Endings

The last little while has seems to have been filled with finishing projects and generally coming to the end of things. There has been a lot going on—just this last week I sent 4 guitars out of my shop: 3 repair/set up jobs and the completed guitar No. 023! I will be receiving the shipment of my completed CDs early next week, so the Vespers CD project is also almost over. I am getting married in 2 weeks as well, and, as I am planning to change my last name, that seems like a bit of an ending as well.

Finally, this blog is coming to an end.

It is hard to believe, but after almost 6 years (the first post on this site was in August 2013), I have filled up the free memory space that comes with a wordpress blog. I won’t be deleting this blog, so all of my ramblings will still be available, but I will be starting afresh over on my website emilyshawguitar.ca. If you are a subscriber and would like to continue to receive my blog posts in your inbox, the easiest thing for you to do is to subscribe to my newsletter (click somewhere around here). I am planning to send out a newsletter about once a month with upcoming concerts, projects, and links to recent blog posts. If all goes to plan, it should be a good way to build a bit of a community and to stay in touch as I keep making a mess in my workshop. Don’t worry, I won’t spam your inbox with loads of unnecessary emails, and you will be able to unsubscribe at any time by clicking a link at the bottom of the newsletter.

When I get back to blogging (probably in September—with everything else going on this month, I can’t see myself sitting down to write very often!), I have all sorts of plans: a ukulele build-along series with plans available (something that I promised years ago), more luthier interviews, and of course all of the regular things to which you are accustomed. I have a Torres/Fleta copy to build in the fall as well as two or three other classicals. One of those will be for myself, so that should be a lot of fun!

Now, to the building update:

Completed guitar No. 023

This has been quite a successful and enjoyable build. Although not perfect, the finish on this guitar is my best French Polish work yet. I did a much better job at filling the pores on this one so the gloss is more even. You can see the reflections of my garden in the back of the guitar particularly well—this is definitely my most mirror-like polish on a guitar. I used an amber shellac rather than a clear finish to give some more warmth to the wood. I have to play around more with these different shellac tones to see how they affect different species of woods.

More importantly, the sound is also quite good: balanced, warm, clear… all of the things that I want out of a guitar. If I were setting up the guitar for myself, I would have wanted a slightly higher action than what I ended up with—this guitar is set up with about 3.5mm action at the 12th fret and I play a guitar with 4.5mm clearance (yes, that is a bit high), but the set up makes the guitar play really easily and is suitable for its purpose.

I have built 3 guitars with the same mould now, and I am happy to say that the results have been pretty consistent. Now that I have established that level of predictability, I am ready to make a couple of changes. The next two full size classical guitars that I am building will be for myself and for another player who needs a bit more resistance/higher action, so I’ll be making a couple of adjustments to my mould before I build the next guitar. I need to adjust the lower bout a little bit to allow for a different saddle set up, and I might add a bit of an angle to the neck… stay tuned for a post on this after I know what I am talking about.

This guitar, No. 023, is definitely a bit more on the fun, modern side as far as design goes. I used padauk for the back and sides which is a wonderful red wood that was very easy to work with. I’ll definitely be building with this again (I already have another piece in my stockpile).

I used a tight-grained piece of Engelmann spruce for the top, which allowed me to make the top quite thin without becoming too floppy. I braced the top with a lattice pattern that was my first foray into modern classical bracing patterns, and I have to say, I am quite pleased with the results, both in sound and structure. The top definitely held its shape more easily—a fan braced top has a tendency to end up a bit wavy, and that is not fun when it comes time to glue on a bridge. I will be building another lattice braced top later on this year.

For the inlay details, I went for a pretty cohesive design just using thin black veneer lines, spalted maple, and padauk. Spalted maple made for interesting bindings, although they were definitely not easy to work with as the density is far from consistent in a wood that is partially rotted/with fungus/worm-holes etc.

So there you have it: guitar number 23 is finished, and now I can take a month off (kind of—there is a guitar conference stuck in the middle of this month that will occupy a lot of my time both in preparation and then during the actual conference week). I’ll get back to building and everything else in September. In the meantime, one more plug for my monthly(ish) newsletter: sign up here!

And one more plug for my CD. I will have the finished product in my hands early next week, so if you would like a copy, feel free to head over to my website to pre-order your copy. I’ll be shipping them out as soon as I can (or hand delivering when I see you next). I’ll also have copies at all future concerts until I run out. At some point I will figure out how to have digital copies available… but that will likely be on September’s list rather than this month.

Thanks again for reading and for following along with my projects for the past 6 years. See you over on my other website in September for more ramblings!

Closing box number 023!

It was a busy week, but I managed to the the back on the guitar before my trip out to Nova Scotia (shameless promo – I have a concert this evening at Gallery215 in Selma, NS at 7:30pm – pay what you want/can admission, hope to see you there!)

I haven’t shared much of this build yet on the blog, so let’s start back at the beginning with the thinned Engelmann Spruce soundboard and the rosette inlay. I decided (with input from the future owner of this guitar of course) to go for something a bit more modern in this rosette and made a mosaic rosette out of angular scrap pieces of padauk and spalted maple. I started with an excavated rosette channel and then started gluing in the pieces of wood (each piece separated from its neighbours with thin black veneer lines):

After that, the messy inlay was cleaned up and levelled, and then I used my circle cutter to cut and clean out a ring around the outside and the inside of the rosette in order to insert a few black and white lines.

With the rosette finished, I flipped the soundboard over and got to work on the bracing. This time I decided to do something completely new and give lattice bracing a try. I looked at a few patterns and then came up with my own 4 x 4 lattice pattern for the lower bout. It is slightly asymmetrical – a little bit more bracing on the treble side, but not in a really obvious way. I made the upper bout quite stiff with a couple of significant spruce pads and two sturdy cross braces. Hopefully this will help with the projection and sound efficiency, but I will have to wait until she is stringed up to hear! Here are a couple of mid-progress shots of the lattice bracing. Later on in this post you will be able to see the whole pattern.

By this point, I had already thinned and braced the back as well. The back and sides for this guitar are made out of padauk, which is a pretty cool bright red-orange wood. I am hoping that it will sound as good as it looks!

I decided to laminate the sides in the same way that I did for the last guitar using Alaskan yellow cedar. This wood is really easy to work with for planing and bending, so the laminating process is really not too arduous at all. I was able to reuse my gluing set up from the last time as well, and I think it worked even better this time. I spent a bit more time getting the sides cut to width and shaped to fit the arch of the top before bending and laminating this time, so the end result was cleaner and more efficient.

clamp monster take 2

As you know from my last post, at this point in the build, I took a day to make some new spreaders for the mould in order to keep the sides in place. Here are the sides sitting in the mould with the soundboard just about ready to start assembly:

To start assembly, I first had to put together a neck. This time, I used Sapele, which is similar to mahogany, but a bit heavier. It was really nice for carving the heel, so I might use it again! I laminated the headstock with spalted maple and padauk to match the rosette. There will be quite a bit or clean up to do later on, but the shape is roughed out as much as is needed at this point:

Once the neck was roughed out, I attached it to the soundboard. I finally came up with a system that didn’t have me wishing to grow an extra arm, so here is a picture of the setup:

As you can see, I had the neck clamped firmly in my universal vise (from Lee Valley). I then clamped a straight-edge along the centre line of the neck (C-clamp on the left side of the soundboard). Next was to slide in and position the soundboard. I used a little spring clamp (right hand side of the picture) to clamp the straight edge to the soundboard. I then drilled my pilot holes for the two small finishing nails that I use to align the soundboard and neck. Then I took everything apart, added glue, and put it back together. I clamped the joint securely with two fast-acting F clamps (similar to these ones from Lee Valley), and waited for everything to dry.

Then the soundboard went back into the mould so that I could attach the sides. I had some work to do to fit the sides into the slotted heel, and I had to bend and glue linings to give more support to the side-top joint. Someday I might try triple-thick sides, in which case I will be able to forgo the linings. Once everything was fitted together, I added glue and clamped it all down. After a bit of cleanup, here is the open body awaiting the back:

And then I attached the back, closing in the box and making it look quite like a guitar. I clamped the back down with a combination of regular clamps, binding tape, and bike inner tube.

So now the guitar awaits all of the detail work – binding, inlays, fingerboard, bridge, carving the neck, etc.

And I’ll leave it at that!

PS – Maybe I’ll see a couple of you this evening, or at another concert someday in the future. For anyone interested in my CD, I have set up a pre-sale for the album on my website. The CD will be finished and available at the end of July. Here’s a sneak peak at the artwork that my cousin Ceilidh painted for the album cover: