Thursday, November 17. 2011
Here are a few quick photos of a classical guitar I finished recently. This is serial number 53, anno 2011. Based on the plantilla and construction style of a Torres guitar, it is constructed of California (Monterrey) Cypress and Engelmann spruce. It has a 50mm bone nut, 650mm scale ebony fingerboard, Spanish cedar neck, Honduras mahogany body bindings with black side and top purfling, and a rosewood bridge. Its finished in a hand rubbed lacquer, fitted with good quality Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons and strung with La Bella Medium Hard 2001 series strings. Cypress is most commonly found used by flamenco builders but it was also used and favored by makers such as Torres and Romanillos in classical guitars.
This guitar has solid and full basses and supple sweet singing trebles. It has good intonation and playability, a quick response, good projection, medium sustain and loudness. It'd make a nice recording instrument and in the hands of a sensitive player it will mature into a beautiful and expressive guitar.
Saturday, October 1. 2011
I've listed a new classical guitar with ebay. #52, in Indian Rosewood and old bear claw Englemann spruce, is built in the general style of Antonio Torres. Torres built instruments which were just a little smaller than today's big 'n fat designs and they lend themselves to intimate music in small venues.
It has an old (30+ years) bear claw Englemann spruce soundboard, nice Indian rosewood back and sides, a Spanish cedar neck, ebony faceplate, fingerboard and bridge, mahogany body bindings with black top, back and side purfling. Its finished in a hand rubbed lacquer finish, fitted with high quality Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons, and strung with La Bella 2001 medium tension strings. The scale length is 650mm and the nut width is 50mm. This guitar has seen occasional and careful use as a demo in my studio and is in like new condition.
It has a nice tone with solid clear bases and sweet and warm singing trebles. Intonation and playability are very good. I expect this guitar to develop an exceptionally expressive and articulate voice over the next few years in the hands of a sensitive good player.
Friday, July 8. 2011
Here are some quick photos of a custom nylon strung acoustic guitar I finished recently. It features East Indian rosewood back and sides, a cedar top, curly maple body bindings with sea foam green top, back and side purfling, a fine line paua abalone rosette and a Spanish cedar neck with a black walnut center section integrating a carbon fiber composite structural reinforcement beam.
The radiused ebony fingerboard is inlaid with paua snowflake face markers, 2mm MOP side markers and has a scale length of 660mm with 14 frets to the body. The guitar has an ebony faceplate and an ebony backplate with an inlaid paua abalone crown. The bone nut is ~ 1 13/16 and the string span at the bone saddle is ~ 56mm. The plantilla and bracing are based on a design by the Spanish flamenco guitar maker Manuel Reyes, with small modifications by this builder.
The instrument is finished in gloss lacquer, fitted with Gilbert zero-backlash tuners and strung with D'Addario Pro Arte strings. A K&K Classical 4 element pickup and endpin jack is installed. It has a sophisticated modern voice with very good balance, clarity, and string to string separation. The tone in the lower registers is clear, big and slightly dry. The trebles are bright and clear with increasing sweetness and resonance as you play up the fingerboard. The K&K setup provides a slight mid-range emphasis which serves to balance the character of the cedar top.
This guitar should please a discerning finger picker, record well and provide good counterpoint to voice. Its on its way to California soon !
Monday, May 24. 2010
Here are some quick photos of a classical guitar in select Indian rosewood and red cedar I finished recently. It has mahogany bindings, top purfling, a Honduras mahogany neck with an ebony fingerboard (650mm), a Indian rosewood bridge and a bone nut (52mm) and saddle. It is fitted with deluxe Gotoh matte gold tuners, finished in lacquer and strung with D'Addario J45 composite strings.
This guitar has a very balanced and clear tone, with solid, somewhat gravelly bases and clear, bright and slightly assertive trebles. Intonation, playability and loudness are good. It has a lot of presence with body effects providing an interesting moody and dark feel to the tone. In the right hands, it can soar !
As part of a rare end-of-month/2010 recession special, I am offering this guitar on ebay with no reserve, together with a new lattice top tenor ukulele.
Saturday, March 6. 2010
Here are some photos of a classical guitar i finished recently. It features a western red cedar soundboard, Indian rosewood back and sides, a mahogany neck, mahogany binding, an ebony fingerboard, and a waxed rosewood bridge. This guitar is fitted with Gilbert tuners, finished in lacquer and strung with D'Addario J45 strings.
It has a big, open, dark, clear and slightly wistful tone with good sustain, balance, volume and intonation. If i was a cinematographer and had to conjure up a scene that the tone of this instrument invokes, i would find myself in Paris in early autumn, dusk falling, leaves rustling in the street, cafes beginning to open for the evening. Something expectant, something wistful.
I think it was the Spanish builders Jose Ramirez and Ignacio Fleta who popularized the use of cedar instead of spruce for soundboards. The bracing pattern and graduation techique i've been using recently seems to be yielding some nice results. Its a 7 fan strut system with a thin cypress bridge pad that extends almost to the edges of the lower bout, similiar to the one used by Manuel Reyes. I'm also using a 3rd diagonal cross brace similiar to the method adopted by Fleta.
Tuesday, September 1. 2009
A new TKL 8900 case arrived yesterday, the perfect prop for some photos of a new classical guitar (#44) i recently finished. It features a master grade Swiss spruce top, Indian rosewood back, sides and faceplate, a Honduras mahogany neck and body binding, an ebony fingerboard and bridge and a bone nut and saddle. The scale length is 650mm and the nut width is 52mm. It is fitted with gold/ebony zero backlash Gilbert tuners, finished in hand rubbed lacquer and strung with D'Addario J45 strings.
It has a very smooth and balanced Spanish tone !
Sunday, August 23. 2009
I've finished rubbing out and setting up #44, a classical guitar in Swiss spruce and Indian rosewood. It sits on the sofa, where i've been playing it for a while, strings stretching and settling. Its quite remarkable the changes a new instrument goes through when first strung, partly as a result of the new strings stretching and becoming a little denser, partly a result of the accomodation of the soundboard to the strings. I can hear it acquire its voice, moment by moment.
This is a process that goes on for some time of course, rapidly during the first months of its life, more slowly for quite a few years. Anyone who has played a selection of fine old classical guitars will recognize the characteristic sound resulting from decades of adaption of the soundboard to the stresses created by the strings, the gradual material fatigue in the most highly stressed areas tending to even and smooth out the response.
I spend a lot of time here in my builder's journal talking about how i perform the different tasks associated with making a guitar or ukulele. I still have a long way to go before they are all perfected and second nature to me, but as i continue to build i realize more and more that the skills developed in construction, the craft of it all, while important, are still peripheral to the art of creating a musical instrument. There is something more that goes into it. That something, that sentience, which guides the hand in such a way that beauty and balance of tone, expressiveness and sensitivity is born in one of these wood boxes with strings attached, is seemingly gained only thru a quiet attentiveness, grace, serendipity, and much effort, if ever.
I'll take some better photos when the new case arrives in a few more days. Stay tuned !
I'm not an expert at finishing but this is the method i've developed and use for rubbing out a lacquer finish.
After the lacquer finish has cured for about a week, flatten it with 1200 wet and dry sandpaper with water. You may find a felt backing pad useful in areas around the bridge and fingerboard. When you are satisfied, move to a 2400 micro-mesh soft touch pad with water, then a 4000 micro-mesh soft touch pad (again, with water), followed by 3M Imperial Microfinishing compound, followed by 3M Finesse-It II finishing compound. Inspect and iterate where necessary. Finish with a quality carnauba based liquid wax finish like Carnauba Plus, available at most local pro finishing shops. Buff with a very soft cloth. Handle with care.
Autogeek have a good selection of the excellent Lake Country pads. I use the 4" spot buffs with a 4" backing pad on my Porter Cable 7424 random orbit variable speed polisher. This size is especially good for smaller instruments like ukuleles where its a bit tight around the waist of the instrument.
If you don't want a super hi gloss finish, skip the Finesse-It step and try finishing with a 6000-8000 grit micro-mesh soft touch pad with water as a lubricant.
Thursday, June 11. 2009
I wanted to take and post some photos of a classical guitar i finished recently before i ship it to Massachusetts today. This guitar has a western red cedar top with modest bearclaw figure and quilted maple back and sides. Over the years, and with exposure to sunlight, the maple will turn a warm golden color and the mahogany and cedar will both darken, providing a striking countenance.
The plantilla was taken from a 1931 Santos Hernandez in a collection of an acquaintance and the soundboard bracing is similiarly in the Santos style, with the addition of a 2nd diagonal cross brace below the sound hole. The soundboard started off an even 2.6mm thick and was graduated around the bottom of the lower bout and in several other areas. You can see a photo of the bracing in this earlier note.
The guitar has a Honduras mahogany neck, an 650mm scale African ebony fingerboard with a 52mm bone nut and Macassar ebony trim, including the faceplate, bridge and body bindings. It is fitted with Gilbert tuners, finished in lacquer and strung with Hannabach Goldin strings. The bridge is drilled with double string holes in the Gilbert style to improve the string break angle over the relatively low saddle.
The guitar has good sustain, loudness, intonation and playability. The bass strings are solid, slightly dry and edgy and the trebles are clear and soaring. The overall effect is an articulate, nuanced, measured, dark and singing voice, most suitable for Bach or the Spanish dances. I'm looking forward to receiving a mp3 for my website from the new owner someday !
Tuesday, June 2. 2009
While the weather in central Texas has been fixin' to get warm, its been cookin' around the workshop too.
I have a classical guitar in cedar and quilted maple in the final stages of finishing. It has solid, somewhat dry and slightly gravelly basses with clear soaring trebles. The instrument has great presence and the tonal constrasts tend to lure the listener in. The overall effect is one of a somber, dark and measured feel with a singing voice over the top, perfectly suited to playing Bach. In my classical guitar building practice, i've been in a spruce groove for a while so i found it a nice opportunity to revisit the cedar tonescapes. Its easy to get lured into the respective merits of each of these two tonewoods when building with one or the other for an extended period of time. There are those who will say that cedar lacks the lyrical and sweet qualities of spruce and there are those who will say that spruce lacks the presence and dark qualities of cedar, and there are those who will agree that each has a beauty of its own ! The pairing of cedar with maple is particularly auspicious in a way, because the purity maple often lends to an instrument moderates the stridency often found in cedar, contributing a very nice balance and interesting body effects to the tone. I'm particularly pleased with the way this guitar turned out.
I also have a 14 fret long scale soprano in claro and adirondack spruce and a 14 fret long scale slothead tenor in claro and Adirondack spruce almost ready.
After receiving a request for a 14 fret 19" baritone from a player in Hawaii, I've spent quite a bit of time on R&D for a new baritone model. I now have two new baritones in Honduras mahogany nearly ready. One is a 20" scale and one is a 19" scale. There is a short but interesting story associated with the R&D of these two baritones. The first, originally intended to be a 19" scale 14 fret baritone, became a 20" along the way. Its body was based on a traditional island style tenor scaled up about 15%. Half way through construction, it became obvious to me that with the standard sound hole placement distance from the bridge to the bottom of the soundhole would be too short and the loudness and bass response might suffer. I therefore made a 20" scale fingerboard for it, converting it to a 13 fret to the body 20" scale instrument.
For the second try at a 19" scale 14 fret baritone, i used a traditional island style tenor body scaled up about 10% (somewhat smaller than the 1st try) and moved the soundhole up, providing a better placement of the bridge on the soundboard. So the 19" 14 fret baritone became a 13 fret 20" baritone, and the 19" 14 fret baritone i now have seems optimal for this scale length and body size. The 19" one will be going to a customer in Hawaii RSN (real soon now)' and the 20" one will be available for purchase later this month. They are both sweet ! I'll write up some notes and publish some photos of them together for comparison purposes when they are done.
Lastly, i have a classical guitar in spruce and rosewood and several tenors, two of which are set up with RMC Acoustic Gold™ saddles and are MIDI-capable, in various stages of completion. They should all go into the finishing stage later this month.
Thursday, May 21. 2009
Here are a couple of photos of a classical guitar in western red cedar and quited maple in progress. The first photo shoes the macassar ebony binding being held in place with tape while the glue dries. The second photo shows the fingerboard being glued. I use a fingerboard caul which distributes clamping pressure to the edges of the fingerboard. The ebony fingerboard is held in position by two small bamboo pins, one at the 1st fret and one at the 12th so it doesn't move around while being glued. I use hot hide glue for the binding, purfling and fingerboard on my instruments. I also use it for joining bookmatched backs and fronts and for gluing the back on the instrument.
Sunday, May 3. 2009
I spent yesterday well into the late evening making necks, one for a classical guitar and one for a ukulele. I thought i'd try taking some impromptu workshop shots with the DSLR and set up the tripod behind me, put the shutter on the timer and took a few.
I never let a router near my headstocks. Routers eat wood like nobody's business. One slip of the hand and its all over with. I drill the mortice slot ends and peg holes on the drill press and cut the top of the headstock on a scroll saw. The rest of the work is done without power tools. Each one comes out a little different which gives things a handmade look, for better or worse. We're all used to seeing such perfection in factory made musical instruments, where large and expensive CNC equipment is used to produce thousands upon thousands of identical necks. The results often have a perfectly lifeless feel.
Who is Chiyozuru Sadahide and what is a kiridashi ? Check this out.
Sunday, August 24. 2008
#41, a flamenco guitar in Mediterranean cypress and Swiss spruce. It features a Honduras mahogany neck, a 660mm scale ebony fingerboard, a 52mm bone nut, a rosewood bridge with bone saddle, an amboyna burl rosette, peghed™ geared tuning pegs, a clear tap plate and a gloss lacquer finish. The plantilla was taken from a 1931 Santos Hernandez and the fan bracing is in the general style of Manuel Reyes ... it sounds good and plays nice !
You can see more photos here.
Tuesday, June 3. 2008
Saturday, May 24. 2008
#40, a classical guitar in Indian rosewood and Swiss spruce.
I'm going to be clearing out a couple of guitars over the next week. I'll be listing them on ebay in the next day or two. If you are looking for a nice sounding and playing guitar, shoot off a bid. With everybody trying to figure out how they're going to pay for a tank of gas as it approaches $4 a gallon, you may get a chance to steal this from me - no reserve - they go for what they go for !
You can read more about it and view a collection of photos here.
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