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Wow what a journey this has been and I can not describe to you the sense of accomplishment I feel today. as of approx midnight last night the guitar is completed. As I suspected the finish was my biggest challenge. I don't know if I would use a French Polish again if I build another. I thought it would be easier to get a good finish now I doubt that is true. Things would appear to be going smoothly then I would screw something up and have to wait, sand and start building layers again. It didn't come out perfect but eventually I just had to say good enough. Anyway Here are some descriptions of the final steps to catch you up:

 

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After I said good enough with the finish I mounted the Bridge, I carved the bridge from a solid blank of ebony. I used the belt sander more than anything to get the blended arcs to come out good. I had to scrape away the finish in the bridge position before gluing down. You can see in the pic that I also did this in the area where the fingerboard attaches.

 

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Then I went to work on the frets, I leveled and filed and leveled and filed. Then buffed with steel wool, I like the look of the gold fretwire.

 

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Then I added the tuning machines, Again I like the look of the gold

 

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Here is a pic of the tuners from the back, I used Gold Gotohs with Ebony buttons. These are in the Grover style which is what I wanted but couldn't find Grovers with the Ebony buttons.

 

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Then I mounted the Neck and glued the fingerboard down to the top. This was a little hard to take pics while I was doing this. Blake was in bed while I was doing this part so I didn't get to take pics of measuring the angle and adjusting etc.

 

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Then I fit the brige pins into the bridge. I drilled the hole in the bridge thru the top then reamed them to fit.

 

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Then I shaped the nut and the saddle, I used bone for a material so it was fairly easy (but somewhat smelly) operation on the belt sander and buffer.

 

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Then I strung it up, Made some adjustments to the nut, saddle, and neck relief. Suprisingly I didn't have any fret buzz or other fretwork issues to this point. I was just so happy that the bridge didn't just rip right off or the neck just split in half while I was tuning the strings up to pitch. I am assuming there will be further adjustment to make as the guitar settles in. I will probably make some more adjustments to the action as it is a bit high right now but I figured I would wait a little while to let the guitar get accustomed to the pressure.

Sorry about the crappy pics, The finish looks better that what they show in these pics. It was full of fingerprints etc. Also after this project my shop definitely needs a good cleanup, I didn't notice the dirty socks when I took the pic,lol

 

I played it for the first time just after midnight on Saturday April 30th and couldn't put it down. I just barely made my goal of finishing in April. The first string I plucked was the Low E as I was tuning it up to pitch. The sound that came from my little project really surprised me. It was very deep and warm and somehow complex. I know that I am in no position to judge as I am way too close to this project to look at it objectively but I think it sounds absolutely amazing. I guess at this point I don't care. This is "MY GUITAR" and not because I bought it, Not because I paid someone to make it but because I made it to my specifications, out of the materials that I wanted. And when you add the extra added aspect of doing the majority of this with my son it is just way over the top. This is a project that I will never forget as long as I live. I do believe I will build another but I know this one is special and will always be special to me.  Thanks to all who have been following this Blog, I will try to add a video on the forum so you all can see and hear it. Now I will be able to get to some of the Awesome lessons that have been added by TG since I started this project that I havent been able to mess with. I cant wait. Thanks all for your help and motivation, I really appreciate it.

 

Bill


Days 65 to 80

Apr 6, 2011
dieguy

Hi All, Well I finished up the binding and purfling. It turned out pretty good in my opinion. There is a bit of uneveness to the thickness of the binding in some areas (especially in the waist) after I scraped them flush to the sides but it isn't to noticeable. I have started the finishing process on the body while I work on finishing the carving on the neck.

 

Hey Good news, I won the NCAA basketball office pool, That was a cool $125 in my pocket. which funded my last purchase for the guitar including the Gold tuners with ebony buttons and the finishing supplies I needed. I have decided to do a french polish on my guitar. It is not a common finish for steel string guitars but I have always loved working with Shellac. Boy this is a labor intensive process. Here is a photo of the supplies

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No the everclear was not an inadvertent personal vice being left in the photo. I am using it to thin the shellac. It really works well and the smell is almost not noticeable and much better than denatured alcohol. The process is pretty straight forward. I started with a spit coat than started filling the pores on the Koa and Rosewood with an alcohol Pumice slurry. Basically you rub the pumice/alcohol into the spitcoat until it picks up the color of the wood and starts to fill the open pores. It takes quite a bit of elbow grease but it looks very nice as the colorf match is virtually perfect. After the pores are filled you start the french polishing process which is basically adding tons and tons of very light coats of shellac rubbed into the wood with a wad of cotton in a cotton rags. You use Olive oil as a lubricant which allows you to build up layers of shellac without waiting for each previous layer to dry completely. You do a session or 2 a day then start the next day with a light sanding to keep everything level. There is more to it than I am including here but I do not want to bore you. I have finished the pore filling mostly and started my sessions of french polishing. Here are some pics.

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It is going to take at least a week or 2 to get this finished completely but I think it is going to look very good when I am done. Between sessions of french polishing I am carving the neck which is coming along nicely. I havent taken any pics of my progress with the neck yet. i will try to have some in my next entry. Then I just need to attach the neck, carve the bridge, Saddle and Nut and I will be ready to do the setup. I am getting very excited.

 

Talk to you soon,

 

Bill


Days 63 and 64

Mar 20, 2011
dieguy

Boy am I glad I made my post in the forum about this Blog. All of the positive feedback has really energized my effort. I have had a pretty productive couple of days since. I am focused on trying to get the binding and purfling done this weekend. Blake was spending the weekend at his cousins house so I think he will be surprised when he gets home. I started by installing the Inlay in the tail. I double stick taped an edge guide and simply routed out the slot:

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Then I Inlayed a strip of Koa with BWB Purfling on either side. this is the same pattern that I used for the backstripe. I taped the inlay in place and then added some clamps to make sure they were completely seated.







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Then I broke out the homemade side bender and went to work bending up the Koa Binding strip. Koa is much more fragile than the Rosewood. I actually broke one, I am glad I ordered 1 extra. I was surprised how stiff this binding was, You really have to bend this accurately to get it to follow the shape of the guitar.




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Then I dry fit the binding to make sure it would fit. When I reached the tail I had to cut the binding to length and miter the corner of the purfling where it met up with the Tail inlay.







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Then I started Gluing and taping the Binding and Purfling in place. Boy this was messy. I was trying to stay neat and tidy with this operation but it was just impossible. I had a moist rag to wipe off the excess glue. It was nice to wipe this glue off but the problem was that the tape wouldn't stick to the moistened wood. I eventually got it. Boy I wish Blake would have been around I could have used the extra set of hands.

Here are some pics of the 1st side of purfling all glued and taped.



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After 30 minutes I removed the majority of the tape and cleaned up as much of the partially hardened glue as I could. Then after a couple of hours I started scraping.



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After all of the scraping I did a quick sand job to clean things up a bit more. Here are some photos of where I left off for the night.





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 I am really happy with the outcome except for 1 small item. One of the purfling miters at the tail inlay came up a few thousandths short. I dont know how I am going to fill this in yet. Its not too terrible and you have to get in pretty close to notice it. I am going to have to sleep on this one.


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Anyway I am hoping to get the back bound tomorrow. I have done most of the routing on the back already but because of the rather large convex curve on the back the router did not do a consistent job all the way around. So I am going to have to complete the channels with the chisels. i wish I had bought that Gramil I was thinking about buying. I would have been a bit more confident right now. Anyway that is where I am as of tonight. If I get a few hours tomorrow to finish up the back binding I will update again tomorrow night.

Goodnight

 


Days 46 to 62

Mar 17, 2011
dieguy

Well we are into the home stretch. I have been very busy at work lately so progress has been fairly slow. I am getting very excited to get this project completed. i need to keep slowing myself down so I dont hurry myself into making a stupid mistake. So far so good. Here are some photos of how I attached the back. I went to a local truck tire shop and picked up a large inner tube. They were nice enough to give it to me for free. Then started the lengthy task of cutting the tube into one long strip approx 1.5" wide. This was not a fun job. I started by cutting out the valve stem, then I cut the tube open down the inside. Then I started cutting a strip and continued cutting around and around the tube until I cut it all up. This left me with 1 long rubber strap used to hold the back onto the sides. Here are some photos of the back being strapped down until the glue dried:

 

    
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Here are some photos of the body after removing the rubber strap:

 

    
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Then I got to work on the neck. I inserted the barrel nuts which I am using to attach the neck tot the body. Then I glued the Koa headstock veneer with the Rosewood inlays. Then I started to carve and shape the heel:

 

    
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Then I went to work on the fingerboard. I did a cool little inlay of Maple and Koa into the fingerboard. Then I inserted the frets into the fingerboard. yes i installed the frets before attaching the fingerboard. there are a few schools of thought on this issue but I felt the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. thankfully the slots seem to be just right so I didn't get a significant amount of warpage on the fretboard from the built up pressure of the fret installation. Here are some photos of the fret board:

 

    
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Then I started routing the ledges for the binding. I picked up a new router with a gift card I received from my mother in law as a gift for my fortieth birthday last week (Thanks Norma). i picked up a Bosch colt palm Router. This is a very nice unit and works very well for this operation. The back of my guitar has a rather large arch so the routing on the back was much more difficult than the top. tonight I started bending the Koa bindings and the BWB purfling. I just realized I didn't get enough Koa to make the tail inlay so I guess I will have to go hunting this weekend. Hopefully I find some so I can get to work this weekend. Otherwise I will be held up until I can get a small piece shipped in. Here are som pics of the routed ledges:

 

 

    
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So I am down to completing the binding, purfling and tail inlay. Then I can finish shaping the neck. I need to finalize my design for the bridge and decide which tuning machines to purchase. Oh yeah then finish, UGHHHH! I am not looking forward to finishing. Thanks for reading, have a good night. I will update soon.

 

 


Days 27 thru 45

Feb 28, 2011
dieguy

Well, So much for keeping up with my Blog, One good thing is that I have gotten more time to work on the guitar and have made some real progress. I am also very happy with the way things are turning out. So here is my update:

 

I went to work on the neck. I was going to make the truss rod as my book describes but then decided I want a 2 way truss rod, so I bought one. Here are some photos of the truss rod installed.

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Then I went to work on the top and bottom plates. I started with cutting out the shapes oversized and inlayed the rossette in the top. I am using Flamed Koa as an accent wood so for the Rossette I inlayed a Koa ring with several pieces of Black-white-Black purfling.

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Then I inlayed the backstripe which is again Flamed Koa with BWB purfling.

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Then I went to work on bracing the top and back. Here are some pics of work I did for bracing for the back.

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Here are  some finished pics of the top bracing. It wasn't the cleanest job in the world. The Yellow glue really shows up when you get a little anywhere on the very light colored Spruce. Carving the bracing was definitely a challenge but I am happy with the results.

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After all of the bracing was glued and shaped then I went to work on kerfing and attaching the sided to the top.


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Well this will get you up to date on where I am at. My next step is to attach the back. Next I need to get to work on carving the neck, Attaching the faceplate and the fingerboard. Then I am down to binding and purfling the body and carving the Bridge. Then all I have left is finishing, Attaching the Neck and starting my setup. My goal is to have it done by April. We will see, The finishing has me a bit worried as I do not have the ability to put a spray finish on so we will see how long it takes to do a brushed finish.

 

Thanks for reading.  Bill


Days 9 thru 26

Feb 10, 2011
dieguy

Well those of you whom were following my blog I must apologize. Things have been kinda crazy here for the past couple weeks. I had a bout with the flu, Work has been crazy and guitar making time has been a bit short. But I have been able to spend some time and I have made some good progress.

I started with gluing up the back and top. This went fairly flawlessly minus a slight misalignment on the back which came out smoothly after I made to final thickness. Here are some pics:

 

    
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Then we got to work on the neck. I hand cut the scarf joint. Now this I ran into some trouble. My mistake was to only draw guide lines on the short side of the board. I thought I was keeping the saw completely flat and perpendicular but evidently I did not. When I finished the joint was terrible. So I had to recut each peice. This time I drew side guidelines down the long side of the board as well as the short and things went much better. Boy that is a lot of sawing, I am definitely out of shape. After I completed the cuts with the saw I clamped the boards together and planed and sanded them smooth. Next I had to plane down the thickness of the headstock to accomodate a headstock veneer. Then I glued them up with a simple jig. Here are more pics:

 

    
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While I worked on the scarf joint Blake helped me out by gluing up the blocks for the heel:

 

 

    
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Then I went to work on making a heated side bending pipe. There are several iterations out there on the web. I decided to go with the lightbulb style. I thought it would give more consistent heat than the torch style. I searched all over for a pipe that would fit over the smallest light base I could find. The best I could do was a peice of the heaviest guage stove pipe I could find. I welded the seam so it would not come apart under stress. Then I cut it down to the length I thought would work well while leaving some tabs to be used for mounting. Then I squeezed the whole pipe down in one direction to give it an ovaled profile so I had a radius to bend large rads and another for smaller. I had read that the ideal temp is between 300 and 350 degrees and that a 100W bulb should be sufficient. WHen I took some temps with a 100w bulb I could barely break 150 degrees. So I upped the bulb to 300w which heated up nicely to about 300 to 320 degrees once I filled up any open areas with tinfoil. Here are some pics of the heated side bending pipe:

 

 

 

    
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Then I got to work on making a frame and some turnbuckles to hold the freshly bent sides in shape until they completely dried. Then to the fun part bending the sides. I started by soaking one side in the bathtub with the hottest water I could muster from the tap. I let it soak about 30 minutes while my bending pipe heated up. I started bending and figured out how to get the wood to cooperated fairly quickly. The key was to heat up a large area on the flatest part of the pipe then bend it with the smaller radius. I did not like the overall effectiveness of my bending pipe. It did not seem hot enough, actually I think it was hot enough but the pipe was not heavy enough to retain the heat. I also do not think the bulb added enough heat to keep the temp stable. This slowed the process dramatically. I had to hold the wet wood up to the pipe until it would get hot enough to feel it through the wood. Then you had to bend it carefully but quickly and you had to overbend substantially to get the wood to stay at a particular radius size. This was another aspect of my pipe that I did not particularily care for as it was difficult to get the wood to bend far enough as the radii on the pipe were too large. After a bit of coaxing I did finally get the first side. It took about an hour.

Tonight I bent the second side and this went much smoother, Still had some issues but went much more quickly, about 20 - 25 minutes. Here are some pics of the second side in the form with the first side all dried and holding shape sitting on top of the form:

 

    
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My next step will be to rout the neck and make the adjustable reinforcement bar, Cut the top and back to size, Inlay the rosette and shape fit the sides to the neck and tail blocks. I will make a better effort to update this blog more consistently so I can keep these entries a bit more condensed. Thank for looking and if you have any questions or comments feel free to throw them at me.

 

Bill


Day 8 Made some clamps

Jan 23, 2011
dieguy

Well I finally got some time with my son to to get out into the shop and build some special cam Clamps we will use for building the guitar. I finally figured out how to add photos to this blog so Here are a few:

 

    
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This is my son (Blake) getting ready to assemble one of the clamps.

 

 

    
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Here are the parts ready to be assembled

 

 

    
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Spreading the glue

 

 

    
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Finished clamp.

 

These are pretty cool little clamps. I need to make several more. I also need to tweek the design a bit and make several sizes. I am getting excited. The wood should be here Wednesday. I hope I am happy with it. Oh well short entry tonight need to get some sleep. Back to work tomorrow :-(

 

goodnight 

Bill


Well I took the day off yesterday and spent some time with friends and family after work. But believe me the design of our guitar was definitely rolling in my head. I made the decision to go with a Grand Auditorium or 0000 size Body. It will have a 25.5" scale and 14 frets clear of the body. It will have a 1.75" width at the nut. I am going to try to put a pic in here:

 

 

    
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I hope that worked. These are drawings of the design, I drew these up in Corel Draw. I have detailed drawings that are drawn to scale. My son and I sat down today and decided on the headstock logo. It says B & B for Bill and Blake, I know not to original but I think the original design we came up with looks awesome. I like it so much I am going to use it for the fret marker inlays at the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th. I am inlaying "Bill & Blake" at the 12th fret, "Winter" at the 15th and "2011" at the 17th. I know this sounds a bit busy but I think it looks great in my design. Thats a lot of inlay work but that is ok. I enjoy doing inlays. Now that we can see a plan we are both chomping at the bit for the wood to arrive.

I also found some designs for some very cool homemade cam style clamps. We need to get our butts into the shop and get them made soon. I am fairly sure now that I will be using a screwed mortise and tenon joint for the neck setting (Please don't think less of me!lol). The drawing above is only an estimation for the Purfling, Binding and Rossette.

Let me know what you think of the Headstock Inlay, We are very excited! I am thinking M.O.P. or Shell of some type for the inlay. I am also planning some type of a highly figured laminate on the headstock, not finalized on the wood type for this yet. I will see what I can locate. Maybe this would be a good way to incorporate that Walnut I wanted to use for the body, We shall see.

Goodnight!


Day #5

Jan 20, 2011
dieguy

Well I received an e-mail today that my supplies are on the way. I was somewhat disappointing as I was hoping it would arrive before the weekend, Oh well I am not quite ready to be cutting anyway, but I would like the wood to get into my environment to see how it reacts. I have been focusing my research on Neck joints and Soundboard tuning(voicing) as these are 2 areas I am most concerned with. I am considering going with a screw on mortise and tenon joint for the neck. I know, I know you should use a halfblind dovetail joint like Martin. Well the more I think about it why. Many great guitars are built with bolt-ons and it really should be much easier. I would really hate to get the guitar all built then screw it all up trying to get fancy with the neck joint. Plus resetting and if necessary replacing the neck at any future point would be much easier. The Cumpiano book uses a similar joint but it is pinned vs bolting and to me the bolting makes much more sense. We will see I still need to decide.

The other research I mentioned was soundboard tuning or voicing. Boy this is some serious luthier Voodoo. I dont think anybody really understands how the shape size and placement of the soundboard bracing really effects the tone of the guitar. Mnay say the included angle of the main X-braces are the key, Others say that the shape of the braces is the key. Still others say the bracing isn't anywhere near as important as the topwood itself and how the structure and the thickness of the top is the most important factor. Well I am going to be stuck with the top I ordered so I can't do much there except thickness plane it. I plan to tap tune to a predetermined note which is yet to be determined. Then I will probably use the standard x-bracing pattern that most luthiers use. I plan to taper the braces but not so significant scalloping as I want this baby to last a while. Who knows if I will ever do this again, think how cool it would be to play a guitar that your grandpa or great grandpa made. I think this could be pretty special.

 

What about Blake (my 11 years old) you may ask. Well his job at this point is deciding on the decoration. We have been discussing the name we should inlay into the headstock. We thought about our last name (Johanson) in script but we were not real excited about that. Then we thought about a common nickname for our family name (Johan) he liked that a bit better. We also considered B & B for Bill and Blake. I plan to commission some artwork from him to see what he can come up with (its amazing what he will do for a trip to McDonalds) After he figures out the headstock we will have to pick the Purfling and the binding. Anyway time for bed and some more reading in the Cumpliano book. Cant wait for the weekend. Need to count up my clamps and see if I have enough (I doubt it). I also need to start making the side bending iron and I make a fox bridge style jig.

 

By the way does anybody know how to add pics to this Blog? I have tried a couple times but it hasn't worked. I would like to start adding photos as I go along. Thanks,


Day #4 more research

Jan 19, 2011
dieguy

Well not much to report today. i am anxiously awaiting my supplies delivery. I really hope it gets here before the weekend so I can get started with some items. I am really debating whether I should start right up or let the wood acclimate to my surrounding for a while. The material is supposed to be fully seasoned and ready to go but I know wood and it would be much better to let it acclimate to my climate for a while. I guess I will have to decide once I receive. Besides I have to get to work on several jigs and specialty tools items I will need to get me started.  Anyway Hopes and energy are still high and confidence is growing the more I research.

 

Goodnight


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