Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bridges, Plates, Stocks, and Dots

My bridge after the final shaping
Where to begin?!...It's been a busy couple of weeks, and we've made lots of progress. It feels as though we spent a month doing a little of this and a little of that and now, suddenly, all these little parts and pieces are  being put together in the shape of a guitar. And that very faint light at the end of the tunnel I talked about in my last post is getting a lot brighter in a big hurry. It's hard to say exactly when I'll be done because some factors are just too difficult to predict, but I'd say it's a good bet that you'll still be able to find a good homegrown tomato when I play it for the first time.

There are just so many parts of the project to talk about that even those of you who read this blog regularly (and are therefore obviously genetically predisposed to tolerating intense boredom) might nod off into your soup if I went into all of it. So I'll just give the thrilling highlights.

We haven't progressed much further on carving the neck, but we've made enough progress there that the rest of the work should go quickly. But we have made some important progress on other parts of the neck, including gluing the face plate onto the headstock. (As a reminder, the face plate is the part where the name of the instrument goes). The face plate is attached to the headstock and eventually the tuners will be attached there.

Attaching the face plate
The process is pretty straightforward. The face plate is a large rectangular piece of wood much larger than it will be when it's finished. So after sanding it to the proper thickness, the required length is calculated by measuring the end of the fretboard, then cut to the proper size. It's necessary to sand the end of the piece of wood at a 15 degree angle so that it will conform to the shape of the neck where it meets the head stock when it's glued. (You'll notice that a guitar's headstock is angled back about 15 degrees from the plane of the neck).

Then comes the fun part. Since we're not going to have a headstock that's 6 inches wide, it's time to decide what shape the headstock will be. And I have to say this was (and still is) a tough decision for me. There are lots of options, and if you've looked at many guitars you've probably seen a good number of them. In the end, I narrowed it down to a design similar to a Martin headstock, which is a very simple rectangular shape, and one designed by my teacher, Ted, which is quite a bit wider and has an arc on the top. I decided to go with Ted's, but I must confess I'm not sure I'm going to stick with it. I've already drawn the shape on the face plate and glued the face plate to the headstock, but it hasn't been cut yet. So I may yet change my mind. That's a decision for next week, I guess.

After gluing the dots
The other fun parts were drilling the holes for the fretboard dots and gluing them in and finishing the shaping of my bridge, both of which also required some artistic decisions. I'm happy with my choice on the dots, which is a little unusual, since I used much smaller dots than most people, but I think it's a good choice. I couldn't decide between the traditional setup, which is regular sized dots laid out in the traditional way, and no dots at all, which is like my Collings. I think my choice is a good middle ground and I'm very happy with the way it turned out.

The bridge turned out well, too, although I found a small little problem in the end. I was very happy with the shape when I finished  it until I realized that one side was shaped slightly different than the other. It's not glaringly obvious, but it's easy to see once it's brought to your attention. But then I thought about what my dear old Dad would have told me. First, he would have cautioned that trying to continue working on getting both sides perfect could very possibly wind up in "chasing it" as they say, and ruining what is good about it. And, besides, as he would have said, "that's how you know it's hand made." And if it's good enough for Pop, it's good enough for me.

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