Thursday, December 18, 2014

Binding Complete - Well, Almost.

With spare time in short supply, any progress I do manage to make seems significant. The cutaway is not yet bound, and there's plenty of scraping and sanding to do but - what the heck - here's where I'm at!


East Indian Rosewood/European Spruce Modified OM
My Claro Walnut/Port Orford Cedar Modified OM is at a similar state of completion and, with another guitar in the form of a Claro Walnut/Redwood OM ready for spraying, I hope to have my compressor and spray gun working overtime very soon.

Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lutherie, and the Life-Cycle of the Guitar

While the beginning and end points of the guitar-building process can be clearly defined, it's instructive - not to mention humbling - to reflect on the fact that the work of a guitar builder represents only the first stage in the life of the guitar.


If we acknowledge that the luthier's weeks or months of toil serves only to produce a tool whose ultimate purpose is to produce music (hopefully beautiful music!) for many decades, then there's perhaps less of a temptation to view our instruments as ends in themselves. I certainly accept the fact that some of the guitars being built today can truly be regarded as works of art in their own right, but even in the unlikely event that my own instruments one day reach those same lofty heights, the reward I would most like to receive for my efforts would be to see them in the hands of skilled musicians, fulfilling their intended role to the limits of their potential, and contributing in some small way to the magic that music creates.

Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Towards Better Tone

Living in Australia as I do, I have little exposure to the work of other guitar builders, and I sometimes feel I'm working in a vacuum, with very few opportunities to compare my own instruments with those of other builders. In fact, here on the west coast, I'm isolated even by Australian standards.

Practice makes perfect where fit and finish are concerned, and even without access to the work of other builders, I find it's easy to critically evaluate my own workmanship, identify areas where there's scope for improvement, and develop a strategy to address shortcomings. Personally, however, I find that making progress on the all-important tonal considerations is as easy as wading through mud. 

Part the problem, perhaps, is that there's no universally understood vocabulary when it comes to describing tone and, even if there were, correlating the complex properties of tone with the physical characteristics of the guitar's structure is problematic given that the individual elements behave as a single entity once the parts become a whole. The best I've been able to achieve is to slowly develop the courage to lighten my soundboard bracing.as much as I dare, in the hope that all will be miraculously revealed in a flash of inspiration. I'm still waiting.

So, fellow builders, what's the path to tonal nirvana? How do you evaluate your instruments' tone, how do you describe it, and what steps are you taking with a view to making better sounding instruments? And what does that even mean, given that we all hear things differently?

Cheers
Pete

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Neck Takes Shape

There are aspects of guitar building I don't particularly look forward to, but they are a necessary part of the whole, without which the finished product could not exist.


Along with carving the soundboard braces, shaping the neck is surely one of the more enjoyable tasks. What the two processes have in common is that hand tools are a necessary part of the equation, and success is dependent upon intense concentration and an elevated sensory awareness. I could concede that there's a lesson to be had from that observation and attempt to lessen my reliance on power tools and machinery, but the sad fact is that I acknowledge my limitations and accept that for many steps I really do need mechanical assistance!


How about you, fellow builders? What are the best and worst parts of the guitar building journey for you? 

Cheers
Pete

Monday, September 22, 2014

DIY Guitar Finishing

Living in Australia, I don’t share the luxury of access to a specialist finisher such as Joe White or Addam Stark, and I can’t avoid the time-consuming job of pore-filling, sealing and applying finish top-coats myself. Would I farm my finishing out if that option was available to me? I have to say, I’m really not sure.

As a hobby builder, I don't impose deadlines on myself, nor do I have impatient customers eagerly awaiting progress updates; the time I spend finishing my instruments therefore doesn't weigh too heavily on me. As the standard of my finishes has improved over time, my enjoyment of this part of the process has increased significantly; what was once an onerous task has now become just another series of steps along the way to completing a guitar. The final result relies less and less on chance as my tally of completed guitars grows. In fact, there’s a great sense of satisfaction at having done the hard yards, and in acknowledging that I've gone a long way towards negotiating the learning curve inherent in producing a professional standard of finish.


KTM-SV over Sitka Spruce
Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I've been pretty happy finishing recent guitars with Grafted Coatings’ KTM-SV, a water-based oil-modified urethane. While I’m more than satisfied with the end results I've been able to achieve, I'm deterred by the horrendous shipping charges from the U.S., and the fact that its adhesion over shellac is less than satisfactory. The Ilva two-pack sealer I'm forced to use is nasty stuff, which largely defeats the purpose of using a safe, environmentally-friendly water-based finish, and adds to the already prohibitive cost. As a result, I’m forever on the look out for new products, knowing that what’s on the market is constantly evolving and improving, particularly where water-based products are concerned. Grafted Coatings' recently developed water-based finish material, Ten!, has received great reviews from the few who have trialed it, and I'm keen to hear further reports when it's eventually in widespread use. As the release date is unknown, I'm about to experiment with another product that's new to me. 

Bona Mega is a water-based polyurethane interior floor finish recommended to me by a well known and very well-regarded U.S. luthier, who is himself an ex-KTM-SV user. In case there's a negative bias towards using a floor finish on a guitar, I won't name him. Suffice to say that the standard of his finishes has drawn glowing praise from those attending guitar shows in which he's been a participant. The advantage of Bona Mega for me is that it's readily available locally, and supposedly demonstrates excellent adhesion over a simple shellac seal coat, something that can't be said for KTM-SV. Bona Mega is expensive, but I'll avoid the shock of the shipping charges I pay when I purchase products from the U.S., and benefit from the fact that it bonds well with shellac.

I’m comforted by the fact that some of our more experienced and admired U.S.-based luthiers have also chosen the DIY route, despite the fact that they have access to the aforementioned specialist finishers, and I'm pleased to note that a growing number of them are prepared to use alternatives to the traditional nitrocellulose lacquers and the modern, more robust polyesters. Most importantly, it seems that the players willing to outlay large wads of their hard-earned cash on a hand-made instrument are becoming more knowledgeable and less bound by convention, and are slowly accepting these alternatives even if it means that their prized instruments are slightly more susceptible to damage because of it.

How about you, fellow builders? Do you undertake finishing work yourself? If so, what's your finish product of choice?

Product links:
Bona Mega
Grafted Coatings Ten!

Cheers
Pete

Sunday, September 21, 2014

More Headstock Binding

Preparing the strips of ebony binding for the headstock can be accomplished gradually in spare moments through the working week, with the more time-consuming task of routing the binding channels, then mitering and installing the strips reserved for a more concerted effort over a weekend. I could probably find time to fire up the laminate trimmer and disc sander on a weeknight, but in a residential setting with neighbours living on either side I figure I'd be pushing my luck. In the interests of suburban harmony, it's probably a wise policy not to disturb them. Note to self: find a quieter shop-vac!

A long-term plan involves leaving the city behind, one of the benefits being that I'll be able to use power tools with far less regard for the noise they generate, comfortable in the knowledge that I'll only be disturbing the local bushland creatures and my patient partner Sandi. Oh, and our chickens of course!


As I described in an earlier post, I find that the tight curve at the extremity of the headstock is best dealt with by thinning the ebony strips to half the required width, then bending them to shape on the bending iron and laminating them into a single full-width piece, with a maple veneer added to what will be the inner surface. Once they're glued in place, it takes a very close inspection to establish that I've used two layers of ebony. Under finish, I'm confident that it will be undetectable.

This is one of many painstaking stages in the construction process, with fabrication of the curved binding strips, then accurate mitering and gluing of each piece adding the best part of a day to the build process, acknowledging that if I was better organised I could be attending to other tasks while I wait for glue to dry. Despite the additional work involved, this treatment of the headstock brings me great satisfaction, assuming of course that everything goes to plan and I'm happy with my workmanship. When I tire of the process, I remind myself that it undoubtedly contributes greatly to the overall aesthetic appeal of the finished instrument. It's just as well I don't build guitars for financial reward however.

Cheers
Pete

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Recent Wood Purchases

My heart beats a little faster when I look at wood like this. Wood lovers will understand!


And what better wood to pair these Sinker Redwood soundboards with than this beautiful Claro Walnut.:


Given my dismal rate of production, it would seem that I now have enough wood to last me well into old age!

Supplier links:
Allied Lutherie
Oregon Wild Wood

Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's Your Favourite Back and Sides Wood?

I've placed a poll in the sidebar that allows you to vote for your favourite back and sides wood species. I think I've covered the usual suspects, but I'm sure I've omitted some other popular choices! If you voted "Other", perhaps you'd be good enough to add a comment to this post to let everyone know what it is. I'd also welcome your comments as to what particular characteristics you feel your favourite species offers.

Cheers
Pete

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Finishing Necks - a New Approach

I've been keen to try a new approach where finishing necks is concerned, and have opted to experiment with some oil finish products on a couple of the necks I'm currently constructing. Gloss finishes certainly look classy, but many players express a preference for a matte or satin neck finish that doesn't "grab", as some gloss finishes are prone to do.

Like many other aspiring builders, I finished my first couple of guitars with Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil. It's easy to apply, relatively benign, and seems impervious to moisture once cured. What's more, it's readily available locally - always a plus for someone like me, living in far-away Australia. I recall reading of tests that showed it doesn't penetrate the wood surface deeply, which adds to its appeal for those builders unwilling to make the leap into sprayed or french polished finishes.


Despite Tru-Oil's attractions, I've recently investigated some alternatives and purchased small quantities of the products pictured above. A local gunsmith told me preferred the Livos product rather than Tru-Oil, and I've read reports by builders in the solid-body electric world who have used the Osmo product with great success. I guess it's best that I find out for myself!

The manufacturers' web sites describe how each of these products penetrate the wood and dry within it, rather than on top of it as Tru-Oil does. If I was finishing the body of an instrument, this would ring alarm bells - particularly where the soundboard is involved - but where necks are concerned, I'm not at all worried about the oil penetrating the wood surface; in fact, to my mind, this characteristic could offer advantages. Although I'm not expecting significantly different outcomes, I plan on trialing each of the two finishes to satisfy my curiosity once and for all.

As a nod to convention, I'll spray a gloss finish on the headstock face and the heel cap before I fine-sand, then oil, the remainder of the neck.

Product links:
Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The World's Longest Apprenticeship

As I look forward to resuming work on the three guitars I'm currently constructing, it's sobering to reflect on my guitar building progress so far, and just how long it's taken me to get where I am. It's timely to do so given that I've at last attained a level of confidence that will allow me to offer my instruments for sale. I sold a few of my early efforts many years ago, but like so many beginning builders, I was probably too eager to do so, not quite comprehending the risks involved and the potential for conflict with disgruntled customers. Fortunately, those guitars haven't returned to haunt me; in fact, one of those old customers contacted me not so long ago to tell me he how much he still loves the guitar I built him. What a pleasant surprise! 

"I can see the progress you have made in the time elapsed since creating my guitar but there's still no denying what a great little instrument my guitar is - I am still trying to do it justice with my playing - which has not progressed on parallel terms with your luthier skills. I would not hesitate to recommend any player interested in a custom guitar to you and if I thought you were willing to take orders for sales I would be very happy to be more proactive in that regard."

Finding a finish material I could apply safely and to a satisfactory standard has been a hurdle I feel I've at last negotiated, and as I look ahead with visions of reducing the hours I spend in a "normal" job, I have high hopes that the sale of my guitars can at least supplement my income and give me a creative outlet.

I first became interested in guitar building in the mid 1980s, but in those pre-internet days here in Australia, I found it almost impossible to accumulate the knowledge I craved, let alone locate anyone who could pass on their skills in person. I can't remember how, but at some point I managed to find a copy of Irving Sloane's book "Classical Guitar Construction" which I read and re-read many times over. Shortly thereafter, while backpacking through Canada, I was excited to spy Tom and Mary Evans book, "Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock" which, although short on information relating specifically to guitar construction techniques, was a worthy addition to my sparse reference library.

Quite by accident, as I explored Vancouver I came across Richard's Rare Guitars, where a staff member was kind enough to phone Jean Larivee and seek permission for me to visit his North Vancouver workshop which was within easy walking distance. I found Jean very welcoming, and he was good enough to allow me to sort through an enormous pile of Sitka Spruce soundboards at the front of his shop. My backpacker's budget was pretty tight, but I selected five tops (at $25 each from memory!), not really knowing what features I should be looking for, but feeling incredibly excited to have at last found the materials that would help me get started on what has turned out to be a protracted self-imposed apprenticeship. Between the Spruce tops and the books I bought in Canada, I was quite heavily laden for the remainder of my overseas trip!

Fast forward to today, and the wealth of books, online resources and lutherie schools is overwhelming - I guess I was born too early. I feel incredibly lucky to have an interest in common with so many other individuals who so generously share their skills, knowledge and techniques. The online community, including the various guitar forums, is a fantastic resource both as an opportunity to learn from others, and as a means of sharing our creations.

Hopefully, I'll have something other than idle thoughts to share with you soon!

Cheers
Pete

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rosewood/European Spruce Mod OM Progress

I was building up some momentum with my guitar-building adventures until recently, but a short overseas holiday and an impending interstate trip are temporarily slowing progress. Nevertheless, I have at least managed to attach the top on my East Indian Rosewood/European Spruce guitar, and have make good progress with the neck.



More soon!

Cheers
Pete

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Workshop Update

With IT work in short supply, I've been "forced" to dedicate much more time to guitar building over the past couple of months. Well, I'm not really complaining!

It stands to reason, of course, that spending more time in the workshop will increase my output. Nevertheless, I've been pleasantly surprised by my rate of progress as my current guitar projects take shape. With the luxury of two days a week dedicated to building - and thinking about building - I've been able to make significant inroads into these three guitars, as well as identify a couple of steps in the build process that I feel could benefit from further thought and refinement. As usual, the next guitar will be better!

European Spruce/East Indian Rosewood
The guitar pictured above features a European Spruce soundboard, and a very attractive set of East Indian Rosewood back and sides. The florentine cutaway is only the second one I've attempted, and although it represents more work and an increased degree of difficulty, I'm satisfied with the way it's turning out.

Port Orford Cedar/Claro Walnut
The Port Orford Cedar/Claro Walnut guitar featured in recent posts is waiting in the queue, with the body ready for binding and work on the neck largely complete. I'm quite pleased with a new design flourish I've implemented on the heel cap. The "scoop" evident on the heel itself is another new development; the goal being to echo the aesthetics of the headstock and fretboard end in an attempt to tie these elements together from a design perspective. The photographs show these details, with final shaping and sanding yet to be completed, and with the heel cap unattached.

Redwood/Claro Walnut OM
This Redwood/Claro Walnut OM has been languishing in the cupboard for several months while I wait for the motivation necessary to apply the sprayed finish coats. As the other two guitars rapidly approach a similar state of completion, it's unavoidable that finishing, sanding and buffing will occupy the bulk of my time very soon. Having said that, I plan on applying an oil finish to at least one of these necks, a side-effect of which will be that the finishing process will be slightly less time-consuming than it would be otherwise. 

With storage space at a premium, I'll be strongly resisting the urge to begin another guitar until this batch is complete and - hopefully - distributed to new owners!


Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fretboard Binding

Gluing the purfling to the binding before it's attached to the fretboard edge seemed to be the most logical approach when I began binding my fretboards, but I found it a challenge to accurately align the lower edge of the purfling with the underside of the board, no matter how careful I was when gluing and clamping it in place.

I managed to achieve acceptable results on the first couple of bound fretboards, but was uncomfortable with the process and felt there must be a better way. After dwelling on the problem off and on for a while, it occurred to me that I could just glue the binding on first - sans purfling - without fussing too much about aligning its lower edge exactly.

To solve the problem, I've knocked together what could best be described as a mini router table. With my laminate trimmer clamped in position from below, and a makeshift fence in place, I make some test cuts on scrap, adjusting the trimmer so that the rebate cut by the router bit will be the exact depth of the purfling strip. The width of the rebate isn't quite as critical, as long as it's less than or equal to the width of the purfling - any overhang can be trimmed off later.


Having set up the trimmer and fence, it's a simple matter of running the bound fretboard along the fence to accurately form the rebate for the purfling. The curved sections at the soundhole end of the board deserve some special treatment, but they're easily addressed using a similar approach.


All that remains is to glue the purfling strips into the rebate, with help from the same clamps used to glue kerfed linings strips in place. The purfling at the soundhole end of the fretboard is mitred to achieve a neat look.



I'm sure there are other equally effective methods, but this one works for me!

Cheers
Pete

Fingerboard Inlay

I think it's a commonly held view that for the majority of players, traditional fretboard markers provide little practical benefit (the markers on the fretboard edge are a different story), but I can't quite bring myself to leave the fingerboard totally devoid of decoration. Having said that, my ambitions where inlays are concerned are modest indeed, and while there's no denying the skill and sheer artistry displayed by the likes of Larry RobinsonGrit Laskin and Jimmi Wingert, I have no desire to emulate them - even if I thought I had the ability and temperament to do so.

The abalone and pearl inlay I've come to regard as my own was originally inspired by the decorative elements found on Bob Benedetto's arch-top guitars, but has evolved over time to the extent that my conscience is now clear - I no longer view it as imitation. I'm not adept at distilling design ideas down to abstract representations - I'd fail miserably at logo design, for instance - so whatever I dream up tends to be fairly representational. Where my fretboard inlay is concerned, I've stretched those personal limitations ever so slightly, but it's still blindingly obvious that the inlay represents a single flower flanked by two leaves.

I draw the shapes freehand, directly onto the pearl and abalone blanks, then cut the pieces out with a jeweler's saw. I don't feel the need to be terribly careful as I cut, knowing that the shapes of the individual pieces lend themselves to clean-up and refinement on my spindle sander. I'm quite happy for the exact shape to vary from guitar to guitar; given that I strive for accuracy and consistency where every other aspect of the guitar is concerned, it's nice to introduce some elements that have come into being by a more organic process.


My Dremel has its shortcomings and limitations, but it's an appropriate tool with which to route the inlay cavities. I need to keep the cavities free of wood dust as I proceed, and the solution is provided by an aquarium pump running alongside me on the bench. The outlet hoses from the pump are taped to one of the pillars on the Dremel base, and direct a constant stream of air onto the work. They disperse the ebony dust as soon as it's produced, which helps maintain a clear view of the lines I've previously scribed around the individual inlay pieces.


Using tiny spiral downcut router bits, I can cut accurately up to the lines, with a scalpel blade and my smallest chisel tidying up the corners that were too tight for the router bit to deal with. The inlay experts would have me believe that it's prudent to undercut the edges of the inlay cavities with a ball-end bit, but my inlay is so simple, and my results to date of a decent enough standard, that I haven't found it necessary to explore that option. If I've been careful enough, any gaps between the inlay and the walls of the routed cavity are insignificant. Those that are evident are easily hidden with matching wood dust and a drop or two of thin cyanoacrylate (CA) glue applied after the shell pieces have been glued in place. Of course, it helps that ebony is very forgiving in this regard!



Cheers
Pete

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Guitar-Shaped Box!

Hey, this is beginning to look like a guitar!




Cheers
Pete

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fitting the Back

Perhaps there's some aspect of successfully fitting the back that represents a significant milestone along the way to completing a guitar, or maybe it's just that I've repeated this part of the process enough times that I feel confident in the outcome and have come to enjoy the sensation and sound of the back braces clicking neatly into their pockets. Whatever the reason, it's a part of the build process I look forward to and derive great satisfaction from.

To reach this milestone - assuming that the dome of the back has already been sanded into the rims - I carefully align the back with the centres of the head and tail blocks, then mark the sides where the brace closest the the tail block will intersect them. I lay a steel rule across the guitar to join the corresponding marks, and pencil the line of the braces onto the top surface of the linings. 

As a precaution against chipping, I make a saw cut equal in depth to that of the brace end on the side of the pocket likely to be chipped by the clockwise rotation of the bit. I hope the right-hand photograph below shows this clearly.


With a spiral downcut bit mounted in the Dremel and carefully adjusted for depth, I rout the first pair of brace pockets, using the pencil lines as a guide. If the marks were placed accurately, the braces slip into place with just a hint of resistance. I check the fit of the back and widen the appropriate brace pocket to compensate for any misalignment. Once I'm happy with the fit and alignment, I can mark the next pair of brace pockets, confident that the alignment of the back will be more securely and accurately established as I proceed. When the four pairs of brace pockets have been prepared and the back fits perfectly, I can allow myself a moment of self-congratulation - before I remind myself that it's really only a minor triumph and that there's plenty of work ahead of me!



Cheers
Pete

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Modified OM

With the messy job of constructing a new bending form and outside mold finally out of the way, I've been able to make some progress on this guitar over the past week.

The walnut sides bent willingly, as they always do, and I was pleased to see that they conformed closely to the new mold, with the exception of some minor spring-back on one of the lower bouts. The spring-back was a useful reminder that it's advisable to subject the sides of any wood species to a couple of heating and cooling cycles before removing them from the bending form. I have to try hard to resist my innate impatience, and on this occasion I was a little premature in taking the second side out of the side bender, hopeful that such a compliant wood wouldn't require a second cycle. A quick touch-up on the electric bending iron soon had the side sitting obediently in the mold.


With the head block, tail block and kerfed linings glued to the sides, I'm better able to assess the new body shape. Needless to say, I'm greatly relieved that it matches my expectations, and that the time-consuming and incredibly dusty task of making yet another bending form and outside mold has been averted.


Noting the recent emergence of guitars referred to as "modified dreadnoughts", and lacking a more imaginative idea, it seems reasonable to dub my new guitar model the "modified OM"! 

Cheers
Pete

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kerfed Linings

I've fabricated kerfed lining strips from mahogany in the past, and while that's a popular and appropriate choice, on this guitar I was in the mood to use linings that closely match the colour of the spruce back braces. Spruce doesn't exactly grow on trees in my neck of the woods (puns intended), so I substituted Jelutong - a lightweight, light-coloured South East Asian hardwood species that serves this purpose well.


After bandsawing and thickness-sanding the strips, I set up a crude but effective jig on the bandsaw that helps me cut kerfs of a consistent spacing and depth. I leave a little more wood between the extremity of the cut and the opposite face of the lining than it seems is common with the off-the-shelf product, and the strips I prepare are a little more robust as a result. If there's any trade-off, it's that I feel the need to pre-bend the waist and upper bout portion of the linings on my bending iron prior to gluing them in place, more as an added precaution against breakage than out of any real necessity. 



A pet peeve, and the motivation for devoting a little time to preparing my own snap-resistant kerfed linings, is seeing an otherwise carefully crafted instrument whose linings are joined at some point, particularly when such joins are in plain view through the soundhole. Sacrilege!




Cheers
Pete

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Headstock Binding Completed

Given the effort involved in binding a guitar headstock, I'm curious as to the upcharge a professional builder might reasonably apply, and whether a fee acceptable to the buyer could adequately compensate the builder!

Not only does my chosen headstock shape dictate that one of the sections of binding must conform to the tight curve at the extremity of the headstock, but mitering the individual binding pieces prior to gluing requires painstaking attention to detail. I know many builders cut these miters in-situ with a sharp chisel, but for better or worse, I choose to use my disc sander to do so prior to gluing them in place. As they're fitted dry in the first instance, I have the luxury of being able to discard any pieces whose miters don't meet my standards, with the need to start all over again acting as a strong incentive to get them right on the first attempt! With a light touch, and a patient approach that involves constantly checking for an exact fit, I'm able to produce tight fitting miters using this method.

Before I can think about mitres, however, I need to prepare the sections of ebony strip. The first step is to glue a black/natural purfling to one edge of the binding. I do so with the help of the clamps normally reserved for gluing kerfed linings, as the photo below shows. For the straight sections of binding, regular Titebond is adequate, but for those sections that will be bent into a curve - excluding the piece that fits the tightest curve and is treated differently - I like to use Titebond III, which is better able to withstand the heat involved in shaping the strips on my bending iron. Unless a piece of ebony is particularly reluctant to bend, I find they can usually be coaxed into shape without the use of water.

Gluing the black dyed and natural maple(?) purfling to the binding edge.

Maple veneer glued to what will become the inner face of the bindings.

Test fitting the first of the mitred corners, minus glue.

It goes without saying that accurately positioning the binding pieces as they're glued and taped into position, then tightly butting up the adjoining piece as it in turn is glued, contributes to an acceptable outcome. Call me strange, but when carrying out tasks like this that demand my close attention, I find that tidying up my work space before I begin unclutters my mind as well as my workbench - the Zen of guitar building in action perhaps!

One concession I make these days is to acknowledge that the tightly curved section can more easily be fabricated from two thin pieces of ebony rather than a single full width piece. As anyone who has attempted to bend ebony into a tight curve on a bending iron can attest, this makes life a lot easier. Once glued, scraped and sanded, it's almost impossible to detect that this section of binding has been laminated. To begin with, I run two pieces of ebony binding through the drum sander until they're half the desired binding width. The pieces can then be bent on the bending iron until they conform to the curve without the need to be forced into position. Once I'm happy with the fit, I laminate the two pieces of ebony, adding a layer of maple veneer to what will be the inner face as I do so.

Because this section of binding is fabricated from two layers of ebony, it's not possible to edge the piece with a strip of black and white purfling prior to bending as I did for the other pieces. Instead, I wait for the glue to dry, then clean up and glue one of the edges to a piece of black and white veneer sheet that has been prepared earlier. Once the glue has dried, the surplus veneer is trimmed from the inner and outer faces of the ebony strip, duplicating the look of the other binding pieces.

Completed headstock

Cheers
Pete