful I can save quite a bit of time.

It's always dangerous to predict you're going to save time building a guitar, and experience tells me I'm crazy to even mention it. But a guy can dream, can't he?

Regardless of when I finish, I'm content with my progress at this particular moment in time. So I'll just keep moving on and hoping for the best. But I can't deny that I'm starting to get that feeling. I'm not anywhere close to being finished, but I definitely get the sense I'm now on the downhill side, and that's a very good thing.

To close, here are before and after pictures of the installation of the binding and purfling. In the photo at left you can see two ledges. The one on the inside holds a strip of purfling, which consists of three thinner strips glued together (dark, light, dark). The outside ledge holds the binding, which is made of maple, to which a second strip of purfling is glued. So the result is a strip of binding sandwiched between a strip of purfling on the side and a strip of purfling on the back (or top, as the case may be).
The ledges before installing binding and purfling
After installing binding and purfling

Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Archtop Fun

After routing the dovetail for the neck
If only it could always be like this: I climb the stairs to my class at 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon and I leave three hours later, whistling a happy tune and ticking off a list of accomplishments as I go. Unfortunately, that particular scenario is about as common as a Tea Party/ACLU Unity Picnic, so I suppose I should just be grateful for this shining moment while I can. My short experience in guitar building has already taught me that my euphoria will be short-lived and will soon be replaced by emotions fluctuating between mild enthusiasm, intense impatience, and psychosis brought on by relentless episodes of sanding.

So allow me to revel while I can. Last week might have been one of the better weeks I've had since I first started my class over two years ago. I finished routing the slot for the end-graft; cut and glued the end-graft and the purfling that borders it; routed the dovetail slot where the neck will join the body; and even made some progress cleaning up the binding and purfling edges in preparation for gluing in the binding and purfling next week.

Gluing the end-graft and purfling
I'm predicting at least a month more - if not two - of the fun stuff: gluing in the binding and purfling, working on the neck, and fitting it all together. There should be plenty of variety to keep me interested. At some point we'll enter into uncharted territory, the installation of the bridge and tailpiece, which are radically different from those used on a flat top guitar like the first one I built. Those two components are probably the biggest difference between flat top and arch top guitars except, of course, the fact that one has an arched body and one doesn't. I'll save the exciting details about that for when the time comes. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

In the meantime, I should have more tangible results to report on a regular basis before the inevitable end-game begins. You would think the end-game would be an exciting thing to begin. It means that the guitar is essentially built and you've started the process of finishing up the details. And herein lies the secret to building a good guitar: The building is about 50% of the process and the finishing is the the rest. An experienced guitar builder recently told me that it is impossible to build a good guitar quickly, because it's all in the detail. As with the last guitar, I expect to spend at least two, and more likely three, months lacquering, sanding, and setting up the instrument. It's not pretty but, if it was, I suppose everybody would be doing it. And I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that knows me that my participation in an endeavor that has at it's heart focus, patience, and attention to detail is about as natural as, well... a Tea Party/ACLU Unity Picnic.

So that's my story for the time being. After a very, very long first six months that, frankly, wasn't much fun, I'm really enjoying class again. Ted and I talked it over and came to the conclusion that there was no reason that some of the tasks we're doing now couldn't have been done in the first few months in order to break up the monotony of the carving. But, then again, maybe intense boredom is good for character development. There's always a silver lining, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goodbye Monotony

Routing the binding and purfling ledges
What a difference a month makes! It seems only yesterday that I was complaining about the slow pace of progress and whining about the monotony of eight months of carving. Suddenly, it seems I'm reaching one milestone after another. I have no illusions; it's only temporary. But I'll enjoy it while I can, and the variety of work and my quick progress are making it a lot more fun to go to class.

Since my last post, I finished sanding the edges of the top and back so they're flush with the sides. That allowed me to move on to the next step, which is to rout the ledges for the binding and purfling. In case you forgot from the first go 'round, the purfling is the decorative trim that goes around the body, and the binding (which also serves as a decorative accent) runs parallel to the purfling and binds the components of the instrument together into a unified whole. Amazingly, things dropped perfectly into place at class this week, so, not only did I finish the ledges, but I routed the end graft, as well. (The end graft is a decorative strip of wood inserted at the base of the guitar to cover the place where the two parts of the sides come together).

The binding and purfling ledges
The task of routing the ledges is more nerve-wracking than anything. It's a fairly simple process but, I'm sorry - cutting holes in my guitar makes me a little nervous. Fortunately, everything went fine. The result is two grooves around the outside of the top and identical grooves for the back. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see that the inside groove is shallower. That's the one for the purfling, which consists of three very thin strips of wood glued together. The outside groove is deeper, and that's where the binding will go. When finished, the three strips held in the inside groove will create stripes because they'll alternate maple and mahogany. The binding on the outside will be maple. So, from outside in, you'll see a thick strip of maple, then thin strips of mahogany, maple, and mahogany again, which will contrast with the wood of the body of the guitar, which is spruce on top and maple on the back. It should look great when I'm finished.
Routing the slot for the end graft

Next is to rout the dovetail in the top of the guitar where the neck will be attached. Then I'll likely begin gluing the binding and purfling. Following that, I'll begin work on the neck.

So it looks like I'll be checking off these tasks for at least another month or two. Then it will be back to the sanding and lacquering...and more monotony. But it's getting closer!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And Now We Have A Box

Gluing the label before attaching the top
Well, we're really cruising now. After the months and months of carving (which I've covered thoroughly with substantial amounts of whining), every little step seems like a quantum leap of progress. And, just like my experience with the first guitar I built, finally gluing the box together is a major step. Not only is it an important milestone from the standpoint of the instrument's construction, but it is the moment, for me at least, when it moves from being pieces of wood to being a guitar.

When it comes together, it not only looks like a guitar but, for the first time, one gets a sense of its acoustic properties - it's personality. It will change a lot along the way, but there are certain things about the guitar's sound that reveal themselves right away, for better or worse. And I'm happy to say everything sounds good so far. Since I chose to design my own sound holes, and since they're fairly large, there's some question about how it will affect the sound. My hope is that it will create a guitar that's not so much like a jazz guitar with a fat, round tone, but will be a bit louder and punchier. It won't have as much sustain, but I hope it will compensate with a very textured sound. We'll see how it turns out, but early signs are very good.

Gluing the top
After gluing the top on, I've been working on trimming away the excess wood from the top and back and sanding the sides. I made quite a bit of progress over the past few days since, due to a transportation issue, I brought my box home so I could work on it here. I didn't spend an extraordinary amount of time on it, but probably four or five hours instead of the three I would have spent in class. So now I'm left with only some touch up and some more sanding when I go to class later today.

Trimming sides with a spoke shave
The next step will be one of two things: beginning work on the neck or beginning work on the binding and purfling of the box. It doesn't matter much which comes first, and will probably depend on whether the wood for our necks is in yet. If it is, that's the most likely next step. But, either way, I'm looking forward to getting to it. My experience with the first guitar tells me that I still have a long, long way to go. I'm still looking at somewhere around March or April as the realistic finishing date. But it's hard not to begin to look for that light at the end of the tunnel when the pieces are starting to fall together so quickly. But just wait: I have no doubt there are several major barriers waiting just around the corner.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monotonous Slogs - 112 ; Milestones - 1

At long last I can write a blog post without having to worry that I sound like a whiny fourteen-year old (no offense intended to said teenagers). And the reason for my sunny disposition is that after nearly nine months of seemingly endless carving, I have something to show for it all. And, as is so often the case in guitar building, it just seemed to jump out from nowhere.

Preparing the glue the box
I've become so accustomed to setting dates for milestones only to see them float by over and over that I was really caught off guard when I found myself actually gluing my box together this week. I knew I was getting somewhere close, but I fully expected it to be at least a week, and more likely two or three, before I got to it.

But after getting to class and spending an hour or so sanding the insides of my top and back and touching up this and that, I found myself coming up empty when I tried to think of other things to do before the glue up. This is where Ted normally comes in for inspection and identifies a list as long as my arm of details I need to iron out. But not this time.

So the next thing I knew I was fitting it together, lining things up and then dry-clamping it all. (That's where you clamp it all together, but without the glue. That way you can be sure it's going to fit together perfectly and that there aren't any potential problems). And then, just like that - I was gluing the back to the sides.

This is small difference in flat top and arch top construction. With a flat top, the back and top are glued to the sides simultaneously. In this case, they're glued one at a time. Normally, you would do one part, wait a few minutes, then do the other. And I could have glued the top, too, but it turns out there were a few small advantages in waiting until next week, so that's what I did. One of the small details is that I was so caught off guard that I hadn't even made a label yet. I could have fit it in through the sound hole, but it will be much easier to do it with the top still off.

Gluing the back to the sides
Suddenly, I'm very excited again. I'm looking forward to the next steps, which will undoubtedly be a little more interesting than another month of carving. Once I get it glued, I'll be cutting away the excess wood so that the back and top are flush with the sides, then sanding the whole thing. It won't be the final sanding by a long shot, but just to the rough edge. Then it will be on to the binding a purfling.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I'm Alive!

Carving the inside of the back
I'm just going to come right out and say it: Building an archtop guitar is monotonous. Extremely, painfully, mind-numbingly monotonous. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my guitar making memory I remember talking about how much I loved the carving part of guitar making. That was when my idea of carving involved a few two-hour stints lovingly shaping a guitar neck. My perspective has changed a bit after more than SEVENTY hours of continuous carving.

The sides, almost ready for gluing
Okay, I'll admit that I'm exaggerating. Not about the number of hours, mind you, but about the continuous part. It's true I glued a couple tone bars in and worked on my sides. But the vast majority of my time over the past seven months has been spent carving.

Alas, it seems the monotony may soon come to an end. (If you've read my blog before, you've probably heard that phrase several times). But, with luck, I should be gluing my back and top to the sides within the next few weeks. Once that happens, things should become a little more interesting. And at that point, the process should become somewhat more familiar. There will definitely be differences from the process of building a flat top, but many of the steps will be much more familiar to me. And I'm looking forward to it.

I really don't know what else to say about it all. I love building an arch top. I've learned many new skills and, needless to say, I'm much better at carving than I was before. (Seven months of continuous carving will do that to a person). But I make no bones about it.

I'VE HAD ENOUGH! I'm definitely ready to move on. So I'll leave it at that...unless you want to hear about my blisters.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hello?....Hello?.......Is Anybody There?.....

Laying out the tone bars
I'm relieved to report that my absence from the blogosphere over the past three months didn't cause widespread depression or panic among my readers (hi again, Mom), although I'm sure there were a few tense moments along the way. And I'm ready once again to report on the lastest breathtaking developments in my guitar building adventure.

I didn't make a conscious effort to abandon posting to my blog but, after a while, I began to wonder why I didn't feel compelled to write anything and I eventually came to the conclusion that the reason I did take a hiatus says a lot about the process of building the instrument.

There are, of course, the practical reasons, like the fact that it's hard to find time to build a guitar when you can barely find the time to do all of the other things that come before it. The last three months have been very, very packed, so that certainly played a role. But in the end, I think the real reason for my delay had more to do with the challenges of building an arch top guitar than anything else.

I could probably spout out a very long and boring explanation right now, but I'll spare you the trouble of reading it and try to narrow it down to two issues:

I find the first reason most interesting. I think I mentioned several times how much I love the freedom of carving. It's one part of the process of building a guitar that doesn't require precise measurements and instead relies on feel and intuition to achieve the proper shape and proportion. But the fact is, a flat top guitar like the one I build before requires very little carving. Aside from the carving of the neck and the braces, there isn't much carving to be done. And the carving that is required is fairly focused. In other words, it's not that hard to visualize what a neck should look like and how it should feel.

Carving the back
An arch top, on the other hand, involves very little other than carving. And therein lies the problem: The very thing that makes it exciting - the freedom from structure - is also the thing that makes it difficult. There's the old saying that to make a duck decoy, "you take a chunk of wood and cut away everything that doesn't look like a duck." Well, that's easy when you're carving a duck. But what does an arch top look like? How thick is it? How much arch is there in the top? And I can tell you that when you're carving for two months straight, you have plenty of time to yearn for guidance.

The second reason is much simpler: Let's put it this way: Growing grass is an amazing process. The fact that a blade of grass emerges from the earth and soaks up sun and water and nutrients from the soil to grow into its beautiful, green self is fascinating. But I don't much care to sit around watching it happen. Same goes with arch top building. Building a flat top involves lots of different steps. Carve here, glue there, mitre here, brace there. Arch tops, on the other hand, are carve, carve, carve, carve, carve, at least to the point we've reached now. So there's only so much you can say about it and, as committed as I am to boring you with the minutiae of guitar building, I'm not a sadist.

With that long-winded explanation I'll move on to actually catching up on the progress, which has been substantial in recent weeks.

Measuring the thickness of the top
I've already written about the carving but, since a good part of that process is behind me, I'll write just a bit more: It's a long, long, process and, as I said before, the tough part is getting a feel for the shape, the amount of arch, and the thickness of the top and back. There are a few guides that can be used, but there are no specific measurements or hard and fast rules. Both the inside and outside are carved, though, and different process are used for each. It's not interesting enough to go into in any detail, but I used various types of planes for the most part. In particular, I used some new finger planes of different sizes, each of which was well suited to a particular contour. The top is spruce, which is very soft and easy to carve, whereas the back is maple and extremely hard. Three hours of carving the back and my hands had more than a couple of blisters. When the carving is getting close, getting the right thickness is extremely important. (Here's a place where measurements are needed). You can see in the picture above that I created a chart. I would measure various parts of the wood and write down the measurement so I'd know where to carve. Then it was just a process of continuing the measure and carve until the proper thickness was achieved.

Aside from the carving, most of the time has been spent on small details like gluing in the kerfing, and laying out, shaping, and gluing in the tone bars. The tone bars represent a major difference between the flat top and arch top guitars. Flat tops have intricate bracing systems and multiple tone bars. Since the carved wood of an arch top is much stronger than the flat pieces of a flat top, very little bracing is needed and the tone bars serve primarily to transfer sound throughout the top. Other steps since I last wrote include gluing the head and tail blocks to the sides, then gluing braces into them.

Cutting out the sound holes
But the most exciting development happened at yesterday's class when I cut the sound holes. This is a big deal because it required me to make a major decision about the appearance of my guitar. Most arch top guitars have "f" holes for sound holes (like you would see on a violin or cello), and I originally planned to do it that way. But in the end I decided I wanted to do something different so, after looking at lots of examples, I created my own sound hole design. The important thing is that the volume of the hole is about the same as the "f" holes would be, but an exact size or placement is not critical. It's important to remember that the purpose of the sound holes is not to act as a speaker, as many people assume, but to allow air to flow in and out of the instrument. It is this air flow that pumps the top up and down when the strings are strummed, making the top vibrate and produce sound.

So the holes are now cut and I'm very happy with my design. They still require lots of touch up, but I think they'll turn out well in the end.

The top after cutting the sound holes
I'm anticipating that the next few weeks will be tedious since the final carving and shaping will be done. But it shouldn't be long before it's time to glue it all together, and that's a very exciting part of building any guitar. Once that happens, you suddenly feel as though you're working on a guitar instead of just carving and shaping some old chunks of wood. And I'm about ready for that to happen.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Small Diversion: Luthiery in Cuba

Jorge, who made my instrument, and his compatriots
It's been nearly a month since my last post, in part because my last class didn't provide much in the way of the kind of thrilling lutherial action you've come to expect from my blog. I'd hate to disappoint my readers (aka Mom). But the main reason for my absence is that I just returned from an awe-inspiring trip to Cuba, which was a 50th birthday present from my dear Natalie. I'll try to restrain myself here because I could spend a month writing about the trip. Suffice it say it was the greatest experience I've ever had, bar none. I'll fill you in on the details later. But one part of my trip is a perfect fit here.

In the months before we left I did some research on musical instruments in Cuba because it's always my goal to learn more about the local instruments whenever I go to another country and, if I'm lucky, even buy one. But in the process of researching I quickly learned the most important things about instruments in Cuba. First, Cubans are incredible musicians and everyone, it seems, plays, and plays extraorinarily well. But more importantly, Cubans don't have access to the most basic necessities for musicians, like strings and picks, much less the material and equipment needed to make fine instruments. As a result, I met top line professional musicians whose instruments wouldn't pass muster in an elementary school music class here.

Jorge demonstrating his coal fired bending iron
To make a long story short, I came a cross a group called "Luthiers Without Borders" who make it their business to gather and deliver everything from guitar tops and frets to glue and routers to luthiers in Cuba and elsewhere. So, although I didn't have much time to find out exactly what was needed, I did manage to take some strings, glue, and sandpaper, all of which was received as though I was passing out bags of cash. But the interesting thing is that this process led me inside the world of a Cuban instrument maker, a place I never expected to be.

By the time I got to Cuba I had already made contact with a luthier who had worked with Luthiers Without Borders before. He had helped guide materials to people who needed them and helped coordinate deliveries of equipment and supplies. And, with the help of a very helpful guy named Denny from the Luthiers group, I was able to establish that I was interested in buying an instrument. That was an interesting process in and of itself. I won't go into the details because, again, it's so interesting I could go on and on. But the point is that Cuba is a communist country. Retail sales is not something they're big on, so it's not as though you just drop in "Jose's Guitar World" and pick up a handmade tres.

But I digress. I first met Jorge, the luthier in question, when we met at another person's house to look at the instrument. I was excited, and it sounded great but, honestly, I thought the workmanship was a little sub par.  That is until he took me to his workshop. Holy Toledo.

My Tres
It's beyond me how Jorge could make a cutting board, much less a guitar or tres, under those conditions. They don't have glue. They don't have tape. Their saws look as though they came from the 14th century. They have virtually no power tools and the ones they do have are broken and left idle because they don't have the parts to repair them. It was just amazing to me. But they persist. And although my instrument has a few cosmetic flaws we wouldn't allow, it sounds fantastic and plays great.

I'm hoping to go back soon with some experienced luthiers and more supplies. You could make a lot of musicians very happy with a couple of weeks and some basic materials.

So I'll skip talking about my guitar this week. I have every piece of equipment and the best supplies available. Makes me feel I should work a little bit harder.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On the Road Again

Carving the top
I really enjoyed carving the neck of my first guitar. It might even have been my favorite part of the process. The only caveat is that the very thing that makes it so much fun - the freedom from precise measurements and the chance to be creative in the process - is also the thing that can make it a bit scary. Carve too little and you have a neck that feels like a baseball bat. Carve too much and you have a toothpick or, more likely, a broken neck.

So now that I'm building an archtop, which requires many times more carving than the flat top did, everything is magnified. There's plenty of fun to be had shaping and carving it, but there's also plenty of heartburn over the possibility that one false move could really ruin your day (to put it mildly). And it's surprising to me how little of the guitar's proportions are set in stone. The shape of the instrument is set because we're using a template. But the contour of the top is just a matter of feel. And this is important, since the degree to which the top is arched is very important in the way it will ultimately sound.

Using terraced sections to visualize the arch
From what I've learned, in general, more arch means a deeper, fatter sound, like a typical jazz guitar. Less arch provides more projection and punch and a crisper sound, which is what I'm after. That's a good thing, because I found myself with too little wood to make a deep arch on the top. And it provides a good illustration of the process of learning to build guitars. It's not as hard as you might think to make a very good guitar. Making a very good guitar to exact specifications, on the other hand....Well, that's an entirely different matter. It so happens that I wasn't interested in building a guitar that sounded like a typical jazz instrument with the fat sound. But if I had, I'd be happily altering my expectations right about now. Maybe someday I'll be good enough that that sort of adjustment won't be necessary. Until then, I'm perfectly happy with the approach.

After cutting out the back
With the carving of the top well underway, the time came to do some work on the back. And it appears I got lucky, because Ted and my classmates have been raving about the beauty of the maple for my back. All of our wood came from the same order, but I got the pick of the litter, apparently. And it's beautiful, indeed. The photos don't do it justice, but once it's finished, sanded, and lacquered, it's going to be magnificent.

So I got started with the first steps. First, I planed it flat so that it can be run through a sander to even it out, then I cut out the shape. And that's all the time I had. I'll get back to it next week.

After what feels like a pretty slow few weeks, true to form, it looks as though we'll see some tangible evidence of progress. It looks like we might even be gluing the sides to the end and tail blocks next week. Then the pieces will start going together fairly soon after that. But if you remember anything from my predictions on the first guitar, don't quote me on that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Cutting out the top on the scroll saw
And the process continues as though it never stopped. I'm working on a different guitar now and there are many differences in the process, but the thing that hasn't changed is the feeling I get from working on it. One moment I'm the master luthier perfecting my craft. The next, I'm the idiot that can't even figure out how to turn on a power tool. Guess which description is more accurate! But that's okay. I'm learning.

Even today, I was reminded of one of the things that made me want to do this again. It's the ebb and flow of the process: one moment you have a chunk of wood in your hand and the prospect of a year-long slog in front of you. The next moment you're knee deep in one monotonous task or another that seems as though it might never end. But, then, before you even have a chance to shake yourself from your trance, you find yourself holding a piece of wood with a soft curve, a slope and a contour very much like an archtop guitar - or at least reminiscent of it.

So we're already in the thick of it and we're making good progress. The techniques of building the archtop are definitely different, but I feel much more comfortable with some of the basics, like carving with a chisel, than I was a year ago. And don't get me wrong: there's no possibility of my being mistaken for a master woodworker anytime soon, but now that I know an amateur like me can make a decent guitar, it's a lot less intimidating.

Carving the top
As usual, we've been working on several tasks at once, but in the first three classes of the new session we've covered some important territory. My top and back have been sanded to the proper thickness and glued up, I bent one of my sides tonight, and not only did I cut the top to shape, but I even started carving it. And that's the real news.

I was reminded tonight about how much I enjoyed the carving I did on my other guitar. But since this is an archtop, there will be much, much more of it, and I'm glad about that. Of of the great things about building a guitar is the variety of tasks involved. Some are heavy on details and some aren't. Some require intense focus and others require great creativity. I find carving to be one of the most satisfying parts because there's no formula to guide you. It's all about using your senses and your intuition to guide you to just the right shape, the right weight and, most importantly, the perfect sound.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chapter Two: The Archtop

Gluing the Sitka Spruce top
Well, here we are again. I'm not sure who is the bigger glutton for punishment here: me for building another guitar or you for continuing to read my blog. But here we are, so I might as well get on with it.

This project has been brewing for quite a while now, since sometime last year when I and several classmates decided to build an archtop. Actually, we first decided it would be a good idea to build a mandolin and we were very excited about that. I couldn't wait. I figured it would be a good motivation to learn to play more than a few chords badly and, besides, I would never be able to afford to buy a good mandolin, so here was my chance. Then someone said, "you know, there's really not much difference between a mandolin and an archtop guitar." Well, that was the end of that. It was then that we decided that a couple of us would make mandolins and a couple would make archtop guitars since, as Ted pointed out, the process is very much the same. So my class from last year is intact, and we've added a couple of people, Will and Rob. More on them later.

So for those avid readers of my blog who aren't familiar with guitar types, two of the most prominent are flat tops and archtops. Flat tops are the most common these days, and include dreadnoughts like the one I just finished making, but also classical guitars, and many other shapes and sizes. The main thing of course, is that the top of the instrument is flat. (Or, as you may recall from one of my first posts, almost flat, since there's actually a slight radius on it). An archtop, on the other hand has - you guessed it - an arched top, which is made by actually carving an arched shape out of a fairly thick piece of wood as opposed to simply using a relatively thin, flat piece as you would with a flat top.

Some would say archtops are much more difficult to make (and the prices you pay for good archtops, which often get well over $10,000 for even a decent professional model, bear that out), but others would differ with that opinion. In any event, the process is very different.

In the end, the main difference between flat tops and archtops aside from their construction is the way they're used. To make a big generalization, these days flat tops are generally used for bluegrass, country, folk, rock - most popular music, in fact. On the other hand, most jazz players use archtops and a jazz club is where you will most often find them, although they're also used by blues players and many others. It's certainly not uncommon to find one in a rock band. There's much more history to it, of course.

So we have two classes under our belts now and we've made good progress already. Our tops have been planed to the proper thickness and the two book-matched parts glued together; the backs have been chosen; and several other preparatory steps are behind us. We'll be bending sides in the next week or two, so we're moving right along.

I'm excited about the wood and some special plans for my new guitar, but I'll save that one for next time. Until then...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Flat Top: Epilogue

I sat down to write this post at least five or six times over the past few months, but I'm glad I didn't. I don't recall which would have been the high points or the low ones on the roller coaster of joy and sorrow, but I'm certain that I've finally achieved the proper balance, or at least as close to that point as I'm likely to get anytime soon.

And since, as you'll soon learn, I'm about to subject you to another dozen months or so of my lutherial blather (no, it's not a word, but I don't care), I'll try to give you the short version of the story.

The first point I'd like to make is one pertaining to the process of making a guitar: That is that on the day I called my guitar finished (November 22, 2011), I was definitely not finished.  In retrospect I realize that everyone who has ever built a guitar knows this. It boils down to the simple reality that the wood in a recently completed guitar is still coming to terms with what it has become. It takes a little time to get used to the notion. As a result, it moves and swells and contorts in all kinds of crazy ways, which makes adjusting it a bear. On top of that, as many years as I've been playing the guitar I had no idea how important the setup of the instrument was. I didn't realize that a small adjustment of the bridge here and a minute adjustment of the neck there can change the guitar from an absolute dud to a masterpiece....and, unfortunately, vice versa.

Suffice it to say I experienced several rounds of both. And I won't go into how frustrating that was. Just know that it would take me a while to find the words to describe it.

And then, of course, just when it's perfect, the unthinkable happens. Your bridge begins to come off. It's not fun. It's very, very depressing. First you can deny it. Then you can convince yourself it's just going to come up a little and it can be glued back down. Finally you admit what should have been obvious. It's coming up and there's nothing to stop it.

But then a very funny thing happened. I quickly realized that I, John Harris, built a guitar. If I can build a guitar, how difficult can it be to make what is basically a pretty simple repair? So I did. With a little advice from Ted, I heated it up so the glue would soften, then used a kitchen spatula to carefully work it off of the top. Then I cleaned it up, made some slight adjustments to its shape, and glued that sucker back on. The whole process took a couple of hours. And now it's good as new. Relief!

That was a few days before New Years, so I've been living with it for almost a month now, and with a little time to get away from it all, here's what I have to say about my guitar, using as much objectivity as I can muster: I love my guitar. I love playing my guitar and I can honestly say it would serve me extremely well if it was the only guitar I could ever play again. Is it the best guitar I've ever played? No, it's not. Does it have the potential to be? Well, I think that would be a real stretch, but knowing what I know now, I do believe it can be better. There are more adjustments required and, as most people know, almost all guitars improve dramatically in the first years after they're built. So the bottom line is that I built a guitar that is far better than I ever could have imagined. It's not perfect, but it's good enough that I feel compelled to do it again.

So, with that, I end the first chapter of my guitar building adventure and begin the second. See you in chapter two!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

That's All She Wrote

Finished on November 22, 2011
It figures. Since I started working on my guitar over a year ago it's been like this. One day everything falls into place so perfectly that it's hard to imagine that anything could stand in the way of finishing the perfect guitar in record time. A week later it feels as though significant progress is a thing of the past and the rest of the process will be nothing but a miserable slog.

I'm very happy to say that yesterday was the former. After struggling mightily with my setup for the past week, I walked into class yesterday praying I could get to at least a reasonably good place with my guitar before Natalie and I left for Birmingham for Thanksgiving. All I wanted was to be able to take it along and feel it was getting closer to being finished. But I was in class for only a half hour before I realized it: Today was the day. Not only was I going to be finished, but I was going to leave class with a real guitar - not just one that I would be proud of because I built it, but an honest to goodness excellent instrument. And by the time I left, no qualifications were required. There would be no more "little by little" or "almost there." The setup is fantastic. The pick guard, strap button,  and end pin are installed. It's buffed to a shine bright enough to see your reflection.

Yesterday was the last class and I'm done.

I said in my last post that my impatience served me well this past week, and it's really true. I beat my head against a wall trying to figure the complicated set up process, but I got closer and closer. Enough so that every buzzing sound, every muffled note, and every out of tune chord was eliminated with just a few small suggestions from Ted. Most of the problems were solved by a few strokes of a file on the back side of the string slots in the nut. It took five minutes at most. And with a few more suggestions and the encouragement to lower the action (the distance between the strings and the neck) even more, I had it playing like a dream.

After coming home last night, I restrung it with good strings and played for quite a while. And I really couldn't believe it. This guitar is not a week old and the sound is incredible. Without a doubt, I'm biased. And I'm sure my judgement is clouded, but I was able to convince myself last night of this: I own six other guitars, three worth thousands of dollars each, and mine is not the least of them. Any guitar takes time to open up, and I won't even begin to know what it will sound like when it's mature for at least a year. But, according to Ted, there will be noticeable improvements in the sound even in the next week as the wood stabilizes and stretches out.

I've begun to wonder if the guitar I built won't wind up being one of the best I own. Like I said, I'm biased, and I know my opinion lacks objectivity. But that I'm even asking the question is absolutely amazing to me.

So that's it for now. I'll play my guitar for a couple of months, then I'll start it all again in January.

For the record:
Date started: September 7, 2010
Date completed: November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

FINISHED! (Sort of).

The Harris D-8
After more than fourteen months of Tuesday classes and weeks of agonizing anticipation, the day finally came. The slots for the bridge pins had been carefully placed, the frets leveled and polished, and the time had come to string it up. It took longer than I expected, but before long I was tuning up that last string.

The big moment had arrived. Time for the first beautiful notes from my new guitar, and......THUD! It sounded like crap. Not just a little like crap, but a LOT like crap. It buzzed, it was nearly impossible to play, and it was out of tune. And that's the GOOD part.

I have to confess I wasn't prepared for it. I was prepared for not finishing in time to string it up. I was prepared for the likelihood that adjustments would be necessary. I was not prepared to be playing what was quite possibly the worst guitar I had ever strummed. Once again, I was being asked to exhibit a quality that I possess in quantities too small to measure: patience.


But I'm getting there little by little, and I may have learned as much about guitars since I "finished" it than I did while I was building it. I've learned volumes about how the sound of a guitar is affected by minute adjustments in the bridge, the nut, and even the slots in the bridge where the strings are attached. I now have a new appreciation for the "set-up" technician, and I now know not to judge a guitar by how poorly it plays and feels without first checking all of those minor details.

I've made huge leaps in my knowledge of how to resolve those issues. It is not simple, I can tell you that. And truth be told, I think my lack of patience may have served me well in this case. Since I couldn't stand the thought of waiting to get Ted's help next Tuesday I learned by trial and error. I knew that the worst case scenario was that I would screw up my nut or saddle, either of which would cost a couple of bucks and a few hours at most. So I now know lots and lots about how NOT to set up a guitar and much more than I did last week about how TO set up a guitar.

So I'm feeling very, very good about it now. I actually spent more than an hour last night playing a guitar I built myself and while I was playing, I forgot the fact that I built it more than once. I take that as a huge victory. It still needs lots and lots of work. It isn't anywhere close to playing and sounding the way I want it to. But I'm finally ready to say it: I think it's going to be a really, really good guitar. The quality and balance of the sound is fantastic. It has excellent volume and projection. And those things will only get better as it opens up, which will take months and years.

With luck, this coming Tuesday will be the last class I need to clean up the rest of the details. I may need to continue tweaking for a few weeks, but anything other than tweaks should be behind me. Then I'll take a break and play my guitar until January. Then it's time for round two - the archtop.

By the way, most every guitar has a model number, so I decided to call mine the Harris D-8. As with most guitars, the letter refers to the body style (in this case, a Dreadnought). The number usually refers to the degree of fanciness of the inlay and binding. But I decided to number mine after Joe Morgan, second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds during their "Big Red Machine" heyday in the 70s, when Little Joe was my hero. I wore his number on my little league uniform. I always loved Joe Morgan because he was little, but he was still powerful and quick on his feet. That's what I want my guitar to be like.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Close, But No Cigar

So close and yet so far. Agonizingly, tantalizingly, close. But everything has a time, and today was not the day.

I went to a Saturday class today to try to get closer to finishing, and I had it in the back of my mind that I might actually get to string it up today. And it turns out that I came much closer than I thought I would. As a matter of fact, I could have done it if I had stayed another hour. But after almost four hours I was starving and starting to make mistakes. And the last thing I wanted was to get that close and screw it up.

But I made great progress today. I got the rest of my frets laid and the tuners attached, made some progress on the nut and saddle, and even did the final sanding on the top. So there's no doubt about it. I'll be playing that guitar on Tuesday. Those small remaining details will probably keep me busy for a week or two, but that's it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Down To The Wire (Literally)

13 more frets. 6 tuners. 6 strings.

Preparing the frets
That's all that is standing between me and a guitar I can play. And the moment of truth is nearly at hand because, barring some unforeseen catastrophe, I'll be putting strings on it in my next class. What happens after that is a mystery but, with luck, I'll be spending more time playing it than I am adjusting it. But only time will tell.

Last night's class was a very productive one. The first big task was to level the fretboard and to clean up the binding that runs along its edge. It was mildly monotonous, but after six straight weeks of sanding it was a breeze. And the sanding requires a little special care, since the fretboard is radiused (meaning it has a slight arc from one side to the other rather than being flat). After finishing the sanding and cleaning out the fret slots, it was time to move on to the frets.

Fretting a guitar is an especially interesting process. Even after 40 years of playing the guitar, I really had no idea how a fret is attached or even what the whole thing looks like. It turns out it's a pretty complicated little piece of wire. It's basically a "t" shaped piece of wire with a rounded top. The rounded part is the part you see when you look at a guitar and the "t" is the part that is inserted into the slot on the fretboard. The "t" part has barbs running along its length so that it grabs the wood when it's hammered in.

Magnified close up of a fret
But it's not that simple. The fret extends from the fretboard to the edge of the binding, so a small portion of the "t" needs to be cut away from the rounded top part at each end. This requires a special tool and lots of precision. In addition to that, the fretboard gets slightly wider as it goes toward the body, so each fret is slightly longer, meaning each one has to be measured individually, and then carefully clipped before hammering in. As is almost always the case with guitar building, it's the preparation that takes most of the time. When it comes time to actually hammer the frets in, it goes pretty quickly. I could have easily finished in 20 minutes or so, but it was already 10 minutes past the end of class time so I had to save it for later. I should be able to finish that quickly in the next class. Then I'll just need to level the frets and file the ends down.

Then it's just a matter of attaching the tuners. The difficult part has already been done, which is preparing the holes in the head stock. Now that that job is behind us, it's simply a matter of fitting the tuner parts into the head stock.

The Collings and the Harris getting acquainted
I will then have a guitar. A few cosmetic details will remain, like the pick guard, truss rod cover, and strap button, but it will be ready to play without those things. Then it's just a matter of adjusting.

So the word has been delivered from upon high: We WILL be stringing up guitars next week.

I brought my guitar home this week, not because I'm going to do any work on it here, but because I can. And I have it hanging up in my music room right next to my Collings and it looks like it belongs there. By the way, the color of my guitar is about the same as my Collings (on the left) was when I bought it ten years ago. The wood will darken gradually, although my new guitar has an Adirondack Spruce top as opposed to a Sitka Spruce top, so it will be a little redder in color when it ages.

So, to sum it all up: Wow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Final Weeks

Masking before gluing the bridge
Well, it was almost two months ago that I proclaimed, "the end is nigh!" I'm not sure of the precise definition of the word "nigh" but I'll admit that it probably refers to a period of time shorter than two months, so one should always maintain a healthy skepticism when I make such statements. Having said that, I am almost finished!

Last night I did a little bit of touch-up sanding on the top, but spent most of my time gluing the bridge on the guitar. And, as is the case with many parts of the process, it's substantially more complicated that you might think. For one thing, the placement of the bridge is absolutely crucial, so great care and many, many measurements are taken to ensure its precise location. If it's out of place, nothing can be done. It won't play properly and, worst of all, it won't ever be in tune. So I spent a good bit of time working with Ted to make sure it was perfectly set before moving on.

After setting the location, holes for the strings need to be drilled. It's a fairly simple process so I won't go into detail. The small holes I drilled yesterday will eventually be bored out to their full size so that the bridge pins fit into them, but the purpose now is to establish the proper placement of the holes.

Scraping off lacquer before gluing the bridge
The next step is to mask the area where the bridge will be placed with tape and to then trace the shape and location of the bridge. The tape in that area is then cut and removed so that the lacquer in just that area can be scraped away, leaving a wood surface to which the bridge can be glued. And after countless layers of lacquer, it's not as easy as it sounds. Then the bridge is glued and clamped.

By the way, if you're interested in milestones, I'm pretty certain that's the last glue I'll use on my guitar. I might be missing something, but I think it is.

So I am really running out of tasks. The biggie is the frets, although I've been told that's a job that can be easily completed in one class. The tuners need to be attached, but the holes are already ready, so that's simply a matter of drilling two small holes for each tuner and screwing them in. The nut (the piece of material that holds the strings as they pass from the headstock to the neck) needs a little work on the slots. The pick guard needs to be attached, which should take a good five minutes. And then comes the stringing and adjusting.

Clamping the bridge after gluing
It looks like the odds are very good I'll be bringing my guitar home on the 15th or 22nd. It might even have a few small things left, but they should be things that can be done out of the shop. So two or three more weeks looks most likely. Maybe four, but I doubt it.

And another sign that we're almost finished: My class (with two additions) huddled last night to plan the purchase of wood for our arch top guitars, which we will start building on Tuesday, January 24th.

You must be relieved to know you get another 14 months of my blog. Lucky you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Could Sand Some More (But Maybe I'll Just Eat Glass Instead)

The box after buffing
I found it hard to believe, so I went back to my photo album to confirm it. I started lacquering and sanding on August 30, 2011. Today is October 25, 2011 and, at long last, the deed is done. It's true that we took two weeks off to let the lacquer cure, and I think I worked on a few other small things here and there. But there is no disputing the fact that the vast majority of my last six classes were spent sanding. That's 18 hours. 18 hours of mind-numbing boredom (as opposed to the other kind of boredom, which is exhilarating).

But as is true with many things in life, with great suffering comes a great reward. And the 20 minutes or so it took to buff that guitar to an incredibly beautiful shine made it all seem worthwhile. It's amazing.

Now that the sanding is complete, it's warp speed again. It was only minutes after finishing the buffing that I was gluing the neck on my guitar. Let me repeat that: I was gluing the neck on my guitar. Lest the significance of that step be lost, I'll just point out that the next time the neck comes off that guitar will be when it's being reset and, with any luck, that won't be for a couple of decades. So there is no longer a box and a neck. There is only a guitar.

Our class's speculation on the date of completion is becoming more finely tuned. The general consensus now is that it will be before Thanksgiving, although it's not guaranteed. And if all goes well, it could even be a week before that. All that's left is cutting and hammering in the frets, attaching the bridge and tuners, and then stringing it up.  And the most convincing piece of evidence of all: Ted said that I probably won't need strings next week, but I should bring a couple of sets just in case.

Gluing the neck 


So here's what needs to happen for me to have a guitar that I built myself: 1) I need to stay away from heart attacks, rabid dogs, and lightning bolts for a month or so. 2) I need to refrain from doing something horrible like dropping my guitar on the floor; and 3).......uh....ummm.... There is no 3.

That number 2 is the big fear (and don't discount it - I've seen it twice in the last year). So keep your fingers crossed and I'll try to keep a tight grip.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yes, I am a patient man. Yes, I am a patient man. Yes, I am a patient man.

A picture of our yurt, since a picture of sandpaper is boring
Would you believe me if I told you I could tell the difference in grades of sandpaper by looking at it? Well, I ought to be able to, as much time as I've spent with it lately. So I'll admit I've had about all the enlightened self-reflection I can handle. Sanding does that to a person. I'm done. Finished. Had enough.

But there's more to come.

We're taking a couple of weeks off for the first time since class started. We're at the point now that the guitar needs to sit and cure for a while before doing the final sanding. And I know you've heard me say this about a dozen times, but it appears that the final countdown is coming closer and closer. The next time we get together the goal is to glue the necks on by the end of class. Then it's frets, bridges, tuners, and setup. By all accounts, we should finish by early November. But we'll see...

So there's not much else to say. It's gets prettier every week. The sanding really pays off (very, very, very slowly). I am a patient man. Yes, I am a patient man. Yes, I am a patient man.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

After sanding, before another coat of lacquer
I was right about one thing: There aren't many things left to do to my guitar. What I failed to fully appreciate is the length of time those things would take. So I trudge, trudge, trudge along. And when you see my guitar, I hope you'll pay special attention to its lovely lacquer finish, because I can tell you it doesn't come easily.

I've done little but lacquer and sand, lacquer and sand, lacquer and sand for the past month, and it will continue for several more. It's to the point now that we don't have enough to do to fill the full three hour class, and we're even planning to skip a class or two to give the lacquer a chance to fully cure before applying the next coat. So in an effort to end my habit of making wild miscalculations about when I'll be finished, I initiated a debate on the issue at our last class. The consensus (with the blessing of my teacher, Ted) is for the last week of October or the first week of November. Or at least that's when the building of the instrument will be finished. The set-up of the instrument is anybody's guess. I've seen it myself over the last year as students with finished guitars come back to work on their set-up. For some, it's ready to go right away and for others it's weeks or months of adjustments to get it right. So we'll see.

Taping the fretboard before lacquering
But let me be clear about my work lately: There is nothing fun, interesting, or rewarding about this very, very long part of the process. It's the same every week. End the class by spraying a new heavy coat of lacquer on the box. Come back the next week and spend more than 2 hours wet sanding (spraying it with mineral spirits and sanding with very find sandpaper). The purpose of this mind numbing labor is to fill all of the wood's pores, leaving a glass-like finish. And I wasn't kidding when I said it before: it comes at no small price. It's not an exaggeration to say that when all is said and done, nearly 10% of the time building the guitar will have been spent on lacquering and sanding the lacquer. It's an incredibly tedious job, and one that has few immediate rewards, but it looks more beautiful with each passing week. If the tedium ever ends, it will be a beautiful thing to behold.

So it's down to finishing lacquering and buffing, attaching the neck, mounting the bridge, attaching the tuners, and setting it up. With luck, six weeks will do it.

But don't quote me on that.