Sunday, December 29, 2013

Preparing the Headstock for Binding

I tell myself with each guitar I make that I'd save myself a lot of trouble if I left my headstocks unbound. Nevertheless, despite the fact that many of the top makers choose to omit this feature, and still manage to produce the kind of elegant, beautifully appointed instruments I aspire to build, the Macassar Ebony headstock overlay on my latest guitar was always destined to be bound in ebony, with a thin maple line inboard of the binding for the sake of contrast. Were I building guitars commercially, there would surely be an added incentive to leave the edge of the headstock overlay unadorned, perhaps offering the bound look only as an option - for an appropriate upcharge of course!

An earlier guitar featuring a bound headstock 
I use a laminate trimmer to cut the ledge for the binding. I select the appropriate bearing and make a test cut on a piece of scrap to confirm that the resulting rebate will match the width of my ebony bindings, with additional allowance for the maple veneer. Having done so, I adjust the depth of cut so that my first circuit of the headstock will cut the ledge just shy of the full depth required. My ancient Hitachi laminate trimmer isn't renowned for ease of vertical adjustment, so I repeat the process, increasing the depth of cut in tiny increments until the bit barely removes the last of the headstock material on the bottom of the ledge.

Routing the binding rebate
It's imperative when routing the ledge that I think carefully about the grain direction of the headstock overlay and the router bit's direction of rotation, with the potential for chipping and tearout always in mind. Proceeding carefully, I can climb-cut the most susceptible areas and end up with a clean, chip-free binding ledge.

The completed binding rebate.
I'll describe the fiddly process of preparing the individual binding pieces in my next post.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Soundboard Braces

The soundboard braces have been shaped to a 25 foot radius and attached to the top, again using hot hide glue. I look forward now to profiling and carving them to their final dimensions, my goal being a light and lively soundboard. This is surely the most tactile and intuitive stage of the entire building process, when machinery and power tools lay temporarily silent, and finger planes, chisels and sandpaper take over.

A useful pointer to where I'm at on my quest to build a high quality instrument is that the soundboard bracing on each new guitar still seems to be lighter than that of the last. In many respects, I'm sure it's a good thing that my evolution as a guitar builder has been such a gradual process, with small incremental improvements marking what has been a long journey. Where soundboard bracing is concerned, I acknowledge that a bolder individual willing to take risks would equal my progress after far fewer guitars, but I'm happy nevertheless to plod along at my own cautious pace, learning as I go, improving my skills and gaining satisfaction from the improvements I see and hear after each guitar is completed.

With my weekends still dominated by household chores, my resolve to chip away at this guitar in spare moments through the week is certainly yielding results, as evidenced by my latest posts. Lurking in the background, however, is the need to construct bending forms and an outside mold to accommodate the modified body shape I've recently devised. Unfortunately, at some point soon, this necessity will act as a barrier to further progress and I'll be unable to avoid the task any longer! 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Guitar Back is Born.

A half hour here, an hour there, and before you know it, a guitar back has materialised. I've been making a concerted effort to make progress on this guitar after work throughout the week, when I would typically be less than productive where guitar building is concerned.

The back halves were joined with Titebond as usual, but I thought I'd attempt to use hot hide glue wherever else I can on this instrument. Apart from its great strength and resistance to creep, I enjoy the fact that it's so easy to clean up once the parts are joined and clamped. After allowing a short time for the squeeze-out to gel, most of it can be easily removed with a chisel-shaped scrap of spruce. A sponge dipped in the hot water from my glue pot, wrung almost dry, removes the remainder of the glue pretty effectively.

Attaching braces to the soundboard would seem to be a realistic goal for the week ahead. We'll see whether Murphy's Law allows me to achieve it!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Design, New Guitar

While the task of spraying my Walnut/Redwood OM remains on the "to do" list, I've managed to sneak in a little progress on a new guitar, this time combining a Port Orford Cedar soundboard with the sister set of Claro Walnut back and sides.

I fell in love with the venerable Martin OM when I first saw one many years ago, and as much as I still admire its timeless design and elegant curves, I feel ready to leave it behind me and develop a more contemporary body profile I can call my own.

I build guitars with the fingerstyle guitarist in mind and, taking note of player preferences commonly espoused by players in that style, I've nipped in the waist slightly, reduced the width of the upper bout and rounded the shoulders, the end result of which - I hope - is a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing body shape. The price I pay is the additional work involved in constructing molds and bending forms to accommodate this new design, so it's sobering to reflect on the fact that until the first body is assembled, I won't know for sure that the dimensions will appear balanced and attractive. Building molds isn't exactly my idea of fun, so I certainly hope I don't have to repeat the exercise!