Monday, October 5, 2015

A Pepperwood Antonio Torres Style Guitar, SE 117: Re-sawing Back and Sides the classic Laurel or Bay..., it[Umbellularia californica] has a spicily aromatic and evergreen leaf. Hence the name of Green Baytree, Spicetree and Pepperwood.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1950

Just north of Manton, California, on the back way into Shingletown, there is a series of springs that flow out of the volcanic mudflow ridge which are surrounded by pepperwood trees. This grove was a classic grove of the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, no under growth, gray to tan trunks whose bark gave out the same peppery smell of the leaves. It was a good place to stop when I would help my uncle gather cattle because of the luxurious shade. Here we would loosen the cinches on our saddles, lift saddle and saddle blanket off the back of the horse to air out his back some. After we and the horses had a drink of water, we'd cinch up, swing into the saddle and I'd grab some leaves off the tree and crush them under my nose as we rode off. The smell invoked pictures I had seen of Tuscany, it reminded me of great classical music, great paintings, and that I would dance all night with a gorgeous brunette cow girl who could ride a horse better than me.

I love California laurel.

Re-sawing California Laurel with a Disston rip saw

About 10 years ago, a guy I worked with gave me a board of California laurel, it was kind of a junky specimen, flat sawn and every thing, he thought he was going to dupe me, but I made over the board like it was kingwood. His face fell over my apparent joy.

Here's this wood opened up. Not bad, other than some bird pecks and flame it is a very plain piece of wood.

A little bit of Naptha brings out some of the color.

Seventeen years ago, I salvaged a nice 2x6 stud from a hotel remodel that I was working on thinking that it was a piece of quarter sawn Douglas fir only to find out that it red fir (abies magnifica) once I opened up the board.

Since it wasn't wide enough to make a full size guitar, I four pieced a top together and then I decided to add an all wood rosette to it. I was still fairly new to guitar making then and I screwed up the rosette. So I shelved the top.

That top has always been in the back of my mind because I often wonder what a guitar made from it would sound like. Today, I decided that the top needs to be paired with California laurel, laurel is a fairly hard wood, according to the United States Forest Service data sheets, laurel is a might bit hard than black walnut.

Laurel makes a great sounding guitar. Look else where in this blog to see a posting on a laurel guitar that I made.

This photo gives you an idea how small this guitar is compared to a standard size classical guitar outline.

Just the tiniest bit of bear claw in this top.

Once made I will offer this guitar as one of my Conservatory guitars. It will have a Port Orford cedar neck, flamenco tuning pegs, royal ebony finger board and a rosewood bridge. The price will be $1800-$2000.

Monday, August 31, 2015

I Got Rid of My Tool Chest!

For my purposes a tool chest was useless.

Chris Becksvoort, woodworker, 2001

My studio got converted into the laundry room.

The room upstairs with a south facing window is now my studio.

I spent most of yesterday moving tools and workbench up a set of narrow stairs and put everything on the floor.

A panoramic view of my new space

I've been so busy with life, work on the house and property, along with a regular day job, I haven't made much time to make proper storage for all of my tools.

Now, I am faced with the challenge of making a tool cabinet, which will a wonderful thing to make.

I pared down my tool list to what you see in the above photo, my days of tool collecting are over because I own too many tools!

I have a feeling that I will be hanging most of the every day tools on pegs on the wall and I will make a cabinet of drawers and doors to hold tools that I use every now and again.

The plan is to convert the garage into a work shop, but I don't think I can get that done until next spring or summer, and once I move in I will make a proper tool cabinet to house the tools I need. Until that day arrives, this is my space.

The tool chest in the storage shed sitting on top another tool chest and next to another

Why did I get rid of my tool chest?

Here are several reasons-

It uses up valuable floor space.

Whenever I close the lid it immediately becomes a surface on which to put things that need to be removed when I need to access it.

I am tried of bending over and rummaging through tool chest detritus.

Chris Becksvoort also wrote the following in his Fine Woodworking article in the Winter 2001/2002 issue of Tools & Shops:

I am a furniture maker, not an itinerant carpenter. I don't take tools to job sites and I'm definitely not going to sea.

I am a guitar maker.

My last gig as a finish carpenter was 10 years ago.

My tools will live in a proper tool cabinet.

Remember, to each his own.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What I've Learned About Woodworking, Part 1

Trees are our life.

Merle Burnham, my father

I found some notes I scribbled down on what I have learned about wood working.

I wrote them as a response to some blog posting that was on one of the woodworking blog aggregators, I don't remember what the post was, but it made me a little mad. Maybe it was something about a current fad in wood working or some new book that will make you a master woodworker.

Anyway, here some thoughts on wood working.

Learn how to sharpen a knife first, then a drawknife, a hand plane iron and a hand saw.

Don't make what is popular, make what you want to make.

Make a shaving horse.

Buy the best tools you can afford.

Go to a school if you must, you learn much by working at your bench making mistakes and succeeding at projects.

Build the work bench that you want to build, not one that is the current fashion.

Learn the old traditional techniques first. You can start with books by such authors as Bernard Jones, George Ellis, William Fairham, George Hayward, Roy Underhill.

If you need a teacher, take a class from someone who is well versed and grounded in the old techniques. Take a class at Roy Underhill's school, or go to Country Workshops with Drew Langsner or take a trip to England and study with Paul Sellars!

Build a spring pole lathe. Once you do you will never want to work at a bench again.

Live in a forest every day for two or more years.

It will make you a better wood worker because you will learn how every living thing in that forest interacts with the rest of the world.

The trees will show you how to work with the wood.

When I was a little boy, I was taught how to use a single bit axe.

I made toys and such from the trees I slew with that axe. In chopping down trees I learned much about pine pitch, round headed wood borers and yellow jacket hornets.

Trees are still my best teachers.

So do as Henry David Thoreau did - "I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods..."

Make sure you return the axe sharper than when you borrowed it and that it has a brand new handle!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Vintage Chisels

[The] offset chisel allows paring nearly flat on the work without the fingers getting in the way, and gives better visibility when making vertical cuts.

Aldren A. Watson, Hand Tools, Their Ways and Workings, 1982

Someone asked me the other day if I liked the chisels that are sold by Luthiers Mercantile Inc, click here for the website, and I replied that I do, I own three of them now and I may buy more. Maybe.

A 10mm LMI chisel with a new hickory handle

These are still my favorite chisels, vintage ones that I have picked up at flea markets over the years.

The chisels (my one inch wide Samson chisel is not in this picture) are Keen Cutter, Union Hardware, Stiletto, Stanley, and um, I can't remember the other brand. That doesn't matter, these chisels work for me.

Nothing fancy, they hold an edge and if they get dull after a while I take a break and sharpen them.

A violin maker once tried to get me to buy his set of Berg chisels, he extolled their virtues for 10 minutes and when he took a breath, I asked him why he was selling them.

"I don't need them anymore, I have other ones that suit me better," was his answer.

I didn't buy them, a set of straight chisels doesn't excite me.

One thing that I enjoy about these chisels is that they all have an offset, which makes sense to me because when you hold a chisel the line from wrist to radius and ulna is not straight.

A person should buy the tools they like and can afford to help make woodworking fun, enjoyable and challenging!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Mile Stone and Sapele Guitar Bindings

The purfling consists of simple rosewood fillets...

Luca Waldner, describing a guitar made by Antonio Torres

On July 4, 2015, my blog received its 250,001 hit!

Thank you to all of you who visit or have visited my blog!

I am very grateful for that!

Also on the 4th, other than being the 17th anniversary of me marrying my beautiful wife, I had some time to start glueing the black/purflings to the sapele binding that will go the latest guitar.

This is a western red cedar/Indian rosewood guitar that I am constructing for the 2016 Guitar Foundation of America Convention that will be held in Denver, Colorado. I have posted about this guitar elsewhere in my blog.

I bought a sapele back and side set from LMII about fifteen years ago to make a guitar, but never got around to making it because I never really like any wood that looks like mahogany. I don't get a kick from mahogany.

I had wanted to make a soprano ukulele from this sapele set, I got the top and back cut out, but lost interest. Then this guitar came along and screamed that it needed a sapele insert in its back and I obliged.

Now, most of that sapele set is gone and I can move on to other more gorgeous and exciting wood.

Remodeling My Current Workshop/Studio

It is a small shop, cluttered with pieces of wood, guitars of many types and in various stages of disrepair and repair, and photographs of Sabicas, the Romeros and other friends decorate the wall.

Gerald J. Bakus, A Comprehensive Reference to the Classical and Flamenco Guitar, 1977

Today, I started pulling down the old wall paneling in my studio.

I plan on replacing it with tongue and groove paneling made from aspen.

The original paneling was made to look like pine, but the owners previous to use had painted it white which made the paneling even more ugly.

Here is a before photo. My life is one big clutter.

Here is what the wall looked like at 5pm this afternoon.

The room behind the exposed studs is our bathroom, which is the next project to be done in the house.

My wife and I want to house to be ours and to reflect the tastes of the original owners, Colonel Reginald Barnsley and his wife, Jeanette. The rest of the house is paneled with pine and the faux pine paneling sheets.

And I am going to put amber shellac on the aspen to make it match the pine.

Once I finish the paneling I am having a plumber install plumbing for a washing machine and have an electrician wire in a 220v outlet for a dryer. I am tired of driving to the laundromat in Estes Park to do our laundry.

I plan on converting the current woodshed/storage shed into a studio this fall and winter. It will give me a whooping 280 square feet of room to do my work.

I'm really excited about that.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Antonio Torres FE 19 Style Guitar: Bearclaw Sitka Spruce/Granadillo

...Antonio Torres created his uniquely designed instrument in the modest provincial town of Almeria, which is about as far away as you can get from the musically sophisticated capitals of Europe.

Julian Bream, from Antonio Torres, Guitar Maker, by Jose Romanillos, 1987

I spent part of the morning fine tuning the top bracing on this guitar.

That means dividing the strings, putting my hand through the sound hole with a piece of 220 grit garnet paper taped to the end of my index finger.

The idea is to take just a few swipes on the top of the treble side braces to make the treble strings a little louder and more bell-like. They do sound louder with more separation from the bass strings.

I also sanded the top just behind the bridge to "hot rod" the top, as luthier Tom Blackshear once about that technique.

The guitar is brand new and sounds new. I can't wait to hear it in six months!

I purchased the granadillo back and sides from Hibdon Hardwood.

Jerry Hibdon asked me if he can post photos of this guitar on the gallery page of their website. I said "yes" to that!

It was nice wood to work, I do plan on using this tone wood again.

Here is a YouTube of Cinzia Milani playing one of my favorite pieces!