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Brokeoff Mountain Luthierie

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The Adventures of a Luthier Wilson Burnhamhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17461017493297553603noreply@blogger.comBlogger250125
Updated: 51 min 50 sec ago

1860's Greek Revival House: Trying to Solve a Mystery

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 3:41pm
The Greek Revival style is an adaptation of the classic Greek temple front employing details of either the Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian order.

John J.-G. Blumenson, Identifying American Architecture, 1977


West elevation. The plaster was used as insulation, this was put in place when the building was first sided.

This side of the house that I am looking at may be the original 14x16 log structure that was built on this site in 1862. I haven't pulled off anymore siding and corner boards to see how these logs were notched, I need to keep as much original material as possible to maintain the historic integrity of the house. So far, the house isn't giving up much information as to what year it was built.



South elevation

This past Friday I pulled off siding on the south elevation that was covering the lowest logs between the two doors (and underneath the window) that you see in the above photo...





...and discovered this - the corner of another log house! Apparently, someone cut off the east wall of the original building and then constructed another log house against it! I assume that the fireplace of the original building was on this wall and since it left a big hole, the owners thought is would be better to remove that wall and put up a new one, no repairs to the original wall was needed. This new room is 14 feet wide by 17 feet 2 inches long.





In the lower left of the above photo you can see the square end of a floor joist of the original building. All the joists in that part of the building fall on 16 inch centers. When I measured to the left of the center this joist another 16 inches the tape measure fell on what would have been the 16 foot mark of the building. Hmm.

Tree ring dating of the logs would tell us what year the trees were cut down, not when the house was built. The men who built this house may have left the trees "mellow" for a year before they used them or used them as soon as they were cut.

Speculation about this house's construction is running rampant, and in a way, I hope we don't learn every thing about it...
Categories: Luthiery

On the Bench - Antonio Torres FE 19 Guitar: The Bridge is On!

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 2:38pm
Torres believed that the soundboard was the single most vital component of the guitar.

Jose Romanillos, Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker, 1987



I assembled this guitar earlier this year and today I was able to glue the bridge onto the guitar's top.

This is always a little nerve wracking, there is always the chance that the bridge will shift under the clamps pressure and I may not notice it in time. Before I do this procedure, I do spend some time making sure that I locate the bridge in the correct place with the proper amount of string compensation (for intonation), the saddle must be parallel to the frets and that the outer string holes are parallel to the neck.



Three clamps and cauls to glue the bridge in place.




I should really call this a Torres/Santos model guitar. It's outline is that of Torres FE19 guitar (as rendered by Neil Ostberg, click here to see his wonderful site and to download those plans), but at the last minute I decided to use a bracing pattern that was used by the great Santos Hernandez on a guitar he made in 1930.

Torres used a bracing pattern that resembles a kite, click here to see that, it makes for a very well balanced guitar, but the parallel bracing of the 1930 Santos really intrigued me. Click here to see that guitar plan.

I've used the standard Torres bracing on other guitars and it works well, I wanted to experiment on this guitar and next weekend after I have fretted over the frets, installed the tuning machines and new Savarez strings I will find out what voice "Amparo" will have.

Categories: Luthiery

Seven String Flamenco Guitar: Glueing on the Bridge, Fine Tuning the Frets and Adjusting the Action

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 10:35am
The flamenco guitar is an instrument which is narrowly linked to the peculiarities of flamenco art.

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.


Categories: Luthiery

1860's Greek Revival House: More Preservation Work on the Siding

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 9:40am
To a nation that was optimistic, expansive, idealistic, and mindful of posterity, the Greek Revival brought an architecture of beauty, breadth, simplicity and permanence.

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.

Categories: Luthiery

Preservation Work on an 1860's Greek Revival House

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:24am
The [Greek Revival] style disappeared in the East before the earliest attempts at mining in Colorado, but its influence was felt nevertheless as miners came west from other areas.

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.



Categories: Luthiery


by Dr. Radut