Thursday, September 22, 2022

Next Cab Off the Rank? A Manchinga OM.

This set of manchinga has been gathering dust in my modest tonewood stash for several years. From the time that I acquired it I resolved that wood this remarkable should be set aside for as long as possible in the hope that my skills would eventually grow to a point at which I'd consider myself able to do it justice.

Whether I'm at that point or not, the reality is that I'm not getting any younger, so while my eyesight is still in good shape I'm preparing to take the plunge and begin construction of a guitar using this beautiful wood, coupled with a drop-dead gorgeous Engelmann spruce soundboard I've also been saving for something special.

I'll post a progress report on the other three guitars I'm working on very soon.

Cheers, Pete

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

A Little Eye-Candy.

Here a progress shot of two of the three guitars I'm currently working on: an Australian blackwood/Engelmann spruce OM, and a Bubinga/Sitka spruce OM.

A Narra/Engelmann OM has been a late addition to the production line, the motivation being that I'd like to try a bevelled armrest for the first time.

More updates soon.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

What's on the Bench?

As many of my blog posts hereabouts will attest, construction of my workshop occupied me for the best part of four years; even now there are "finishing off" tasks that divert me from guitar building. More significantly, the list of jobs around the house expanded impressively while I was focused on the workshop, so I've made a point of addressing enough items on the list over the past few weeks that I've been able to increase my guilt-free time attending to a couple of new guitars, both of which are at a similar state of completion.

I added some inner laminations of cherry veneer to the sides on these guitars, the advantages being that:

  • the potential for cracks in the sides is largely eliminated meaning that the application of bias tape or cross-grain wooden reinforcement is no longer required.
  • the sides are dead flat across the grain once laminated; there's no cupping or rippling and therefore no requirement to sand them flat.
  • a stiffer and more massive rim assembly means that the vibration of the top and back plates is absorbed by the sides to a lesser degree than would otherwise be the case.

There are many ways to laminate the sides, but I settled on using a jig modelled after the one pictured below, the idea for which I borrowed from guitar builder Ryan Gerber.

Side laminating jig

Australian blackwood/Engelmann spruce OM

Bubinga/Sitka spruce OM


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

Next Cab Off the Rank? A Manchinga OM.

This set of manchinga has been gathering dust in my modest tonewood stash for several years. From the time that I acquired it I resolved tha...