Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Drum Is Here

You might remember my guitar building motto: "If nothing else, it will have six strings and make a good drum." Well, I'm happy to report that I'm now officially halfway to that goal. No strings yet, since I have nothing to attach them to, but I have what I think is a very nice drum. It sounds great, and it's starting to look pretty good, too, if I do say so myself.

I have to admit it's a big moment in the process and it feels wonderful. But the best part is to move from cutting, carving and shaping chunks of wood to working with a guitar. It's an entirely different feeling and, without overstating it, it seems profound somehow.

Getting to this point over the past few weeks was filled with details, but an enjoyable process, nonetheless. After getting the top and back tuned just right, most of the rest of the time was spent fitting the top and back to the ribs. The top and back braces fit into notches in the kerfing, so making sure they all fit tightly is very important and requires a lot of patience. After fitting it all together, I clamped it to simulate gluing it and dropped a light inside to check for gaps - and there were many. So it took time to fit and shape and make corrections until it was ready to glue. The gluing process itself if as simple as can be. Once it's fit together, apply the glue and clamp it like crazy. That's all there is to it.

The last step I took this week was to cut away the excess top and back (they extend up to a couple of inches over the edge of the ribs) and to then sand it all down. I still have some detail sanding to finish next week, but then we'll begin the process of applying the binding around the edge of the guitar. The edge of the top will be routed and wood binding will be installed as both a construction and decorative feature. I chose walnut binding (as opposed to maple, rosewood, or ivoroid), so I hope it provides a nice contrast to the spruce top and rosewood sides. From what I understand, the binding process is time consuming and somewhat difficult, so I should be focused on that step for a while. After that, it's on to the neck!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trudge trudge trudge

Carve, carve, whittle, whittle, sand, sand. Tap. Carve, carve, whittle, whittle, sand, sand. Tap.

That's what my Tuesday nights have consisted of for all of the past two weeks and part of the third. So by my estimation that's 8 straight hours of carve, carve, whittle, whittle, sand, sand. Tap. But I'm not complaining. You, on the other hand, are probably tired of hearing about it. But, alas, the end is in sight!

The top is really getting there. All that carving has resulted in a top that rings like a bell when you tap it and with a few minor adjustments it will be ready to add the transverse and sound hole braces. Those are a few braces to strengthen the upper part of the top, but not much vibration happens in that part of the guitar, so it's really just a matter of gluing the braces in and carving them down a little to reduce their weight. At that point, I'll be very, very close to putting the box together. It's hard to say for sure, but that will almost certainly happen within the next three weeks, if not two. Not that I'm rushing it or anything.

And even though my tasks have been pretty tedious lately, I got a great jolt of satisfaction when my face plate arrived last week. I think I explained earlier that the inlaying of the face plate is one step we decided to farm out. We could have done it ourselves, but it's time consuming and difficult and since the guy that did mine also does work for Gibson guitars, I figure it's good enough for me. I created the design myself and I think it turned out really well. (In case you're wondering, the pear is in honor of my father who was an artist. The pear was his symbol). When the time comes, the piece of wood you see above will be cut to the shape of the guitar's headstock and glued on.

And I think I say this in every post, but you just wouldn't believe how exciting it is to know that in a few months - unless a catastrophe happens - I'll have a guitar I built myself. That's just amazing to me. And I get a little extra motivation every week or two when a past student comes in with their instrument and I can confirm again that these are not just guitars made by amateur luthiers, but they're honest to goodness fine guitars. Unbelievable.