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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie
Jose Ramirez III, Things About the Guitar, 1990
The seven string flamenco guitar that I built for the lead singer of Ode to the Marionette is finished!
Well, just about. Remember, I do have a side job as a historic preservation carpenter.
I am waiting for the tap plates to install on the sound board, these tap plates protect the top from the golpes, a percussive tap from the first or ring finger nail that a flamenco player uses.
I need to do some intonation work on the saddle, I want all notes to play in tune. I might even fine tune the fan braces that are glued to the inside of the top.
Did I mention how wonderful this guitar sounds? It has a gorgeous voice and it is loud! This guitar has very clear separation of notes on all the strings up and down the neck and all are even in sound with each other.
Don't let anyone tell you that a classical/flamenco guitar with a string length under 650mm won't be loud, that is simply a myth!
Did I mention how wonderful this guitar sounds?
Why does it sound so good? I used tried and true construction techniques that have been handed down by the great Spanish makers and I am developing a better understanding of how to make a guitar that has a soul. Sounds a little corny, but it is true.
I also closely followed the plans of a 1933 Santos Hernandez flamenco guitar, which can be found in Roy Courtnall's book, Making Master Guitars. This guitar is smaller than that 1933 Santos, I used the dimensions of a 1929 Santos Hernandez guitar which can be found in Sheldon Urlik's book, A Fine Collection of Spanish Guitars. Both books can be purchased from Luthiers Mercantile. Click here for their website.
While waiting for the shellac to harden on the bridge I started work on the frets. Here I have taped the fret board and put down a protective cover on the guitar's top.
Leveling the frets with a fine diamond stone.
After leveling I round over the tops of the frets with a diamond rounding file.
Then I do more rounding work with a three cornered file that has been ground to protect the fret board.
Then I polish the frets with wet/dry sand paper and 0000 steel wool.
Glueing on the bridge.
I installed D'Addario EJ45 Pro Arte normal tension nylon strings at Julia's request. I do like D'Addario strings, I have used them for close to 30 years, I think they are great strings, but I have discovered that Savarez Corum Alliance strings make a guitar sound even louder! I also like La Bella 2001 Classical guitar strings.
A beautiful guitar. Soon it will be in the hands of a young woman who will share its voice with the world.
Carole Rifkind, A Field Guide to American Architecture, 1980
This house sits on the flood plain of St. Vrain Creek and it did suffer some damage in the September 2013 flood, but it is standing and I am trying to replace some of the worse pieces of siding.
I say "trying to replace" because the mill that is supplying the beveled siding screwed up my order twice: the first time I got rough sawn siding; the second time I got "colonial" siding which is thicker than beveled siding. All this put me three weeks behind schedule.
The mill re-milled the colonial siding and I received the proper siding last week, me and my colleague started replacing pieces on the east elevation. We discovered that this elevation was sided last because at one point it had a fireplace chimney that extended to the roof, the logs and chinking still have paint on them.
This is a double pen log house, the logs were joined with steeple notches. From the construction techniques used and what little I know about the family that first lived in it, my educated guess is that it was built between 1867-1872.
It would be nice to do some tree ring dating to find out when the logs used in the construction were cut.
The dormers are sided, we tore off some particle board siding that someone put up quite some time ago, all looks better!
I found a door that matches one of the entrance doors that you see in a 1917 photo of the building, there are several more windows that could use some maintenance work. A group of volunteers are scheduled to prime and paint this building late September, can't wait to see that!
More siding is on the way, I hope I get what I ordered.
C. Eric Stoehr, Bonanza Victorian-Architecture and Society in Colorado Mining Towns, 1975
Those of you who follow my blog know that I work 7 months out of the year as a historic preservation carpenter for a government agency.
My latest project is working on a house that was built in the 1860's and it is need of some maintenance. I am replacing the worst pieces of siding, I've removed most of the sashes so that cracked lights can be replaced and re-glazed, and then I and another worker will scrape paint and prep the building so several volunteer groups can doing most of the painting.
This house is not stick built, it is really a log house! The timbers are hewed on 2 sides and joined at the corners with true dovetailed notches. The roof and attic are framed with full dimensioned lumber, the furring strips that hold the siding are also milled lumber. Whoever built this house was a highly skilled carpenter who knew how to use an axe. I haven't found out what the exact date of construction was, I was told 1860, I think it was a little later, because I don't think that there was a sawmill working in the vicinity that early. I'm guessing the construction date is closer to 1863-64.
To continue Mr. Stoehr's quote on the Greek Revival style:
Although no pure examples of the Greek Revival appear in these towns, a frontier adaptation of Greek detailing was present. The pedimental lintel used over the doorways and windows was a simple detail that could be added to the otherwise plain log and vernacular structures.
That statement fits this house to a "T"!
Just a little over a mile to the east of this house, there is a fancier Greek Revival house that has seven gables, it's a show piece of architecture for the little community it is part of.
I am grateful to be the lead carpenter on this sweet little house that others think is ugly, it is a wonderful part of our nation's heritage.
Gustave Leonhardt, harpsichordist
This is not a "how-to" post.
I just want to pass on some things I learned about assembling them. I hope these tips help you.
I assume many of you are interested in making these neat little grooving planes, but haven't gotten around to making a pair yet.
Bob Easton was the first person to bring them to my attention, be sure to check out his blog.
I am grateful that Lie Nielsen has posted Matt Kenney's great article on how to make them. Click here for the article.
Accidental Wood Worker also has a great post on these little planes, click here for that posting.
I am making these planes so I can cut the saddle slot in a guitar's bridge without using a table saw. The skate depth is 4mm and the plane's fence is 5mm from the iron.
This morning, with Mr. Kenney's article on the work bench, I started glueing parts together.
When I started glueing the "bed" for the iron I had a devil of a time trying to keep it in it's proper position, it kept shifting under the clamps' pressure even after the glue got a little tacky.
Everything turned out fine, proper skate depth, etc., but I wanted to eliminate the risk of the next piece moving under clamp pressure.
Then it hit me...all I needed were some brass brads!
I didn't follow Mr. Kenny's instructions and made the plane about one half inch bigger than what his plans call for. I learned long ago to make tool parts larger so I can make them smaller, you know, "room for mistakes".
This extra wood gives me room to use "registering nails".
All I do for this is snip off the head of a brass brad and chuck it into a drill. This is my drill bit. Now with the wood clamped where I want it, I drill the number of holes needed and insert brass brads, that still have their heads, home into their respective holes.
Then I remove the brads, apply glue to the piece in question, re-insert the brads, position the piece, push the brads home and then apply clamps. Nothing should shift.
Pretty simple, huh?
I use this technique when I glue veneer onto the head stock of a guitar neck.
I did the same thing for the other blank to complete the plane.
I then ripped it to finished width on the table saw and trimmed it to length on my sliding compound miter saw.
Making the plane work.
I tried to keep the mouth opening to under 1/64th of an inch, it's a little wider than that, but the big problem that I ran into was the shavings constantly clogged the mouth.
I rounded over the very end of the iron wedge so the shavings would ride over it, but the size of the escapement became the next problem.
I had to chisel away some of the area in the escapement that is just above the mouth and just below the wedge, you'll see what I mean if you follow Mr. Kenney's instructions to a "T".
On the next plane, I am going to use a 3/16" or so drill bit chucked into the drill press to remove this offending area. And don't forget to make the skate a little narrower than the iron, that part is in the instructions, it really helps make the plane work better.
I finally got decent shavings from a piece of California laurel after about a half hour of fiddling with the plane.
The plane works like a dream and is well worth the time and effort.
And remember - Hand tools rule the school!
If I have posted this video before, my apologies!
Scott Tennant is an incredible musician and I really like this piece by Couperin!
Manuel Rodriguez, The Art and Craft of Making Classical Guitars, 2003
This is day 2 of being sick with a head cold, it is really tough for me to sit and be quiet which means I am a little bored, so I thought I would give an update on the "bramils" that I made last week.
As you can see in the following photographs, the brass wear strips were inlaid into the arms and the cutters were shaped and sharpened.
I put a very light coat of linseed oil mixed with Naptha on the walnut to bring out the wood's color a little more.
These "gramils" work very well on a stock piece of wood, I look forward to using them on a guitar.
It's been awhile since I made a tool for the workshop, I may have to make some more.
Here's a YouTube of Scot Tennant playing a 1958 Miguel Rodriguez guitar.
I might just have to try my hand at making a guitar based upon a 1976 Miguel Rodriguez this winter...
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895
I spent a couple of hours today and made a pair of gramils, or cutting gauges, for making the binding ledge on a classical guitar. I made these out of some black walnut that I had on hand and after completing them I realized I have some wonderful CSA rosewood in the attic that would make a great set of gauges.
Those of you who follow my blog know that I dislike using power tools in making a guitar, I have nothing against power tools, I use them in my day job as a historic preservation carpenter.
I gave up trying to use a router to cut the binding ledges and went back to hand tools: two gramils, chisels and files.
I own two gramils that were purchased from Luthiers Mercantile, they are nice to use, but I have to be really careful with them because slot that for set screw that holds the blade in place can really mar the guitar's wood.
I am hoping that wooden gramils will not mar the wood, at least as badly has the metal gramils can.
Brass strips need to be inlaid into the gramils' arms and sharpen the cutter blades need to be shaped and sharpened. These I cut out of a old card scraper that I purchased from Frog Tool Company over 20 years ago. The scraper logo claims that it is Sheffield Silver Steel, all I know is that it holds a decent cutting edge.
The redwood/Indian rosewood copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado guitar is hanging from a hook in my studio waiting for me to finish the binding ledges and to glue in place the ebony bindings with curly maple fillets. It is becoming impatient. That is another reason why I made these gramils.
Many people think that using hand tools for this operation, cutting binding ledges, by hand is a waste of time, I look at it as another skill to perfect. And the noise that a gramil makes as it slices into the wood is a far more romantic sound then the whine of a Bosch brand router, and is easier on my ears.