Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Adeline's Neck Set

Things are still going kinda slow for us here with the archtop guitars, but we certainly are making progress. This week we finally got to the stage of setting the neck angles relative to the body. We did a similar job with our past guitars but this guitar varies a bit in that it has a traditional dovetail neck joint rather than the modern, simplified bolt-on neck. Fitting this type of neck joint definitely takes more time than the bolt on necks do. After cutting the initial halves of the joint, you have to continuously shim the joint to keep it tight while bringing in the proper pitch and centerlines of the neck relative to the body. Every bit of material removed for the external fit changes the internal fit and therfore requires different shim thicknesses. I'm sure that because this is my dovetail neck joint, it will take me the longest. I don't really want to talk about how much time I spent on it today alone. I got it close though and should be able to finish it up quickly Monday morning. In the first picture, you can see the Ivoroid headstock binding that I mentioned in the last blog. I didn't post any close-ups of it just because it has yet to be sanded flush and have the glue scraped clean. I will show you some better pictures once it has been cleaned up.

As you have probably noticed by now, the neck has taken on a bit more of a neck form this week. We did glue on the headstock veneer, shaped the peghead, and of course installed that peghead binding. We have done only about half of the neck carve, which in theory is to allow the neck to adjust from the relief of the missing wood while you work on the neck set. Then once the initial neck set has been completed, you can finish carving the neck, and more importantly, the heel, knowing that the inside of the heel will only need to be touched up, allowing you to now carve to final thickness. During the neck set, a significant amount of material can be removed from the inside of the heel to achieve proper pitch, so it's important to get that part right first.
In this picture above, you can see that I have the shell inlay installed. It came out a little better than my last inlay job, and before it gets finished, we will do the scribe work like you saw on my baritone which will add a some extra detail to it.
In the picture above, and directly below, you can see both halves of the dovetail joint I was talking about a bit ago. Once the mortise has been cut in the body, you don't really mess with it at all. If I'd been a little better at my neck set, this would have been completely true, but I did have to deepen the mortise a bit to make up for my ever-elongating neck tenon. All is well now. Besides, I argue it as a plus as it means there is a larger dovetail, thus STRONGER. This guitar has a neck extension similar to the classical neck, but rather than only touching the face of the guitar at the very peak of the tenon, this one will have about an inch of the extension sitting on the face of the guitar. This provides a little extra support for the higher tension of the steel strings. Past that point, we just leave enough material to support the fretboard, and to be pleasing to the eye. Or eyes, rather if you're like most of us. You may have noticed the blue coloration on the sides of the neck mortise, and that is from what's called articulate paper. AKA carbon transfer paper. This paper though is more like a pastel wax than graphite. We use it between the shims in the joint and the tenon to ensure that we achieve a tight joint along with a tight exterior fit. Simply remove the high, blue spots until enough of the surface is touching to create a secure joint. More important than this though, is actually how secure the neck seems to fit in the mortise when compressed. The blue will just help guide you to that point by showing you what's hanging up inside.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adeline the Archtop

This week, we finally started working on our archtop guitar necks. I was really happy to see how much curl was in the maple grain with the wood we received. In this first picture here, you can see that it is very nicely figured, and that the curl runs all throughout the neck. All three of us were happy with the materials we got, so that was nice. I didn't take pictures of the entire process this time around since you've all seen it with past guitars in past postings. However here's a few pictures just to show you how far I've come before the weekend. We Actually didn't get all that much done this week, since we had a couple do-overs involved, and the instructors are all still very busy trying to keep the newbies on schedule. In the second picture here, you can see the heel of the neck, and the first half of the dove tail joint that I have cut. There's a threaded insert that you can see is not centered at all, but not to worry! That is only there to support the finishing handle. This guitar, like the classical guitar, has a tongue extension that is glued on and you can it on the end of the neck there. As I mentioned with the classical, I have some ideas for constructing it a bit differently. However, we used wood glue this time around as apposed to superglue, and I think I will be much happier with the results. We'll see when I get it all cut back and shaped. Oh yeah, this guitar, (thanks to the Chinese supposedly) will be getting ears glued onto the headstock to accommodate the extra wide profile. Something about a new airport being built in China with LOTS of flame maple is affecting the supply and making it harder to obtain 6/4 stock. So we are making due with 4/4. But don't worry, cause you won't see the seam with the sunburst finish.

The body was already bound in my last blog, but now as you can see, the tape has been removed and the excess material has been filed and sanded back. It looks really good except for the burns from the router... They didn't go away or hide, and we all have them. I've never missed a sharp router bit so much. My F holes look pretty crisp. I'm happy with them, but I still need to do a bit of sanding on them to true up the profiles and get rid of any burns on the end-grain. Speaking of burns, if you click this image here of the F hole, you can see those binding ledge burns peaking out from under the binding. Our saving grace will be the sun burst finish. It will hide a lot of them, and distract you from the remaining ones. The sunburst will also cover the side seam on the bout, so no end wedge will be intalled on this guitar.

Here is the bridge I've been working on, just a little further along. We got all of our hardware this week for the guitar, so we took the time to fit the thumb wheel adjustment shafts into the bridge pieces. the bottom ebony piece still has some shaping to do, but the top just needs to be cleaned up a bit with a scraper and sandpaper.

Well here is half of the fretboard for this guitar. As you can see, we used ivoroid to bind this as well. It should tie in nicely with the rest of the guitar. Each corner you see here requires a precise miter joint, and also to be cut in such a manner that does not leave any ivoroid end-grain showing. They all turned out looking pretty tight, so we can put that on the win list. I should be carving my neck sometime this week, but I still have to glue on the fretboard and the peghead overlay etc. Got a ways to go. Hope all is well on the home front.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adeline The Archtop

The archtop is really coming along now. This week I finished up binding the body with ivoroid binding. The ivoroid is in some ways easier, but also proved to have some trickier parts as well.
Here are a couple pictures of what I've been working on aside from the body. This first one is the underside of the tailpiece which will anchor the strings on the bout-end of the guitar. The ball ends of the strings will sit in the furthest forward holes while the string passes through a channel and out the face of another hole on the top side... That may not quite make sense to you, but I'm sure it will once I get further into it and have pictures of how that works. On the other end of the tail piece are two holes where a cord will pass though and tie to anchor the tail piece to the end-pin.
Here I have the pickguard/finger rest and bridge components that I've been making on the side along with the body work. All are mostly made of ebony as you can see, but the pickguard has a layer of maple and then black fiber under that to make a nice highlight around the edge. None of these pieces are done, so no judging them yet!

This is my instructor this term, Jim. He's demonstrating here how happy he is with our guitars and the pace we are keeping. He got stuck a while back with some students who were very burnt out on guitar making and didn't put in their full effort, so hopefully this term is more enjoyable for him.

In the close up of the binding here at the bout, you can see that there is an inch and a half gap. This is not my sloppy work but rather where a piece of bone will go to support the crushing force of the tail piece.

Here is just another picture of one more of my guitars with binding slots cut. There is one slot that has yet to be cut in this picture... An extra binding piece goes along the edge of the end of the cutaway. The ivoroid binding process involves melting the interior of the binding in sections with acetone before applying glue. I believe this creates a better mechanical bond and also sort of allows the binding to form to any imperfections in the wood. Butt-joints also get a dab of melted ivoroid material to help, ..seal the deal.

Here is the body before binding. It was actually the easiest guitar to box up just because there were no braces to tuck in it underneath the kerfing. So, that knocked out a few steps and made for a very clean joint inside and out. We were actually shown how to bring in the excess overhanging plate material with the pneumatic random orbital sander which saves time for sure and does a great job.

On the inside of this guitar, there is a much less complicated brace pattern, I won't try too hard to describe it as you there is a lovely picture of it posted here. Just one X-brace and then a couple of cross braces. The only tricky thing is that the braces must conform accurately to the unique inner dishing of the plate. This is accomplished by tracing the approximate shape onto the brace edge, shaving the bulk of the material back and then bringing in the rest by pulling sandpaper between the two pieces until a tight fit is achieved. There are no braces on the back of this guitar.

Here are a couple pictures of the kerfed lining in this guitar. It's really no different from the other guitars aside from the addition of the cutaway side. So all we do here is shape the kerfing end to fit neatly between the headblock and the side. This guitar by the way, has no radius shaped into the sides since all of the top and back radius is carved into the plates, producing a flat perimeter.

I'm sure we will be starting on the necks soon, and of course bringing in the excess binding on the body. The neck will actually have a bound headstock on this guitar, so that will be something new for me

Friday, January 8, 2010

Arch Top Beginnings

Last term, since we had finished up a little early on the classical guitars, we got to spend a couple days working on the new arch top guitars. We made pretty good progress in the two days we used last term, but since students tend to slow down on their arch top guitar, they are really pushing our pace and treating this term as if we were starting out on week two. Kind of a lot to ask for since it wasn't a full week we used last term. At the end of this week we had not gotten quite as far as they would have liked, but close. It looks like I don't really have pictures of all the work I've done, but I'll have some more pictures for you next week, and I can tell you all about what I do have done.

This is what the top and back plates look like after we have book matched them. We drill four large holes that are used for locating the work on the duplicarver table. ...Yes, we do the bulk of the work on a duplicarving router table. It's probably actually a good way to start when you are building your first one, but once I'm home, I think I will practice up on carving them without the duplicarver. We use the router for carving out the rough contour of the outside of both the top and the back. After this process, the plates look about like this second picture here. This is actually the maple back in both pictures; The top is spruce. Once the plates are to this stage, we use a template to trace the profile of the guitar into the routed area. Then we cut out the shape being sure not to cut through the line, as the line is not over sized at all and the only cushion you have is what the binding thickness will eat up. (not much)

So after the plate is cut to shape, we use a spindle sander to sand the profile right up to the final line and then use a router to cut the edge to its final thickness, which is 3/16". This plate here with the plane sitting on it is the aforementioned spruce top. We have to smooth the contour of the plate's inner portion into the final thickness edge we just cut. We use that little plane there for this job

The surface of the edge is colored with pencil to help you see if you are hitting it with the plane. Since it is already at final thickness, we do our best to not hit it.

After the contour is blended into the edges with the plane, we have to scrape and sand the contour completely smooth so that there are no high or low spots. The scrapers will do a better job of blending than just sanding will, so we do our best with the scraper, and then finish up with sand paper. The sandpaper alone could make it appear to be smooth, but when held to the light may show shallow spots that will only be more obvious once the glossy finish is on it. The outside must be completely shaped and sanded before we start carving the inside of the plate in order to keep our desired thicknesses in check.

When we are ready to carve the inside, we set up the drill press with a depth stop, registering off of a pin rather than the table. This allows us to drill holes all over the plate to precisely the final thickness. We then use that trusty finger plane to bring the material thickness down to the bottom of the holes. It's really pretty fool proof. But, this is where it's obvious why arch tops should cost a lot. I have the hands of an old-timer today.

So long story short, my plates are now done. We used another router jig to cut out the F holes on the top. The jig fits over the whole top from the back side, and locates off of the holes in the excess wood at each end of the plate. I also made a lot of progress on the bridge and saddle for this guitar. I got the sides bent and glued up the the head and tail block, and even cut out the pearl inlay for the headstock. Sorry I don't have pics of that stuff now, but more soon!