Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch

....and so it came to pass that....

I have not posted pictures or commentary on the completion of C's guitar, which as I mentioned has been dubbed "La Tierra".  There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. I didn't want Cheryl to see the guitar in its finishing stages because I planned (and it happened on Sat., Nov. 3rd) a small gathering with someone playing La Tierra (Turns out that my friend Matt Beal did it, very well, I might add).  A good time was had by all and Cheryl even brought an old friend from Elkhart, Marcia Fulmer, a local celeb, journalist, actor/activist in the Elkhart Civic Theater, and generally a force on the civic scene in Elkhart.
  2. I was just too darn busy finishing La Tierra and Laura's guitar, which I've dubbed "La Milagro".  I don't think that this is proper Spanish, but it expresses what I wanted and that goes along with Laura's physical issues and an incident that happened to her a number of years ago.  It means "The Miracle".
  3. I wanted to have some professional photos taken of the two guitars and that has now been accomplished and, if I can do so, I'll attach two word documents containing the photos and some thoughts for each recipient.  OK, that didn't work, so I'll attach a couple of photos of each guitar instead:
  4. OK, that's pretty much it for these two instruments, but certainly not the end of the story.  I cannot wait to hear the recipients' reactions to their instruments when that first chord is strummed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Animation - I'll explain

This is actually quite a long story, but I'll try to brevitize it (holy crap, did I just make up a new word?)  It all started when we lived in Elkhart, IN and I worked for Miles Labs/Bayer/Haarman & Reimer (that's another story).  Anyway, in the mid '80s, I changed from working in R&D as a Research Scientist, to a Manager of Regulatory Affairs and some other junk.. I had the worlds longest title but not the paycheck to match.  But... as part of my job, I was involved in determining and documenting and submitting to FDA, information on the safety of our food enzyme products.  This is when I learned about and eventually met Dr Michael Pariza.  He had a title longer than mine and the reputation as a world's formost expert on food safety.  Later, when I took a job in California with Genencor International, in the San Francisco area, I again worked with Dr. Pariza and we became friends.  I prepared and he and others reviewed and approved our safety assessments, which were submitted to FDA for approal for use in food.

Years passed.  Dr. Pariza and I testified in a trial against Miles Labs, because someone died, allegedly as the result of exposure to Miles was thrown  out of court because the person was fully informed of the risks and ignored them.

Years passed and I prepared for retirement from Genencor.  Mike learned of this and called me to wish me well.  During the conversation, he asked what I planned to do to keep busy.  I told him that I played and was learning to build guitars.  He was surprised and said that he didn't know I had an interest in music and that he was a composer.  Soooo, a couple of weeks later, came in the mail a composition that he had done for the guitar FOR ME!!!!  Only small problem...I am not/was not a good enough guitar player to play it and do it any justice.  Enter a computer website called the Classical Guitar Forum where I had met online two very talented guitarists.Jouni Stenroos, a resident of Espoo, Finland and Denian Arcoleo, a Brit.  Somehow I talked them into arranging and recording the piece (described by Dr. Pariza as "post romantic" vs avante garde) quite contemporary.  So, you guessed it, Jouni and Denian recorded it as a VIRTUAL DUET with one in Finland and the other in the UK..  If I can figure it out, I'll attach a recording here so it's saved for posterity.  Thus the  title of this post, it was entitled "Animation". If I can't attach it here, I'll link it on Facebook.

Animation 2:22 Jouni Stenroos & Denian Arcoleo   

OK, it didn't work.  I'll try to link it to Facebook.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Just a quick update on a very busy day or two:  The top-bone's connected to the rib-bones and the head-bone's connected to the neck-bone....OK enough!  You can see what's been accomplished inthe attached photos.  Tomorrow - finish the tuning slots and holes, complete the "finiting" of the head and neck, glue in the neck and glue on the fretboard and complete and install the bridge.  Don't know if I can do all of that tomorrow, but I'm gonna give it a shot.  The lining for the back and fitting of the back braces and installing the ebony bindings come soon, too.  Some top tuning and installation of the back next and then the finish.  This won't be an easy proposition because of all the contrasting wood types and colors.  It'll be a challenge to keep everything from being smudged by the darker colors.  But we'll git 'er done.  And it's gonna be a beauty.  Check these out at this stage:

The overall look at this stage
this top is awesome

The Head with tuner fitted on one side
note the white accent if you look closely

The inside, with the neck in place
once glued in the final tentalones will be added

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can't top this

Ya can tap it, but ya can't top it cause I already did.  Last night and today I installed 100s, maybe 1000s, (just kidding) of tentalones...the little "teeth" that glue the top and sides together.  These provide for a solid connection between the top and sides that allows the guitar to be a "unit".  Hide glue is the's all natural and makes good use of Dobbin when she goes to that horsey paradise in the sky, leaving behind a large, useful carcass.  Hide glue actually (I'm told) forms a molecular bond between the pieces of wood that is truly stronger than the wood.  I buy it in flakes and make up my own hot glue.  As you can see in the photo, I've placed these little chunks of wood all the way around the perimeter, except where the neck will shortly go.  A quick check of the tap tone sounded really good.  I'll test it imperically, when the neck, fretboard and bridge go on and then tweak it if necessary before the back goes on.

Awesome top with awesome tap (tone)

Top and sides joined..neck awaiting

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Progress apace to win the race

Break in the weather, humidity down, shop busy, lotsa progress.  Pictures pretty much explain accomplishments:

Braces glued on

Go deck in use

Trim ribs to width

Soundhole reinforcement

Headpiece on

Can you figure out what this is?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Assembling...two ways to do it

Assembly can be accomplished in many ways.  Here are two:  1. family gathering for a long overdue reunion of cousins from US and Canada; 2. putting together (glueing up) C's guitar.  Photos are self explanatory:

Sister Carol Mercer Sukolics (St. Louis)

Brother Chet

The cousins

The siblings

C's guitar:  The assembly phase has started.  The braces on the upper bout were glued on today.  Tomorrow the lower bout, headpiece, and perhaps, after trimming to size, the sides and top will be joined with the neck. 

Glueing on the soundhole reinforcement

Glueing on the upper bout cross braces

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Parts is Parts

So, with the inlay of the back strip, bending of the sides and completion of the neck carving, everything is in place for the start of assembly.  There's still scraping and sanding in preparation for this, but we're getting close.  The A/C is wringing the water out of the air, but with the tailend of Isaac sweeping by, the humidity is still high for assembly.  Preparative steps will be completed though and assembly will start ASAP.  There are a couple more features that this guitar will have that will enhance playability.  The curve of the neck from one side to the other will include the fretboard, making the neck very comfortable.  With the bindings on the fretboard the fret tangs do not show and the ends are nicely rounded.  This will also enhance comfort and playability.
The back

Installing the back strip

Back and sides
Close up of back strip

Not Exactly Butter

Bent the sides yesterday and it took most of the day to do so.  Not exactly butter in my hands.  But results are what matters.  The Rosewood yielded on the bending iron into the desired shape, and as far as I can tell, very little springback.  Cutting them to exact width and shape will be followed by a lot of scraping and sanding to remove the bit of scorched resin that was cooked out of the wood during the bending process on the hot iron.  In case you hadn't seen it before, here's a pic of the iron, which is heated by an electric charcoal grill starter controlled by a heavy duty dimmer switch.  It's used at about the temperature of your pancake enough to sizzle when spritzed with water.  You really get a feel for the wood when you bend this way.  I have a Fox side bender, but with wood this valuable, I'd rather do it by hand and have full control of the process.  G'day.

Almost there

better look at the iron

Fitted into the form

another view

Friday, August 31, 2012

Real Braces This Time

There are all kinds of braces:  for you teeth, to hold up your pants, to hold up your clothesline, to hold up your roof, but these are the real thing and, believe it or not, they are responsible, in major part, for the quality of the sound of your guitar.  In concert (pun intended) with the top, neck and back, they shape the sound quality.  Do I understand it all?  NO, but I think this is going to be one awesome guitar.  BTW, not glued on yet...too humid even with AC.

Top and back braces Fir on top, spruce on back

Bending a side
I also started bending one of the sides.  This rosewood is a bit stiffer than Indian Rosewood so it's a slow process.  Cracking a side of this precious stuff would be a disaster!  Not gonna happen though.  Slow and easy does it.

Also practiced spraying lacquer (gloss) today  This is gonna be awesome.

All for today


Monday, August 20, 2012


OK, so you don't really have to brace yourself, but I started the process of making the braces for the top and back.  The top braces will be made of some very straight grained old fir that I obtained from NW Lumber.  It's a nice, rich reddish brown color that will contrast nicely with the white of the top spruce..did I mention how awesome this top is?  More on this momentarily (no, I didn't call anyone a moron)The tentellones will, perhaps be cedar or mahogany that almost matches the firThe reverse-kerf lining for the back will (I think) be mahogany as well.

I've tested the top now several times using Visual Analyzer an think that I am getting some usable results.  The tap tone, as I've thinned the top has shifted frequency toward the bass side.  Problem is, since I have no experience using this method of analysis to predict the outcom. I'll simply keep the records of the testing and when its time to play the guitar, I'll know just how this data predicts the outcome.  Since the top goes on first, this allows some tweaking of the top to adjust the sound up to the point I put the back on.

I also worked on the head plate and a sample of the rosewood today.  I'm experimenting with the rosewood pore filler and haven't quite got it yet.  I'll do a bit of research online to find out what I'm missing.  Here are a couple of shots of the wood from a couple of different lighting perspectives.

Just a couple of coats of satin lacquer

Same piece, different lighting (satin, not Satan)

Some family stuff.  A Mercer Clan reunion (descendants of Arthur Morgan Mercer) is to be held at an unspecified (here, that is) time and place.  We expect about 20 or so people from around the US and Canada.  It's been a long time since I've seen them and I'm really looking forward to the visit.  More on (not moron) this soon.

Thatsallfornowgdevening (sp?)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TOP O' the mornin'

Working on tops (several, but I think I've narrowed it down to THIS ONE):

Best rosette inlay

Why?  Because I think it is the best rosette inlay I've ever done, AND this piece of wood has awsome sound characteristics as far as I can tell.  Some testing will tell. 

Next steps:  1. Thinning this top to final thickness; 2.  Making sure back and sides are the right thickness; 3.  bending the sides  4.  making and installing braces on top and back; 5,  putting final touches on neck, headpiece and spanish heel;  6, ASSEMBLY and bindings; 7. Attach bridge; 8. PREP AND APPLY FINISH; 9. install frets and nut and STRINGS!!! and final setup 10.  SIT DOWN AND PLAY THIS AWESOME GUITAR.  /Still a bit of time involved, and I want to invest the time to make every step absolutely the finest work I've ever done.  The elements are all here, its just a matter of time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Quick update

Just a quick update.  With the help of the climate control now possible, I've been joining tops and inlaying rosettes..I now have three candidates, one as yet without a rosette, but a nice top.  If the rosette goes in nice, it is likely to be THE top because I believe it has the best sound characteristics.  Got together with Kevin to discuss finish and provided him with a sample of the rosewood to work with.  Take a look at the pics in the previous post and those below to get a glimpse of just how awesome this rosewood is.  The neck and fretboard (no frets yet) are almost ready to go to the joining process.  The sides are almost ready to be bent and the back is awesome.  See the latest photos below.

Routing the rosette channel.  Note the
relative humidity on the meter

Scraping down the rosette after inlay

The head overlay (Braz. RW) with the head design

The awesome back...look closely at the grain

Side ready to bend

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Laura's photos and HOT, HOT, HOT

Because of the difficulty of manipulating a large number of photos in this blog environment, I've placed the whole batch of pictures of the making of Laura's guitar on Facebook.  I will continue to inform everyone of the progress on C's guitar here in the blog.

Well, as I said, hot hot, hot.  With the temperature and humidity as it is here in the soggy midwest, joinery is pretty much precluded.  So progress on C's guitar is, for the near future restricted to making parts and returning the wood to the dry cabinet.  On the near horizon, however a solution looms.  A major addition to the inventory of tools, gadgets and useful stuff in a brand new portable air conditioner/heater.  This should be a major improvement and the unit is capable of controlling the humidity as well as cooling and heating.  I'm psyched!

In the meantime, parts accumulate and here are some, which with the right climate (artificial or otherwise) will be joined into the magnificent guitar we've planned.  The top and back were joined a while ago when we had a drier period.  The inlays on the fret board are still under consideration and may be omitted.  More about this in the future.  The two globes on the bridge will probably be used, but the earth-rise on the fretboard may be a bit much.  To be decided.

I attended a chip carving class on Saturday to gain some insight into the possibility of the fan motif on the back of the head.  I'll be practicing these methods and if I feel confident that I can do a very professional job,, I'll proceed with it.

That's all for today.  bye.

Fretboard, bridge and a prototype  

Back, sides and a set of east indian sides 

The Back, partially thinned

The parts... may or may not use the top shown here

Monday, July 30, 2012

Laura's Log

I had previously provided Laura with the history and specifications of her '51 Marcelo Barbero flamenco guitar.  From the posts below, I'll try to create a scenario of the progression from start to finish.  Not sure how to do this, but here goes:

Not sitting on my thumbs (ouch!)

OK, to start with, do any of you blogging folks out there know how to arrange pictures in a blog post so they don't take up so much space and they stay where you put them?  I make them small and add a caption, and mark them left, right, or center.  But I can't make them stay where I put them.  Any help would be appreciated.

Ideas for earth inlays

A bit o' finish on side plate

Now concentrating on C's guitar:  The neck and fretboard are finished to the rough stage that will be finished upon assembly,  I'm testing tops that I already have joined, but do not want to join any more until the humidity drops some.  Joining or assembly in high humidity is risky business and since I don't have A/C or humidity control in my shop  (that I can afford to run, anyway), I'm at the mercy of the global warming elements.  I came up with an idea for the fretboard, but after completing a mock-up, I'm not sure it's the way to go.  If you look at the photo on the left, the lower piece is a spare fretboard I inlaid with what I'm calling an "earthrise" motif.  Starting with a sliver and progressing up to a "full earth" at the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th frets.  On the upper image, the earths are just stuck on with 2 sided tape, and here, I show another possibility and that is full earths on each of the positions.  I'm almost thinking that the whole idea is just too much.

In the center of the left photo is a bridge with the earth dots inlaid.  This I like and will probably do.

In the right hand photo is a side plate, which I'm thinning in prep for bending.  To show how the wood will look under finish, I french polished a bit of the end.  I doesn't show up too well in the photo, but it's gonna look wonderful.  I'll continue to do everything except assembly until I get a break in the weather or some other alternative for climate control.

Next trick: to assemble a chronicle of building Laura's guitar.  Not sure how this will work, but stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

I delivered Laura's guitar to her on the weekend and she was very happy with it.  See the attached photos.  Next step will be to extract the whole story of it's making from previous posts on this blog.

C's guitar:  continued the production of bridges, the best of which will be used.  Began the process of thinning the side plates in preparation for bending them.  Even using the Grizzly sander, it's a slow process because each pass only removes a few 1/1000 ths of an inch of wood...very expensive sanding dust I might add.  The parts are adding up.  See  photos below.  Don't worry that the pics are a bit scattered.  I haven't figured out how to arrange them in neat sequence.  They seem to interfere with each other.

Laura receives her guitar

Laura playing her guitar..happy camper

Bridge under construction

Parts beginning to look like..
A Guitar!