Hello, it has been a while. Happy holidays to all.
As you can see in the photo I have put some of my guitars on display in my shop. Some of these are completed guitars that I use at shows and and some are under construction waiting for new owners.
The past year was somewhat busy in the shop, I completed a few new instruments and there were lots of repairs and plenty to keep me busy.
Recently I had a story writer from our statewide magazine, New Jersey Monthly, come visit me along with a professional photographer. The photographer and I set up a few working images that I have yet to see and the story will be published in the March 2020 issue of NJ Monthly.
In the photo;
(L-R) “Kasha Classical” with a reclaimed cedar soundboard and rosewood back and sides, “Big maple”, A Lutz Spruce top with maple back and sides and hand cut inlays just completed and strung up today, “Moonwood and Maple” under construction, a Moonwood Soundboard, 4A maple back and sides, maple laminate neck, In my hands a “7 String Baroque” This is an exact replica of a romantic era guitar, “Red Rose” (behind me) Redwood and rosewood PF model with mahogany neck (new, complete, sweet), “Domino” radially braced hybrid guitar made of Myrtle and alaskan spruce, “Apollo 17” “A-framed semi-arch-top with walnut back and sides, “Arches”, a guitar inspired by the Arches in Utah with a unique intersecting arch bracing system. (some of these instruments are featured in my past posts)
What else? Currently I am in the design process of an electric guitar model. That will be down the line but working on it.
In the New Year, April, 3-5, 2020, I will be exhibiting my acoustic guitars at the Artisan Guitar Show in Harrisburg, PA.
This is a three day event with concerts, musical performances, hand-built instruments and their makers, vintage instruments, workshops and classes.
This week began a Weissenborn project. Based loosely on a style 3, this page I will highlight photographs of its construction. I will update it as I move along its completion. This is a special build with a delivery date of Mid April.
About the woods: This was constructed with Koa back and sides and an Alaskan sitka soundboard. The fingerboard is Macassar Ebony and came from LMI. The headstock is Mahogany which came from a 3×3 billet from Hibdon Hardwoods. The bridge of Honduran rosewood was also from Hibdon. The binding is a traditional Rope design made from scraps of maple and mahogany. The head plate is Koa. The pearl rosette was from the Duke Of Pearl. Ebony bridge pins with Abalone inlays were used and the position markers are Abalone too.
The Koa back and sides came from Notable Woods in Lopez, Washington. These are age dried pieces of Koa with a nice tone and appear to be very stable. The Sitka soundboard is of salvaged wood from Alaska Specialty Woods, Craig Alaska. The story behind the soundboard is that it came from a bridge stringer that once spanned over Back Bear Creek. It was a 63″ diameter log that was aquired by the mill in 1998, about 2 years after the bridge was pulled to be replaced replaced with steel bridge. The wooden car bridge was installed when the road there was used for logging in 1984-85. Now that road is used for recreation and to get to a hydro electric generator were water falling off the mountain from black bear lake is run through a turbine. The build is based on a template from Waldon Instruments. I have modified my braces to suit my building style.
The headlock, which is actually the neck block too was fabricated from a solid piece of mahogany
When I removed this guitar from the form I noticed something unique to the instrument. When I tapped on the center of the soundboard, sort of a thump with my thumb, I was able to hear the sound that produced come out not only from the sound hole but I also heard it way up in the headstock. The vibrations traveled straight up through the hollow neck and emitted at the top of the guitar.
I have a little music box mechanism that plays a simple tune very quietly when you crank the handle. Barely audible without something to amplify its sound, like a wooden music box. I place it where at the bridge position to test the guitars responsiveness to a very quiet sound, essentially making the guitar the music box. (try it one day) The sound is greatly amplified and comes through the sound hole. When I put the mechanism at the top of the neck the sound transversely traveled down and out the sound hole almost as loud as from the bridge position. I am certain that the energy from the nut will also travel through the guitar and add to the sound of this instrument. Perhaps thats is little secret behind the Weissenborn’s unique sound.
The initial stringing sounds awesome. I used John Pearse Weissenborn strings, 80/20 bronze, 15 to 60. A final adjustments for string height and level across the tops will be performed, but as it is this Weissenborn has a rich tone, a beautiful natural reverb, good presence and response, and a lovely character.
Thanks for looking. I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed building it!
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/