Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Bubinga Lottery

The task of bending the sides gave some cause for concern when I decided to use my one and only set of Bubinga recently. I was already aware that bending this wood can pose challenges, and on researching the topic it became apparent that unhappy accidents are commonplace. To mitigate the potential for disaster, I took the cautious approach and doused the sides in Supersoft veneer softener and shrouded them in plastic for a couple of days before unwrapping them and allowing them to dry completely prior to bending them.


When I finally took the plunge and inserted them in my Fox bender, sandwiched between layers of damp craft paper and wrapped in aluminium foil, I cranked the temperature of the heating blanket up to around 320F and allowed them to cook at that temperature for a good ten minutes. When the sides had cooled to room temperature and I was able to remove them from the bender, I found that they'd survived the ordeal with no sign of the cracking or faceting that others have experienced.

What I've learned about this wood is that there are several Guibourtia species marketed as Bubinga, which perhaps explains the variety in appearance encountered between individual examples. With the sides successfully bent to shape, I've concluded that either the precautions I took contributed to my success or that the particular variety I'm working with tends to be less troublesome than other species. With Bubinga now listed on CITES and therefore no longer available in this country, I guess I should count my blessings as I forge ahead with this guitar, safe in the knowledge that I'll never have to deal with it again.



Saturday, December 18, 2021

Australian Blackwood/Engelmann Spruce OM

In terms of figure, this Australian Blackwood might rate as a "AA" back-and-sides set; however, there's enough contrast and colour present that it's perhaps deserving of a more generous assessment.

After a years-long break from building, this guitar is proving to be an exercise in rust removal; I'm feeling the need to think carefully before proceeding from one step to the next, re-assessing processes that were once second nature.

The degree of difficulty has been increased due to my decision to laminate the sides (using inner layers of cherry veneer), and redesign the head block to provide better support for the fretboard extension.

Because the sides are laminated, the individual layers from which the sides are composed will be exposed when a soundport is cut out which, to my way of thinking, will look unsightly. With that in mind, I plan on binding the soundport, which necessitates that I build a jig as a next step that will allow me to use a laminate trimmer to route out the soundport, guaranteeing a flat gluing surface around the port's edges for the veneers and binding. Bending, gluing and clamping those veneers and binding will pose yet another challenge.

So far, so good!



Monday, September 27, 2021

Now, Where Was I...?

I had planned to fit out my workshop with cupboards I built myself, but the mess I made as I fashioned a new workbench top out of MDF was the nail in the coffin where those ambitions were concerned. As the photos hereabouts show, I’ve taken the easy, dust-free path and installed some cheap, ready-to-assemble cupboards and drawers.

There are some minor tasks to attend to before I can declare my workshop 100% “done”, but I’m very pleased to have reached a stage where I can balance those needs with the more satisfying, creative aspects of life that have been missing to some degree as I've built this workshop.

There was always a danger - however remote - that when the opportunity to resume my guitar building adventures finally presented itself, I’d discover with dismay that the urge to do so had mysteriously evaporated sometime during the past three years. So, it was with a sense of relief as I sorted through my modest tonewood stash a week or two ago that I felt an overwhelming wave of anticipation and excitement wash over me as I mentally toyed with wood combinations and considered the guitar models their potential would be best served by. Any fears I might have harboured where my ongoing commitment to this craft is concerned were banished instantly.

With ideas for new instruments currently competing for attention as they swirl around in my head, I’m happy to let them fight it out until a clear winner emerges. In the meantime, I plan to fabricate templates and moulds suitable for a couple of new guitar models that will complete the range of body sizes and shapes I intend limiting myself to.

Cheers, Pete

Too Good to Burn!

Pictured are some chunks of red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) that I snatched from the wood delivery man's hands as he stacked a delivery of firewood at the rear of my house.

I guess this only goes to show that we're not always conscious of the beauty surrounding us, and that more enduring and meaningful use can be made of such precious materials if only we are open to their possibilities.

I'm sure this wood will find its way into a future guitar in the form of a bridge, rosette, or headstock veneer.

Cheers, Pete

Thursday, June 7, 2018

There's Nothing New Under the Sun!

Over the years, I've given a lot of thought to developing a signature look for my guitars and, for the most part, I'm satisfied with that aspect of their construction. Having said that, I'm sure there will be further evolution, as well as minor variations from one instrument to the next.

It's probably inevitable that with the limited canvas afforded by the guitar I'll often find instances of others' instrument designs having arrived at a similar destination in an aesthetic sense; my initial reaction when I discover that the headstock, heel cap, bridge shape or rosette design I invested so much time on exists elsewhere is one of mild disappointment. However, rather than seeking to change my own designs and embark on an endless exercise in tail chasing, I'm learning to accept that there's nothing new under the sun, and that there's no point in pursuing that particular mirage - no good can come from it, and constant disappointment can be the only predictable outcome!

As much as I admire design elements such as, for example, Kevin Ryan's "acoustic flutes", Michael Greenfield's ever-so-cool bridge shape, or Sheldon Schwarz's multiple oval soundholes, they strike me as truly unique designs that help identify those builders' instruments - part of their "brand", if you like. Although they're very inspiring, out of admiration and respect I would never seek to imitate those examples. Instead, I'll continue to be receptive to new ideas that drift into my consciousness, rejecting any that tend towards deliberate mimicry - assuming that I know they do!

With that in mind, I have some exciting "new" design features brewing that will unfortunately only see the light of day once I've built my workshop. I can't wait to turn them into reality!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Just so visitors to this blog don't think that I've forgotten about guitars completely, I took a few photos earlier this week showing the state of play with the three guitars currently sitting in their cases under the bed. With little chance of progress until I've constructed a workshop, I tend to drag these guitars out into the light occasionally in an effort to maintain my motivation levels.

Finish was applied a few months ago, but without a work space, I'm unable to sand and buff them, attach bridges and install frets. The walnut/redwood guitar is an exception in some respects, and is tantalisingly close to completion; the neck on this guitar has an oil finish, so I was more easily able to install and dress the frets before I vacated my previous workshop here in town.

Construction of my workshop is a significant undertaking given that a shortage of funds necessitates that I complete as much of the work as I can myself. As a lifelong procrastinator, I need to constantly remind myself what a big part of my life this hobby/obsession has become and, therefore, just how important it is that I take concrete steps towards realising my dream of having a purpose-built workshop in which I can build guitars on a more-or-less full-time basis.

East Indian Rosewood/European Spruce Modified OM
Claro Walnut/Port Orford Cedar Modified OM
Claro Walnut/Redwood OM


The Bubinga Lottery

The task of bending the sides gave some cause for concern when I decided to use my one and only set of Bubinga recently. I was already aware...