Friday, May 15, 2015

  It's been a fun, busy winter/spring here.  I've gotten to attend and perform at some regional music festivals like the Portland Old Time Music Gathering, The Oly Old Time Festival, and The Old Time Tidal Wave in Victoria B.C.  I also got to show off some guitars and trinkets at The NW Handmade Musical Instrument Exhibit in Portland Oregon.  As I type this, I'm sitting at the Burbank Airport waiting to get whisked off to a weekend full of fun at the LA Old Time Social.

    Good times with new friends in Oly.

Proud Papa in Portland.

In between the festivals, the music, and some personal travel, I've managed to build a solid handful of guitars.  Wanna check 'em out?   Great....

 This first one faithfully follows the design of an early 30's 12-fret Gibson L-00.

 Here's the new Champ with it's inspiration.  Mahogany back, sides, neck, Spruce top, Rosewood board and bridge.  X-braced and super light, it came out delightfully well balanced and throaty.

Next is this L-1, dubbed the Local-1 by it's owner for it's use of all NW woods.

 That's figured Oregon Walnut back and sides, Sitka Spruce top, Poplar neck, and Walnut fretboard and bridge.

A steam engine train for good measure.

And the Champlin scroll on the solid headstock with Walnut veneer.

Paired with the Local-1 is this concert guitar.

The customer wanted to keep the overall feel of the guitar close to old Washburn aesthetics, but again with all NW woods, and a few modern appointments like a truss rod, radiused fretboard, and X-bracing.

Walnut backstrap overlay.

Crow perched on a Madrona branch inlay.

Then here we have this Grand Concert that went to a picker up in Alaska.

My Grand Concert is similar to the L-00, but just a little bigger all around, especially in the upper bout.  This one has a Ladder-braced Sitka Spruce top, Mahogany back, sides and neck, and Ebony for the fretboard and bridge.  This guitar is a cannon! 

Next up is this Vermont bound L-1. 

This customer wanted a smaller guitar for bare fingerstyle playing.  That's salvaged Western Red Cedar from the Nooksack River valley for the top, Ebony fretboard and bridge, Mahogany neck, and some really nice old Indian Rosewood for the back and sides.  This one came out with a great full voice, warm and clear.

And finally here is this guitar which I snuck in between custom orders, just to satisfy my own urge to build it.  Much like the first guitar featured in this post, it is closely based off an early 30's 12 fret Gibson L-00.  I decided to use some nice old Pearwood for the back and sides and headstock overlay.

And here's a few fun shots of the shop and some of these guitars as they were in progress..

OK..  Off to some festival fun, and then back to work!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Three takes on the concert guitar

  In my last post I showed three guitar bodies I had been working on.  They all share the profile of my Concert size, but each stands out uniquely from the others.  They are all completed and paired up with their respective owners, and I want to share a bit about each one here.

  First up, this guitar most closely resembles the old Washburn concert guitar that I originally traced and mapped out.  Twelve frets to the body, ladder braced, Spruce top with a Mahogany body and neck, clean and simple appointments with a french polished shellac finish.

  This guitar went across the sea to a great country blues finger picker who normally plays on a really cool pre-war Stella.  He was looking for a solid guitar for a working musician that had the old fashioned sound and style but better playability with a radiused fretboard, truss rod, and a compensated saddle for proper intonation.  It was a joy to build and a joy to play for the brief time I got to hang out with it before it got sent off to it's happy new owner.  It has the classic focused sound that comes with a smaller body, ladder braced guitar.

  Next is this concert guitar for my friend "Rattle Snake" Ron.  Ron is a great singer, songwriter and musician who wanted a little cowboy guitar with a sweet sound.  He has always really liked one of the first guitars I built, a parlor guitar with rope binding, and he was looking for something similar, but with some of his own custom ideas incorporated into it.  The rattlesnake themed inlays are cut from old piano ivory.

  The entire guitar is made from local and regional woods.  The back and sides are Oregon Myrtle, the neck is Poplar, and the binding, fretboard, and bridge are Black Walnut.  The top is from a beautiful piece of Cedar salvaged from an old stump along the Nooksack River.  The rope binding is cut and inlaid by hand, piece by piece.  It's a slow process, taking almost a whole day, but a very enjoyable day...  good music on the stereo, a strong cup of coffee, and sitting at my bench cutting tiny pieces of wood with a very sharp saw.  This guitar is X braced with Yellow Cedar and overall the guitar has a very warm and balanced sound.

  Third in this trio is this concert sized archtop.

  I was excited to get this order because I'm really enjoying making archtops lately, and I was curious to try it out on a slightly smaller scale.  This one had some custom appointments requested by the player, like the segmented f-holes and the number 13 (his lucky number) on the 13th fret.  It is also 13 frets to to the body.  The top is a lovely reclaimed piece of very tight grained Cedar that I procured at Skagit Salvage.  The back and sides are Big Leaf Maple, neck is Cherry, and the fretboard, bridge and tailpiece are all Black Walnut.  I went with classic parallel braces made of well aged Sitka Spruce.  The sound of this guitar is tremendous.  Very clear and loud, and balanced up and down the neck.  Upon stringing it up I had a hard time putting it down, and in fact I wrote two songs on it that first day.  I especially enjoyed playing it with fingerpicks as the notes came punching out very separate and with a round clarity.  I'm absolutely going to have to make one for myself one of these days.

  Well, there's three guitars that all came from the same mold, built by the same hands, but each one unique.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Shop

Hello Folks.  Well, we're getting settled into Fall here in Western Washington.  Temp's are dropping, rain is falling, and leaves are fluttering to the ground.  Time to brew some strong coffee and get to work!  Over the summer I moved myself and the shop from Bellingham to Seattle.  It's not too far as miles go (just over an hour drive), but it's definitely a different world here in the city.  Fortunately I ended up with a great little house with a great big shop attached to it.  It's taken a bit of work to get it all together, but it's up and running now and I've got the wood chips to prove it!  Let me show you the new space..


  It has a few big perks that I didn't have at my last space.  The most noticeable change to me is the windows.  After being in a basement shop for over two years, I vowed that my next space would absolutely need to have some natural light available (and an easy way to get fresh air once in awhile too).  Fortunately, I have free reign to remodel this space as I want, so first order was cutting in some windows.  I got some nice double panes from the ReStore in Bellingham.  I then spent a good deal of time insulating the walls and ceiling and hanging drywall.  A quick coat of paint to make it cozy, and I was ready to set it up.  Once I got all my tools and everything organized and the basic layout figured, I realized I still had a lot of space in here.  Well, I've been a skateboarder since grade school, so I wasted no time in building myself a little ramp.

  Yep.  Just big enough to goof around on and take a break from woodworking and guitars for a minute.  My fifteen year old self would be proud.

  Now that I've got all the basics dialed in I'm happy to be ankle deep in wood shavings once again.  Here's some photos of what I've been up to the past couple weeks..

   Laying out the pieces for a small body archtop guitar.  That's Western Maple sides bent up into my concert size mold, and 1 inch thick Maple and Cedar for the the back and top, joined up and ready to carve.

  For the Maple, I hog out the perimeter to a set depth with the drill press first.  It helps get rid of some of the waste very quickly.

   Then the rest of the carving is done by hand with planes and gouges.

  Cedar is so soft and easy to carve that I don't bother to drill it first.  That plane is just a small cheap block plane that I modified by reshaping the sole and blade with a slight curve.  It's very sharp and does the bulk of the rough carving.  I made the wood knob thing on the back of the blade.  It gives my palm a comfy place to rest while I carve away.

  My labels are all different and individually hand-drawn.  This guitar is going to a farmer/woodsman hence the carrot/hatchet.

  Joining some flat top plates using a low tech and very effective method I learned from Todd Cambio.

  Bending up some beautiful Oregon Myrtle.

  Ladder bracing getting glued in the old go-bar deck.  Thin White Oak strips under tension act as clamps.  It's another low tech, yet very effective method that lots of instrument builders use.  I've tried clamping braces a couple different ways, but have always come back to this.

  And here we have X-braces undergoing the go-bar treatment.

  Getting carved 'n ready...

  And the next small batch of guitars coming together.  All concert size, but each quite different from the next.  On the left is Myrtle back and sides, Cedar top, Yellow Cedar braces, and all the rest of the wood elements will continue with the Northwest theme.  It will have some unique appointments which I'll show in another post.  In the middle we have Mahogany back and sides, Spruce top and ladder bracing.  Tried and true, it is going to a country blues fingerpicker.  And on the right is the small body archtop, also utilizing mostly Northwest and salvaged woods.  The Cedar for the top came from Skagit Salvage in Mount Vernon.  If things went another way, that piece of wood could have been a shelf, or some trim around a window.  I'm glad I get to use this one.  Stay tuned to see the completed trio.