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An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place! These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...
Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie
Paul N. Hasluck, Manual of Traditional Woodcarving, 1911
I give two good reasons why you should consider using French polish to apply shellac to your next work.
One reason is the finish that it creates. This is the back of Julia's guitar, a copy of a 1933 Santos Hernandez, after only three French polish sessions using a 1 pound cut of shellac. It simply astounds me as to how wonderful this finish is becoming!
This is the top of Julia's guitar after only two French polish sessions!
The best reason to use shellac and French polish is for your health!
What other finish is there that you make out of bug secretion and grain alcohol? The only chemical in shellac that will do damage to you is the grain alcohol and you have to drink that stuff to cause the damage. You do not need any personal protection equipment to apply shellac and you don't need a HAZMAT locker to store the components. How wonderful is that?!
The equipment you need to apply shellac is simple: raw wool for the pad; cotton fabric to cover the pad, and a little olive oil to help apply the shellac. Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention that you use ground volcanic pumice to fill the wood pores!
Does this sound to good to be true?
It must be true, shellac has been applied by French polishing for over 200 years with great success!
This video is available through Fernandez Music or LMI. I wish I had bought a copy 'way back in 1994 when I really got into this lutherie thing, it would have saved me much heart ache.
This is a wonderful DVD, I highly recommend it! Mr. Fernandez covers all the bases of using shellac and French polishing, if you watch this DVD a few times and try your hand at French polish, you too will discover that it is not as hard as all those woodworking writers and pundits claim it is!
I do have Robbie O'Brien's DVD on French polish, again available from LMI. I haven't watched it yet, though I've had it for over six months. I haven't watched it because I am at a level where it is better for me to spend an hour or so gaining experience at French polishing then to watch a video of someone else doing it.
There are many, many articles and books about French polish, one article I recommend French Polishing Demystified, by Vijay Velji, which appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Fine Woodworking. I also recommend searching out articles written by Eugene Clark, Cynthia Burton, George Frank; Dan Erlewine wrote a great piece for Stew-Mac which you can find in their Trade Secrets! Newsletter, click here to read that article.
I suggest that you visit these websites to learn more about the art and history of French polish:
French Polishing, Antique & Code Finishes
Chris Baylor has posted one of the best articles I've read on French polish. Click here to read it. You may think that his article makes French polish sound like it is an easy thing to do, well, IT IS! You just have to practice it to be good at it, like any other skill!
There is a myriad of YouTube Videos by guitar makers on how they apply shellac by French polishing. Check out Les Stansell and Michael Thames!
I know that Taunton Press has just published a new book of French polish by Derek Jones, but I don't think it has been released yet. I would like to look at a copy of it.
I can't forget to mention Shellac.Net, they have a great website where you can buy shellac and learn all sorts of things about shellac. I should buy a copy of The French Polisher's Handbook from them, it was written in 1910 by "A Practical Man", it looks like it is full of wonderful information on French polish.
So get busy and do some research and then buy all the ingredients to make your own shellac.
Don't be afraid of shellac and French polish!
Be afraid of someone who tells you that you shouldn't learn a new skill just because they think it is too hard of a thing to do!
Yesterday, I went to my favorite used tool website, Sydnas Sloot and once again discovered that I was too late to consider buying a vintage saw from Mr. Moss. Sandy Moss is one of the best used tool dealers to buy from on the Internet, several of the tools in my arsenal I purchased from him.
I also realized that the last tool I purchased from Sandy was seven years ago (I reached a saturation point in tool collecting about then) and that the world has changed mightily since those days. There was once a time when you had a few days to consider buying a hand saw from an Internet seller before it would be sold to another, now you must snap up a vintage saw immediately or it will be sold. I also remember when most hand saws were priced under $50 and most saws at a flea market were under $20. Again, those prices and saws have gone the way of the buffalo.
There is currently a Handsaw Craze that is sweeping the nation, when did hand saws become so popular? Am I the only 50 year old man who remembers when the old timers discarded handsaws for a bandsaw and table saw because they thought those machines were the best things to use for ripping and crosscutting wood?
These days writers for the glitzy woodworking magazines have discovered the potential of hand saws. That has created a "revival" among men who retired from their regular day jobs and finally got the chance to do what they wanted-work with the wood. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wish that they didn't drive the prices of tools out of the reach of those of us who haven't retired or, in my case, never will.
I use power tools at my day job because they make me more efficient. I use hand saws to make guitars, to use a bandsaw or table saw for me removes a very personal aspect of guitar making. A guitar is such an intimate instrument, why instill noise into the wood and then into the spirit of the guitar?
I honor an allegiance to my father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers by using hand saws. For me a handsaw is not a fad and the last thing I want to do is drive the price of a vintage handsaw so high that a newbie to traditional woodworking would be better off buying a $235 saw from Lie-Nielson or Wenzloff and Sons. I guess I could say that for the entire vintage tool market at the moment.
I don't apologize for this rant. A woodworker should use the tools that they need and should be able to purchase them at a reasonable price. I plan on working with the wood until I can no longer get out of bed, woodworking for me is not a fad, but a way of life.
All of us need to make wood working accessible to those who are younger and make it fun for them. I do not want to deny a young person an education just because the market is driving up the price of the tools (or college tuition for that matter) needed to get ahead in life.
Gil Gilpatrick, Building Wooden Snowshoes & Snowshoe Furniture, 2001
Remember these snowshoes? I re-laced them with 1/8 inch nylon cord and mason's line last November and today was the first day I could really try them out! We received over 20inches of snow yesterday and last night, some times the snowfall rate was 4 inches an hour!
These snowshoes are a dream! They are about 2 pounds lighter per shoe, as compared to when they were laced with rawhide, now it's like walking air! Click here or on the book title above to learn more about Gil Gilpatrick's book on how to make snowshoes!
Our place this morning. I might try to get the Wrangler out this afternoon!
The gulch behind our house.
Our Australian shepherd, Josey, coming up the road.
Bernard S. Mason, Woodcraft, 1973
Rob Gates, who has a wonderful blog, The Offcut, was asking me about what knife I use.
My main "go to" knife these days is a Frosts Mora of Sweden #106 woodcarving knife that I purchased from Smoky Mountain Knife Works. Click here to see this knife at SMKW!
Mora of Sweden #106 Woodcarving Knife, 3 1/4 inch blade, top
Mora of Sweden #120 Woodcarving Knife, 2 3/8 inch blade, bottom
My wife bought me this knife several years ago for Christmas, she heard me mention that Robin Wood preferred this knife for spoon carving. I find it the most amazing knife, I wish I had gotten one years ago. The extra blade length is a big help in carving, especially spoons, there is something about how easily it moves through the wood. Check out Robin's blog for other recommendations for green wood working tools!
I bought the Mora #120 twenty years ago or so from Woodcraft, you can see how much I've sharpened it. I carved many a spoon and the heels of several guitar necks with this knife. Click here to see this knife at SMKW!
These knives are indispensable in my shop. I would be helpless without them. I suppose that I should try to make a guitar or ukulele with just a knife and an axe one of these days.
I am a firmly believe that every woodworker needs to be highly skilled with a knife.
(Rob, I found Moonraker Knives and Woodsmith Experience in the UK that carries Mora Knives. If you know of a retailer for Frosts Mora knives there in the UK that provides good service, please let me know. I promised to send one to the daughter of a good friend of mine in the Yorkshire Dales for her birthday!)
Irving Sloane, Classic Guitar Construction, 1966
Work continues on Julia's guitar as I can make time.
The neck and upper bout have been leveled with sanding blocks for the fret board. I put down the tape to keep the glue squeeze out off the wood. I learned to this long ago, if you don't you can spend a lot of time carefully scraping away the glue and the wood.
The fret board is ready to go, it has its final shape and level. I decided to use at piece of 3/4 inch MDF for the clamping caul instead of the piece of Douglas fir that I have used in the past. The MDF is more flexible and more likely to conform to any irregularities of the fret board and neck. I want the fret board to have good contact with the neck!
Gluing and clamping the fret board.
After installing the frets. I bought a new fret hammer from LMI, my old Sears-Roebuck cobbler's hammer tended to mar the frets, and I got a pair of fret nippers from StewMac which are absolutely wonderful. Finally, a tool I don't have to send back to StewMac because it was poorly made!
The head stock. I tried to make the crest as much like the original as I could.
Carving the neck. As a classic guitar player, I know that the neck must be comfortable, it's probably the most important part of the guitar! I'll spend some quality time to make this the best neck I have ever made.
Carving the neck and the back side of the head stock.
Daniel Carter Beard, The Field and Forest Handy Book, 1906
The outside thermometer registered 0 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, it may have said -1 degree Fahrenheit, but I didn't want to look too closely. Not bad for April 10th!
We got much needed snow with this storm, but not enough. I just read that the snow pack at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is at 49 percent of normal and the Wild Basin snow pack is at 54 percent.
It's going to be a long hot, dry and very scary summer. The wildland firefighters will be very happy.
I finally got a chance to finish binding Julia's guitar, a copy of a guitar made by Santos Hernandez in 1933. I did some research on the internet looking for images of guitars that he made after 1921 and before his death in 1943 to get a better idea of how he "trimmed" out a guitar. Here is my interpretation of what I learned.
On some of his guitars Santos used a very wide maple purfling.
This makes for a very bold look. He also made a heel cap from the same wood as the bindings. I used ebony bindings on this guitar and used ebony and maple for the heel cap to make the binding theme.
A photo of gluing on the heel cap.
You would be surprised at the amount of stress a guitar receives while it is being made! It gets all covered with glue, my hand slips when the binding tape breaks and a finger nail scrapes the sound board, it can be a bit of a brawl between maker and guitar! (Sorry for the blurry image!)
The sound board cleaned up after the binding is complete.
This guitar is very special, Julia chose a redwood top that came from a board that was rescued from a barn that stood outside of Yosemite National Park. I was able to re-saw only two guitar tops from this board, one that is on this guitar and the other will be used for a copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar. The rest of the board has too many knots to make it useful for guitar tops, I will probably use them for ukuleles at a later date.
Wood with this kind of provenance is rare, not often can a maker claim this personal of a connection to a piece of wood.