Building a Style 3 Weissenborn with Sitka soundboard by Jay Rosenblatt, Luthier

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.

3/13/15 Completed Koa and Sitka Weissenborn Guitar by  © Jay Rosenblatt 2015
3/13/15 Completed Koa and Sitka Weissenborn Guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt 2015

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.

Weissenborn template from Waldron Music used for body and bracing dimensions
February 9th, 2015, Weissenborn template arrived from Waldron Music to be  used for body and rough bracing dimensions.

All photography © Jay Rosenblatt, Jay Rosenblatt Guitars.

The spruce top plates were jointed and clamped together
The Alaskan Sitka spruce top plates were jointed and joined together  using clamps and weights to make a nice tight center line. Although those clamps look big I use very light pressure on them.

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The template was traced to the top plates, cut out and sanded to thickness.
The template was traced to the top plates, cut out and sanded to thickness of about .115
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An abalone rosette was installed with contrasting black fibre. This abalone came from the Duke of Pearl.
Abalone rosette installed and sound hole cut out
Abalone rosette installed and sound hole cut out
The loa back and sides arrived from Notable Woods
The Koa back and sides arrived from Notable Woods
The Koa back plates being joined
The Koa back plates being joined in a similar fashion as the top plates
The bracing was cut, and installed using a clamp method
The bracing was cut, and installed using a clamp method
The bracing for the back was cut and installed
Tha back was patterened and thicknesses to about .095.  The bracing for the back was cut and installed using go bars method.
The braces war carved, bridge plate installed and are ready to meet the instrument sides.
The braces war carved, bridge plate installed and are ready to meet the instrument sides.
To aid in the assembly of the tow plates an open ended form was constructed. The headsotck which attaches to the top, back and sides can be held in place as it is clamped to the body.
To aid in the assembly of the two plates to the sides an open ended form was constructed. The headsotck which attaches to the top, back and sides of the instrument can be held in place as it is clamped to the body.

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In preparation for the binding, traditional rope binding is made by laminating strips of maple and mahogany together. These will be slices diagonally into thin strips which will be installed as binding around the instrument.
In preparation for the binding, traditional rope binding is made by laminating (here) strips of maple and mahogany together. These will be sliced diagonally into thin strips which will be installed as binding around the instrument and around the fingerboard and headstock.
The side plates have been dimensions and brought to a thickness of about. .085. These will be hand bent on a bending iron.
The side plates have been dimensions and brought to a thickness of about. .085. These will be hand bent on a bending iron.
The sides are bent and cooling in the form awaiting the tail and headstock assembly and kefing.
The sides are bent and cooling in the form awaiting the tail and headstock assembly and kefing.

The headlock, which is actually the neck block too was fabricated from a solid piece of mahogany

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Headstock layout
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Traditional Weissenborn Headstock template used for outline. Cut to shape on a bandsaw
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Weissenborn headstock rear view
The weisssenborn headstock is cut from one piece of Mahogany with a book matched set of Koa head plated attached.
The Weisssenborn headstock is cut from one piece of Mahogany with a book matched set of Koa head plated attached.
Tail block installed
Tail block installed
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Headstock glue-up in holding form
Headstock unit installed
Headstock unit installed
Kerfing being installed in the Weissenborn.
Kerfing being installed in the Weissenborn.
Notches for braces are routed
Notches for braces are routed
Notches for the back braces are cut and the back is checked for fit
Notches for the back braces are cut and the back is checked for fit

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A simple end graft is constructed from mahogany and chevron binding and fit into a slot cut out in the tailpiece.
A simple end graft is constructed from mahogany and rope binding and fit in a slot cut into the tailpiece.

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Rope binding is made by slicing the laminate I made and gluing the strips to a piece of b/w fiber strip
Rope binding is made by slicing the laminate I made and gluing the strips to a piece of b/w fiber strip
The back of the Weissenborn has been attached to the sides © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
The sides are returned to the holding form, checked for square and level. The back is then glued to the sides. © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
The sides have been attached to the back and the sound board has been fitted and attached
The sides have been attached to the back
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The Sitka Spruce soundboard has been fitted and attached to complete the main structural components of this Weissenborn Lap Steel guitar.  © Jay Rosenblatt guitars

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.

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The Rope binding has been installed the top
The Rope binding has been installed the top
Weissenborn Guitar with rope binding by Jay Rosenblatt
February 23, 2015  The rope binding on the soundboard side is complete.
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I have begun the finishing  the body in preparation for the fingerboard and bridge, This is getting a hand rubbed shellac finish (french polish}. The back and sides Amber, 2 lb cut, and the top, Med-Dark Blonde, 1 LB cut.
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In this photo you can see the shimmer of the wood which is typical of KOA. This photo is also very close to the real color.
The fingerboard position markers are strips of maple inserted into the fret slots then sanded level
The fingerboard position markers are strips of maple inserted into the fret slots then sanded level
Rope binding and MOP dots are added to the fingerboard
Rope binding and Abalone dots are added to the fingerboard. After sanding this fingerboard is only about 3.5mm thick.
The fingerboard is glued in place and clamped.
3/7/15 The fingerboard is glued in place and clamped.
Almost nearing completion here. Next the nut, saddle, bridge, tuning machines and stringing
Almost nearing completion here. Next the nut, saddle, bridge, tuning machines and stringing
The bridge made from Honduran Rosewood. Carved to be similar to the original design, attached with hide glue.
The bridge made from Honduran Rosewood. Carved to be similar to the original design, attached with hide glue.
The nut slot cut and fitted with a bone nut.
The nut roughed in. This will be adjusted for size and slots cut for strings

The instrument is now complete and you can hear it here.     http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/n-tzMqhN/     Pass Word  “Weiss1”

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.

Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt
Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt

 

3/13/15 Completed Koa and Sitka Weissenborn Guitar by  © Jay Rosenblatt 2015
3/13/15 Completed Koa and Sitka Weissenborn Guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt 2015
Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt
Weissenborn Headstock Detail by Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt
Weissenborn back headstock detail by Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt
Weissenborn Fingerboard detail
Weissenborn Lap Steel Guitar handbuilt by Jay Rosenblatt
Weissenborn Koa Back detail by Jay Rosenblatt Guitars

 

 

 

Thanks for looking. I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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In the Jay Rosenblatt Guitar Workshop, Spring/ summer 2014

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.

 

Assembly of the geometric rosette on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Assembly of the geometric rosette on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Geometric Rosette is assembled ready to be installed around the sound hole.
Geometric Rosette is assembled ready to be installed around the sound hole.

 

X-Brace being attached with go bars on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar.
X-Brace being attached with go bars.
Back braces being attached
Back braces being attached
Hand Carving the x braces and tone bars on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Hand Carving the x braces and tone bars on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Low angle of carved x- braces on a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Low angle of carved x- braces on a J R Guitar
Bending maple sides for an acoustic guitar by Jay Rosenblatt © Jay Rosenblatt photo.
Bending maple sides for an acoustic guitar © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Back attached to sides
Back attached to sides © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Neck carved and headstock shaped.
Neck carved and headstock shaped for a Jay Rosenblatt Guitar.
Ebony Binding attached and roped in place on Jay Rosenblatt Guitar
Ebony Binding attached and roped in place © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Fingerboard gets inlay
Fingerboard gets inlay

 

After body assembly the neck is fitted for proper angle and playability.
After body assembly the neck is fitted for proper angle and playability.
Rear view of Laminated Neck, heel joint. Neck is fitted for proper angle and playability.
Rear view of Laminated Neck, heel joint. Neck is fitted for proper angle and playability.
The bridge is hand made
The bridge is hand made © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
The bridge position is marked.
The bridge position is marked.

 

 

Headstock before JR Logo inlay.  © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Headstock before JR Logo inlay. © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars

This guitar is currently in the finishing process. I hope to have it ready for the Woodstock Luthiers Showcase in October.

 

Maple guitar in the spray booth © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars
Maple and bear claw sitka spruce guitar in the spray booth © Jay Rosenblatt Guitars

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.

Hand built walnut Parlor Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt Luthier.
Hand built walnut Parlor Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt Luthier.

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.

Bridge test fit prior to gluing on Parlor guitar © Jay Rosenblatt
Bridge test fit prior to gluing on Parlor guitar © Jay Rosenblatt
Bridge being attached with hide glue on parlor guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Bridge being attached with hide glue on parlor guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Walnut Back on parlor guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Walnut Back on parlor guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Classical Rosette on Parlor Guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Classical Rosette on Parlor Guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt
Cedar Slotted parlor guitar headstock © Jay Rosenblatt
Cedar slotted parlor guitar headstock with Waverly tuners © Jay Rosenblatt
Adirondak "Red Spruce" soundboard on parlor guitar by Jay Rosenblatt © Jay Rosenblatt
Getting ready to glue the bridge to the Adirondak “Red Spruce” soundboard on this parlor guitar. © Jay Rosenblatt

 

 

 

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.

Ribbon striped Mahogany Ukulele by Jay Rosenblatt Luthier © Jay Rosenblatt
Ribbon striped Mahogany Ukulele by Jay Rosenblatt Luthier © Jay Rosenblatt
Parlor Guitar on workbench © Jay Rosenblatt
Ukulele on workbench © Jay Rosenblatt
Ukelele getting hand rubbed French Polish shellac finish  Jay © Jay Rosenblatt
Ukelele getting hand rubbed French Polish shellac finish Jay © Jay Rosenblatt
Handmade Ukulele bridge of ebony and bone © Jay Rosenblatt
Handmade Ukulele bridge of ebony and bone © Jay Rosenblatt
Binding attached with traditional rope system on Ukulele by © Jay Rosenblatt
Binding attached with traditional rope system on Ukulele by © Jay Rosenblatt

 

 

 

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.

Panoramic photograph from the luthiers workshop of Jay Rosenblatt 2014. © Jay Rosenblatt
Panoramic photograph from the luthiers workshop of Jay Rosenblatt 2014. © Jay Rosenblatt

 

 

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/

The finish on this instrument was done by Tony DiDomenico, htttp://www.DiDomenicoguitars.com, Tony is a great luthier and finisher.

Inside label
Inside label

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by © Jay Rosenblatt guitars

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt

© Jay Rosenblatt guitars

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt

 

Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt
Rosewood and Sitka OM Guitar by Jay Rosenblatt

 

This instrument will be available for purchase at the Woodstock Luthiers Invitational and Showcase in Woodstock, New York, October 25th and 26th., 2014. I hope to see you there.

Come see Jay Rosenblatt Guitars in Woodstock, NY in October.
Come see Jay Rosenblatt Guitars in Woodstock, NY in October.

Thanks for reading my blog and happy picking!

Jay

 

 

 

 

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