Upcoming concerts, projects, and plans

And just like that, summer seems to have disappeared into fall. This morning as I type this, I am drinking tea and sitting bundled up on my sofa with a sweater against the chilly 5 degree weather (I still have a window open because it’s only September 1st!!)

This also made me realize that I have been rather absent from my blog for two whole months. I suppose that I was going through a phase of not really knowing what to write about as my summer projects were rather more scattered and messy (see bench below for proof…), so this will be a bit of a newsletter before I get back into proper blogs this fall.

real life bench photo at the end of a refinishing project (I’ll tidy it up – I promise, Dad!)

Summer Projects

In the shop I have had a couple of repair projects to do (reattaching a headpiece on a student classical guitar, refinishing one of my own builds, and lowering the action on a student’s steel string). The weather has been way too humid for me to do any serious building, so I decided to hold off on some of those projects until the fall when things dry up a bit. Also, my goal is to build 4-5 guitars a year, and I have already completed 4 this year, so I am well ahead of schedule.

Although it might seem a little strange, this summer I refinished the classical guitar, ‘Madimi,’ that I had built last fall. I had used Lee Valley’s French Polish on the guitar originally, and while the finish was OK, it really did not add anything to the grain of the wood. The guitar is built of flamed maple and bearclaw Engelmann with birdseye maple embellishments, so it is pretty much entirely covered in figure. The Lee Valley French Polish did nothing to enhance the grain, and it was actually hard to even tell that the soundboard was figured at all. The guitar was built for one of my students, so he comes to my house every week and sees most of the projects that I have going on. He saw the finished Torres guitars at the beginning of the summer and loved how the General Finishes EnduroVar looked on the figured maple, so we decided to give Madimi a new look. I think that the varnish has really enhanced the figure on this guitar, and I love the amber tone that the EnduroVar adds to maple.

While I love the look of this EnduroVar, it is quite a bit of a pain to use. I am still working at getting the perfect even glossy rubbed finish, but it is quite challenging with EnduroVar because the coats of varnish are incredibly thin, and the coats do not melt together in the way that shellac does.

Fall Concerts and Recordings

Craig and I have a few concerts lined up this fall starting tomorrow! We are playing in Woodstock as part of the Labour day weekend Canada 150 celebrations. The event organizers booked Pavlo to play a concert in the evening, and asked us to be one of the afternoon opening acts. As this is an outdoor concert, the experience should be interesting – hopefully the mics all work so that we can be heard! We’ll be playing at 3pm in the park, so if you are in or around Woodstock, we’d love to see you there!

We are also playing a concert in Hanover, Ontario next Friday at Grace United Church. This concert will be another fundraiser for the local women’s shelters, following up on our tour last fall. On Sunday, September 10th, we’ll be in Toronto, and the following Saturday, we’ll be playing back here in Ottawa. We also are excited to be part of the Wednesday noon concert series at Southminster United Church in Ottawa on November 1st. Check out all of our upcoming concert details on my website, here.

Along with preparing for these performances, I have been getting ready for my first professional recording sessions. As I have mentioned before, I am getting ready to put together my first CD, so I will be recording a few pieces this September for grant applications and possibly for inclusion on the final CD. The only recording that I have done in the past has been on my own with incredibly limited knowledge and relatively mediocre standards. Now that I am two weeks away from my first proper recording, I have to say that I am rather nervous. I will be practising a lot over the next two weeks, and hopefully this, along with the concerts leading up to the first recording will have me well prepared. If anyone has tips for first time recording sessions, please share them in the comments!

Building Projects

When I get back from all of my running around, I’ll be back in the shop and will be working on quite a few projects. I have three partially completed guitars that I would like to finish, as well as wood for two other classical guitars that I would like to start. One of those is a commission, and the other is because I purchased some very pretty wood.

Engelmann, Cedar, Spalted Maple, Rosewood, and Ovangkol

The commissioned classical guitar will be a very traditional Rosewood and Engelmann Spruce classical guitar with asymmetrical fan bracing and a sound port. The three partially completed guitars include the experimental late 18th century guitar, a zebra wood steel-string, and the spalted maple classical guitar. These guitars are at all sorts of stages of completion, and it should be a bit of a relief to get them done and hear them for the first time.

The second classical that I would like to build is because of the wood that is second from the left in this picture:

Spalted Maple, Ovangkol, Yellow Cedar, and Rosewood

I saw the Ovangkol on Bow River’s website when I was ordering wood for the Rosewood classical commission, and I couldn’t pass it up. Apparently it sounds rather like rosewood, so I am thinking that I will pair this with a red cedar top and a few modern embellishments. I am not sure whether I will have time to work on this during this fall, but this guitar will be built at some point in the next year.

As you can see, I also picked up a bit more spalted maple. I am not quite sure what I will use this for, so for the moment it will just sit in my wood pile.

More to come to the blog soon!

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other projects

While I have been focusing this blog on my current Baroque guitar project, I had a minute today and thought I would write a post about a couple guitars which are on the backburner right now, planning to be completed in the next few years.

Experimental Steel String Guitar 005

While building my first steel-string guitar after a Taylor model, I had thoughts of building myself a steel string. However, what I wanted was a smaller bodied (close to a classical size), seven string acoustic guitar.

Materials

  • Soundboard – Sitka Spruce
  • Back and sides – Zebrawood
  • Neck – mahogany with a maple centre stripe

As you can see below, I made a wild looking rosette inlay for this guitar. The red circle is dyed veneer from Luthier’s Mercantile. The black shards radiating from the soundhole are thin pieces of ebony.

rosette detail
rosette detail
soundboard
soundboard
neck and headpiece, v-joint partially fitted
neck and headpiece, v-joint partially fitted
Zebrawood blank for side
Zebrawood blank for side

 

Circa 1800 Spanish Guitar 006

Two years ago I did a bit of research on the guitars that were built in the transitional period between five course Baroque guitars and six string classical guitars. One of the instruments that I came across was a Spanish six course guitar very similar in shape to the Stradivarius ca 1700 guitar. The music that might have been written for this instrument includes the Boccherini guitar quintets. So I did a bit of drafting and some more reading, and came up with a plan for a guitar that might approximate the instrument.

I used a similar body shape to the Stradivarius, just slightly larger. The soundboard was to be fan braced (the major development in bracing patterns from the Baroque to the classical period which changed the building style from lute-like to more guitar-like).

Materials

  • Soundboard: Engelmann spruce
  • Back and sides: cherry (locally sourced)
  • Neck: Spanish cedar
soundboard fan bracing
soundboard fan bracing
rosette
rosette
soundboard bracing
soundboard bracing
back (cherry with died pear and butternut stripes)
back (cherry with died pear and butternut stripes)
back braced and joints papered
back braced and joints papered
headstock veneer, back (with V-joint visible)
headstock veneer, back (with V-joint visible)
headstock veneer, front
headstock veneer, front

At some point, hopefully soon, I will start working on these instruments again.