Saturday, October 30, 2010

It’s been one of those weeks

It’s been one of those weeks- I finally had to buy a new vice for my bench.

I had been using one these quick release Axminster vices: quite a clever little mechanism- to tighten the vice you turn the handle clockwise and to open it you just pull the handle back and the jaws slide apart without having to turn the handle.

Out with the old.....

However, after a couple of years the mechanism seems to have worn and now the vice pops open at the most inopportune times! So it’s now been replaced with a simple Varitas vice- no gizmos! I had a couple of off-cuts of maple and ash to make some fancy jaws for it. Very pleasing to use! with the new

Also my two vacuum cleaners/extractors decided to die within a few days of each other. So, I bought this Axminster power tool extractor- it’s so much quieter, I can now actually hear the band saw running! You can also plug a power tool, such as the router, into the extractor, so that when you turn the router on, the extractor automatically comes on too! Ah the joys of modern day living!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Two Phils!

Ergonomic electric guitar

Just to confuse things, I’m currently making guitars for two Phils. Phil A came over the over evening to have a fitting for his ergonomic electric guitar. I’m not sure how many players use ergonomic guitars because they actually have a physical need to or because they are just plain weird! However, on saying that, I think that once you’ve played an ergonomic electric guitar you can see/feel the advantages straight away.

Phil A does have back problems and although it may sound a bit pompous, it’s good to feel that making a guitar for someone could have real benefits for them. The result of Phil’s visit was interesting-

Firstly, no dots on the fingerboard- if you’re looking at the front surface of the f-board your posture must wrong!

We looked at how the body needs to be contoured to stop Phil’s right shoulder coming too far forward.

The position of the volume control, so that it can be turned whilst his hand is resting on the bridge.

The position of the jack-socket so that he can sit down and play without a jack plug protruding and limiting how the guitar can be held.

Once the guitar nears completion, Phil will come over for a second fitting and we’ll decide if any more modifications can be made.

Phil Hare Signature Model

The other Phil’s (Phil Hare) guitar is also coming along nicely the binding and purfling are on, the neck has been fitted and the fingerboard glued on. Phil isn’t keen on adjustable truss-rods, so we’re just going for two strips of carbon fibre running down the neck and into the body. I’ve no doubt that this is more than sufficient and, to be honest, I’ve never been convinced of the need of an adjustable truss-rod on a well-made acoustic guitar!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Jonathan’s cutaway completed

Jonathan’s cutaway steel-string is now finished and you can see the result below. I’m certainly pleased with it and have enjoyed having a play on it. The 12 fret, cutaway format works extremely well- one immediately apparent advantage is that the nut is closer to the waist so your left arm does not have to stretch as far whilst playing.

Hand made guitars always take a period of time to “play in” and “open-up”; I think that’s particularly true of Sitka tops (like this one) and I’ll be interested to hear this guitar in a few months time. However, some of you may have noticed a new gizmo called a ToneRite which plays the guitar in for you?? Now, I haven’t tried one, so I’m in no position to comment thing that I do notice is how the tone of a guitar improves considerably over the first week or so, just by being strung up and subjected to the tension of strings. Well, mine do anyway! And when I played Jonathan’s this morning it had clearly improved, just by sitting, strung up, in a case.

What’s interesting, is that more guitar players come to me now with a very clear idea of what they want. Usually they have taken part in forums and generally picked up a lot of information on-line. Jonathan’s guitar is very much a product of this process- choice of tonewoods. 12 fret neck, cutaway, long scale etc. Fortunately, in this case, Jonathan’s ideas were pretty much in-line with mine and I feel that the result is a real thoroughbred rather than a camel! When I look back over the past 30 or so instruments (that’s about as far as I can remember!) no two are the same and looking forward (on my waiting list) that trend continues.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

La Sagrada Familia

We’ve just had a week’s break in Spain: finally some sunshine!! One of the highlights was a visit to La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1883 and still being constructed. It is a most remarkable place; the level of detail and craftsmanship are second to none. There cannot be many opportunities in this day and age to walk around a cathedral whilst it’s still being built.

A couple of thoughts that struck me- our local cathedral, Ely, was built in the 11th century and took around 100 years to construct. During that time, building techniques and tastes probably didn’t change much. But today’s world is a very different place to Gaudi’s and there must be so many advancements in building technology that Gaudi could not have ever contemplated, never mind the questions of aesthetics.

Notice the different styles in these carvings from the two opposite ends of the cathedral.

In the crypt you can see much of the original design work including, 1:10 scale models of various parts of the cathedral beautifully constructed from plaster; nowadays they would just be images on a computer screen generated from a CAD drawing. If you read my blog then you must be interested in making stuff; go and stand inside one of the biggest craftsman made things that you’ll ever see being made!!

No CAD here!

We also had a good night listening to blues by the Reverend Richard John - maybe not traditional Spanish fare, but a jolly good night. Richard is based in Granada, so when you’re on your hols look out for him!

Holiday reading?

Well, I re-read “Stradivarius” by Toby Faber, it tells the story of a number of Strads, their players etc. It’s remarkable how all of his instruments have been so heavily modified over the years; the neck angle changed, bass bars replaced to withstand the extra tension of today’s higher tunings etc. Of course the construction of a violin allows it to be readily disassembled. To take the top off you only need to slide a hot knife between the top plate and the sides; a guitar is a different kettle of fish! You’d have to remove the portion of fingerboard which is glued to the soundboard, remove the bindings and then get the end of the braces out of the linings (12 joints to tackle in the case of one of my steel-strings!).

One last thought for you- there are six hundred instruments knocking about, known to be made by Stradivarius therefore an instrument made by Gary Nava is rarer than one made by Stradivarius!

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