Sunday, June 14, 2009

What's on the Workbench

Never one to complete a project before moving onto the next one, I currently have a number of instruments at various stages of completion:
  • 14-fret 000 - Australian Blackwood back and sides, Sitka Spruce top
  • 14-fret 000 - Claro Walnut back and sides, Sitka Spruce top
  • 14-fret OM - East Indian Rosewood back and sides, Engelmann Spruce top
  • 12-fret 00 - Claro Walnut back and sides, Engelmann Spruce top
  • F5 mandolin - Maple back and sides, King William Pine top
My excuse? As a hobbyist luthier, my choice of finish materials is limited due to lack of access to a spray booth with an explosion-proof fan, etc. I've been down the nitrocellulose path before in more reckless times, but I've had time since then to contemplate the health and safety issues associated with use of that material. As a result, the unfinished instruments have banked up while I explore the alternatives best suited to my hobbyist status, more cautious approach and limited workspace.

I used Birchwood-Casey Tru-Oil successfully on several earlier instruments - it's very forgiving and can be brought to an attractive sheen - but, ideally, I'd like to find a finish I can spray safely and ticks all the boxes where ease of application, appearance, durability and repairability are concerned. A tall order perhaps, but I've finally bitten the bullet and ordered some of Grafted Coatings' KTM-SV, a water-based urethane which I've heard encouraging reports about. Luthiers Mercantile now stock it in addition to Grafted Coatings' KTM9, a water-based acrylic lacquer which promised much but, despite the best efforts of any number of talented builders over a number of years, has not delivered dependable results. Although it still has its advocates, I've read enough negative reports now that my own unopened tin of KTM9 will be thrown out in favour of the KTM-SV I'm currently waiting for. For an excellent discussion of KTM-SV, have a look here.

I hope to post a few pictures of works-in-progress from time to time, as well as share methods and jigs which have helped take the guesswork out of a particular process or have contributed to a more consistent outcome. And, who knows, perhaps this blog will chronicle the completion of my first F5!