Saturday, November 3, 2012

More Archtop Fun

After routing the dovetail for the neck
If only it could always be like this: I climb the stairs to my class at 5:00 on Tuesday afternoon and I leave three hours later, whistling a happy tune and ticking off a list of accomplishments as I go. Unfortunately, that particular scenario is about as common as a Tea Party/ACLU Unity Picnic, so I suppose I should just be grateful for this shining moment while I can. My short experience in guitar building has already taught me that my euphoria will be short-lived and will soon be replaced by emotions fluctuating between mild enthusiasm, intense impatience, and psychosis brought on by relentless episodes of sanding.

So allow me to revel while I can. Last week might have been one of the better weeks I've had since I first started my class over two years ago. I finished routing the slot for the end-graft; cut and glued the end-graft and the purfling that borders it; routed the dovetail slot where the neck will join the body; and even made some progress cleaning up the binding and purfling edges in preparation for gluing in the binding and purfling next week.

Gluing the end-graft and purfling
I'm predicting at least a month more - if not two - of the fun stuff: gluing in the binding and purfling, working on the neck, and fitting it all together. There should be plenty of variety to keep me interested. At some point we'll enter into uncharted territory, the installation of the bridge and tailpiece, which are radically different from those used on a flat top guitar like the first one I built. Those two components are probably the biggest difference between flat top and arch top guitars except, of course, the fact that one has an arched body and one doesn't. I'll save the exciting details about that for when the time comes. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

In the meantime, I should have more tangible results to report on a regular basis before the inevitable end-game begins. You would think the end-game would be an exciting thing to begin. It means that the guitar is essentially built and you've started the process of finishing up the details. And herein lies the secret to building a good guitar: The building is about 50% of the process and the finishing is the the rest. An experienced guitar builder recently told me that it is impossible to build a good guitar quickly, because it's all in the detail. As with the last guitar, I expect to spend at least two, and more likely three, months lacquering, sanding, and setting up the instrument. It's not pretty but, if it was, I suppose everybody would be doing it. And I'm sure it's not lost on anyone that knows me that my participation in an endeavor that has at it's heart focus, patience, and attention to detail is about as natural as, well... a Tea Party/ACLU Unity Picnic.

So that's my story for the time being. After a very, very long first six months that, frankly, wasn't much fun, I'm really enjoying class again. Ted and I talked it over and came to the conclusion that there was no reason that some of the tasks we're doing now couldn't have been done in the first few months in order to break up the monotony of the carving. But, then again, maybe intense boredom is good for character development. There's always a silver lining, I suppose.

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