Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuning the Top

I missed two classes since my last post, but I returned to find I wasn't as far behind as I feared. My classmates are definitely ahead of me, but there's some comfort in at least having an excuse for it now. And I made quite a bit of progress yesterday, so I feel pretty good about things. The excitement of getting closer and closer to putting the box together keeps building and even though I still have a long way to go, the progress every week is tangible, and as difficult as it is for me to believe, it's getting hard to see how I could wind up with something other than a really nice guitar.

Right now I'm working on tuning the top, which is a crucial part of coming up with a good
sounding instrument. Little by little, I'm carving away the excess wood on the top braces. I still have quite a bit of carving to do, but I'm at the point now that I need to stop occasionally, hold the top to my ear and tap it to see how the wood vibrates. Already I can tell a difference each time I remove more of the wood, and the sound gets clearer and sustains longer the more I carve. The goal is to continue to remove excess parts of the wood braces until get just the sound I want.

I really love this part of the process, because it's
the part that makes the difference between a hand made instrument and one produced in a factory. Each step of the way is a decision based on feel. There is no equation, no set of defined steps and no finish line. Just a process of carving, tapping, carving some more and waiting until you feel the sound is just what you want.

I'll probably be working on this step for a couple of more weeks, but I'm just going to take my time with it. A few years from now I'll sit in my living room playing this guitar, and the work I'm doing on it right now will play a big role in determining how big a smile I'll have on my face.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Details, Details

It's been six weeks since my last post and I think I've made quite a bit of progress, even if I don't have much tangible evidence of it. I've been working mostly on bracing the top and back and starting to tune the braces. That's the process of whittling away the braces so that they're strong enough to hold the guitar together, but light enough to allow it to vibrate as freely as possible. I've gotten just to the point that I'll be making the final adjustments to the back next week, and I've already started fitting the back to the sides. It's amazing to think that in just a few weeks I'll be putting the top, back and sides together.

Bracing the top is a very interesting part of it all. You can see in the pictures of the top that there is a main "x" brace, which is surrounded by other smaller braces that go off in seemingly random directions. But the braces are very carefully placed to help transmit sound through the top of the guitar. They're designed to give the proper balance of bass and treble response, and although the layout is pretty standard, the precise layout is as much a matter of feel as anything else.

You may not see it in the pictures, but the braces are all linked together with notches, then glued, which explains why the process takes so long. It seems simple, but there is actually quite a bit of detail work involved in fitting them together and gluing them.

My final step this week was to begin to cut notches in the kerfing on the sides, so that the brace ramps can be fit into them, locking them in place once the back is attached. You can see the brace ramps in the picture at the top of this post. Their purpose (in addition to reducing the weight of the brace) is to fit into the notches in the kerfing. You can see the kerfing in pictures from the last post. I cut the notches this week and have begun doing the last bit of shaping of the ramps so that they'll fit into the notches, which will allow the back to fit on the sides properly. Pictures of that and more next week!