Monday, July 3, 2023

What's In a Name?

The back and sides of this guitar are of narra, which is an alternative name for a wood that's most often marketed here in Australia as New Guinea rosewood.

According to Wikipedia, the tree is a species of Pterocarpus native to southeastern Asia, northern Australasia, and the western Pacific Ocean islands, Cambodia, southernmost China, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Ryukyu Islands, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam."

The wood is closely related to padauk - it's most definitely not a true rosewood - and as its range extends well beyond New Guinea, I much prefer to choose a less misleading name when discussing this guitar.

Most significantly, it's beautiful, easy to work, smells great and has a good reputation as a tonewood. What's not to like?

Cheers, Pete 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Wow Factor - Australian Blackwood

I couldn't wait to see the grain of this Australian blackwood come to life when epoxy was applied, so I didn't!

This wasn't a particularly expensive set of back and sides, so I'm very pleased that a thin film of epoxy has had such a dramatic effect.

More practically, this not only gives me a head start where pore filling is concerned, but has provided a level of protection to the wood ahead of routing binding channels and installing the ebony bindings.



Saturday, May 27, 2023

Winter Is Coming!

As I immersed myself in the task of designing my workshop a few years ago, I looked into the possibility of dedicating a corner of the building to a spray booth. As inviting as the idea was, I was discouraged by the prospective cost of the necessary explosion-proof extraction fan and lights and abandoned the idea. I'm left with Plan B, which is to erect a temporary insect-proof enclosure in a sheltered area of our property which, unfortunately, limits my ability to spray through the winter months when daytime temperatures are typically in single digits and high humidity is problematic.

I came close recently to buying fresh supplies of lacquer and thinners in readiness for spraying this crop of guitar bodies; however, although there are still stretches of fine weather, they are unreliable and increasingly uncommon. As keen as I am to complete some guitars, I've come to accept that I've probably left my run too late.

I'm impatient and more than a little frustrated, but I'm sure I'll find plenty to occupy me through our winter months. Obviously, I'm looking forward to spring when I'll finally be able to string up some guitars!



Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Other End of the Workshop

It's only natural - and advantageous - that guitar builders develop some skills where playing the guitar is concerned. Frankly, I'd love to be more adept as a player and be able to better assess the acoustic instruments I create in terms of their playability and tone. Unfortunately, after 50 years of sporadic playing I have limited abilities and don't practice nearly often enough to improve in anything other than small increments. Some ongoing hand problems I've learned to live with also contribute to my limitations as a player.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy an hour or two of mindless noodling from time to time, and with that in mind I've set up a desk in a spare corner of the workshop where I can plug in an electric guitar, with visions of recording some original music on the rare occasions that inspiration pays me a visit.

Having concluded that I have no aspirations to gig anywhere even if I thought I was a decent enough player, it seemed wasteful and self-indulgent to have collected an assortment of effect pedals and an amplifier that together represent a significant financial outlay. With my pedals and amplifier currently for sale, my new approach to playing my electric guitar is to make use of a couple of Neural DSP's plug-ins and either a pair of headphones or some studio monitors. Along with my laptop and an audio interface, I can dial in a greater variety of tones than I previously could with my amp and pedals and, as a result, I have hopes that I'll be motivated to devote more time to playing and practice once our cold, wet, winter weather closes in and I'm less inclined to attend to outside jobs around our little property.

  • Audio interface: PreSonus Studio 26c 
  • Studio monitors: KRK Classic 5
  • Headphones: PreSonus HD9 Professional Monitoring Headphones
  • Plug-ins: Neural DSP's Archetype: Cory Wong and Archetype: Rabea
  • Guitar: Ibanez Q54



Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Finishing Problem Solved

I had the use of an unoccupied shop here in town for a few months in 2016 and was able to work on some instruments there until the owner asked that I vacate so he could begin renovations. I had recently sprayed lacquer on three guitar bodies and their necks at the time, and they hung inside a cupboard with a computer fan porting the fumes to the exterior of the building for a few weeks while I got on with other things. When it finally came time to pack up and move out, I placed the guitar bodies and necks in some cheap new cases, comfortable in the knowledge that they’d be protected throughout the move and beyond.

From that point on, construction of my workshop became a priority that occupied me for more than three years. When the dust had settled and I was ready to complete those guitars, I found that dye from the lining of the guitar cases had penetrated the lacquer on the soundboards to an unknown degree, although I figured it was likely that the staining extended to a significant depth. I pondered how best to remedy the situation for some time, often practicing avoidance behaviour for months at a time as I moved ahead with new instruments.

Scraping and sanding the lacquer off the soundboards and respraying was one option, but I worried that merging new lacquer into old may have given less than optimal results; I’d used a pre-catalysed lacquer that supposedly doesn’t melt into previous coats as effectively as nitrocellulose.

The alternative was to use a chemical stripper over the entire body which would essentially take me back to square one in the finishing process. The degree to which I’d be successful in neutralising the stripper before I applied new sealer and top coats gave me cause for concern though.

After weighing up the advice kindly offered by a couple of Facebook friends, I decided to strip the finish from the bodies entirely. While acetone softened the finish to the extent that it was at least sticky and could be removed with difficulty using steel wool or a single edged razor, it was a painfully slow process, and I concluded that removing all of the lacquer in this way was far too onerous a task. I opted for regular paint stripper which proved very effective in softening the lacquer, allowing it to be easily scraped off. I was careful to remove all traces of the stripper using generous quantities of denatured alcohol, and I'm ready - once again - to pore fill in readiness for spraying.

As I began work on these guitars up to twelve years ago, you'll no doubt appreciate how keen I am to complete them and resume work on other instruments I've commenced more recently.



Friday, December 2, 2022

Manchinga/Engelmann Spruce OM Update

 With the top now attached, I now have four guitar bodies ready for binding. Something to look forward to (said nobody, ever!)

Cheers, Pete

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Progress: Manchinga/Engelmann Spruce OM

I've made some progress with this guitar over the past few weeks; however, I was hampered by the manchinga sides that rippled badly across the grain in the process of bending them. This has been my first experience working with manchinga, and I suspect that a little less water applied to the sides prior to bending them may have contributed to a better result. I had partial success in flattening them by soaking them in Supersoft veneer softener and clamping them for a couple of days in the mold I use to laminate sides. The remaining inconsistencies were masked once the veneers were added to the interior of the sides, and sanding will flatten their outer surface without removing too much material.

Check out the grain in that amazing Engelmann top!

Cheers, Pete

What's In a Name?

The back and sides of this guitar are of narra, which is an alternative name for a wood that's most often marketed here in Australia as ...