Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Step By Step

It's been quite a while since my last post, for a few reasons - but mostly because I hadn't made enough progress to write about. One class was canceled, and the last few classes have been spent preparing for the work we're doing now. One thing is certain: it takes a certain amount of patience to build a guitar in only 3 hours a week. Seems I just begin to make some progress when it's time to go home. But step by step, progress is being made, and we're starting to get to the point that some of these pieces of wood I'm messing around with are beginning to look a little bit like a guitar.

In my last post, I was excited to write about the rosette I was working on. Unfortunately, that's been my biggest problem since then. You can see in the pictures from my last post that the center ring looks pretty good. But despite my best efforts (and about 4 1/2 hours of beating my head against a wall) I haven't been able to finish the outer and inner rings. The problem is that we were working with a new type of binding that just didn't work in the end. So we've ordered the old kind and I hope be able to finish that pretty quickly next week.

But I'm happy to say I managed to make some good progress in other areas in my class last week. The most exciting is that I bent my first side. That's a process that's always fascinated me and, in the end, I'm just amazed at how easy and simple it is.

I should first explain that we made the decision to use laminated sides. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but many guitar makers now believe that using laminated sides adds strength to the instrument without taking away from the sound quality. So instead of having one piece of rosewood about 90 thousands of an inch thick, my sides will be made of a piece of rosewood about 45 thousandths of an inch with two pieces of mahogany around 20 thousandths each layered inside.
The step you see pictured here is the bending of the rosewood piece. I had always assumed that this step was a difficult and dangerous process that took great skill and many hours. In reality, it was pretty easy and, while we let it sit for a couple of hours, it really only took about 10 minutes to do the bending.

The process is pretty straightforward: you wet the piece of wood and wrap it in tinfoil. Then you heat two rubber mats that have heating elements inside. You place the wood between the mats, cover it with a thin piece of metal, and
insert it over the form. Then you slowly clamp the center of the wood, and gradually pull the spring clamps over the ends until it's the proper shape. And that's about all there is to it. A couple of hours later, and my side was perfectly shaped. Next week, I'll bend the other side and apply the laminate to the inside, which is a pretty easy process.

I also made good progress on gluing the braces for the back of the guitar, but my readers can only take so much excitement in one post, so I'll save that for my next entry.

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