The beginnings of the body came out of clamps today and got trimmed down. I like the shape and size. It feels right.
I decided to add some additional reinofrcing blocks in the corners. The head end is going to be under a lot of stress when the key box is added, with the string tension. There’s a lot going on there, and I don’t want anything buckling.
Part of the problem, but also the fun, of design-build is that after each step you have to take stock and think about what you need to do next.
I’m thinking the obvious next step is to install linings. But that may not be optimal. I feel like there’s a lot of unrelieved stress in the bows. Maybe I’ll throw a steam jacket on them for awhile tomorrow just to let the wood relax a little. The linings can wait a day, maybe.
So I’ll let you know what I decide, after I sleep on it.
I bent the sides, and glued them to the end block.
The first prototype has begun. Design/Build is fraught with peril, but I have a good feeling about this. Tomorrow I’ll attach the for’ard part to another block.
I’ve decided to build a Hurdy Gurdy. It will be quite a technical challenge but, I believe, do-able. Heironymous Bosch clearly regarded it as the devil’s instrument. That’s the only kind I build.
I bought a used Delta mortiser this week: it will let me make perfectly square holes for the key box. 24 keys, 2 holes each, that’s a lotta holes and they have to line up in pairs. So that’s good.
I got oak for the sides and key box. I have cherry for the back. I have cedar for the top.
The sound box, I’ll draw on my experience with making guitars. I need to make it resonant. I want it loud and with good tone.
I’m doing 2 guitars at a time, in a meandering way. They are coming along very well.
Not much more to say except I am tooling up to do something new and exciting in the luthiery shop.
A Hurdy Gurdy. Stay tuned.
I finished up a Lefty for my son today… it sounds good, from what I can tell, but its hard to really make it sing because I can’t play it.
Anyways it’s got good sustain, it’s intonated correctly, it has nice tone. The action looks good. It’s the best I can do with a lefty except for a few weird scale runs and some painstakingly constructed cowboy chords!
I’m pleased with the new neck attachment methods I came up with. Very tidy, very strong, very adjustable.
I used a new neck profile on it too, it feels just right. This part of the design is dialed in tight.
Got the bracing all dialed in and the carcass ready to accept the top so I slathered them with glue and slapped then together.
Tomorrow I would like to get the lip routed off and maybe put up some binding. We’ll see. It’s supposed to get real cold and the shop may not be habitable.
I kept making minor errors or, alternatively, design changes to several necks in succession. One neck somehow got an extra dot at the 11th fret (Don’t ask). Another neck was contoured further up the neck, ending closer to the body join than I wanted– I used to hang 15 frets off the body, but now I’m going to do 13 so the bridge sits deeper in the top’s field. But I absent-mindedly used the old shaping template and so rounded things to fret 15 — so, I had to start again. Another just looked like the wrong color or grain pattern to go with the ovankol, it was weird and didn’t feel right. It would look fine with a maple body, but not ovankol. These other necks will all get used… on future guitars… but this is the one I’m going to use for the Ovankol box.
Once a neck makes it through my rigorous QA (har de har, 11th fret?) I brand it. With a branding iron. Another opportunity to screw up! But this time it worked with a nice imprint.
Now, the frets go on. Old school. Rackety packety. More later this week.
Well of course I screwed up the firstblank I glued up by routing the curves too far up the neck, so I lost a day by having to make a new blank. I did manage to get the form of the neck roughed in yesterday on the new blank, so today I am gluing the rosewood fingerboard on.
If it sets up by tomorrow I’ll trim it off and do some more sanding on the neck, for feel… if the thing finally seems like a “go” after all that, I’ll insert some fingerbaord markers and finally set the frets. At any point and on any step this could get screwed up, so taking my time is key. Also the stakes get higher because the waste of material is greater– that fretboard was 30 bucks and throwing it away would be a real shame.
There’s a lot of work to a neck and if any of it’s wrong, the guitar just won’t feel good to play. So I have to be patient.
Once I get to the fretting stage, I can carry on with the top because I know where the bridge will have to be, within a millimeter or 2. That’s close enough for laying out where the bridge plate needs to be and also for laying out the braces, by anybody’s standard.
So I mulled things over overnight, and decided:
- To use a zero fret neck. They just have such fast and easy action, it’s almost a no-brainer. I know some people look down on them, but I just don’t see why, especially if you use stainless steel on the zero fret so wear is not an issue.
- To make a composite neck — mahogany for lightness, with a walnut strip down the center for strength. Should look nice, and handle nicely too.
- To use a longer scale length (by a fraction) than is common on Martin or Gibson dreadnoughts. Another tip of the hat to Maccaferri. I have fingerboards on hand in several scale lengths, so i got to fiddle around and decide on what I really wanted this time. I like the tonal quality of longer strings.
- To use a dual truss rod. Makes it easier to dial in the action.
The neck blank is all glued up. I’ll start to cut it out and shape it tomorrow.
On other matters… The bracing has started in the tub, and the Spruce top has been sanded. More on those tomorrow.
I got the back and sides out of clamps and routed it flush. Looks good. I’m going to let it sit a day befre I start messing with braces.
I got out some really nice Spruce from my stock. I believe this is Sitka — notice the glinty lines — but I couldn’t swear it’s not Engelman in a court of law. Either way, it is nice nice wood. I planed off the edges and got them gluing up now. Tomorrow I’ll sand the top and start laying out where the braces will go. But first:
I need to decide what to do about the neck. The neck dimensions drive where the bridge will float on the top, and that in turn determines where the bridge plate has got to go to reinforce the top, and that placement in turn determines how the X bracing is going to fall. So what I really need to do is think a lot about scale length, zero fret or no, number of frets to the body… hmmm.
This guitar is contemplated as a hybrid between a Maccaferri-style manouche guitar and a good old fashioned Dreadnought. This is where the rubber meets the road. I have to decide what to do.