CLASSICAL GUITARS FOR SALE

Monday, November 17, 2014

Disston Rip Saw, Stanley Scrub Plane, Douglas Fir Guitar Top

Towering up to heights as great as 220 feet, with sometimes 100 feet of trunk clean of branches, arrow straight, and with almost no taper below the crown discernible to the naked eye, an ancient Douglastree may be 17 feet in diameter.

Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Western Trees, 1953



Douglas fir isn't often used as tonewood for classical guitars, many makers think that it is too heavy of a wood to be used for guitar tops. The strength of Douglas fir is phenomenally strong, its specific gravity is 0.50 and its modulus of elasticity is 1.95! Compare that to Sitka spruce's specific gravity of 0.42 and its modulus of elasticity at 1.57.

I think it is great wood, and, yes, I am biased because I was weaned on a chunk of Douglas fir, it was a playmate along with ponderosa and sugar pines, incense cedar and black oak.

The point of all this is there is a young classical guitarist who wants me to make him a guitar with a Douglas fir top.



This is the last piece of old growth Douglas fir that I possess, it was salvaged from old bleachers and I acquired it from a trim carpenter who was making doors out of this stuff.

Just think of all the butts that sat on this wood...




Ripping it down with my trusty No. 7 Disston rip saw...




To the saw horse for the last few inches...




One problem with ripping out tops from a piece of wood that is under an inch in thickness is you don't always get to rip out two sets of tops. I suppose if I owned a real he-man Norm-ite 10 ton style re-saw bandsaw this wouldn't be an issue, but I enjoy the gentle noise of a hand saw.

To make sure that I end up with two pieces that are 5/32" to 3/16" of an inch thick, I reached for the No. 40 Stanley scrub plane.

Running this plane over and through the wood I can get a sense of the sound, the voice, this guitar top will have. I just listen to the blade cut the wood and I hear music...





The top after is has been smoothed with a No. 3 Stanley plane.

I have drawn the plantilla, or outline, that is based on one created by Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado, in 1961.




The grain on this piece of wood varies from 15 rings per inch to 32 rings per inch.

Very beautiful wood.

I can't wait to start working on this guitar...



Here is a YouTube of Karmen Stendler playing one of my favorite pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo.

How to Make a Box Sing, Part 2

Here is a video of Kyle Throw playing the Torres/Santos style guitar that I finished this summer. The guitar has a Engelmann spruce top with California laurel back and sides, 650mm string length.

This guitar is very responsive, very loud and is capable of many musical nuances, with proper playing and care it will continue to improve and become a magnificent guitar!

Kyle performs the Fandanguillo from the Suite Castellana by Federico Moreno Torroba.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to Make a Box Sing

Stephen Valeriano and Kyle Throw, both classical guitar students at Metropolitan State University, Denver, stopped by my shop last weekend to play two guitars that I have on hand. Kyle also came by to pick out the wood for the new guitar that I will be making for him over the winter.

Stephen played Heitor Villa-Lobos' Prelude No. 1 in e minor on a Sitka spruce/black walnut guitar that I made a while ago.

He does a wonderful job with this piece, he is a very sensitive musician and I expect great things from him.

Enjoy!

1860's Greek Revival House: My Work Is Done!

Greek Revival A style popular in the first half of the nineteenth century, it favored the Greek version of Classicism over the Roman. This meant eschewing arches in favor of post and lintel, basing forms on the Greek temple, and using the Greek version of the Orders.

Mark Gelernter, A History of American Architecture, 1999



Two weeks ago, I and my co-worker, Michael Lohr, were able to walk away from the 1860's era Greek Revival farm house that we worked on all summer.

Siding was replaced, a new door matching an original was added, several days were spent in a skid steer landscaping the grounds, and paint was applied to the building.




Here is what the house looked like when I started working on the building...




Siding and landscaping completed...



A fresh coat of paint...



reveals a true gem.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hernandez y Aguado Style Guitar, Douglas Fir Top, Mahogany Back and Sides, SOLD!

The classic guitar is a delicate equation painstakingly conceived to produce a brilliant, balanced tone over its entire playable range.

Irving Sloane, Classic Guitar Construction, 1966


The young guitar student that I mentioned in my last post came to my shop yesterday to take delivery on the Douglas fir/mahogany guitar. It is a close copy of a guitar made in 1968 by the great Spanish makers, Manuel Hernandez and Victoriano Aguado.




The top is from a salvaged Douglas fir board...





...and the back and sides are Honduran mahogany.


The young man played several Catalan songs arranged by Miguel Llobet, I thought I was listening to an old recording of Andres Segovia! This guitar has an old Spanish-like quality to it that gave me goose bumps, it sounds so wonderful! I can't wait to hear this guitar in six months!

I hope to get a chance to record the young man and his guitar this winter so I can post the videos on this blog.




He and his father gave me a deposit so I can start working on another guitar for him.

He really likes the Douglas fir for its sound, now I need to convince him to let me use sustainable woods that grow here in North America for the rest of the guitar...

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Best Wood, Part 2

Federico Sheppard: Do you ever use cedar tops?

Antonio Marin: Yes, but only two or three per year. This is a spruce town.


From an interview with the great Granada guitar maker, Antonio Marin, American Lutherie #117



A young man visited my studio the other day to chose a guitar from my inventory, he was looking to replace the Asturias brand guitar that he is currently playing. His two complaints about the Asturias were the string length (656mm) and the neck is too thick and rounded.



Spruce/Walnut Guitar


I handed him a spruce/walnut guitar (photo above) with a scale length of 650mm. He loved the neck and the string length, but I noticed right away that he was struggling to get a good sound out of it.




Spruce/California Laurel guitar, Torres/Santos Model

So, I pulled out one of my latest guitars, the one based upon Antonio Torres's guitar FE 19, which is loud, has an amazing voice and capable of many nuances and again, as he played this guitar I noticed that he didn't get along with it.

"Wilson," he said, "I really want to play that Douglas fir/mahogany guitar that you brought to the Guitar Celebration at Metro State."





I got that guitar out of its case and handed it to him.

It was startling to hear him play that guitar, it was clear that a spruce topped guitar was not for him. The piece of music that he played was immediately clearer in sound and quality, no flubs with the left or right hand.

This guitar has a 640mm string length, one-half inch shorter then his Asturias, which he noticed right away and mentioned that the neck on my guitar made it easier from him to play.

For a little experiment, I let him play my old battle axe, a cedar top Hernandis guitar with a 665mm string length that was made in Japan in 1973 and imported by Sherry-Brener, the one that I played at the Christopher Parkening master class (click here for my posting on that) all those years ago. Yep, he could play that guitar well and it turned out that his Asturias guitar has a cedar top.

I told him that at this point in his studies he is a Douglas fir and cedar man.

I never would have thought that wood could influence a classical guitar player that much.




A true Spanish guitar is made of spruce and rosewood, like the woods in the photo above. I strive to make as Spanish of a guitar that I can, even though I am not Spanish, I want to capture that sound I heard in Segovia's and Sabicas' recording when I was studying the classical guitar.

Working with these young musicians is showing me that I need to make instruments that fit them, that fit them physically, sonically and dare I say it, emotionally. The guitar they play should blow their minds so much that they can't stop playing it and through that constant playing they become better musicians. That is a goal worth working for.

The young man will come back next weekend to pay for and take delivery on the Douglas fir/mahogany guitar. He mentioned to me that he wants me to make him a guitar for his senior recital, which will be in one year.

I all ready know what woods I will use for that guitar: a Douglas fir top; black walnut back and sides; walnut for the neck; black locust for the fret board and bridge; and braced with Engelmann spruce.

All woods that grow in Colorado.


Douglas fir that was salvaged from an old bleacher seat. I've had this piece for 15 years

Time for me to go have lunch and get into the workshop and do some work!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Wooden Straight Edges

It is not advisable and can even be dangerous, to entrust someone else with the search for a fiancee, the purchase of a pair of shoes or the choice of a guitar.

Jose Ramirez III, Things about the Guitar, 1990




I didn't get everything done today that I wanted to get done, but I did get started on a few things.

After morning chores, I took the dogs for a walk through our wonderful backyard, which is part of Arapahoe National Forest, and then started making legs for a router table. I have about ten windows (6-9 pane) to make before the end of December and I am not about to plane all the muntins, rails and stiles by hand, I have an expensive router bit for that.

I got the legs glued up, went for a 2.5 mile run and had lunch. The afternoon, I thought, was going to be dedicated to working on a copy of a 1968 Hernandez y Aguado classical guitar, click here for a post on that guitar, I need to thickness the fret board and glue it onto the neck.

First thing I wanted to do was to check to make sure the gluing surface of the neck was still straight, and, as usual, I once again discovered that my 24 inch long Lee Valley straight edge is too long to check the neck. One end of the straight edge ends up on the guitar body which has dome to it so the straight edge won't sit flat. Duh.



The answer was to make a straight edge. If you don't already have Chris Schwarz's article on how to make such a beast, click here and take a gander at how to make a wooden straight edge.

I wanted to use some mahogany that I have, but it isn't quartered well enough. Once again, it was California laurel to the rescue.





The straight edge that I needed most was this one - 16 inches long to check where the fret board will sit. I should have made it 17 to 17 1/2 inches long.





I had a 10 inch piece left over which will be perfect for checking the other side of the neck.





I love California laurel, I wish had some more. It has a wonderful smell, is very easy to work with and makes incredible sounding guitars. I suppose I ought to order a few laurel boards from Gilmer Wood or Northwest Timber.

The fret board will have to wait until next weekend, tomorrow is back to work at my day job.



Here's another YouTube of Leonora Spangenberger.