Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Goodbye Monotony

Routing the binding and purfling ledges
What a difference a month makes! It seems only yesterday that I was complaining about the slow pace of progress and whining about the monotony of eight months of carving. Suddenly, it seems I'm reaching one milestone after another. I have no illusions; it's only temporary. But I'll enjoy it while I can, and the variety of work and my quick progress are making it a lot more fun to go to class.

Since my last post, I finished sanding the edges of the top and back so they're flush with the sides. That allowed me to move on to the next step, which is to rout the ledges for the binding and purfling. In case you forgot from the first go 'round, the purfling is the decorative trim that goes around the body, and the binding (which also serves as a decorative accent) runs parallel to the purfling and binds the components of the instrument together into a unified whole. Amazingly, things dropped perfectly into place at class this week, so, not only did I finish the ledges, but I routed the end graft, as well. (The end graft is a decorative strip of wood inserted at the base of the guitar to cover the place where the two parts of the sides come together).

The binding and purfling ledges
The task of routing the ledges is more nerve-wracking than anything. It's a fairly simple process but, I'm sorry - cutting holes in my guitar makes me a little nervous. Fortunately, everything went fine. The result is two grooves around the outside of the top and identical grooves for the back. If you look carefully at the photo, you can see that the inside groove is shallower. That's the one for the purfling, which consists of three very thin strips of wood glued together. The outside groove is deeper, and that's where the binding will go. When finished, the three strips held in the inside groove will create stripes because they'll alternate maple and mahogany. The binding on the outside will be maple. So, from outside in, you'll see a thick strip of maple, then thin strips of mahogany, maple, and mahogany again, which will contrast with the wood of the body of the guitar, which is spruce on top and maple on the back. It should look great when I'm finished.
Routing the slot for the end graft

Next is to rout the dovetail in the top of the guitar where the neck will be attached. Then I'll likely begin gluing the binding and purfling. Following that, I'll begin work on the neck.

So it looks like I'll be checking off these tasks for at least another month or two. Then it will be back to the sanding and lacquering...and more monotony. But it's getting closer!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And Now We Have A Box

Gluing the label before attaching the top
Well, we're really cruising now. After the months and months of carving (which I've covered thoroughly with substantial amounts of whining), every little step seems like a quantum leap of progress. And, just like my experience with the first guitar I built, finally gluing the box together is a major step. Not only is it an important milestone from the standpoint of the instrument's construction, but it is the moment, for me at least, when it moves from being pieces of wood to being a guitar.

When it comes together, it not only looks like a guitar but, for the first time, one gets a sense of its acoustic properties - it's personality. It will change a lot along the way, but there are certain things about the guitar's sound that reveal themselves right away, for better or worse. And I'm happy to say everything sounds good so far. Since I chose to design my own sound holes, and since they're fairly large, there's some question about how it will affect the sound. My hope is that it will create a guitar that's not so much like a jazz guitar with a fat, round tone, but will be a bit louder and punchier. It won't have as much sustain, but I hope it will compensate with a very textured sound. We'll see how it turns out, but early signs are very good.

Gluing the top
After gluing the top on, I've been working on trimming away the excess wood from the top and back and sanding the sides. I made quite a bit of progress over the past few days since, due to a transportation issue, I brought my box home so I could work on it here. I didn't spend an extraordinary amount of time on it, but probably four or five hours instead of the three I would have spent in class. So now I'm left with only some touch up and some more sanding when I go to class later today.

Trimming sides with a spoke shave
The next step will be one of two things: beginning work on the neck or beginning work on the binding and purfling of the box. It doesn't matter much which comes first, and will probably depend on whether the wood for our necks is in yet. If it is, that's the most likely next step. But, either way, I'm looking forward to getting to it. My experience with the first guitar tells me that I still have a long, long way to go. I'm still looking at somewhere around March or April as the realistic finishing date. But it's hard not to begin to look for that light at the end of the tunnel when the pieces are starting to fall together so quickly. But just wait: I have no doubt there are several major barriers waiting just around the corner.