Last night I had the pleasure to present photographs on my guitar building processes to a group at the NJWA, North Jersey Woodworking Association. I also had Frank Sole, musician, teacher and builder of guitars who performed several pieces, classical, jazz and contemporary for the group.
The NJWA has monthly meetings with demonstrations in a variety of woodworking topics by various presenters. They also have a monthly raffle and share information on woodworking methods, tips, tools, and finishing.
There were about 40 people who attended. One or two who have built a guitar so this was fairly new information for those who have never built an instrument. My presentation was fast paced covering many aspects of the building process and passing around lots of parts and pieces so the folks can get a good sense of guitar construction.
In all the meeting lasted 2.5 hours and I showed about 330 images of the building process. From what I gathered they enjoyed my presentation very much and it was an enjoyable experience for me as well.
If you have an organization or group that would like me to present on this topic please contact me.
Busy, Busy Busy, Thats all I can say. The past three months have been work in preparation for my exhibit table at the Woodstock Luthiers Showcase in Woodstock, New York. October 24th, 25th and 26th,. I will have several guitars on display there. All are ready for sale with custom fit Ameritage cases. One just back from finish in the final stages of set-up. (second from left in photo) Hope to have that ready at showtime. The guitars that will be for sale at Woodstock will include a quilted maple parlor, a OOO sized curly maple and lutz spruce guitar, a alaskan sitka topped jumbo with Rosewood back and sides, an all Mahogany Tenor Ukulele and a Bearclaw and curly maple 00. (still under construction). Other items for sale will include LR Baggs pickups and pre-amps and Phil Jones Acoustic amplifiers.
About the guitars in the photo above, here are their ingredients.Maple Parlor Guitar. (far left in top photo)
AAAA Quilted Maple back and sides
AAA Lutz Spruce soundboard
Lutz spruce carved bracing
Rosewood bridge plate
Spanish Cedar Neck with ebony head plate
Ebony fingerboard, 12 fret to body, 24.9 scale length
1-3/4 nut width, 2-1/4 width at 12th fret
Cocobolo and Ebony geometric rosette
Ebony wave design bridge
18% nickel fret wire
MOP position markers
Abalone JR logo
2 way truss rod
Ebony bridge pins with Abalone dots
Bone nut and compensated bone saddle
Hand toned amber glow with Nitro Cellulose lacquer exterior
Shellac finished interior
Schertler tuning machines
Ameritage custom case
Bearclaw Sitka with Maple back and sides OO. (Second From left in top photo)
AAAA Curly Maple back and sides
AAA Bearclaw Sitka Spruce soundboard
Lutz spruce carved bracing
Maple and mahogany 9 piece laminated neck
2 way truss rod
Geometric design ebony and maple rosette
Ebony arc design bridge
Curly maple back plate on headstock, steam bent to match curve
Ebony binding with coral design purfling
Rosewood bridge plate, Cedar kerfing
Ebony fingerboard, 14 fret to the body, 25.4 scale
Abalone JR logo, Ebony bridge pins with Abalone dots
Fully compensated saddle
Gotoh 510 Tuning Machines
Ameritage custom case
The guitars above when purchased will all come with custom fit Ameritage Cases. These are beautiful and Durable!
Currently on the workbench; In the works. I am currently working on a Mahogany and Sitka venetian cutaway acoustic model. This guitar features Honduran Mahogany back and sides matched to a light curly sitka soundboard. A maple and mahogany geometric rosette adorns the sound hole , curly maple binding with Rope purling and B/W fibre pull it all together. The back bracing is of mahogany with a hybrid X/ladder pattern. The soundboard bracing is forward-X pattern, scalloped and hand tuned sitka. Neck block and tail block of aged mahogany. The neck will be a 9 layer lamination with 40 year old Mahogany and maple strips.
Guitar Building class and Instruction. In the next few months I will be setting up a shop where I can teach guitar building and construction. Group classes of two people per class or individual instruction will be offered. Topics covered from bending sides to carving braces, fretwork to final assembly will be taught in the classes. You can build a guitar too! More information will follow. Getting out to play a bit enjoying the fruits of my labor playing my hand built guitars with some friends at Hat City Kitchen’s All Acoustic Open Mic, Orange, NJ
Below are some links to the fine vendors who have provided parts, woods, jigs, cases or finishing.
In conclusion; I hope you can make it up to Woodstock to see these instruments first hand. If you are a player, picker, professional musician or just like to have fun and enjoy music, please come up to Woodstock, New York next week. It will be a great day of music, musicians, and guitars, built by hand and being displayed by their builders. For moder details go to http://www.woodstockinvitational.com
It has been 3 months since my last big post. Catching up here are works in progress, finished guitars and instruments.
My latest instrument in the works is this Maple OM sized guitar. This build is getting lacquered at this time. This is a steel string acoustic guitar with curly maple back and sides and a Bearclaw Sitka top.
This guitar has a black and white color scheme. The rosette is ebony and maple, the binding ebony with a herringbone purling. Ebony fingerboard with arrowhead inlays and an arc shaped ebony bridge design. The back of the head plate has a steam bent quilted maple veneer and the headstock head plate is Ebony. The JR logo (not shown) is of white pearl.
The photos below show some of the building process from this maple guitar.
This guitar is currently in the finishing process. I hope to have it ready for the Woodstock Luthiers Showcase in October.
In a previous posts I showed a small walnut parlor guitar just before it went to the finisher, well this is now complete. The finish of Nitro Cellulose has been done and the guitar is strung up.
In the images below images you can see some of the final steps building process after the finish was applies. Its at that point I permanently attach the bridge and do a final set up for playability.
This guitar who’s body is constructed from a piece of wood that came from a 50 year old American Walnut tree that was felled in the late 60’s. I cut the back and side set from it for this instrument, joined with a red spruce (Adirondak) soundboard. This guitar features a 24.9 scale length fingerboard in ebony with a rosewood bridge and head plate. A mahogany neck with slotted headstock, bone nut and saddle and a classical style rosette. This is a steel string guitar with a clear and light tone. The inlays are of mother of pearl and abalone. The neck feels nice with its slightly wider fingerboard and shorter scale length making it a really nice finger style guitar.
Another instrument I completed is a tenor Ukulele. This small instrument is constructed of ribbon striped mahogany for the soundboard and back. The sides are quilted mahogany. The fingerboard is ebony with MOP position markers as is the bridge. The headstock features my wave design and is of book matched Koa. The binding is maple with a black white fibre and the rosette is a chevron design. The neck on this is laminated with 40 year old mahogany which was repurposed from old Martin guitar neck blanks and has a maple center strip. The interior braces are lutz spruce with cedar kerning and a rosewood bridge plate. The tuners are Waverly with ebony knobs. The instrument is finished with a traditional hand rubbed shellac (french polish) which brings out the shimmer in the mahogany. This is a delightful instrument.
About my work shop. My workshop is in a single small room. Here is a panorama. Although this photo makes it look grand it is only about 20 feet x 20 feet wide but offers me enough room to work and display my instruments.
Recently I received another instrument back from my finisher. The guitar is a new design for me. It’s body shape is smaller than my standard large bodied guitar. (see my large body guitar “Big Maple” in a previous post). Closer in size to an OM model instrument. The specs.
Back and Sides: East Indian Rosewood
Soundboard: 40 year old Alaskan Sitka
Fingerboard, bridge and head plate: Ebony
Scale Length: 25.4
Neck Wood: 25 year old African Mahogany
Rosette: White fible with Abalone ring
Headstock Design: The Big Wave
Tuners: Sterling Silver
Fingerboard Inlay: White Gold Mother of Pearl geometrid pattern
Binding: White Ivoroid with Coral Purfling.
Endpiece and heel-cap: Ebony
Nut and saddle: Bone
This guitar is constructed of East Indian Rosewood back and sides and a 40 year old Alaskan Sitka Spruce soundboard.
It is my understanding that soundboard came from log that was salvaged from a bridge stringer that crossed an Alaskan river before it became soundboards. I purchased one soundboard in 2010 and I wish I had bought more. It is a beautiful loosely grained top with an amazing natural color and wonderful tone. Next time I come across these special woods I will have to get a few extras as now I see and hear how wonderful this guitar looks and sounds. This is truly special.
This guitar which I have named “Prima Fino” is named for my mentor and guru, Luthier, Frank Finocchio. I built a guitar with Frank 5 years ago that was his design, The “Prima”. Frank has helped me greatly and so I named this build “Prima Fino. Frank builds and repairs guitars for over 30 years now in Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. He also teaches instrument building in week and two week long courses. Find out more about frank here; http://www.finocchioguitar.com/2014/
Theres always something going on in my little workshop. Most times it working on an acoustic guitar in one phase or another. The past few months have been a mix of completing older projects, getting new builds to the finishing shop, keeping repairs flowing and new ideas in the works. Of a very most recent and interr=esting repair I have received was a 1937 Gibson L-4 acoustic arch top jazz guitar.
This instrument came to me in pieces and hadn’t been played in twenty years, left unchecked in an attic the back was split down the length, the sides expanded outward from 20 years of no support and the top and sides had many cracks and splits. The good things was the neck was still secure and the fingerboard salvageable.
After removing the back pieces I was able to re-glue the two halves together. I then ran a strip of maple along the inside of the length of the break for additional strength.
The interior cracks were re glued and cross strips of spruce were added for support.
the sides were pulled back together and cracks repaired.
The back was re-attached and new binding replaced.
The guitar was slowly strung up. The goal was to get the instrument playable without refinishing or removing its natural wear of 75 years. The customer couldn’t be happier
Recently completed; I recently received one of my guitars from my finisher. This instrument came out beautifully. This large bodied guitar, 17 inched across the lower bout, features ;
AAAA Lutz spruce top with Black and white geometric rosette, Back and side are of AAAA Quilted maple. The neck is a 5 piece laminate of 40 year old mahogany with a double maple center strips, an ebony fingerboard with hand cut white gold MOP maple leafs motif, the head plate of ebony with a gold white MOP, JR logo, fingerboard is bound with ebony and a strip of maple, bridge of ebony, the body bound with ebony and b/w purfling and trim. Assembly of major body components are constructed with hide glue.
I recently completed the build of a Walnut parlor guitar. This is currently at the finishing shop getting a nitrocellulose finish.
This steel string acoustic features 50 year old american walnut back and sides, red spruce top, 12 fret to the body 24.9 inch scale length ebony fingerboard on a mahogany neck with slotted headstock, classical tuners with butter bean knobs. Traditional Russian handmade classical rosette, rosewood head plate with abalone JR logo, rosewood bridge, bone nut and saddle. This instrument will be ready for sale by June 2014
Looking back at 2013, it has been a very productive year in the guitar workshop and other areas of my luthier business.
Most recently I completed the closing of a new guitar body. This one is constructed of East Indian Rosewood. The soundboard is from a 40 year old Alaskan Sitka Float Log felled in the 70’s that I purchased from Alaska Specialty Woods in 2010. It has been on my shelf seasoning. The Braces are Sitka from the same supplier. This instrument will be less ornate than my previous builds without to much pearl or embellishments keeping my focus on the sound of this instrument.
The bridge-plate is Rosewood that matches the sides. The center strip is also cut from the remains of the back. The x brace has an ebony inlay into the joint for added stiffness at the center.
This newer body style is smaller and a little more rounded than my large body instruments. It sits comfortably in the lap and has enough body depth to provide a good bass response.
In progress right now is another parlor guitar. This instrument is about 2/3 through the process.
This instrument is constructed of 50 year old American Walnut back and sides. I received an 8 foot by 12″ x 5/4 board as a gift from a friend. There were long checking about a foot into each end of the board. After resawing the boards I was able to salvage 4 sets of backs and sides.
The wood was not quarter sawn but being such an old age is very stable and went together beautifully. The top of this guitar is Red Spruce that I acquired from Carl Barney. The rosette is a classical style, handmade rosette, of wood fiber and very beautiful from LMI. Currently the body is complete, the neck is done a temporarily installed. It needs the nut, bridge, saddle tuner and strings and an initial set up.
Another instrument almost near completion is this quilted maple large bodied guitar.
This one has a Lutz spruce top, ebony geometric rosette, ebony bindings, ebony fingerboard with maple strip inlay, hand cut mother-of-pearl maple leaf position markers, Chippendale headstock design and an ebony bridge.
These photos show it in a test assembly for preliminary setup and is now being spray finished by my good friend and luthier, Tony DiDomenico. This should be completed early 2014.
Earlier this year I finished this beautiful Quilted Maple parlor guitar.
This has a Lutz spruce top, AAAA Quilted Maple back and sides, hand carved mahogany neck with slotted headstock and Schertler tuners, hand made geometric rosette, hand toned back and sides with a golden amber stain. Ebony fingerboard, bridge and headstock, domino dot position markers, Ebony end-graft and ebony bindings .
I have other guitars and projects in the works. This year was also a good year for my repair business. There have been many repairs I have made to keep guitars playable for other musicians. Add to that the addition of the LR Baggs line of pickups and installations and having the Phil Jones line of amps available for sale and I think 2014 will continue to show growth in guitar building and repairs as well.
I want to thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoy these posts.
Wishing you all a Happy New year, a great year for playing, music and song.
All my best to you for peace, health and prosperity.