Sunday, September 27, 2009

A busy week in the Nava workshop

Acoustic magazine
The article in Acoustic magazine was published this week and I was very pleased with the outcome. Many thanks to the journalist, Petra Jones, for putting the article together. Hope that you all enjoy reading it!

El Corazon

This week El Corazon started to look a bit more like a guitar. The back, soundboard and sides were all glued together to make up the “box”. The next stage is purfling and binding. All the these stages now involve a couple of hours of work followed by a 12 or so hour wait to allow the glue to dry; so you must always have a number of instruments on the go to remain productive.

Ergo electric
The ergo electric is being finished with in “Tru-oil” again a slowish process: one coat applied, 24 hours to dry before the next coat.

30 year old Nava
Whilst I’ve been working on these two I’ve also been refurbishing this guitar---

I completed this guitar 30 years ago this November! It was made whilst I was working at the London Guitar Gallery and it was a prototype for our own style of acoustic; I’m amazed how modern looking it still is. It was used a demonstration model and I made a further three rosewood versions as commissions. The action needed some adjustment and I fitted a Headway transducer under the saddle. Since our move, my son hasn’t had access to an acoustic guitar so I thought that I’d get this one sorted out for him.

It’s interesting to look closely at something made so long ago. The 12 fret neck was simply reinforced with a 10mm square steel tube and is still as straight and true as the day I made it.
Also it’s clear that my heel obsession isn’t something new! This is what a cutaway heel should look like!

Parlour guitar
I’ve also been doing some more work on the parlour guitar and here’s the latest instalment.

Something different
Since moving to Norfolk we’ve been amazed by the number of beautiful churches that abound. I took this photo of another beautiful instrument in the Tydd St.Giles parish church-

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Heart of El Corazon

Whilst working on the ergo electric, I’ve also been bracing the soundboard of El Corazon. I know that Chris is interested to see how it’s all put together, so here’s the story......

The soundboard is taken down to a thickness of about 2.7 mm, a bit thicker than its final dimension; I like to leave a bit of meat, as it will have to be scraped and sanded a few more times during the construction process.

The bridge plate and sound hole reinforcements go on first. The bridge plate helps to stop the soundboard distorting around the bridge; any distortion could lead to the bridge pulling away in places. The area around the sound hole needs to be reinforced too, particularly as the rosette is inlaid into the board making it very thin in this area.

Next the fans go on. Some luthiers cut the plate, some notch the fans; as you can see I’m a notch man. All the gluing is done on a curved board making the soundboard a subtle dome shape. The fans are then shaped: the ones on bass side more than the treble side; this is a way of getting tonal balance in the guitar.

Whilst all this gluing and shaping is going on, I tap the soundboard to listen to the sound it produces. Also I measure how much the soundboard deflects when a 500g mass is placed on it. I record this deflection for each guitar and this data helps me with the consistency of my instruments.

With the fans in place, the two large cross braces are glued on. I my opinion these are mostly structural, although the one below the sound hole can be glued on at an angle to make the treble side shorter and hence tighter and similarly the bass side longer and looser.

Of course that’s the way I do it and there are as many methods of working as there are luthiers and we’re all right!!

Next stage is to glue together the magic box!

New Links
I’ve just added a couple of new links to the side bar:
WD Music: great for all guitar hardware, very helpful guys
Stringbusters: strings at low prices and again very helpful
And last but not least one to the Muse website.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ergonomic electric

The ergonomic electric is progressing quite quickly and I’m aware that I’ve not said an awful lot about it. Stefano had a pretty clear idea about what he wanted: a very simple looking instrument with a mahogany body and neck and all black hardware. So no fancy stuff here! He mainly plays nylon string guitars, so the fingerboard/neck is a bit wider than a “normal” 7 string electric.

This website is where Stefano got his ideas/inspiration from. I must admit that I would never have thought of building a guitar like this, but when I sat with it balanced nicely on my lap, I thought-yeah, I get this! Once Stefano’s is completed, I’m inspired to a build a 6-string version, a lot fancier, as a speculative build: there is someone out there who does not know yet that this will be the dream guitar for them!

The old Rumsfeld jig was back in action today! The know unknown was: how much compensation should a 56 string tuned to C with 25.3” scale length have? The sliding saddle allows me to find this measurement empirically: I’ve also improved the jig by adding a transducer. The answer 7mm: I now know the position of the bridge relative the frets.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Interesting goings on in the Nava workshop!

El Corazon
I often get asked, “What’s the most difficult/challenging thing that you’ve done?” This rosette fits in that category!

I’ve just completed this rosette for El Corazon, Chris’s rosewood classical. The rosette was demanding on a number of levels: Chris commissioned this guitar in celebration of having a major heart operation, so clearly it’s a special instrument for him. The design needed to be more anatomical rather than twee; Amanda and I spent hours looking for suitable images, going right back to my father-in-law’s old copy of Leonardo’s Movement of the heart and blood! And below you’ll see how tricky it was to construct.

Firstly all the hearts had to be cut out of some pink ivory and I was very pleased that I managed to get them all virtually identical. They were then inlaid in to some Macassar ebony. Once the hearts were glued in, the ebony was cut into a circle.

Red and black lines were inlaid into the soundboard and the wood in between them routed away to take the ebony ring. The soundboard, by the way, is a beauty: it’s a German spruce one that I bought 30 years ago when I was working at the London Guitar Gallery.

That’s a brief description of how it was made, but it took a ridiculous amount of time to make: I’m sure that I would have got a better hourly rate fruit picking at one of the local farms!! On the other hand, it is pretty and I’m rather proud of it!!

7 string ergonomic electric guitar!!
In parallel with El Corazon I’m working on an electric guitar for Stefano, a Latin/Jazz guitarist. The two instruments couldn’t be more different. This one is based on the design of a Steve Klien ergonomic guitar. Stefano wants a 7 string, so although most guitars of this style are usually headless, we have decided to go with a head and mini tuners, as the hardware for a 7-string headless is prohibitively expensive. The head has to be small to cut down on weight so as you can see its shape is dictated by the old adage form follows function. It’s going to have a straight thru’ neck and here you can see the central core with the body halves ready to be glued on.

Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, there aren’t many luthiers about who would be willing to take on such diverse commissions and as I have said before, all of these experiences help you grow as a craftsman/designer/luthier.

Interesting website
If you’re interested in early romantic guitars this Japanese luthier has an interesting site. Click here for Crane guitars.

Acoustic magazine
The article about me will now be in issue 34. Order your copy now!!

Labels: , , ,