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Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #126

Doug Berch - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 10:32am
Categories: Luthiery

What’s On The Bench – 4/21/2017

Doug Berch - Fri, 04/21/2017 - 4:39pm
On the bench are three planes that have been getting quite the workout lately. They started complaining that they were overdue for a sharpening. I have come to trust their feedback so I took them seriously. Here they are minus their blades. They feel empty and lonely without their blades but this situation will not last long. […]
Categories: Luthiery

Workbench Tote

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 04/12/2017 - 3:34pm
I do not know when the open wooden tool box came into general use.

Roy Underhill, The Woodwright's Work Book, 1986



If you own copy of The New Traditional Woodworker, by Jim Tolpin, then perhaps you have constructed his workbench tote project.

My workbench is always a mess and now that I am getting to the finishing stage for two classical guitars, I thought I would try to mend my ways and keep a tidy bench. A workbench tote is a start in the right direction.



I held fairly close to the dimensions in Tolpin's book, but used some nice pine that was on hand (I think it is lodgepole pine, it's hard to find good ponderosa pine these days) for the sides and handle, with pine plywood for the bottom.

A carpenter by trade, I decided to build this tote in the house carpenter tradition, nothing fancy, just 45 degree miters, a table saw cut groove for the plywood...



...glue and pin nails from a trim gun to hold everything together.



The tote handle shape is a personal decision, you don't have to copy anyone's design, make it look the way you want it to look.



Boring the holes for the handle made me realize that I need to spend some time sharpening my augers!



It is a tote for the workbench, so the handle is held in place with trim nails - rulers, chisels and gauges aren't heavy enough to warrant larger fasteners.

It's not as fancy as the one in The New Traditional Woodworker, but it was a fun, quick project.

I save the fancy work for my guitars,


you know, something like this!

Now, get out in your shop and make something!

Here's a video of Stephanie Jones, enjoy!



Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #125

Doug Berch - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:08am
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Categories: Luthiery

Building a Bridge with a Stanley No.192 Plane

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 7:32pm
The bridge of a guitar as we know it today is a relatively modern invention consolidated by Torres, although he was not the inventor.

Jose L. Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, 1995


Many people don't know how much work is involved in constructing a guitar bridge, I know for most classical guitarists it is simply an anchor point for the guitar's strings.



I arch the bottom of the bridge to match the guitar sound board's doming, cut a channel for the saddle to sit in and I make a tie block for the strings.

The tie block gets covered with a piece of mother of pearl, this protects the tie block from string wear and gives the guitar a bit of bling.

Since I am making a fairly close copy of a Hernandez y Aguado bridge, the tie block is sloped towards the saddle slot, this was original done to increase the breaking angle of the strings over the bridge. This helps increase the overtones in the guitar. Compare that with a modern flamenco guitar bridge and you will see the string "breaking angle" is very, very shallow, the string goes almost straight from the tie block to the saddle.



I souped up the blade on my grandfather's Stanley No.192 rabbet plane and it works wonders in cutting out a rabbet for the tie block overlay.



It would be nice to close up the mouth of this plane just a little, but if I do my job of properly sharpening this Sweetheart Era blade it performs with perfect aplomb.



The Rocklite Ebano bridge with its new MOP tie block overlay. I put a bit of hide glue on the tie block, dry it with a heat gun, clamp the MOP onto it and then run some CA glue along the edges.

Tomorrow is the day from drilling the string holes in both bridges, then the final shaping and carefully stowing away the bridges so they will not become damaged.

Please bear with me as I find a new template for my blog, I want the blog to be easy read and search.

Here's a video of a brilliant young guitarist from Australia, Stephanie Jones!



Categories: Luthiery

Learning From My Past – Dulcimer #24 From 1979

Doug Berch - Sun, 04/02/2017 - 1:25am
Dulcimer #24 is the only dulcimer I have in my possession from the first phase of my life as a dulcimer maker. The dulcimer made its way back to me a few years ago and has spent most of its time hanging on the wall since its return. I began making dulcimers on the kitchen […]
Categories: Luthiery

New Shop Made Marking/Cutting Gauge and Blog Page Template

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Sun, 03/26/2017 - 2:21pm
Gauges are tools for producing lines upon the surface of wood, parallel with the edge they are used upon.

George Ellis, Modern Practical Joinery, 1902


I started making this gauge about a year ago, it was a rainy day project that I didn't finish until today, thus it became a snow flurry day project.


The fence and arm are walnut, the wedge is made from a 20 year old piece of ebony, the cutter was taken from a purfling cutter that I abandoned long ago.


I need to reshape the cutter's end from a knife point to a v-point, that tends to work better for cutting veneer into purfling strips.



There is another marking/cutting gauge on the tool shelf that is the standard "go to" gauge, but I wanted another gauge just for cutting veneer.


Here is my quiver of gauges, from left to right: the newest gauge, the day to day gauge, a double arm mortise gauge and a pin gauge. The mortise and pin gauges were made from Claro walnut harvested near my parents home in Northeastern California, I wish I had track trailer full of that gorgeous wood!

I hope everyone likes the new look of the blog! I wanted something that was easy to read and navigate, though for some reason I can't seem to get the "Label" gadget to work so one can randomly search the blog.
Categories: Luthiery

In Search of the Best Finish for a Classical Guitar

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 1:26pm
You can bring the surface to a smooth sheen by rubbing the wood, with the grain, using a handful of dry spokeshave shavings - before you scoff at the idea, try it.

Drew Langsner, The Chairmaker's Workshop, 1997

The other day I consigned a cedar/Indian rosewood guitar at a guitar shop of a fairly well known guitar maker. He liked my guitars and said that I was doing "a really good job in making them", but he criticized my use of French polish.

He said "Shellac scratches too easily and it doesn't hold up well." He took one of his custom guitars off a wall hanger and showed it to me.

"Here, the way you should go is UV cured catalyzed polyester! You can finish a guitar in a day!" he boasted, "however, you have to wear a hazmat suit to enter the spray booth"

"Why would I do that?" I asked, "I have a very tiny shop and I am trying to be safe and green!"

"It's the finish we like to see these days! Looks like glass, hard, long wearing and very scratch resistant", he replied.

I couldn't help but to notice the slight "orange peel" on the back of the his guitar.

"I've been thinking about going to a water based finished", I said.

"Water based finishes are too pasty looking for my taste!", he fired back, "don't waste your time with them, use a catalyzed polymer or nitro lacquer!"

That was pretty much the end of the conversation and I walked out of the shop.

On the drive home I thought long and hard about what I should use to finish the two guitars that are on my work bench, they need to be finished by the first of June. French polish/shellac is the time honored way to finish high end classical guitars, but shellac takes a long time to harden and continues to shrink, ad infinitum, into any unfilled pore. Not too mention, if you look at a French polished surface cross-eyed you will more than likely scratch it. I would like to revive what George Frank called "an open pore French polish" that he said was very popular in France and the rest of the world in the 1920's. No pore filling, just shellac showing all the beauty of the wood. Problem is most classical guitar players want to own an instrument that has that "perfect factory glass-like finish". And no, no one in the flamenco or classical guitar world wants a guitar that has a soap finish.

I have pretty much decided to go with a water-based lacquer to finish the back, sides and neck of my guitars and French polish the top. There is one company that I will be calling next week to ask "Why should I use your finish for my classical guitars" and see what they say. Their website is very informative and I like the idea of being able to rub out a finish just three to four days after applying it. If I like using a water based finish, once I complete the new workshop I will dedicate a space for a spray booth, yes, I will purchase a HVLP spray gun.

I wonder how many people who read my blog will groan at this post? Wilson not using French polish? It is a wonderful skill to have, but, I am trying to make a living at building and selling my guitars. I am not an amateur. I want the best finish possible for my guitars, that helps bring more customers to me.

Yes, I know there are many guitar makers and players who swear up and down that French polish with shellac is the best finish for a classical guitar, however...

Here is something to think about: the world famous guitar maker, Robert Ruck, who was awarded a life time achievement award from the Guitar Foundation of America in 2016, is considered the man who set the industry standard for classical guitars. He uses a catalyzed polymer finish for his guitars. Shouldn't that be the standard for all classical guitars?
Categories: Luthiery

On the Bench - A 1963 Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Redwood/East Indian Rosewood

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 03/10/2017 - 2:24pm
To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done.

Dr. SunWolf, professor, Santa Clara University


This guitar, redwood/East Indian rosewood, is based upon a guitar that was made in the shop of Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado in 1963.

It is a little bigger bodied than the 1961 HyA style guitar that I usually make, I wanted to see if there is a difference in sound between a guitar with an eighteen and seven-eights inch body and a guitar with a nineteen inch body length. I know that is only an 1/8 of an inch difference, but I have heard guitar makers and players alike swear up and down that a larger bodied guitar, even an eighth of an inch bigger, is bigger and better sounding.


The top bracing is based on one used by Jesus Belezar, Manuel Hernandez's son-in-law, except I added one more bass brace.



I decided to use only three braces on the back, sometimes Hernandez and Aguado used four braces. Four braces tends to give the back a higher pitch than three braces.



Yesterday was spent doing the final sanding on the interior, there are people who believe that the inside of a classical guitar should be immaculate. Those people need to look inside a guitar made by Antonio de Torres, Santos Hernandez, Domingo Esteso or any other guitar made by an Spanish master. I spend at least one day cleaning, sanding, burnishing the inside of a guitar, it's as if the guitar is nickel and dime-ing you to death.

Glueing a guitar's back on is very nerve wracking for me, I want everything to be as perfect as possible, which means no glue drips and that all parts mate well.



This redwood top has some gorgeous medullary rays! I have learned to put several wash coats of shellac on a guitar top before I start the binding process, it helps to protect the top from binding tape and glue.



The shop is starting to look more like a guitar maker's shop with all these guitars hanging up waiting for work!

From left to right - Engelmann spruce/ziricote, redwood/black walnut, redwood/rosewood. The neck you see hanging on the rack is for a Port Orford cedar/rosewood guitar.





Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #124

Doug Berch - Thu, 03/09/2017 - 10:28am
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Categories: Luthiery

Appreciation For A Simple Tool

Doug Berch - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 7:23pm
As I gain more experience with tools I find myself needing fewer tools. In the past I used this knife for repair work. It is long, thin, and has a slight taper in thickness. With a little heat, moisture, and this knife I can take the back off of a dulcimer, etc. I have seen […]
Categories: Luthiery

On the Bench - Redwood/Black Walnut Classical Guitar

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 02/24/2017 - 3:06pm
Redwood forests were California's second Mother Lode, and like Sierra Nevada gold they are inextricably linked to the state's history.

John Evarts, et al, Coast Redwood, A Natural History, 2011

Today, I glued the back onto a redwood/black walnut classical guitar that I named Luisa, after the flamenco bailaora, Luisa Maravilla.

The top is redwood that I purchased from Paul Carroll at Redwood Bears and Burls in Gasquet, California.

The back and sides I re-sawed, by hand with a Disston D-8 rip saw, from a board of black walnut that I purchased at a flea market in Longmont, Colorado.

The neck is Port Orford cedar, the top braces are from a 50+ year old white fir 2x4, the back fillet is sycamore, the back braces are black cherry. All of these species grow in Tehama County, California, which is where I am from, either as naturals or exotics.

It is a "green" guitar, meaning that all the wood comes from sustainable sources.

Here are some photos of building this guitar.


Joining the top pieces.



Preparing to rout out the channel for the rosette.



Laying out the top bracing. This is similar to the bracing pattern used by the great guitarrero, Feliz Manzanero.



Glueing on the transverse braces.



The sides are next...



and the top blocks are glued in one at a time.



The sides are attached to the top and the neck.



Back linings attached along with all of the pillarettes to support the back braces.



The back is ready, with my label, to be glued on.



The Cumpiano/Natelson method for clamping the back onto a guitar, a cut up inner tube.

It was a lot of fun work to reach this point!

Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #123

Doug Berch - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 10:17pm
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Categories: Luthiery

What’s On The Bench – 2/16/2017

Doug Berch - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 2:20pm
What’s on the bench? Nothing! Well, there are two holdfasts but they are really a part of the bench so they don’t count as stuff on the bench. I’m getting ready to start work on the next run of dulcimers and that begins with some general woodworking tasks. I’ll be sawing and planing rough stock […]
Categories: Luthiery

Classical Guitars for Sale, 15% Off All Guitars in Stock!

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 7:48am

I am extending my 15% off sale through March 2017!

Now's your chance to own one of my handcrafted guitars!

Please contact me for details!
Categories: Luthiery

Making Wooden Capos/Cejillas for Classical/Flamenco Guitars

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 4:10pm
The musician that looks upon the capo as a cheater, becomes much more limited in his playing than the capo user.

Anders Sterner, musician


Thought you might be interested in a short post on how I make capos, or cejillas, for classical/flamenco guitars.




First thing I do is roundup some black and white strips of veneer; a piece of nice wood for the core and even pretty wood for the outside laminations.

I plane pieces to proper thickness, align in proper order and glue all pieces together.



Here are two capo templates I came up with, I copied historic original Spanish capo shapes, I draw these onto the block of wood I just created from the veneer, laminates and core. Then I drill holes for the violin pegs and have a violin/viola/cello peg reamer handy.



Here is a photo of a shop made violin peg shaver that I made. I use 1/2 size violins for the capos.



Once the violin pegs fit perfectly in their holes in the capos, I cut them to proper length, drill a hole in the peg shaft between collar and head of peg for the nylon guitar string. I cut the capos to match the template outlines, sand, buff and apply some linseed oil.



I use LaBella brand nylon flamenco guitar strings to attach the friction pegs to the capos. The string will run through a piece of vinyl tubing which will protect the guitar's neck. After the strings and pegs are attached I glue a strip of neoprene to the face of the capo. Once the glue has dried I trim the neoprene...


and have a whole handful of beautiful capos!

Yes, I have left out a few steps of how I make these handy little tools for a guitarist, I can't give away all of my secrets!

Categories: Luthiery

Guitar Capos/Cejillas for Classical and Flamenco Guitars

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 4:02pm
Any prejudice that may exist against the use of this device (capotasto) with the classical guitar should be dispelled by the knowledge that Giuliani's nickname given to him by a frivolous secret society to which he belonged was Vilax Umo Capodastro.

Frederick Noad, The Classical Guitar, 1976


I made eight capos/cejillas for classical or flamenco guitars.

These cejillas/capos are based on a traditional Spanish design that dates from the 18th century. The peg is made from rosewood, the center section of each capo (capodastre) is carved from either hard maple or East Indian rosewood and the sides of the capo are either curly maple or East Indian rosewood.

Current capo inventory consists of two with curly maple sides and four with East Indian rosewood sides. There are two capos made from solid Vermillion, a very gorgeous hard wood from Africa.

All pegs are attached to the capo with LaBella brand flamenco "G" string, the faces that go against the guitar strings are covered with neoprene and the peg string is covered with vinyl tubing to protect the guitar neck.

The laminated capos are $30 a piece, plus shipping.

The vermillion capos are $20 a piece, plus shipping.

I will not be making anymore capos until June or July of 2017.

Please contact me at highcountrylutherie@gmail.com if you would like to buy a capo!

Thanks!




Categories: Luthiery

Nickel Thick, Dime Thin

Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie - Thu, 01/26/2017 - 12:58pm
Top thickness is, along with bracing, the most debated and tinkered-with area of guitar making.

Ervin Somogyi, Guitar maker, 2013


How thick to make a classical guitar's top is a subject of heated debate. I know, other makers, and amateur classical guitarists, have argued at me about top thickness. I see no point in arguing about top thicknesses, either you like my guitars or you don't. You are suppose to buy the guitar you love.


I found the following tidbit of information in Ervin Somogyi's Specific Top Thickness in the Guitar:

...Mr. Tatay motioned the young Newberry over to his workbench and, using hand gestures and some coins, indicated to him that the secret to his lutherie was to make the guitar top about the thickness of a nickel in the middle, and the thickness of a dime at the edges.





These two coins have been in my jean's pocket for the last two weeks, so I can pull them out throughout the day and feel how thick they are between my thumb and forefinger.




According to my General brand caliper, a nickel is .070 inches thick, or about 1.8mm...



a dime is is .046 inches thick, 3/64th of an inch, which would make it between 1.1-1.2mm thick.



This is a Port Orford cedar guitar top that is going to be paired with some "wild grown" East Indian rosewood. The caliper is on the very outside edge of the top, it measures in between 1/32th of an inch and 5/64ths of an inch, a hair or so over .070 inches, or about 1.8mm. So I got the top's edge to a little more than a thickness of a dime.

Just so you know, I made this top last fall, before I read through Mr Somogyi's article. I was using the top thicknesses of Spanish guitars that were made in the 1960's as a guideline.



Here at the middle of the top at the sound hole, the thickness is almost 3/32nds of an inch, about .090 of an inch, or somewhere around 2.2-2.3mm.

Should I go thinner? Maybe. I won't know until I glue the fan braces on and "tap tune" the top. Remember, Mr. Tatay said about the thickness of a nickel and dime.


When the great guitar maker, Antonio de Torres, was asked what his secret was for making such wonderful sounding guitars, he answered by holding up both his hands and put his thumbs to his fore and middle fingers. He said that knowing how to thickness a guitar's top was the secret, which was no secret to other guitar makers.


Silviu Ciulei - Nueva Vida (1962 Manuel de la Chica) from Guitar Salon on Vimeo.


Categories: Luthiery

Music I’d Like To Hear #122

Doug Berch - Fri, 01/20/2017 - 5:35pm
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Categories: Luthiery

Finding Happiness In A Small And Cluttered Workshop

Doug Berch - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 1:35pm
Sometimes my wife refers to my workshop as “Doug’s playroom.” She’s right. Some luthiers have workshops that look like laboratories. Others have workshops that make mine look like a laboratory. I walk the middle path. Here are some honest and candid pictures of one of my favorite places to be. I love and enjoy my […]
Categories: Luthiery

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