A few more photos of the Hamilton guitar

Last week, I posted about my most recently completed guitar, number 017, and today I thought I would indulge myself a little bit more and just share a few more photos of the guitar as I did a little bit of a photo shoot outside in my garden, and I am pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

Flamed maple headstock veneer
Engelmann Spruce soundboard
Flamed and Spalted maple back
headstock back quilted maple veneer

Hamilton skyline rosette inlay in honour of the Hamilton International Guitar Festival and Competition
Headstock with red veneer lines visible. Gotoh tuning machines

Guitar building update (June 2017)

As I have been neglecting this blog over the last month, I have been at a loss of where to start back with posts. I don’t have any exciting discoveries to share in my building process at the moment, and I have already written about all of the mundane processes of side bending, fretboard slotting, and endless sanding, so I thought that I would just get back into it with an update style post. The other reason for this is that I have not been keeping up with my camera, so I really don’t have any process pictures to show! I think that I need to start keeping the camera in the shop!

I have decided to focus on three of the guitars that I am working on. I ordered a soundboard for the 4th guitar, and I am not entirely happy with the wood grade, plus the humidity has sky-rocketed, so I will not be doing much brace gluing for the next little while.

The three guitars that I am focusing on are the steel-string and the two Torres copies, and they are all nearing completion! I just have a lot of sanding to do, finishing, bridge building, and set up left. I am pretty happy with how everything has turned out so far.

The steel-string guitar is still in two pieces, but it will be like this until the guitar is finished. This guitar has a bolt-on neck, so I will wait to attach the two pieces together until after the varnish is dry. This will make my life much easier when it comes to applying the finish – fewer nooks and crannies means less trouble while polishing and fewer weird brush marks.

I am particularly happy with how the binding on this guitar is turning out. I just used cutoffs from the guitar sides and added white purfling lines to separate the bindings from the sides and top/back. A little more clean up left, but overall, it is looking pretty sharp (if I do say so myself).

I am also quite happy with how the butt-joint inlay worked out:

The commissioned Torres guitar is looking quite well also. This guitar just needs a bit of sanding and clean up, and then I will be ready to apply some varnish later this week.

With the back and sides being of maple, the finishing process should be fairly easy as I will only have to pore-fill the headstock and neck.

The third guitar is the almost identical twin of the guitar above, just with quilted maple back and sides, and with walnut headstock and bindings. This guitar will be for sale at some point, depending how attached I become.

I will be sanding all of these guitars this week and then moving them up to my spare bedroom to be finished. I am trying a new varnish this time, so I will definitely be reporting on how that goes! Lots of good reviews from friends, so I think it should be a positive experience!

If all goes well, I’ll be delivering these guitars at the beginning of July, and I will be showing the second Torres guitar at the Hamilton festival on Saturday, July 8th. Come out to the festival if you would like to try it out!

Mini concert tour of southern Ontario

It has been a while since I posted a blog! I disappeared off to England for a holiday at the beginning of October, and when I got back, I was completely overtaken by preparations for the concert tour that Craig and I were organizing for the end of October. Then we went and played those concerts, and I am finally getting back (slowly) into a regular routine now.

I will be write a building blog soon, however, I thought that today I would share a few thoughts from our run of concerts. These were the first concerts that Craig and I have given as a duo since graduating, so they were quite a learning experience! I have organized concerts before, both for myself (June 2015 concerts in Grey-Bruce), and for large groups of people (Music for Humanity), however, this was definitely a step up from these! This was also not the first “mini-tour” that I have been a part of – I played a series of concerts with three other guitarists in Nova Scotia last year, however, I was not the one organizing the concerts, which made my job a lot easier! Craig and I set up 8 concerts over a 10 day period, which is quite a lot to organize, especially when you are just starting to figure out how to go about these things.

We started our tour by driving from Ottawa back to Grey-Bruce where I grew up. It was a long and snowy drive, but we found a beautiful lake on the way in Denbigh. (I think that Craig should use this for an album cover.)


We played three concerts in Grey-Bruce in support of the local women’s shelters. Two of the venues (Kincardine and Hanover) were churches that I had used before for concerts, so the turn out was quite good. We had 60 people in Hanover and it felt amazing to play to such a full audience. They even gave us a standing ovation at the end! Owen Sound was a new venue, and caused us a bit of anxiety. We almost didn’t get into the church, and I had not put as much effort into marketing the concert, so the audience was a bit smaller. We will definitely return to Owen Sound, however, we are going to have to think of how to reach more people.

The church in Hanover before it was filled with people
The church in Hanover before it was filled with people

After these three concerts (as well as a performance at a retirement home and a workshop for youths), we made our way down to Woodstock, where we spent the rest of the week. We played concerts in Cambridge, London, Woodstock, and Stratford during the week. All of these venues were new to us, so, as expected, we had smaller audiences than in Hanover and Kincardine. The concerts went well, and we had great feedback from the audiences, so we will be returning.

Our favourite concert of the four Southwestern Ontario concerts had to be Stratford. We showed up at the church where we were going to play to find it locked and dark. As time went on, we became more anxious and tried calling every number that we could find to try to get into the church. The audience showed up as well, and when 7:30 pm came and went, it seemed like we weren’t going to be giving a concert that night. Then Terry McKenna, the guitarist and lute player from the Stratford festival and guitar teacher at Laurier University, offered up his studio as a venue for an intimate concert. The studio was set up as a mini-theatre and was perfect for our impromptu house concert. Terry directed us and the small audience of 6 to his home and made us feel incredibly welcomed and at ease. We changed our program to make it more casual, getting rid of the intermission and changing the order of the pieces. It was a wonderful experience, and a great ending to a night that didn’t seem to be heading in our favour.

Playing the makeshift concert in Stratford
Playing the makeshift concert in Stratford

We ended our tour in Kingston on November 6th, playing an afternoon concert in a beautiful hall at Chalmers United Church before returning home to Ottawa, exhausted, and ready for a few days of hibernation.

This tour proved to be an amazing learning experience for both of us as well as a great opportunity to share some music with friends, family, and music lovers around Southern Ontario. Here are a few of the things that I will be remembering for next time:

  • Don’t try to book venues over the summer. Everyone is on holiday or going on holiday or coming back from a holiday. Next time we will have the fall concerts booked in May
  • Be careful when programming difficult repertoire. Next time, I will include some less challenging, enjoyable pieces as well as music like the Chaconne and the Emilia Giuliani preludes. My hands were worn out after the first couple nights, so I found it hard to sustain the endurance for some of my repertoire through the week.
  • Bring a blazer or something else that is presentable and warm for cold halls! We had every temperature of hall, from uncomfortably humid to goose bump cold. I would have liked to be more prepared for the cold temperatures.
  • Although touring also involves visiting and meeting with friends and family, it is important to find some time to prepare and focus during concert day. It was easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that we were on holiday during the day, and then find ourselves struggling to focus during the performance.

Thank you again to everyone who came out to the concerts and to everyone who helped make this concert tour a success! We hope to be back to Grey-Bruce and Southern Ontario next year for another run of concerts. We will start organizing our spring tour through Nova Scotia in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, we will be performing in Ottawa this Sunday, November 13th at 3pm. Check out the details and all of our other concert dates here.

I’m going on holiday!

I’m going on holiday!

I was going to write posts in advance for next week so that those of you who read my blog wouldn’t miss a week. Then I ran out of time and decided that really, it would be better for me and for everyone if I just take a break and come back refreshed in a week’s time. So in case you are wondering where I’ve disappeared to when no post appears next Tuesday and Thursday, I am off on a short summer vacation 🙂

In the meantime, I recorded Dowland’s Lachrimae yesterday. Still not a perfect recording by any means, but this is a learning process for me, so I am still going to share it. I’ll be writing a post about the guitar I am playing in this video when I get back. For now, her name is Rosy, and she is a 5/8th size guitar tuned as a Renaissance lute.

Cheers 🙂

New Website

Although I have not been building, things are on the move here in Ottawa! I am moving my website to something better and more reflective of myself as a multi-faceted musician, teacher, and luthier. This blog will now be on my new website, emilyshawguitar.ca. I will continue to blog about building as soon as my life allows me to return to my workshop, which should be in a couple weeks (workload permitting!). I will also be posting things related to my performing, teaching, and everything else that makes me who I am.

Thanks for all of your support on this first year and a half trial of blogging, I have enjoyed every minute of it, sporadic though it may have been. I look forward to seeing you on my new site once it is all put together and functional!