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.